Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, November 14, 2011 at 10:42 AM
Puh-leeze. Let's not hear anything about how winning on the NFL road is "impossible" because road teams won 10 of the first 15 games played on this NFL Week 10 card while heading into the Monday Night Football clash - and that included key road wins by the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New Orleans Saints who are the "real stars" of this past weekend.
In fact, in a week in which the likes of Baltimore, Detroit and the New York Giants - three teams that one would figure to make the playoffs this winter - all failed to win on enemy ground, here's a "hats off" to New England/Pittsburgh/New Orleans and we'll get to their respective stories in just a few moments.
Meanwhile, the epicenter of the football universe this evening is in Green Bay (WI) where the league's only unbeaten team is in action and how's this for a little bit of humor? The last team that beat the defending Super Bowl champion Packers in their own backyard - a/k/a Lambeau Field - was the Miami Dolphins who until two weeks ago couldn't beat anyone. The Pack's won their last eight in a row at home SU (straight-up) and they've covered seven of their last eight home games dating back to last year and so make sure you know your recent GB football history before chit-chatting with your tavern buddy tonight.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL PREVIEW
MINNESOTA (2-6) at GREEN BAY (8-0) - 8:35 p.m. ET, ESPN
The history books will tell you that the Packers are off to their best start since going 10-0 out of the gate way back in 1962 and there's plenty of good stuff to excite you - like the fact the Packers average an NFL-high 34.4 points a game this year but don't get the impression that everything is honky-dory for the NFC North leaders.
For starters, the Packers' defense has exhibited lots of flaws lately and the stop unit enters this prime-time tilt ranked 31st in the league in pass defense (299.6 yards a game) and 30th in total defense (399.6 yards a game) and that's not all simply because Green Bay foes are generally playing catch-up. Consider that last week the Packers' defense scored a pair of touchdowns via INTs against San Diego slinger Philip Rivers and still the Green Bay defense allowed 38 points while nearly blowing a 21-point lead in that 45-38 win/cover against the Chargers.
Look for Green Bay - which has allowed 42 plays of 20-or-more yards this year - to tighten up the reins here against Vikings' rookie QB Christian Ponder who brings in his club off a bye week but note Ponder threw for 236 yards and a touchdown in a 24-21 win in Carolina back in Week 8.
If Ponder wants to learn how this position is played on this level, then he ought to spend some time checking out Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers (2,619 yards passing with 24 TDs and 3 INTs) and note there's some "experts" out there who believe Rodgers is playing better through the first half of his season than any NFL quarterback has ever played through their team's first eight games.
No argument from us here!
Remember this is a rematch game for the Vikes who got the cash but lost SU in that 33-27 home loss as 10-point pups back on Oct. 23rd and note Rodgers threw for 335 yards and 3 TDs in that divisional dome win.
Spread Notes - Green Bay is 6-2 ATS (against the spread) so far this "perfect season" and did you know the Packers have covered six of their last nine head-to-head showdowns against Minnesota? Meanwhile, the Vikings are 4-3-1 versus the vig this year and Minnesota is 2-6-1 spreadwise in NFC North games since the start of the 2010 campaign.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will win big-time tonight as we finish off the NFL Week 10 schedule with the Vikings at the Packers on MNF plus there's also College Football all this week long beginning with Tuesday's tilt from the Mid-American Conference (that's Ball State at heavy-duty favorite Northern Illinois) plus there's College Basketball too. Go ahead and make sure you're all aboard as we will take you right through Super Bowl XLVI on February 5th. Just remember to call our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here.
In other NFL Week 10 News & Notes ...
NEW ENGLAND 37, NEW YORK JETS 16 - Go ahead and take your pick of things at what was the most important part of this Patriots win ... was it QB Tom Brady's ability to get all the time in the world before spotting receivers en route to his 329-yard, 3-TD showing or perhaps it was that New England pass rush that produced five sacks of J-E-T-S quarterback Mark Sanchez (yes, at least two or three of the takedowns were because of wonderful pass coverage downfield) or maybe you think the mere presence of TEs Rob Gronkowski (8 catches for 113 yards and two scores) and Aaron Hernandez (4 receptions for 41 yards) against a smallish/slowish Jets secondary was the key. Whatever.
All you really needed to know is that the Pats (6-3) took over command of first place in the AFC East while a clearly bummed-out Jets head coach Rex Ryan told the assembled media that he's pretty much given up hope on capturing the division ... again! Hope the loud-mouth Jets boss-man enjoyed all the media coverage this past week of his "starring role" in some dopey Adam Sandler flick about a Patriots fan played by Ryan himself.
Still laughing today, Rex?
PITTSBURGH 24, CINCINNATI 17 - Only in the NFL can redemption taste so sweet. Last week there was Steelers CB William Gay getting toasted repeatedly by the Baltimore Ravens in that game-deciding drive in Pittsburgh's 23-20 loss but when push came to shove in Sunday's key AFC North tilt there was Gay stepping into the passing lane to swipe Cincy QB Andy Dalton at the Steelers' 19-yard line with just 2:27 left to help preserve this TD margin of victory.
Hey, Gay was great when he had to be but the real storyline of this game was a Pittsburgh offense that cranked out scoring drives that covered 54, 78, 67 and 81 yards and the ability of QB Ben Roetlisberger to extend plays again was critical on a day when the Steelers had the ball for 12 more plays (68-to-56) and 7-plus more minutes (33:53-to-26:07).
Consider that the Steelers had lost a pair of road games this year - in Baltimore back in Week One and in Houston in Week 4 - and still have potentially tough road games remaining in Kansas City and San Francisco and so you can see how this was a step-up-the-plate deal for Mike Tomlin's club.
Mission accomplished, Steelers!
NEW ORLEANS 26, ATLANTA 23 (overtime) - We know, we know.
How dare we wait so long into today's Jim Sez column to discuss the single-most debated coaching move of the weekend ... but than do you really think we're gonna defend Falcons' boss-man Mike Smith for that bonehead decision to go for it on fourth-and-short from his own 30-yard line in overtime?
Big deal, Smith says he takes "full responsibility" but the fact is a gaffe such as that could have season-long effects on his team that surely played well enough to win here. Consider the Falcons had 30 first downs (New Orleans had 18) and banged out 481 yards in all but some red-zone failures were costly and it sure seemed that Atlanta played without a whole lot of confidence late in the fourth quarter when the Saints were ripe to be had - yes, we were watching!
If anything, the Saints' much-maligned defense deserves a round of applause for making that critical fourth-down stop against RB Michal Turner plus you had to love the moxie of New Orleans QB Drew Brees who finished with a stat line that read 30-of-43 passing for 322 yards and 2 TDs and let's not forget Brees didn't commit a single turnover and was never sacked.
Now, the Saints get next weekend off - they are part of the final foursome of NFL teams to get their 2011 byes (others will include Houston, Indianapolis and aforementioned Pittsburgh).
Have fun on your break, 7-and-3 Saints ... and don't forget to give Falcons coach Smith a phone call. He could use some cheering up.
Hey, let's wrap up this NFL Week 10 column with a salute to the hottest spread sides ...
The Chicago Bears now have covered their last four in a row following Sunday's dominant 37-13 win against 2 ½-point underdog Detroit; The Houston Texans are 3-0-1 ATS in their last four outings following Sunday's easy 37-9 win at 3 ½-point dog Tampa Bay; And - saving the best for last - the San Francisco 49ers reeled off their seventh consecutive spread win with Sunday's 27-20 triumph over the 4-point dog New York Giants. Note that the Niners now are 8-0-1 versus the vig this year. Next up is a home game against Arizona this Sunday. Can the spread streak roll on? Stay tuned.
NOTE: Get our College Football Mid-Week Report in the next edition of Jim Sez.