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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:04 PM

THE NFL WEEK 15 REPORT

WE ZOOM IN ON KEY TILTS FOR THIS WEEKEND

By Jim Hurley

Suffice to say, it’s gotten down to “crunch time” in the National Football League even if some “name teams” such as the New York Giants, the Washington Redskins, the Houston Texans and the Atlanta Falcons long ago waved the white flag!

There’s mad scrambling for playoff seedings in both the NFC and AFC and that everyone-into-the-pool battle for the #6 seed in the AFC sure looks as if it’s gonna go right down to Week 17.

Agree?

Editor’s Note:

My handicappers and bloggers have everything all mapped out and you can get all the NFL Week 15 games when you check with us here at Jim Hurley’s Network – make sure you’re all aboard for the week/weekend action online here at www.vegassportsmasters.com or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155.

Plus don’t forget all the daily/nightly action on the hardwood as there’s NBA and NCAA Hoops action all winter long right here with Jim Hurley!

 

NFL WEEK 15 –

Here’s some key Sunday previews and take note that right now there are nine – count ‘em, nine – road favorites dotting the Week 15 landscape:

NEW ENGLAND (10-3) at MIAMI (7-6) – 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Are the NE Patriots set for another dramatic win in this season chock full of last-second miracles … or will last week’s season-ending knee injury to Pro Bowl TE Rob Gronkowski strip away lots of luster here for Bill Belichick’s crew?

There is no denying the fact that for someone that played just six games this year because of other injuries, Gronkowski’s 37 catches and 560 receiving yards – to say nothing of his red-zone prowess – will be sadly missed here, but maybe that means Pats QB Tom Brady zips in short-and-safe strikes to RB Shane Vereen who nabbed a dozen receptions in last week’s wild 27-26 comeback win against Cleveland.

New England’s gunning for the season sweep here – remember the Pats copped a 27-17 win against 6 ½-point dog Miami back in Week 8 play – while the born-again Fish (see four consecutive spread wins and 3-of-4 wins straight-up the past month) might want to incorporate WR Mike Wallace more into the attack here after he snagged just two catches for 19 yards in last Sunday’s snowy 34-28 win in Pittsburgh.

Hey, do you realize that Miami ranks a lowly 23rd league-wide in both rushing offense and rushing defense and still has a winning record? Hmmm.

Spread Note – New England is a horrid 1-5 ATS (against the spread) away this year and that includes divisional pointspread setbacks in both Buffalo and at the NY Jets.

NEW ORLEANS (10-3) at ST. LOUIS (5-8) – 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

Is this “sandwich game” gonna be a sticky one for the Saints?

Sean Payton’s crew blasted Carolina 31-13 last Sunday night – it was the ninth time this year that New Orleans held a foe below the 20-point mark – but now we’ll see if Rob Ryan’s defense is completely focused in here with Round II against the Panthers on tap for next weekend in Charlotte.

If New Orleans – a 5 ½-point betting favorite at press time – can keep a “clean pocket” for QB Drew Brees than you can expect some long-ball tosses to WR Marques Colston (two TDs last Sunday), but something tells us the real key to this tilt will be how St. Louis fares when getting the ball into the hands of rookie WR Travon Austin. No doubt he’s been on the silent side the past couple of weeks and Jeff Fisher’s club is only gonna win here if Austin gets 10-or-so touches including a couple of reverse runs.

Did you know that the Rams have surrendered 30-or-more points on five occasions this season and they’re 0-5 versus the vig in those losses – ouch!

Spread Note – New Orleans is 23-11-1 versus the vig (that’s a .676 winning rate) as betting favorites while dating back to the start of the 2011 season and that includes the 31-21 loss at 13 ½-point dog St. Louis back in the ’11 campaign.

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CHICAGO (7-6) at CLEVELAND (4-9) – 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Chicago Bears may be wrestling with this Jay Cutler-or-Josh McCown bit as to who starts at quarterback both here and down the stretch, but make no mistake about it that Marc Trestman’s crew ain’t winning here even it cannot contain Browns’ uber-hot WR Josh Gordon, who went from league-record back-to-back 200-plus receiving games to last week’s 7-catch, 151-yard performance that included a dazzling 80-yard TD in the 27-26 loss to New England.

Gordon’s become one of the NFL’s most dynamic playmakers – hey, some folks would label him the number one playmaker in the league right now – and so the Bears’ banged-up and slowish secondary figure to have their hands full here.

Meanwhile, it appears McCown will again get the nod for the Bears under center here and his continued hook-ups with WR Alshon Jeffery makes this tandem extremely dangerous – now the question is does Cleveland CB Joe Haden guard Jeffery or WR Brandon Marshall or does he simply patrol one field of the field here? Stay tuned.

Spread Notes – Chicago is 3-8-2 ATS (against the spread) overall this year and the Bears head into this road tilt having failed to cover seven of their last 10 away games. Meanwhile, Cleveland is 6-7 ATS overall this year and note the Brownies are a dead-even and vig-losing 10-10-1 spreadwise in their last 21 home games.

GREEN BAY (6-6-1) at DALLAS (7-6) – 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

Certainly getting the sense that this here-and-now season for Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers could well be over, even though the Packers remain quite mysterious regarding his playing status both here and in the next couple of weeks – the collarbone injury suffered back on Nov. 4th in a 27-20 home loss to Chicago absolutely sabotaged this G-Bay season and the fact the Pack’s 1-4-1 SU (straight-up) the past six weeks of play proves Rodgers is one of the three or four most essential players to their respective teams in this man’s league.

Note that Dallas will look for a ball-control passing game to spark ‘em here – there’s no way this broken-down and worn-out Cowboys’ defense can be asked to make big stands even if it’s Matt Flynn at quarterback for Green Bay here – and what would you say if we recommended Dallas QB Tony Romo sling more slant throws to get WR Dez Bryant more involved … sounds good, right?

One final Cowboys-related note here: Dallas has allowed 30-or-more points on six different occasions this season (now that’s 11 times that’s happened under second-year DC Monte Kiffin) and so you begin to wonder whether or not the NFC East crew needs some gimmicks to survive here such as a well-timed onside kick or maybe some key corner/safety blitzes on defense – all we know is Dallas’ non-competitive 45-28 loss last Monday Night in chilly Soldier Field was a major embarrassment to the organization that could be headed for a fourth consecutive non-winning and non-playoff season.

Anything to say about that, Mr. Jones?

Spread Notes – Dallas is a solid 8-5 against the Las Vegas prices this year, but the Cowboys are now 4-9 ATS in the last four games of regular-season play dating back to the 2010 season. Green Bay ‘s 4-8-1 spreadwise this year and the Packers stagger into this tilt on a six-game spread losing skid and that’s the longest spread slide in the Mike McCarthy Era that began in 2006.

On Sunday Night, it’s …

CINCINNATI (9-4) at PITTSBURGH (5-8) – 8:30 p.m. ET. NBC

Maybe it won’t matter where Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin stands along the sideline here, or whether or not Pittsburgh wide receivers can stay in bounds either … the fact is this dreadful season probably can’t end soon enough for the black-and-gold, who started off at 0-4 SU this year and only once regained a spark (see the back-to-back-to-back wins against Buffalo/Detroit/Cleveland).

Now the talk’s heating up that Tomlin could exit stage left for a possible high-profile college job, and that the Steelers may indeed entertain off-season trade talks involving QB Ben Roethlisberger – might we be getting to end-of-an-era type stuff for the Steel gang?

Conversely, the Cincy Bengals – even after losing back-to-back overtime games in Week 9 and 10 to Miami and Baltimore, respectively – have soared to atop the AFC North and last week’s 42-28 win/cover against 7-point dog Indianapolis was heady stuff as Marvin Lewis’ crew possessed the football for some 37:45 and didn’t commit a single turnover in chilly and at-times snowy weather even though QB Andy Dalton and Company cranked out 70 offensive plays from scrimmage (yes, 35 rushes for a 155 yards and 35 passes worth 275 yards).

If Dalton (24-of-35 for 275 yards and touchdown throws to WR Marvin Jones, TE Jermaine Gersham and wide-out A.J. Green) can spread the wealth here one week after five different pass-catchers nabbed 3-or-more receptions, then the Bengals should/could get a season sweep over the Steelers for the first time since 2009. And what can we expect here from rookie RB Gio Bernard (see 99 yards rushing and four catches for 49 yards receiving in last week’s blowout home win) who continues to be a valuable do-it-all piece for this Bengals’ offense that has scored 40-plus points in three of the team’s last six games?

Spread Notes – Cincinnati is a tidy 8-4-1 versus the vig overall this season and that includes the 20-10 win/cover against the 6 ½-point underdog Steelers back in Week 2 play. Pittsburgh is 6-7 ATS this season and did you know the Steelers are a tasty 6-3-1 ATS in AFC North games since the start of last year?

NOTE: Lots to cover in the next issue of Jim Sez as we’ll examine the NFL Week 15 Sunday results, get you the Monday Night Football Preview (that’s Baltimore at Detroit) and offer up our opinions on the Heisman Trophy too … so don’t miss out!

 

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