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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 5:00 PM

TEXANS-BEARS, UNBEATEN FALCONS TAKE CENTER STAGE PLUS HOT & NOT SIDES TOO!

Surprise, surprise!

The 2012 NFL season has been anything but predictable but how about the fact the Indianapolis Colts (6-3) - following Thursday's 27-10 win/cover at Jacksonville - now have a better won/loss record than the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions (all of whom were supposed to be way superior to the "Horseshoes" at this stage of the season) and who knew that the Houston Texans would have to win their game this Sunday night against Chicago just to maintain that two-game lead in the AFC South?

The Texans-Bears bash is the marquee matchup on this week's NFL card and we'll get you our quickie Jim Sez preview shortly plus we'll check in on Atlanta at New Orleans and get you some news/notes on other key games but first it's our Hot & Not list.

Here goes...

  • Arizona is 0-5-1 ATS (against the spread) the past six weeks - can the Redbirds truly enjoy their bye week this Sunday?

  • Baltimore is 1-5 ATS in its last half-dozen games and now John Harbaugh's crew is laying a TD-plus against Oakland. Note the Ravens have failed to cover four of their last five games when laying 7-or-more points dating to last year.

  • Cincinnati has failed to cover its last four games in a row and now the Bengal Cats try to snap the slide this weekend against the road-favored New York Giants. Hey, the Bengals are 0-3-1 vig-wise in their own backyard this year, so go figure!

  • Denver's covered its last three games in a row and did you know the Broncos sported a five-game spread winning streak last year in the pre-Peyton Manning Era. Now, Denver's laying road points for a second straight week with this date in Carolina.

  • Detroit has covered its last four consecutive games and goes for five straight in a revenge game at Minnesota this Sunday. Hey, the Motowners are just 2-6 spreadwise against fellow NFC North teams the past year-plus.

  • Kansas City has failed to cover its last three games in a row and now they're snapping up double digits in Monday Night's game in Pittsburgh. The Chiefs are 4-7 ATS as dogs since the latter part of the 2011 season.

  • Minnesota is 0-3-1 ATS in its last four games and the Vikings are just 4-8 odds-wise at home since the start of last season.

  • Philadelphia has failed to cover its last three games in succession and now host Dallas in this Week 10 tilt. The Birds - as a matter of fact - have produced just one spread win this year (see 16-14 loss-but-cover at 4-point fav Pittsburgh back on October 7th).

  • Pittsburgh - speak of the devil - has covered three in a row and the last time the Steelers notched four straight covers was late in 2010 and into that year's post-season.

  • Finally, Seattle has covered four of its last five games and now heads into Sunday's home clash against the NY Jets with a spiffy 6-3 ATS overall mark.

Now, here's some NFL Week 10 Previews...

HOUSTON (7-1) at CHICAGO (7-1) - 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
Let's be honest, here: As much fun as this 2012 season has been, there have been precious few real marquee matchups dotting the calendar but this deserves all the hype - we think the NBC peacock is about to bust its feathers!

No doubt the Texans have put their foot down in plenty of games this year including last week's 21-9 win/cover against Buffalo when RB Arian Foster rushed for 111 yards and one shorty TD while Houston owned the ball for 34:03 and that's a real key here:

The old T.O.P.stat  - time of possession.

True, the Bears' defense has now scored seven touchdowns the past six weeks but if Houston can hammer out lots of between-the-tackle runs here - we say Foster must bust the century mark if small dog Houston is gonna get this win - than Chicago won't be able to ball-hawk as much on obvious passing downs.
Two real keys for Chicago on offense:

One week after QB Jay Cutler threw for 229 yards with three scoring strikes to WR Brandon Marshall, the Bears slinger must have good "vision" while trying to chuck it over the likes of DE J.J. Watt and so that could mean some rolling pockets - will Cutler be able to be successful when on the go? Stay tuned.

Secondly, in last week's never-in-doubt 51-20 win against Tennessee, the Bears' ground game banged out 160 yards on 35 carries and we say Chitown must get 30-or-more rushes here and go right at the aforementioned Watt on several occasions.

Spread Notes - Chicago is 5-3 ATS overall this season and the Bears are a nifty 5-1 versus the vig when playing outside the NFC North. On the flip side, Houston is 6-2 against the Las Vegas prices and they're 5-2 spreadwise as dogs since the start of last year.

ATLANTA (8-0) at NEW ORLEANS (3-5) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Now that the Falcons have proven their mettle in a one-score game again - that's now 5-and-oh this year in games decided by 8-or-fewer points following last Sunday's 19-13 taffy-pull win against Dallas - the intrigue continues to build as to whether or not the Falcs will be perfect.

Gotta believe this could well be Atlanta's toughest test over the course of the next six weeks - and keep in mind the Falcons and Saints will collide again in late November at the Georgia Dome.

This here-and-now game pits that well-oiled Atlanta attack - see 330 passing yards and nearly five yards a pop rushing en route to a 123-yard ground game against the 'Boys - against a leaky Saints defense that allowed Michael Vick and the Philly Eagles four trips into the red zone last Monday night and yet the Eagles didn't score a single TD on those escapades close to the goal.

Now, home dog N'Orleans must shadow Atlanta WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones - they nabbed QB Matt Ryan aerials worth 118 and 129 yards, respectively, last weekend - or risk giving up a batch of "chunk plays" here.

One underrated part of this Atlanta team is this defense - and specifically and active secondary starring CB Asante Samuel - but the Saints likely need to show some physicality at the line of scrimmage and run the ball even though no RB Darren Sproles (hand) till further notice.

Spread Note - The Saints swept the season series last year spreadwise and that included that late-in-the-season 45-16 win on Monday Night Football.

Here's some other NFL Week 10 News/Notes...

The New York Giants get another crack at an AFC North crew with this trip into Cincinnati following last week's bitter 24-20 loss to Pittsburgh and wonder if this is simply a bad matchup for the home folks considering last week QB Andy Dalton was sacked five times in last week's 31-23 loss to Denver and this NASCAR-like Giants pass rush has a few things to prove...

The Seattle Seahawks play that other tenant of MetLife Stadium - that would be the NY Jets, of course - and how about last week when Pete Carroll's club gobbled up 28 first downs and 385 net offensive yards in that 30-20 win/cover against Minnesota? The 'Hawks are leaning on RB Marshawn Lynch plenty these days - see 26 carries for 124 yards against the Vikes plus he caught two QB Russell Wilson passes for 26 yards - and we won't be at all surprised if Lynch gets 30+ carries here against a Jets defense that has not stopped physical teams at the point of attack...

Finally, you fantasy league owners know that last week Detroit RB Mikel LeShoure finished with three TDs (yes, all in the second quarter of play) but will he be a red-zone menace in this key NFC North game in Minnesota?

Plus, how about that non-existent Oakland Raiders ground game that accounted for 22 yards on 11 carries last week in the 42-32 loss to Tampa Bay? Now that RB Darren McFadden is hurt - again! - the Raiders will be relying on a cast of unknowns to run it against Baltimore. Don't be surprised if QB Carson Palmer - who threw 61 passes a week ago - chucks it 65-or-more times here. Really!


OUR JIM SEZ SUNDAY DISH OFFERS UP A 'ROUND-THE-LEAGUE LOOK WHEN IT COMES TO NFL WEEK 10 ACTION PLUS A MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL PREVIEW TOO!

Gee, wonder how many three-team teaser folks are gonna be hooking up the New England Patriots with the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers in this NFL Week 10 menu?

All of the above are twin-digit betting favorites but we've all learned - at least we all should have learned by now - that NFL heavy-duty favorites don't always get the cash and these three-team teasers can be real killers more times than not ... just sayin'!

Meanwhile, let's dart our way 'round the NFL Week 10 card and get you some pre-game observations before we get you this week's Monday Night Football preview ...

New York Giants at Cincinnati - There's major consternation these days in/around the Big Apple 'cause two-time Super Bowl-winning QB Eli Manning has been in a major funk for a full month now (remember he completed only 10 passes in last weekend's tough-to-stomach 24-20 loss to the aforementioned Steelers) - and while many folks in NYC are concentrating on the comments made this week by Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green ("the Giants defense has lots of holes") the reality is that Tom Coughlin's club will remain in its mini-funk until/unless Manning gets his act together.

Denver at Carolina - Great sidebar story here as one-time and long-time Panthers head coach John Fox is back in Charlotte here with his Broncos bunch that all of a sudden is really streaking with those back-to-back-to-back wins/covers against San Diego, New Orleans and Cincinnati, In last week's gritty 31-23 win at the 5-point underdog Bengals, Denver's defense piled up another five sacks (we think LB Von Miller should have been credited with all five of 'em!) while WR Eric Decker caught eight of Peyton Manning's passes for 99 yards and two TDs. Decker is quickly turning into one of the league's top receivers and we'll see how rough and tough the Carolina secondary gets with him here.

Detroit at Minnesota - Folks, you gotta go back to November 7th to find the last time these Minny Vikings covered an all-important pointspread (see 30-7 home win against Tennessee) as Leslie Frazier's gang is 0-3-1 ATS (against the spread) ever since and last week QB Christian Ponder threw for an amazingly-low 63 yards passing while completing half of his 22 passes in that 30-20 loss in Seattle. The question 'round the Twin Cities these days is has Ponder "regressed"? We'll see here how he handles DL Ndamkung Suh for a full 60 minutes, won't we?

Dallas at Philadelphia - When did you think you would see the day where these clubs came limping into a game with identical 3-5 SU (straight-up) marks but that's the deal here as these NFC East crews have been terribly inefficient on offense (see Philly's four red-zone visits in New Orleans last week that produced nary a touchdown) and now the Cowboys have this whole Sean Payton rumor hanging over their heads these days. Yes, it's better than a 50-50 chance right now (we say) that the currently-suspended Payton is the next coach of the 'Boys but that's a topic for another day as right now this offense must get untracked after producing just one TD last weekend in that 19-13 tug-of-war loss in Atlanta (see QB Tony Romo-to-WR Kevin Ogletree 21-yard scoring strike in the fourth quarter). If Romo can't stretch the field here with long deep chucks to Ogletree and Company here, than the Cowboys will be headed to their fifth loss in six games.

Here's some other NFL Week 10 topics d'jour:

The Buffalo Bills head into Foxboro today and the oddsmakers have N'England favored by 11 points but how about the fact Buffalo's last four trips into the Patriots backyard produced only one slaughter - that was last year's season-ending 49-21 loss but otherwise the Bills lost by "only" 10, 1 and 8 points ...

The Miami Dolphins have won two-of-three "bounceback" games this year (a win after a previous loss) and now Joe Philbin's crew tries to snap back from last Sunday's 23-20 loss in Indianapolis. The Fish - who didn't commit a single turnover in that tilt - are counting on bigger/better things here from a defense that surrendered 419 passing yards to QB Andrew Luck but where's the pass rush as Miami sacked Luck just once? Now, stationary Tennessee signal-caller Matt Hasselbeck could do down for the count lots more than that providing Miami's LBs (see Karlos Dansby, among others) can findsome clear paths ...

Finally, the Tampa Bay Bucs are back home following that rollicking 42-32 win at Oakland last Sunday and now host another AFC West side in the San Diego Chargers. True, rookie RB Martin (25 carries for 251 yards rushing) got all the post-game love a week ago, how about the fact QB Josh Freeman threw for 247 yards with two TDs and 0 INTs and don't look now but these Bucs are 6-2 versus the vig this year. Hey, nobody's laughing at "college guy" head coach Greg Schiano these days, right.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL PREVIEW

KANSAS CITY (1-7) at PITTSBURGH (5-3) - 8:40 p.m. ET, ESPN
Still hard to believe a couple of things with these two teams: The Steelers needed this long into the current campaign to get its collective act together - Mike Tomlin's crew now has won/covered three in a row following that rather herky-jerky start to this season - while it's still almost impossible to figure how the KC Chiefs have never sported a regulation lead this year.

Yes, KayCee's grabbed one win but remember that was a 27-24 overtime triumph in New Orleans way back in Week 3 play as the Chiefs never led in that one till the game-winning field goal by ultra-dependable PK Ryan Succop and he's about the only thing that could carry KC into the win column spreadwise here as the Chiefs have been installed as a hefty 12 ½-point underdog at press time.

The truth of the matter is it hardly matters who starts at quarterback for Kansas City: Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn as neither is truly a #1 guy in this league and so expect the Steelers pass rush to come full force early and try to KO the spirit of Romeo Crennel's club here.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh remains bound-and-determined to put less stress on QB Ben Roethlisberger and so "35" is the magic number again here: Can the Steelers get 35 (or more) carries from its now-incredibly deep backfield that stars RB Jonathan Dwyer who quickly is becoming one of the 10-ot-15 most important players in this man's league these days.

Spread Notes - Pittsburgh is a dead-even but vig-losing 4-4 against the odds overall this year but note that this AFC North crew is just 4-7 ATS when playing outside its division while dating back to late in the 2011 season. On the flip side, Kansas City's an ugly 2-6 spreadwise so far this season and the Chiefs will head into this MNF clash with a three-game spread losing skein and the last time KC failed to cover four-or-more games in succession was right at the start of the 2009 season when it failed to cover the season's first four games. P.S., it's only slightly ironic that the Kansas City head coach than was one Todd Haley - the current offensive coordinator/play-caller of this here-and-now Steelers team.

NOTE: Get all our NCAA Football and NFL Week 10 weekend post-game coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez and make sure to get all the Hoops too!

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