Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, November 19, 2012 at 10:03 AM
They sure do things big in Texas!
Like make the state's two pro football teams play big minutes en route to critical mid-November wins as the AFC South-leading Houston Texans (9-1) had to go some 13 minutes into overtime to turn back frisky 14 ½-point underdog Jacksonville 43-37 while the Dallas Cowboys of NFC East fame needed to go nearly nine minutes into their OT session to clip the 7-point underdog Cleveland Browns 23-20.
Well, no doubt the 5-and-5 Cowboys sure needed that "W" and especially with a "mild" schedule on the horizon that includes the Thanksgiving Day game against Washington among four home games in the final six weeks of play - please no excuses, America's Team, now if you can't find a way to a winning season!
Maybe the Texans' gut-check triumph wasn't exactly of the "must win" variety but it was if Gary Kubiak's crew plans on snatching up home field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs - Houston remained one full game ahead of Baltimore following the Ravens' 13-10 prime-time win against battered-and-bruised Pittsburgh and two full games ahead of both New England and Denver who also collected home wins on this pre-Turkey Day weekend.
We'll delve into the OT wins by both the Cowboys and Texans in just a moment but first these all-important spread stats: NFL Week 11 Betting Favorites will enter the Monday Night Games at 7-5-1 ATS (against the odds) and so that brings the season total to this: The NFL's chalk-eater sides are 66-88-5 spreadwise for a .428 winning rate this 2012 season - again, we can't remember in recent league history where underdogs ruled the roost like this so deep into a season but how about the fact the one-and-only underdog side that won outright in Week 11 was the New York Jets (+ 3 ½) who crushed the St. Louis Rams 27-13 and that not only was a season-saving win for "gang green" but it sure put some life into the upcoming Thanksgiving Night home game against the New England Patriots - and we'll get you that preview and lots more holiday goodies in the next edition of Jim Sez, so you have been warned!
Now, let's get back to the OT wins by Dallas and Houston ...
DALLAS 23, CLEVELAND 20 (OT) - Can't blame the Cowboys for breathing that major sigh of relief here as seven sacks of QB Tony Romo (plus one key lost fumble by the oft-criticized signal-caller) didn't sink "Jerry's Kids" but might it be time for Dallas to reshuffle the deck when it comes to this offensive line?
Consider that in addition to the handful-plus sacks of Romo, this Dallas offense produced a meager 63 yards rushing on 21 carries and scored only two TDs on five trips into the red zone.
If you didn't know, the 'Boys now have won four of their five games by a touchdown or less and can they really/truly count on WR Dez Bryant to register such star-studded games the rest of the way? Bryant's amazing 12-catch, 145-yard, 1-TD showing was classic stuff but both Romo and Bryant epitomize the here-and-now Cowboys who show zero consistency and really have played only one complete game this year ... and that was all the way back in Week 1 (see Cowboys 24, New York Giants 17)!
Good news for the Cowboys: They erased a 13-0 deficit to win a super-important game.
Bad news for the Cowboys: They got behind 13-zip in the first place and converted on only 4-of-14 third-down plays and showed once again they know nothing better than to play to the level of this year's competition.
How come, Jason Garrett?
HOUSTON 43, JACKSONVILLE 37 (OT) - First gotta give a shout out to NFL Network/NFL Red Zone in-studio broadcaster Scott Hanson for dubbing the simultaneous dueling OT games from the Lone Star State as the "Texas Two-Step" as it was fascinating stuff 'round 4:15 p.m. ET or so to check out the happenings in both Houston and Arlington (and don't forget Tampa Bay's dramatic 27-21 overtime win at Carolina) as the drama built to a major crescendo with both Texas teams probative favorites in their respective games.
It's safe to say that the Texans needed every ounce of energy to turn back the Jaguars here with QB Matt Schaub's 48-yard screen pass touchdown to turn-back-the-clock receiver Andre Johnson (see 14 catches for 273 yards for a 19.5 yards-per-grab average) winning it with just 2:01 left on the OT clock but can someone out there tell us what clueless Jacksonville head coach Mike Mularkey was doing when he opted to have his offense go for it from midfield on a fourth-and-long play right before the OT-winning score?
Mularkey fed the post-game media some - well, mularkey, regarding how his 1-8 team didn't "come here for a tie" but that was no-brainer stuff as the Jags should have punted the ball and attempted to pin the Texans deep in their own end and saw if the defense could win it for him... yet another NFL coach making a horrid in-game decision that cost his club and now you see one reason why the Jags are now 0-3 SU (straight-up) in road overtime games this season!
Still, hats off to the Texans who - you just knew - were gonna have an emotional letdown following last weekend's rainy 13-6 win in Chicago but who knew it would take 43 completions by Schaub (in 55 passing tries) and a career game from the aforementioned Johnson just to extinguish the Jags two minutes short of a tie?
P.S., if you're keeping track of such things, Houston now has won all four of its "one-score" games this year - and that's how one goes about getting home-field advantage right through a post-season.
Two final quickie NFL Week 11 Notes ...
No doubt Baltimore's 13-10 slugfest win in Pittsburgh last night had its fair share of hard hits (and illegal hits) but must we all have watched Steelers backup-turned-starting QB Byron Leftwich (18-of-39 passing for 201 yards with one INT and sacked three times) gimp around the field for much of the second half?
If the Steelers are without injured QB Ben Roethlisberger for any prolonged period of time, they have to get Charlie Batch ready - Leftwich looks like he's gonna "break" at any moment ...
Finally, exactly when is the last time you saw an NFL team win a game in which its starting quarterback aired five INTs - and no TDs?
Still, that's what happened in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon as QB Matt Ryan was picked off a handful of times - including thrice in the first quarter alone - but the Falcons' 23-19 come-from-behind win was aided/abetted by only 7 first downs by the Cardinals and a 2-of-16 success rate on third-down plays. Double-ugh!
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL BCS UPDATE
We've said it before - and now we'll say it again: Hey, College Football big-wigs, you should have left well enough alone!
Maybe folks have warmed up to the BCS since its inception back in 1997 but here we go again facing the potential of an unbeaten team (new #1 Notre Dame) facing a one-loss team in the BCS Championship Game but the $64,000 question is what one-loss team deserves the berth opposite the Irish (and that's presuming Brian Kelly's club gets there in the first place!).
Should new #2 Alabama get the nod even though the Crimson Tide lost 29-24 as two-TD favorites against Texas A&M a couple of weeks ago?
How about new #3 Georgia who lost by 28 points at South Carolina way back on October 6th?
Or maybe you believe that the teams ranked #1 and #2 in the BCS Standings prior to their stunning losses - that's Kansas State and Oregon - deserve a "second chance" to impress pollsters even though these clubs turned up #6 and #5, respectively, in the just-released BCS Standings?
The funny thing is that it appeared not having a conference championship game was gonna help Kansas State (10-1) prior to the weekend's 52-24 loss at 12-point pup Baylor - now it's a killer that K-State can't beat another high-profile foe - while the SEC Championship Game surely will catapult it's expected Alabama vs. Georgia matchup into yet another national title game ... we told you folks in last week's Jim Sez not to count out the mighty SEC just yet!
Hey, next thing you know, Notre Dame will lose this weekend at QB Matt Barkley-less USC and Alabama-Georgia will be an epic 27-24 overtime game on the first Saturday in December ... gee, than maybe (we say tongue in cheek) the BCS geniuses will give us a 'Bama vs. Georgia "rematch" in the national title tilt.
Hey, don't laugh at the notion!
Yup, it's too bad 11-0 Ohio State isn't eligible for the national crown - now Urban Meyer vs. Notre Dame would be storybook stuff all around but instead the SEC will finagle its way into the big game one mo' time and there's really nothing anyone else can do about it.
NOTE: Catch our NFL and NCAA Football Mid-Week Update in the next edition of Jim Sez plus all the Thanksgiving Day Previews too!