Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, October 10, 2011 at 10:14 AM
Now we'll see for ourselves if the Detroit Lions can say 'checkmate' to the Green Bay Packers: Last night the defending Super Bowl champs roared back from down 14-0 to beat the Atlanta Falcons 25-14 and thus go to 5-0 SU (straight-up) on the season and so when the lights get turned on this evening inside Ford Field we'll see if the Lions – the no-doubt-about-it 'toast' of the NFL these days – can hold serve and stay even with their NFC North brethren.
Don't know about you but we have been caught dreaming of the possibility that both the Lions and the Packers will be unbeaten while heading into their Thanksgiving Day showdown in Motown (note they both would be 10-0 SU) … wouldn't that be a blockbuster affair?
Come to think of it, that would be some Turkey Day treat, right?
As it is the Lions are gonna have to do everything in their power to hang at the top of the divisional standings with Green Bay who last night somehow played better as the game wore on despite the fact Mike McCarthy's squad played without both of the team's starting offensive tackles. It's true – as NBC play-by-play whiz Al Michaels told the viewing audience -- that Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers (26-of-39 for 396 yards passing with 2 TDs and 0 INTs) – appeared unsettled at times after an injury shelved veteran LT Chad Clifton (hamstring) but the slick slinger kept chucking it with 12 different pass-catchers on the other end and so even without game-injured Clifton and RT Brian Bulaga (out for a second straight game with an ailing knee) the Pack proved once again they're the unabashed kings of the NFL.
How about those Lions? Here's our two cents worth in this Monday Night Football preview …
CHICAGO (2-2) at DETROIT (4-0) -- 8:35 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so good old Hank Williams Jr. won't be around to sing out his 'Monday Night Football' song here – yikes! – but this is still very much prime-time material with the Lions zipping into this tilt off back-to-back monster comeback wins against Minnesota (in overtime) and Dallas, respectively. Last week's story included Detroit staring at a 27-3 deficit in Dallas until a pair of 'pick six' plays turned the beat around and than Motown QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson teamed up for their usual twice-a-game touchdown pass plays. Johnson's already caught eight scoring strikes among his 24 receptions this year while Stafford's stat line includes 1,217 yards passing with 11 TDs and 3 INTs this year – and we haven't even touched on the topic that this is Detroit's first Monday Night Football game in a decade!
How can the Bears counter a Lions team that is averaging nearly 34 points a game on the year? Well, last week's formula in that 34-29 non-cover home win against 7-point pup Carolina sure worked well as RB Matt Forte rushed for 205 yards on 25 carries and Devin Hester scored one touchdown and set up another with brilliant punt returns – if Jim Schwartz's squad punts the ball anywhere near Hester here than we're demanding an investigation!
One X-factor to watch for here: The Bears will try to get Detroit's aggressive front seven on defense to 'bite' on play-action fakes to Forte so something's telling us Chicago QB Jay Cutler will try to go deep early here and watch for speedy WR Johnny Knox who is averaging 19.8 yards a catch on his 12 receptions this year.
Spread Notes – Detroit is a tasty 3-0-1 ATS (against the spread) so far this season and note the Lions are a composite 15-4-1 versus the vig since the start of the 2010 season. On the flip side, Chicago has failed to cover its last there consecutive games this season following that year-opening 30-12 home win against 1 ½-point road favorite Atlanta. Note that underdog sides have covered 13 of the last 20 head-to-head battles in this NFC North series.
In other NFL Week 5 Notes...'Just Win, Baby' has been the mantra for the Oakland Raiders ever since anyone can recall and so no wonder why the Raiders' hang-on-for-dear-life 25-20 win at 4 ½-point favorite Houston meant so much to so many people in the silver-and-black organization one day after the death of owner Al Davis.
Hey, the Raiders likely received some divine intervention when DB Mike Huff picked off a silly pass in the end zone by Texans' QB Matt Schaub on the game's final play and the truth of the matter is Oakland's defensive backs/linebackers were burnt badly all game long and Houston didn't even have the service of injured WR Andre Johnson – four players registered 81-or-more yards receiving including RB Arian Foster who caught five balls for 116 yards while TE Joel Dreesen nabbed 5 passes for 112 yards and one touchdown.
And if that aforementioned end-zone interception by Huff didn't remind Raider Nation of that playoff interception in the end zone in Cleveland way back in 1980, well, that might have been one of the finest moments in Raiders history and one of the proudest days for Davis who never went down without a fight.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will win big-time tonight as we finish off the NFL Week #5 schedule with the Bears-Lions bash plus there's always College Football and Major-League Baseball Playoff action on tap and so make sure you're all aboard for all the action right through Super Bowl XLVI on February 5th.
Hey, it's gonna be a great ride!
Just remember to call our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here at www.jimhurley.com for the NFL, NCAA Football and MLB Playoff winners! The calling/check-in times are after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays & Sundays; Anytime after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday afternoon action; And anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the Monday-thru-Friday weeknight action. Go ahead and get Monday Night Football's Side/Totals winner right now!
COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKEND NOTEBOOK –
THE BIGGEST LOSERS
Let's focus on two College Football teams that would like to forget their just-completed games of October 8th …
The Florida State Seminoles entered this 2011 season ranked #6 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll – but following last Saturday's 35-30 loss at Wake Forest (their third consecutive loss and second straight setback by that 35-30 score) – the 'Noles are out of the Top 25 and out of public consciousness too.
It wasn't supposed to be this way in Year 2 of the Jimbo Fisher Era but everything's come apart at the seams for this Atlantic Coast Conference club from an injury to quarterback EJ Manuel to the collapse of a defense that's now allowed 93 points in the past three weeks of play. How about the fact that 9 ½-point home underdog Wake Forest scorched the Sems to the tune of 391 yards in the Demon Deacons' outright upset (that was 263 yards passing and 128 yards rushing) and did you notice where Florida State didn't force a single Wake Forest turnover while turning the ball over five times on their own?
Maybe Fisher got some perverse joy in helping to ride Bobby Bowden out of Tallahassee following the 2009 season and so this could be a touch of karma coming back at 'em.
Meanwhile, the Utah Utes could well be staring at their first losing season since 2002 (see 5-6) as the journey into the Pac-12 hasn't been a whole bundle of fun for Kyle Whittingham's program. In fact, Utah's 35-14 home loss against 3 ½-point fav Arizona State this past weekend truly exposed the Utes as frauds on the big-time stage – or didn't you hear the Utah turned the ball over on three consecutive third-quarter possessions – as a 14-10 second-half lead went up in smoke faster than you can say Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Utah now enters this weekend's non-league affair at Pittsburgh with a shabby 2-3 SU mark that includes the wild 23-14 loss at USC back on Sept. 10th, the 31-14 setback against 10-point pup Washington on Oct. 1st and last weekend's 21-point loss in Salt Lake City. Keep in mind the Utes play future 2011 Pac-12 road games at California, Arizona and Washington State and so they might be able to grab one or two of them but anyone counting on Utah getting to a ninth consecutive post-season bowl game might want to make alternative holiday plans come December.
NOTE: Catch our College Football Mid-Week Report in the next edition of Jim Sez.