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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, January 11, 2013 at 5:41 PM

Last weekend it was "chalk heaven" in the NFL's Wild Card Playoff Round as Houston, Green Bay, Baltimore and Seattle all won/covered their respective games ...

So are we "due" for some underdog winners here or are we - as many folks 'round the land tend to believe - headed for a Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning battle between New England at Denver in the AFC Championship Game and a San Francisco at Atlanta title tilt in the NFC Championship Game?

No doubt there is reason for the bye teams to be a tad worried considering that momentum, timing and the like all gets tossed out to some degree while heading into these NFL Divisional Playoff round games but the flip side says rest/relaxation prior to the start of the post-season could be just what the doctor ordered for the likes of Denver, San Fran, Atlanta and New England ... we'll see.

Here's how things played out in chronological order in last year's NFL Divisional Playoff round and note home teams are in CAPS:

SAN FRANCISCO + 3 New Orleans 36-32
NEW ENGLAND - 14 Denver 45-10
BALTIMORE - 7.5 Houston 20-13
NY Giants + 9 GREEN BAY 37-20

Yes, sir/ma'am, three dogs cashed bets in this exact playoff round a year ago - with the SF Niners and NY Giants winning their NFC playoff games in outright fashion - and only heavy-duty betting fav New England could give the chalk guys somethin' to smile about.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will bang NFL Divisional Playoff round winners this Saturday/Sunday and we'll take you right thru Super Bowl XLVII plus get all the NBA and NCAA Basketball Winners each and every day too. So don't you get left out in the cold this wintertime! 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.

Now, here are the Saturday matchups in the NFL's Divisional Playoffs:

BALTIMORE (11-6) at DENVER (13-3)
- 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Think about it: The Denver Broncos have not lost a game since October 7th (that's now 96 days, folks) and their 11-game SU (straight-up) winning streak is longer than anyone in this playoff field with Seattle's six-game winning streak the next-best streak - so no wonder QB Manning and his Broncos bunch are considered the favorite to play in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans next month.

Still, Manning - who would get our "silver medal" in this year's MVP race behind Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson - who threw for 4,659 yards and 37 TDs after sitting out all of last year following multiple neck surgeries must meet the challenge from a veteran Ravens defense that figures to play loosey-goosey here and so the specter of an S Ed Reed pick or a key LB Terrell Suggs sack looms large here plus remember that Baltimore RB Ray Rice is in a something-to-prove mode after losing a pair of fumbles in last Sunday's 24-9 wild card win against the Colts.

Expect Rice to get the ball 25-or-more times here - heck, we've been calling for that all year long in this Jim Sez column space - and look for Baltimore QB Joe Flacco (282 yards passing with two TDs and 0 INTs last weekend against Indianapolis) to "trust" WRs Anquan Boldin (145 yards receiving last Sunday) and Torrey Smith with more deep throws against a Denver secondary that really has not faced a top-flight thrower in weeks.

Want an X-factor for this NFL Divisional Playoff opener?

Try Denver RB Knowshon Moreno who busted loose for 115 rushing yards (at 5.5 yards-per-carry) in the Broncos' 34-17 win in Baltimore back in Week 15 action. If Moreno gets stuffed at the line of scrimmage here by LB Ray Lewis, DT Haloti Ngata and friends, than the heat gets cranked up on Manning who - BTW - is 2-4 SU in all post-season games since winning the Super Bowl with the Colts back in 2006.

Spread Notes - Denver is 11-5 ATS (against the spread) overall this season and note the Broncos rock into the post-season riding a five-game spread winning streak. The AFC West gang is an ultra- sizzling 6-1 ATS as home betting favorites this season but note that Denver's failed to cover four of its last six playoff games dating back to the 2003 season. On the flip side, Baltimore is 8-8-1 against the odds this season including last week's wild card win/cover against Indianapolis. The Ravens - who sport a 6-4 ATS playoff log under fifth-year head coach John Harbaugh - have split their four road underdog verdicts this year including covers at Philly early (Week 2) and at Cincinnati late (Week 17).

Now here's the game-by-game look at both the Ravens and the Broncos and note all home teams are in CAPS:


#1 BALTIMORE - 7 Cincinnati 44-13
#2 PHILADELPHIA - 3 Baltimore 24-23
#3 BALTIMORE - 2.5 New England 31-30
#4 BALTIMORE - 12 Cleveland 23-16
#5 Baltimore - 6 KANSAS CITY 9-6
#6 BALTIMORE - 3 Dallas 31-29
#7 HOUSTON - 6.5 Baltimore 43-13
#8 Bye Week
#9 Baltimore - 3.5 CLEVELAND 25-15
#10 BALTIMORE - 7.5 Oakland 55-20
#11 Baltimore - 3 PITTSBURGH 13-10
#12 Baltimore PK SAN DIEGO 16-13
#13 Pittsburgh + 7 BALTIMORE 23-20
#14 WASHINGTON - 2.5 Baltimore 31-28(ot)
#15 Denver - 3 BALTIMORE 34-17
#16 BALTIMORE + 3 NY Giants 33-14
#17 CINCINNATI - 6.5 Baltimore 23-17
WC BALTIMORE - 7.5 Indianapolis 24-9


#1 DENVER - 2.5 Pittsburgh 31-19
#2 ATLANTA - 3 Denver 27-21
#3 Houston - 1 DENVER 31-25
#4 DENVER - 6.5 Oakland 37-6
#5 NEW ENGLAND - 6 Denver 31-21
#6 Denver + 1 SAN DIEGO 35-24
#7 Bye Week
#8 DENVER - 6.5 New Orleans 34-14
#9 Denver - 5 CINCINNATI 31-23
#10 Denver - 3.5 CAROLINA 36-14
#11 DENVER - 7.5 San Diego 30-23
#12 Denver - 10.5 KANSAS CITY 17-9
#13 DENVER - 7.5 Tampa Bay 31-23
#14 Denver - 10 OAKLAND 26-13
#15 Denver - 3 BALTIMORE 34-17
#16 DENVER - 10.5 Cleveland 34-12
#17 DENVER - 17 Kansas City 38-3


GREEN BAY (12-5) at SAN FRANCISCO (11-4-1)
- 8 p.m. ET, Fox

Cheese heads ... or wine-and-cheese: Which group of fans will be all excited by a playoff win here?

No doubt the visiting Green Bay Packers -- perhaps just happy to be playing someone other than the Minnesota Vikings these days (see three games versus the Vikes the past six weekends) - have stubbed their collective toes a few times on the NFL road this year with losses in Seattle (okay, so we'll put an asterisk next to that one!), at Indianapolis, at the New York Giants and in Minnesota and now from the strange-but-true department the Pack have not played in Frisco since 2006: A 30-19 Green Bay win as 4-point underdogs. Yep, it's been awhile!

If Green Bay is gonna win its first playoff road game since their Super Bowl-winning season two years ago, than Mike McCarthy's crew not only needs a Pro Bowl-type showing from northern California QB Aaron Rodgers (4,295 yards passing with 39 TDs and 8 INTs) but that much-maligned O-line must keep Rodgers in the upright position and keep him from harm's way and especially against DE Aldon Smith who - we know, we know - hasn't had a sack in three games now.

The 49ers, meanwhile, have two major goals here in addition to getting heat on Rodgers:

The ground game starring RB Frank Gore (1,214 yards rushing) must poke holes in a Green Bay defense that last week was fortified by the return of CB/S Charles Woodson who makes a major difference in both run and pass defense plus San Fran PK David Akers - who is seemingly this close to losing his job - must make any/all field goals from inside 45 yards here or that momentum swing will really be felt.

One X-factor on our Jim Sez radar screen: The QB Colin Kaepernick-to-WR Michael Crabtree pass/catch combo has been stellar for the Niners but what happens if Crabtree's double-covered or "bracketed" here - will Kaepernick (1,814 yards passing with 10 TDs and 3 INTs) have total faith in any other wide out?

Spread Notes - San Francisco is 9-7 ATS overall this season and that includes a dead-even but vig-losing 4-4 spread mark when placed in the role of home betting favorite (and note that in the 2011 regular season the 49ers were a perfect 7-and-oh spreadwise as home chalk sides!). Note that the Niners have played only four post-season games since 2002 and the NFC West gang is just 1-3 versus the vig in these tilts with the lone cover coming in last year's wild 36-32 win against 3-point road favorite New Orleans in the NFC Divisional Playoff round. Meanwhile, Green Bay is a slightly profitable 10-7 against the prices this year and that includes splitting a pair of games when in the underdog role (see chart) and splitting four spread verdicts against the NFC West. Note that the Packers are 6-3 ATS in all post-season games under seventh-year boss man McCarthy.

Now here's the game-by-game look at both the Packers and the 49ers and note all home teams are in CAPS:


#1 San Francisco + 6 GREEN BAY 30-22
#2 GREEN BAY - 5 Chicago 23-10
#3 SEATTLE + 3 Green Bay 14-12
#4 GREEN BAY - 7.5 New Orleans 28-27
#5 INDIANAPOLIS + 6.5 Green Bay 30-27
#6 Green Bay + 4 HOUSTON 42-24
#7 Green Bay - 5 ST. LOUIS 30-20
#8 GREEN BAY - 15.5 Jacksonville 24-15
#9 GREEN BAY - 10.5 Arizona 31-17
#10 Bye Week
#11 Green Bay - 3 DETROIT 24-20
#12 NY GIANTS - 3 Green Bay 38-10
#13 GREEN BAY - 7 Minnesota 23-14
#14 GREEN BAY - 6 Detroit 27-20
#15 Green Bay - 3 CHICAGO 21-13
#16 GREEN BAY - 10.5 Tennessee 55-7
#17 MINNESOTA + 3 Green Bay 37-34
WC GREEN BAY - 11 Minnesota 24-10


#1 San Francisco + 6 GREEN BAY 30-22
#2 SAN FRANCISCO - 7 Detroit 27-19
#3 MINNESOTA + 7 San Francisco 24-13
#4 San Francisco - 4 NY JETS 34-0
#5 SAN FRANCISCO - 10 Buffalo 45-3
#6 NY Giants + 7 SAN FRANCISCO 26-3
#7 SAN FRANCISCO - 7.5 Seattle 13-6
#8 San Francisco - 7 ARIZONA 24-3
#9 Bye Week
#10 SAN FRANCISCO - 13 St. Louis 24-24 (ot-tie)
#11 SAN FRANCISCO - 4 Chicago 32-7
#12 San Francisco - 2.5 NEW ORLEANS 31-21
#13 ST. LOUIS + 8 San Francisco 16-13(ot)
#14 SAN FRANCISCO - 11 Miami 27-13
#15 San Francisco + 4 NEW ENGLAND 41-34
#16 SEATTLE - 3 San Francisco 42-13
#17 SAN FRANCISCO - 16 Arizona 27-13


By Jim Hurley:

What many folks believe to be the single-best football weekend of the whole year is here - and Sunday's NFL Divisional Playoff showdowns are previewed below but let's take a moment to show you how Jim Hurley has been doing in the wonderful world of hoops.

Jim Hurley's Cashline Basketball at 1-800-323-4453 have been smoking-hot with recent NBA winners including Utah's 100-94 triumph over Dallas on January 7th and College B-Ball winners such as Missouri's wipeout win against Alabama one night later and Temple's recent cover against double-digit betting fav Kansas.

Make sure you're all aboard for all the hard-court winners - check out Jim Hurley's Cashline Basketball and win all winter long!

SEATTLE (12-5) at ATLANTA (13-3) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Do any of the still-remaining NFL playoff teams have more real pressure on their shoulder pads this weekend than these Atlanta Falcons?

Okay, so everyone's quite aware of the Falcons' 0-for-3 mark in post-season games under fifth-year head coach Mike Smith but were you aware that Atlanta's last playoff win came in the Jim L. Mora Era back in 2004 and so that's a long time between whiskey sours!

If Atlanta wishes to march on into next weekend's NFC Championship Game, than a couple of obvious things must happen - and also a couple of not-so-obvious things too: The Falcons' three-headed pass-catching corps of WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones (a combined 171 receptions and 17 TDs this year) along with ageless TE Tony Gonzalez (93 catches and 8 TDs) must make a splash here sooner rather than later in a statement to the Seattle secondary that spooked many of the Washington Redskins' pass-catchers a week ago - will Seahawks' CBs Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner have Atlanta's receivers in alligator-arm postures here?

And can Atlanta QB Matt Ryan (4,719 yards passing with 32 TDs and 14 INTs) get enough time in the pocket to pick-and-choose his downfield targets - after all, Ryan's a master after completing nearly 69 percent of his forward tosses this year.

The not-so-obvious factors include the following: Is Atlanta's defense - often considered a tad finesse - tough enough to handle the running of "beast" RB Marshawn Lynch (1,590 yards rushing) and physical enough to make Seattle wide receivers pay when they go over the middle? A big part of this game will be whether or not Atlanta's DBs can dislodge the ball from WR Golden Tate (45 catches and 7 TDs) who has a way of making the big play when QB Russell Wilson looks 'em up.

What else to watch?

Will Seattle head coach Pete Carroll have immediate faith in new PK Ryan Longwell who replaces the injured Steven Haushka (calf) with field-goal tries of beyond 45 yards here?

Gotta believe the Seahawks will be in "four-down territory" a few times here when otherwise they would settle for a Haushka three-pointer, right?

Spread Notes - Atlanta is 9-6-1 ATS (against the spread) overall this season and a healthy 48-33-2 vig-wise since the arrival of head coach Smith prior to the 2008 season. The Falcons - 0-3 ATS in playoff games under Smith with failures against Arizona (2008), Green Bay (2010) and the New York Giants (2011) - split their eight regular-season games as home betting favorites this year and are 23-15-2 ATS overall as chalk sides the past three seasons. Meanwhile, Seattle is now 12-5 against the Las Vegas prices overall this year and that includes a sizzling 6-1 ATS mark whenever in the underdog role. In fact, the Seahawks are 15-5-1 ATS as pups dating back to the start of 2011 and Seattle's a composite 6-5 spreadwise in post-season action the past 10 years.

Now here's the game-by-game look at both the Seahawks and the Falcons and note all home teams are in CAPS:


#1 ARIZONA + 2.5 Seattle 20-16
#2 SEATTLE + 3 Dallas 27-7
#3 SEATTLE + 3 Green Bay 14-12
#4 ST. LOUIS + 2 Seattle 19-13
#5 Seattle + 1.5 CAROLINA 16-12
#6 SEATTLE + 4.5 New England 24-23
#7 SAN FRANCISCO - 7.5 Seattle 13-6
#8 DETROIT - 2.5 Seattle 28-24
#9 SEATTLE - 5 Minnesota 30-20
#10 SEATTLE - 5.5 NY Jets 28-7
#11 Bye Week
#12 MIAMI + 3 Seattle 24-21
#13 Seattle + 3 CHICAGO 23-17(ot)
#14 SEATTLE - 10 Arizona 58-0
#15 Seattle - 4.5 BUFFALO 50-17
#16 SEATTLE - 3 San Francisco 42-13
#17 SEATTLE - 11.5 St. Louis 20-13
WC Seattle - 3 WASHINGTON 24-14



#1 Atlanta - 2 KANSAS CITY 40-24
#2 ATLANTA - 3 Denver 27-21
#3 Atlanta + 3 SAN DIEGO 27-3
#4 ATLANTA - 7 Carolina 30-28
#5 Atlanta - 3 WASHINGTON 24-17
#6 ATLANTA - 9.5 OAKLAND 23-20
#7 Bye Week
#8 Atlanta + 3 PHILADELPHIA 30-17
#9 ATLANTA - 4 Dallas 19-13
#10 NEW ORLEANS + 1 Atlanta 31-27
#11 ATLANTA - 9 Arizona 23-19
#12 Atlanta - 1 TAMPA BAY 24-23
#13 ATLANTA - 3.5 New Orleans 23-13
#14 CAROLINA + 3.5 Atlanta 30-20
#15 ATLANTA - 1 NY Giants 34-0
#16 Atlanta - 3.5 DETROIT 31-18
#17 Tampa Bay + 3 ATLANTA 22-17


HOUSTON (13-4) at NEW ENGLAND (12-4) - 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS

The plain-and-simple fact is that the New England Patriots have been part of the Super Bowl hoopla in four of the last nine years - not winning it all since the 2004 season.

If the Patriots are gonna get over this initial playoff hurdle than QB Tom Brady (4,827 yards passing with 34 TDs and 8 INTs this season) needs the matchups to go in his favor here ... just as they did in that 42-14 slam-bang win against Houston back on December 10th.

In that prime-time Monday Night Football tilt, Brady threw for 296 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs and the Pats scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions and keep in mind that one was played without the services of TE Rob Gronkowski (11 TD catches this season) who was out with a broken arm - Gronk's back here and Brady will be eyeballing him and fellow TE Aaron Hernandez plenty but will the Texans' defense be "giving away" their defensive schemes too early in the play clock as was the case last month?

No doubt that Houston head coach Gary Kubiak has just as much pressure on 'em here as does his defensive coordinator Wade Phillips: While Phillips must get monster games by the likes of DE J.J. Watt - a major force in last weekend's 19-13 AFC Wild Card win/cover against Cincinnati - and this veteran secondary, it's Kubiak who must come up with the answers of how to deal with New England DT Vince Wilfork who busts up these type games. Look for draws/traps to be run for Houston RB Arian Foster (32 carries for 140 yards last week against the Bengals) and expect the Texans to test the still-shaky Patriots secondary.

Gut feel is both WR Andre Johnson and TE Owen Daniels (112 and 62 receptions, respectively, this year) must catch 15-to-18 balls between 'em and some of them have to be "chunk plays".

One X-factor at work here: Houston cannot abandon the ground game even if it gets down two scores here: Foster has to touch the ball 30-plus times and Texans' QB Matt Schaub can't afford any in-game slumps with his accuracy - the AFC South crew may not have to be absolutely perfect to win here but they gotta be pretty darn close to perfect!

Spread Notes - New England's 9-6-1 spreadwise overall this 2012 season and the Patriots enter this playoff clash having failed to cover seven of its last eight post-seasons games. Note that New England has notched spread wins in its last three head-to-head games versus Houston including covers back in the 2006 and 2010 regular seasons. On the flip side, Houston is 10-7 ATS overall this year (remember the Texans darted out of the starting gate on a four-game spread winning streak this year) and the AFC South crew is a solid 6-3 ATS as underdog sides since the start of last year. P.S., Houston has covered all three of its playoff games - last year's pointspread wins against Cincinnati and Baltimore and, of course, last week's Wild Card cover against the Bengals.

Now here's the game-by-game look at both the Texans and the Patriots and note all home teams are in CAPS:


#1 HOUSTON - 13 Miami 30-10
#2 Houston - 6.5 JACKSONVILLE 27-7
#3 Houston - 1 DENVER 31-25
#4 HOUSTON - 13 Tennessee 38-14
#5 Houston - 9.5 NY JETS 23-17
#6 Green Bay + 4 HOUSTON 42-24
#7 HOUSTON - 6.5 Baltimore 43-13
#8 Bye Week
#9 HOUSTON - 11 Buffalo 21-9
#10 Houston + 1 CHICAGO 13-6
#11 HOUSTON - 14.5 Jacksonville 43-37 (ot)
#12 Houston - 3.5 DETROIT 34-31 (ot)
#13 Houston - 7 TENNESSEE 24-10
#14 NEW ENGLAND + 5.5 Houston 42-14
#15 HOUSTON - 10.5 Indianapolis 29-17
#16 Minnesota + 8.5 HOUSTON 23-6
#17 INDIANAPOLIS + 6.5 Houston 28-16
WC HOUSTON - 4 Cincinnati 19-13



#1 New England - 5.5 TENNESSEE 34-13
#2 Arizona + 13.5 NEW ENGLAND 20-18
#3 BALTIMORE - 2.5 New England 31-30
#4 New England - 4 BUFFALO 52-28
#5 NEW ENGLAND - 6.5 Denver 31-21
#6 SEATTLE + 4.5 New England 24-23
#7 NEW ENGLAND - 11 NY Jets 29-26 (ot)
#8 New England - 7 St. Louis 45-7
#9 Bye Week
#10 NEW ENGLAND - 13.5 Buffalo 37-31
#11 NEW ENGLAND - 10 Indianapolis 59-24
#12 New England - 7 NY JETS 49-19
#13 New England - 7 MIAMI 23-16
#14 NEW ENGLAND - 5.5 Houston 42-14
#15 San Francisco + 4 NEW ENGLAND 41-34
#16 New England - 14 JACKSONVILLE 23-16
#17 NEW ENGLAND - 11 Miami 28-0

NOTE: There's more NFL Divisional Playoff coverage coming in the next Jim Sez!

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