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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 10:26 AM

Hey, Sandy, talk a walk!

The storm that's crippled a major portion of the East Coast (and surrounding areas to the East and West) surely has put an ugly mark on the land and so maybe it's high time we all try to turn our attention to some other matters ... like the current NFL and NCAA Football seasons.

One thing we know heading into NFL Week 9 play is that some of the league's big winners face big-time challenges this Sunday.

Here's some of what we're looking for:

ATLANTA - The 7-0 Falcons will be in prime time this Sunday Night when the wobbly Dallas Cowboys venture into the Georgia Dome and did you know that Atlanta's hardly been lights-out in its three home/dome games?

The Birds have beaten the triumvirate of Denver, Carolina and Oakland by a grand total of 11 points while needing some fourth-quarter magic to down the likes of the Panthers (thanks to a 59-yard QB Matt Ryan-to-WR Roddy White completion that preceded a PK Matt Bryant field goal) and the Raiders.

What to Watch For - The Falcons were nearly picture-perfect in last weekend's 30-17 win at 3-point betting favorite Philadelphia with major heat applied to QB Michael Vick and that's the recipe here. Make Dallas QB Tony Romo (four picks in last weekend's wild 29-24 loss to the New York Giants) get antsy in the pocket and force more bad reads here and count on Romo and WR Dez Bryant having more "communication" issues.

CHICAGO - Hey, don't look now but the Bears are 6-1 SU (straight-up) and riding a five-game SU winning streak that includes last Sunday's miraculous 23-22 comeback win against Carolina.

Hard to believe that the Bears trailed 20-9 midway through the fourth quarter in that clash but yet another "pick six" on defense and another stand-tall-in-the-pocket TD strike by QB Jay Cutler carried "Da Bears" and now here comes a road tilt in Tennessee against a Titans bunch that's still stinging after that 19-13 OT loss to Indianapolis.

Is the Las Vegas price tag for this interconference game "too small" with the Bears favored by just 3 ½ points at press time? Hmmm.
What to Watch For - No doubt that the Bears need Cutler to find some targets other than WR Brandon Marshall and look for RB Matt Forte and deep threat Devin Hester to play significant roles here while the Titans trust WR Kendall Wright to blow past this ball-hawking Bears defense. Stay tuned!

HOUSTON - Hey, you didn't happen to have forgotten about these 6-1 Texans now, did you?

Last week's bye kept the AFC South leaders off the proverbial radar screen but Gary Kubiak's club hosts Jekyll-and-Hyde bunch Buffalo here and that means the Texans will run right at old friend DE Mario Williams and expect RB Arian Foster to pile up 125-or-so rushing yards.

What to Watch For - No question the Williams matchup against Houston's double teams will be checked out plenty by the CBS tag team of Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts but don't sleep on the following:

Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has made plenty of poor reads this year and this Houston secondary will be quick to pounce on some bad throws here. Hey, let's see how many of the Fiztpatrick throws get swatted down/away by DE J.J. Watt who right now is your NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Here's the NFL Week 9 Thursday Nite Preview ...

KANSAS CITY (1-6) at SAN DIEGO (3-4) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Maybe this first game on the NFL Week 9 card doesn't exactly qualify as "must-see TV" but still it could be a super-important game in the Chargers' season considering the 8-point favorite Bolts still have four tough road games on the docket: At Tampa Bay, Denver, Pittsburgh and the New York Jets.

One key here is how will the Chargers' pass rush bother QBs Matt Cassel (a human pin cushion this year for KC) and/or backup Brady Quinn. The Chargers will blitz early/often and gotta believe Norv Turner's team will score at least one defensive TD against this discombobulated Chiefs attack.

P.S., it's not as if San Diego's current offense is setting the world on fire as last week's 7-6 bad-weather loss in Cleveland marked the first time the Chargers were held to single digits since the last game of the 2005 season - and that was during the Marty Schottenheimer Era, folks!

Spread Notes - The SD Chargers are 3-4 ATS (against the spread) this year with spread wins in their three SU losses but the Bolts do come into this tilt on a three-game spread losing skid and note home teams are 12-7-1 vig-wise in this AFC West series dating back the past 10 years. The Chiefs are 2-5 against the Las Vegas prices this season.


Lots of top-notch college football games on this docket for the first weekend in November - what, you thought that Alabama vs. LSU matchup was the only goodie on the bill! - and pay special attention to Arizona State at Oregon State (can the Beavers bounce back from their first loss of the season and stay relevant inside the Pac-12?), Ole Miss at Georgia (do the two-TD favorite Dawgs suffer a letdown after their biggest "signature win" in years?) and than there's the Big 12 bash between Oklahoma State at 9.5-point fav Kansas State. The K-State Wildcats not only remain super-hungry at 8-0 (and a spiffy 7-1 against the odds) but here Bill Snyder's crew has revenge on their minds following last year's wild 52-45 loss to the Okie State Cowboys. In fact, K-State hasn't beaten the 'Boys in the last three head-to-head matchups, so there!

Now, here's the Thursday Nite TV Preview...

VIRGINIA TECH (4-4) at MIAMI (4-4) - 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so it ain't like the good old days for these two programs as they enter this game unranked and searching for answers. Maybe the fact that both teams have been off since Oct. 20th will help to refresh themselves here but the biggest boon to the down time was that Miami QB Stephen Morris could rest his many injuries/ailments including that testy ankle that almost kept him from the Hurricanes' recent 33-20 loss-but-cover against three-TD fav Florida State.

Gotta go on record here to state that Virginia Tech's 26th-year head coach Frank Beamer has done one of his worst jobs ever - the Hokies not only are downright predictable on offense behind hot-and-cold QB Logan Thomas (yes, we were expecting much more from this dude!) but the defense doesn't real "tune up" enemy QBs/RBs/WRs anymore and that special teams unit is ordinary at best.

Spread Notes - Miami comes into this under-the-lights ACC tilt on a two-game spread winning streak (versus North Carolina and Florida State) and the 'Canes actually are 5-3 ATS this year and 12-7 ATS in the Al Golden Era. On the flip side, V-Tech is a rotten 2-6 versus the vig this season and that already includes pointspread losses to fellow league foes Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Clemson. The Hokies are 8-2 spreadwise in their last 10 head-to-head games against "The U".

Okay, so let's wrap up this mid-week report with a look at the NCAA teams on the longest spread losing skids at the current time

  • The Colorado Buffaloes have dropped their last four consecutive spread verdicts. Next Up: A Homecoming Game against Stanford this Saturday

  • The Connecticut Huskies have dropped their last five consecutive spread decisions. Next Up: At South Florida this Saturday

  • The Hawaii Warriors have lost their last five straight spread verdicts. Next Up: This Saturday they're at Fresno State

  • The Idaho Vandals have dropped their last six consecutive pointspread decisions. Next Up: Home this weekend against San Jose State

  • The Illinois Fighting Illini has lost its last five consecutive ATS decisions. Next Up: This Saturday at unbeaten Ohio State

  • The Nevada Wolf Pack has failed to cover its last five in a row. Next Up: No game till the Nov. 10th tilt against visiting Fresno State

  • The Ohio Bobcats have lost their last four spread decisions. Next Up: A Home game on Thursday night against lowly Eastern Michigan

  • The Texas Longhorns have lost their last four in a row ATS; Next up: At Texas Tech this Saturday

  • The Virginia Cavaliers have lost an NCAA-worst seven in a row against Mr. Vig; Next Up: At N.C. State this Saturday

NOTE: Catch our Heisman Trophy Watch List and much more in the next edition of Jim Sez!

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