Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 9, 2013 at 8:50 AM
ON “LET-IT-SNOW” SUNDAY, IT’S A PAIR OF NFL TEAMS THAT PLAYED ON CLEAN FIELDS THAT REALLY DELIVERED WEEK 14 MESSAGES …
PLUS WE PREVIEW THE MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL CLASH IN CHITOWN AS COWBOYS-BEARS COLLIDE … THE BCS BOWLS ARE SET: HEY, #1 FLORIDA STATE VS. #2 AUBURN WAS A REAL NO-BRAINER BUT WE SAY “BOO” TO THESE OTHER BIG BOWL MATCHUPS AND WE SUGGEST A HANDFUL OF WHAT-SHOULD-HAVE-BEEN BOWL MATCHUPS
By Jim Hurley
Let’s just say the weather outside was frightful in a handful of National Football League cities in Week 14 play, but that only added to the entertainment level …
And consider that the games played in Landover, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh all went “over” the Las Vegas betting totals, and some of ‘em went way over including the Ravens’ absolutely wacko 29-26 non-cover win against 6-point underdog Minnesota (a totals price of 42 points) and Miami’s 34-28 conquest of 3-point favorite Pittsburgh (the totals price there was 40 points) and don’t forget about Philly’s wake-up-from-the-dead 34-20 triumph over 3-point pup Detroit (a totals price tag of 49 ½ points but this game was 8-0 Lions at halftime!).
Heck, once we had a little time to think about things and fully digest the whole weekend of action – both the College Football kids and the NFL – we’ve gotta say this was the numero uno best weekend of gridiron action all year long and maybe the best single football weekend in years.
That’s saying something when it was Auburn-Alabama now two weekends ago, right?
Still, even with all the snowy conditions out there in Week 14 play, the fact of the matter is the two super-power teams that won in blowouts on “clean fields” really earned our "Jim Sez" respect:
The Denver Broncos – a 12 ½-point favorite coming off a three-week stretch that included two games against Kansas City and that meltdown loss in New England back in Week 12 – obliterated Tennessee 51-28 behind the 497-yard, four-TD performance by QB Peyton Manning, who more times than not appears to be toying with enemy defenses this year.
Yes, even in cold weather!
Plus Denver PK Matt Prater is now all alone in the record books for his 64-yard field goal in the final minute of play in the first half – what was lost on that record-breaking kick was the energy jolt it gave the Broncos who trailed 21-17 at the time.
Meanwhile, on Sunday night there were the New Orleans Saints – a slight 3-point home betting favorite against hard-charging Carolina – who flexed their muscles big-time in a 31-13 walk-in-the-park prime-time win.
Okay, so the Broncos and Saints were supposed to win those games but look at the facts:
Denver could have been a tad out of focus after that aforementioned three-week stretch plus the “distractions” brought on by the return to the sidelines of head coach John Fox might have hurt the team’s overall preparation, but instead the Broncos hung another half-a-hundred on an opponent (the third time that’s happened this year) while the Saints get major credit for shrugging off those back-to-back field-goal drives by the Panthers at the start and then rallying for 21 second-quarter points as QB Drew Brees, WR Marques Colston and a sometimes-good, sometimes-bad Saints defense harassed QB Cam Newton plenty.
Hey, a quickie footnote that in Sunday’s NFL Week 14 action there were six teams that scored 20-or-more points in a single quarter – when’s the last time you remember that happening?
Meanwhile, say bye-bye to that eight-game winning streak, Carolina. Better luck next time when you play the Saints come Week 16 in Charlotte, and you might wish to bring along your O-line!
The NFL Week 14’s biggest showdown took place in San Francisco where the host 49ers – far from the monster team that went to the Super Bowl a year ago – snagged a 19-17 non-cover win versus 2 ½-point road dog Seattle and what should bother Niners fans is that QB Colin Kaepernick didn’t exactly “figure out” this Seahawks’ defense as he completed just 15 passes and rushed for only 31 yards – is this dude regressing or was Seattle’s solid defense the main reason for his modest stats?
All we know is that if RB Frank Gore doesn’t crank out a 51-yard, stay-in-bounds run that set up PK Phil Dawson’s 22-yard game-winning field goal with 26 seconds remaining, Mr. Kaepernick is probably getting grilled pretty good by the Bay Area media folks today.
Our MNF preview in just a second here but first this important reminder …
My handicappers and bloggers have everything all mapped out for tonight’s NFL Week 14 tilt between the Dallas Cowboys at the Chicago Bears … get the Side & Totals winners game-day afternoon when you check with us here at Jim Hurley’s Network at the toll-free # of 1-888-777-4155 or right here online at www.vegassportsmasters.com.
Plus get all the upcoming College Football Bowl games plus the Basketball action too … don’t get left out in the cold, folks!
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Tonight, it’s …
DALLAS (7-5) at CHICAGO (6-6) – 8:40 p.m. ET, ESPN
Maybe we’ll have some wintry weather in the “Second City” this evening although the press-time reports call for ultra-cold conditions – about 15 degrees – and no snow.
Hey, bring your extra pair of long-johns, okay?
No doubt there’s been a real chill put on this year's Bears, who have won only once the past four weeks and here must go again without oft-injured QB Jay Cutler, who has missed the last three games with a high ankle sprain and was officially put on the shelf the other day by first-year head coach Marc Trestman.
So, journeyman QB Josh McCown – who gets high marks for throwing five TDs with only one INT in his last three games while averaging nearly 308 passing yards against Baltimore/St. Louis/Minnesota – looks to rescue the Bears here against a Dallas defense that is expected to get a boost from LB Sean Lee, who missed the Cowboys’ recent wins against the New York Giants and Oakland with a hamstring problem.
McCown has been working major magic with WR Alshon Jeffery, who last week caught 12 balls for a franchise-record 249 yards with two TDs in a wild 23-20 loss in Minnesota … think PK Robbie Gould would like a “mulligan” for that missed 47-yarder in OT?
Note that the Cowboys will look to balance out its attack – QB Tony Romo – who is 11-15 SU (straightup) lifetime in the month of December – will be handing the ball off plenty to RB DeMarco Murray against a Bears’ defense that ranks dead-last in the NFL in rush D-fense while allowing 153.6 yards per game.
Paging Brian Urlacher … ooops!
Spread Notes – Dallas is a tasty 8-4 ATS (against the spread) overall this season and note the Cowboys are 9-5 ATS away since the start of the 2012 season. On the flip side, Chicago is a dreary 0-4-2 versus the vig at home this year and the Bears are 1-4-2 ATS in non-NFC North games this season … ugh!
THE BCS REPORT
The final year of the Bowl Championship Series didn’t have any real controversy following Auburn’s win and Ohio State’s loss last Saturday on Conference Championship Day and so it didn’t take a scientist to figure out the one-and-only matchup to be seen for all the marbles come January 6, 2014 is #1 Florida State (13-0) against #2 Auburn.
There’s some 29 days before we get to this monster matchup – the Las Vegas oddsmakers opened Florida State as 9 ½-point betting favorites but it’s dipped to 7 ½ points already – and all we know is that Auburn has covered 10 games in a row while the FSU Seminoles have cranked out six consecutive pointspread covers and so if you've been “sending it in” with both teams the past couple of months then you probably are sipping on some vintage French wine while reading this column … right?
No doubt it’s the matchup everyone wants to see – heaven forbid if Ohio State had beaten Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship Game in Indianapolis and the whiny SEC folks had a month to complain that it couldn’t “defend” its title! – but while SEC fans won’t bitch-and-moan we will regarding the other BCS bowls.
Like, this is the best you could come up with, guys?
Okay, we fully realize there are automatic berths that go out to the champions of the ACC, American Athletic, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC teams that are not competing for the national championship games, but if you’ve seen the early odds than you no doubt noticed Baylor’s a 17 ½-point favorite against UCF in the Fiesta Bowl while Alabama is an 11 ½-point fav against an average Oklahoma team in this year’s Sugar Bowl.
Damn the “name recognition” factor and give us the best possible bowl matchups – especially in these four major bowls that lead up to the BCS Championship Game.
Here’s what we would have done:
Okay, so Michigan State vs. Stanford in the Rose Bowl is a slam-dunk matchup of Big Ten vs. Pac-12 but we would have liked to see Alabama play high-octane Baylor in the Sugar Bowl (a truly compelling contrast game of defense vs. offense) and we would have preferred an Ohio State vs. Oklahoma battle that we could see being way more competitive than ‘Bama-Oklahoma.
Maybe even Ohio State vs. Oregon and leave Oklahoma out of the big bowls pool.
Hey, we say it every year – and forgive us for having an ego here – but give us an hour-or-so to come up with competitive/meaningful/eyebrow-raising matchups in the 35 bowls and we’ll always do better than the “experts”.
Instead, we get an Oklahoma State vs. Missouri showdown in the Cotton Bowl – what, these teams played one another forever in the Big 8 and Big 12 days – give us Okie State against LSU and that would be a blast.
Also, there were matchups that could have made for fun bowls as we would have paired Duke vs. South Carolina in a Steve Spurrier special, and also how about Johnny Manziel’s likely final college game pitting his Texas A&M team against Notre Dame?
Watch for all the games with lopsided pointspreads – that’s one way of knowing that the bowl folks didn’t do justice to what should be 35 post-season games of unadulterated fun … but then what else is new?
Note: In the next edition of Jim Sez we’ll have more gridiron goodies including our final Heisman Trophy Watch List!