Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, November 21, 2011 at 9:28 AM
It's not every day that your star quarterback conducts a post-game on-field interview with network television folks and doesn't say a thing about his possible season-ending injury.
But that's what happened yesterday with Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler who chatted it up with NBC's Alex Flanagan (doing her work for the Football Night in America gang prior to the Philadelphia Eagles-New York Giants game) and ran off into the night never having said a word about his broken right thumb. Cutler - who now is expected to miss up to six weeks of action - virtually the rest of regular-season play and possibly beyond - and so get used to plenty of TV talk this week about a chap named Caleb Hanie.
Last year Hanie almost dragged the Bears into the winner's circle in the NFC Championship Game 21-14 loss to Green Bay - he finished that game in relief of an injured Cutler by completing 13-of-20 passes for 153 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions - but the fourth-year pro appears the only viable option right now even though there is some talk of getting former Jacksonville QB David Garrard into camp (note he's still recovering from recent back surgery) and there could be a chance the Bears will run lots of Wildcat stuff with RB Matt Forte taking a slew of direct snaps.
Cutler completed 18-of-31 passes for 286 yards with two TDs in Sunday's 31-20 win against the San Diego Chargers and he continued to evade the Bolts' pass rush while making an array of "back-foot" accurate passes. In fact, Cutler finished the Week 11 home win with a spiffy quarterback rating of 154.7 (that's almost perfect) and he seems to have suffered the injury on an interception by San Diego DB Antoine Cason in the fourth quarter.
The Bears are one of the NFL's hottest items as they've won five in a row SU (straight-up) since that Monday Night Football loss in Detroit back in Week 5 play plus note the Chitowners have covered each of their last five games following on the heels of a crummy 1-4 ATS start.
Now, Cutler's on the sidelines until further notice but the wild card chase continues - you knew the 7-3 Bears were never catching the 10-and-oh Packers, right? - and we're just waiting for some genius to question his toughness now.
Meanwhile, even though three likely playoff teams - that's Houston, Pittsburgh and New Orleans - drew their byes in Week 11 play there was plenty of important tilts on the Sunday card and let's spend a few moments on the head-to-head battles inside the NFC East:
DALLAS 27, WASHINGTON 24 (OT) - Let's just say the Cowboys' best-case scenario for this November day sure worked out: They won in "bonus time" at Fedex Field and hours later the New York Giants fell at home (see below) and suddenly these two clubs are knotted atop the NFC East with less-than-scintillating 6-4 SU marks.
First things first:
The Cowboys took full advantage of a 52-yard missed field goal in overtime by Washington Redskins PK Graham Gano and then promptly marched down the field on a 7-play, 42-yard drive capped by PK Dan Bailey's 39-yard FG but make sure to circle the key play here - a 26-yard strike from Dallas QB Tony Romo to ace WR Dez Bryant on a third-and-15 play that brought the ball to the Redskins' 23-yard line.
After all, that's about all that separated the 7-point favored Cowboys from the rival'Skins here and by that we mean an accurate signal-caller (Romo threw for 292 yards with 3 TDs and no INTs) and a brilliant down-field playmaker in Bryant.
Net result: The'Boys swept the season series by a grand total of 5 points (see 18-16 non-cover win in Arlington back in a Week 3 MNF game) and suddenly all's well in Jerry Jones' world with a Thanksgiving Day tilt against Miami up next and three more NFC East games on the docket including a deuce with the now-fading Giants.
PHILADELPHIA 17, NEW YORK GIANTS 10 - Here we go again, Giants' fans! It only seems that each/every year the G-men start off 6-2 SU and then absolutely lose their balance - heck, two years ago Tom Coughlin's club started off 5-0 SU and than didn't even make it to the post-season and last year the Jints were 6-2 SU and then split their final eight regular-season games and didn't make the playoff cut with 10 wins.
No excuses for this latest second-half-of-the-season debacle as the Giants faced a rusty, back-up quarterback in Vince Young and an Eagles team that seemed dead in the water with just three wins - but there was Young directing a tidy 18-play scoring mark over the span of nearly nine minutes late in the game with his clean eight-yard scoring strike to reserve WR Riley Cooper on a third-down play not only holding off "the executioner" but giving the Giants one more reason to hate late-November-through-early-January games.
Say what you will here about the Giants scoring only one touchdown - a QB Eli Manning-to-WR Victor Cruz 24-yard scoring strike early in the fourth quarter - but who can defend the Giants' ground game that ran the ball 17 times for 29 yards and, yes, RB Brandon Jacobs (12 carries for 21 yards) is a loud-mouth who adds nothing to this NYG attack anymore and the offensive line looks awful too.
Is this another beginning-of-the-end bit for Coughlin's club? Sure looks that way from here and check out the sked that includes a MNF game in New Orleans next week, a home tilt versus Green Bay and then a trip to Dallas all in the next three weeks.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will be winning big-time in NFL Week 11 action tonight when the Kansas City Chiefs play at the New England Patriots and don't forget all the College Basketball action as we begin the Thanksgiving Week. In fact, make a note that Jim kicks off his annual Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot - that's Five (5) full days/nights of winning action - this Thursday and you can have it all when checking with us at the toll-free # of 1-800-323-4453 or else go online right here for all the gridiron winners.
Now, here's our Jim Sez Monday Night Football Preview ...
KANSAS CITY (4-5) at NEW ENGLAND (6-3) - 8:35 p.m. ET, ESPN
On Sunday the Las Vegas line for this prime-time affair jumped up from 14 ½ to 16 ½ points - so this is "mismatch city", right?
According to the number it is and the conventional wisdom is that Chiefs QB Tyler Palko - subbing here for an injured Matt Cassel - won't survive here as he enters this game having thrown all of 13 passes in his brief NFL career.
Obviously, the Patriots have no shortage of star power at their quarterback position with Tom Brady fresh off last Sunday's brilliant 329-yard, 3-TD showing in New England's 37-16 win at the New York Jets. Brady must face a Romeo Crennel-coached KC defense here - that ought to lend some drama to the proceedings - but whether the Pats cover this bloated price or not likely depends on how New England's battered secondary plays when forced to handle the likes of WRs Dwayne Bowe (41 catches) and Steve Breaston (33 receptions).
Note the Chiefs were a 14-point betting underdog in San Diego back in Week 3 - and KC lost 20-17. Smart money here says the Patriots will mop up the Chiefs in this night-time tilt ... we'll see.
Spread Notes - New England's covered five of its first nine games this 2011 season but did you know the Patriots are a shaky 2-6 ATS as double-digit betting favorites while dating back to the start of the 2009 season? On the flip side, Kansas City also is 5-4 vig-wise overall this year and the Chiefs and note point-grabbing sides are 8-1 against the odds in all KC games this season.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL UPDATE
Always lots of great tourney action in the world of College Basketball come Thanksgiving Week and we start off our look at the round-ballers here in the annual Maui Invitational: The first-round matchups on Monday include Michigan vs. Memphis, Tennessee vs. Duke, UCLA vs. Chaminade and Georgetown vs. Kansas - some good stuff.
Tennessee (2-0) has to head immediately into the deep end of the pool here while playing Maui Invitational favorite Duke (4-0) but it will be interesting to see how first-year Vols head coach Cuonzo Martin handles things in his head-to-head matchup with Mike Krzyzewski. Note that Tennessee shoots it at 49 percent from beyond the three-point arc so far with sophomore G Trae Golden averaging a team-best 23 points.
UCLA (0-2) has staggered badly out of the 2011-12 starting gate behind veteran boss-man Ben Howland and how about the fact the Bruins right now rank 271st in the nation in scoring (62 ppg) after setbacks to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State? Maybe junior F Reeves Nelson (13 ppg and 8 rebounds per game) can snuff out host Chaminade and win a couple of games here in the 50th state.
NOTE: Catch our next Jim Sez with Thanksgiving Day Previews and much more!