Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 9:06 AM
Hope you've seen that little ESPN ditty the network's been running at the bottom of the screen the past couple of days: It says that this Sunday, December 16th marks the latest date on an NFL calendar that as many as six games will pit teams with winning records against one another - yep, it is rather amazing when you stop to think about it.
And it means that NFL Week 15 is gonna be a dandy no matter how you slice it - so let's not waste any time and get right to our mid-week quick-hitter previews that will immediately follow the Thursday Night game in Philly ...
NFL WEEK 15
CINCINNATI (7-6) at PHILADELPHIA (4-9) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Put it this way: If the Cincy Bengals don't land a post-season berth this year than losing the close ones will have doomed 'em!
Marvin Lewis' club - coming off last Sunday's heart-wrenching 20-19 last-second loss to heart-broken Dallas - now has dropped four "one-score" games this season including a four-point loss to Miami and a 7-point home loss to archrival Pittsburgh - and so there's no real wiggle room now for Cincinnati here in this short-week, lay-the-points, road affair against a suddenly revived Eagles crew that scored two touchdowns in the game's final four minutes to upend Tampa Bay 23-21 last Sunday in Florida.
Game plan for the Bengals here is to step things up in the red zone - keep in mind Cincinnati's new PK Josh Brown booted FGs from 25, 33 and 25 yards out among his four three-pointers and that ain't gonna cut it here against a Philly team buoyed by the play of rookie QB Nick Foles (see 381 yards passing and two TD tosses against the Bucs).
One key stat to watch for here is can Philadelphia rush the ball one week after the ground game churned out only 29 rushing yards on 16 carries?
Spread Notes - Cincinnati rolls into this prime-time bash having covered four of its last five games overall but the Bengals are an ugly 12-27-2 ATS (against the spread) as betting favorites while dating back to the start of the 2007 campaign. On the flip side, Philadelphia co-owns the worst spread mark in the league this year (see our accompanying NFL Pointspread Standings Chart) and the Eagles are a collective 9-21 versus the vig when playing non-NFC East foes the past two-plus seasons.
NFL POINTSPREAD STANDINGS
Editor's Note: Hey, did you notice here that the NFC West is a collective 31-20-1 against the Las Vegas prices so far this season (that's a solid .608 winning rate) while the AFC West is just 22-29-1 spreadwise (a .431 winning percentage) ... just sayin'!
Now here's the quick-hitter previews of those NFL Week 15 games matching up teams with winning records ... enjoy!
GREEN BAY (9-4) at CHICAGO (8-5) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Keep in mind the first time these NFC North foes collided this 2012 season - a 23-10 Packers' home/win cover as 5-point favorites back in Week 2 play - Green Bay changed the complexion of that Thursday Night game with a fake field goal-turned-TD (holder Tim Masthay flipped a short pass to Tom Crabtree that turned into a 27-yard scoring gallop) and so keep eyes open here for any/all gadget plays on special teams where this game could get decided providing Bears' QB Jay Cutler doesn't chuck away four more INTs as was the case in Week 2 ... remember?
NEW YORK GIANTS (8-5) at ATLANTA (11-2) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
No doubt the Falcons are spending the better part of this here-and-now week answering questions as to what went wrong in last Sunday's 30-20 non-competitive loss against Carolina and one thing the Birds must clear up is that rush defense that allowed 195 ground yards in all including that spell-binding 72-yard touchdown gallop by Panthers' QB Cam Newton - hey, it's not as if Giants QB Eli Manning is gonna take off and gallop 70-plus yards here but the sudden emergence of rookie RB David Wilson (13 carries for 100 yards against New Orleans last week) should have Atlanta a bit spooked.
DENVER (10-3) at BALTIMORE (9-4) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Now that the Ravens have ditched offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for QB coach Jim Caldwell - yes, we applaud the move even at this rather late stage of the season - we'll see if this AFC North crew can get its act together here against a Broncos bunch that's won eight in a row SU (straight-up) and is allowing a mere 14 points or less in four of the team's last seven games. If Caldwell wants to get square in the mind of Ravens fans, than he'll feed RB Ray Rice (20 rushes and 3 receptions in last Sunday's bitterly disappointing 31-28 overtime loss at Washington) a minimum of 30 times in all here even if that means taking a few shots from superstar LB Von Miller.
INDIANAPOLIS (9-4) at HOUSTON (11-2) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
So much for the Houston Texans looking like world-beaters every week! The 42-14 MNF beat-down at the hands of the 5 ½-point favored New England Patriots (another Network MNF Winner, now 12-5-1 on the season!) sure was a big-time serving of humble pie for a Texans team that had dismantled more than a few foes along the way this year - Houston had beaten six teams by twin-figure margins this season - and now we'll see how Texans' head coach Gary Kubiak gets his guys ready for the first of two head-to-head meetings with the Indy Colts in these final three weeks of play (talk about your strange scheduling!). One item from Colts-land: Maybe PK Adam Vinatieri hadn't much entered your mind this year but those 53- and 40-yard field goals in the fourth quarter of last week's 27-23 come-from-behind win against Tennessee (remember the Titans led 20-7 at halftime) showed the future Hall of Fame kicker is still on his game and don't be shocked if he's front-and-center at crunch time here again.
PITTSBURGH (7-6) at DALLAS (7-6) - 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
Emotions run high in Cowboys land after the tragic auto accident of practice team LB Jerry Brown, Jr. and you do have to wonder if Jason Garrett's club will be a tad worn out emotionally come game time here on Sunday: Consider that Dallas managed to snag that aforementioned 20-19 win at Cincinnati last week despite the fact the 'Boys rushed for only 49 yards on 24 carries and despite the fact they forced just one Bengals turnover (a pick of Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton) and both categories must be improved here against an ornery Steelers club that was never really in the game in last weekend's 34-24 loss to San Diego. Got a feeling we're not gonna be seeing that "bubble screen" pass operated out of the Pittsburgh end zone here, right coach Mike Tomlin?
On Sunday Night, it's ...
SAN FRANCISCO (9-3-1) at NEW ENGLAND (10-3) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
As NBC analyst Chris Collinsworth stated last week, this was almost the Super Bowl matchup a year ago but San Fran's NFC Championship Game overtime loss to the NY Giants squashed that and so now we'll see what these powerhouse squads have to offer in - you know we have to say it - what could be this year's Super Bowl preview. So there! Okay, so brainy Bill Belichick and the Patriots defense will sure be spending lots of time this week devising ways to slow down the rushing skills of San Fran kid QB Colin Kaepernick but gotta believe this result will hinge more on whether or not Kaepernick can make New England's secondary pay here - no doubt Houston QB Matt Schaub was out-foxed more than once by the Pats' much-maligned but improving secondary as Devin McCourty's goal-line pick with New England up 7-0 proved to be the single-biggest play in that prime-time affair from Foxboro. Meanwhile, the Pats - who have now outscored their opponents 472-to-274 this year - are banking on California guy QB Tom Brady (four TD passes against the Texans) dissecting this sure-tackling, fundamentally sound SF defense that has held seven foes to 16 points or less.
P.S., the Patriots have scored 16 points or less a grand total of two times since the start of the 2010 season (that's twice in 49 games!)
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will rock-n-roll through the last three weeks of the NFL regular season beginning with a Side/Totals Play on Thursday's Bengals-Eagles clash plus remember to get all the NBA and NCAA Basketball Winners each and every day - and climb aboard right now with America's #1 Handicapper to cash in big with the upcoming College Football Bowl Games that all begin this Saturday with the New Mexico Bowl (that's Nevada vs. Arizona) and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (that's Utah State vs. Toledo). Check in with us on Game Days either right here online or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the winners and note the check-in times are after 1 p.m. ET for weeknight action and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays. Don't get left out in the cold this College Football Bowl Season - there are 35 College Bowl Games in all and we plan on smashing Las Vegas all holiday season long, folks!
NOTE: Get all the Bowl Previews this week right here in Jim Sez -- and watch out this week for NFL Week 15 and NCAA/NBA coverage too!