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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:00 PM

THE NFL WEEK 16 REPORT – QUICK-HITTER PREVIEWS/FORECASTS

PLUS WE KICK OFF THE BOWL SEASON AND ANALYZE SATURDAY’S FOUR (4) BOWL GAMES AND MONDAY'S BEEF O'BRADY'S, TOO!

By Jim Hurley:

And then there was two as in only two weeks left in NFL regular-season action and here’s some of the real crazy scenarios that currently dot the NFL landscape: It’s entirely possible that a 13-and-3 Kansas City Chiefs team will be forced to play any/all of their playoff games on the road while a .500 team might just win the NFC East; You also have the distinct possibility that teams such as the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers come from way back in the pack to cop divisional honors – if both teams win out then they would nab the AFC North and NFC North crowns and who would have thunk that weeks ago?
Finally, maybe the juiciest part of these final two weeks is to examine who’s gonna snag wild card berths … can the Arizona Cardinals beat both Settle and San Francisco to land an unexpected post-season berth and can the born-again Miami Dolphins shrug aside “BullyGate” to nab a playoff berth?

For your Jim Sez edification, take note who’s the league’s hottest spread sides while heading into the Sunday/Monday action:

  • Arizona is 4-0-1 ATS (against the spread) in its last five games and that includes last Sunday’s 37-34 overtime win/push at Tennessee;
  • Miami’s covered its last five consecutive games including mild upset winners against both San Diego and Pittsburgh;
  • Minnesota – believe it or not – has pounded out four consecutive spread wins while entering Sunday’s game in Cincinnati;
  • And Seattle has reeled off five consecutive pointspread “W’s dating back to early November and note the here-and-now Seahawks are an electric 10-4 versus the vig this year. Wow!

Now, here’s some of Sunday’s NFL Week 16 top tilts:

NEW ORLEANS (10-4) at CAROLINA (10-4) – 1 p.m. ET, Fox
It’s Round II in this NFC South rivalry with the host Panthers seeking revenge after getting spanked 31-13 in N’Orleans two weeks ago. Let’s just say the specter of playing some really rotten road football may be getting inside the Saints’ heads these days as Sean Payton’s crew – a non-competitive 27-16 loser in St. Louis last week when QB Drew Brees aired a pair of first-quarter picks and the Saints were caught napping on a St. Loo onside kick – while the flip side says Carolina may need last week’s formula to win again here.

The Panthers snagged a 30-20 win/push against the New York Jets as RB DeAngelo Williams roared 72 yards with a little swing pass by QB Cam Newton for one “chunk play” touchdown and CB Captain Munnerlyn returned an INT 42 yards for a score (his fifth career “pick six” in case you lost track!) and now we’ll see if Ron Rivera’s club can gain its season split with New Orleans and thus have the leg up to win this year’s NFC South crown.

Want a real X-factor here? The Panthers collected four sacks of Jets’ QB Geno Smith last week and figure to bring extra heat on Brees here – another four-sack-or-better showing surely will get the Panthers into the proverbial winner’s circle.

Spread Notes – Carolina is 8-5-1 ATS overall this year and note the Panthers have covered seven of their last 10 divisional duels. New Orleans, meanwhile, is 7-6-1 against the odds this season with the Saints sporting a lousy 6-9 ATS mark as underdog sides since the start of 2009.

NEW ENGLAND (10-4) at BALTIMORE (8-6) – 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
The late-game miracle work of the New England Patriots final hit a snag last week with that 24-20 loss in Miami – but an 11th-hour win by the Baltimore Ravens in Motown still remains the talk of the NFL after that 61-yard Justin Tucker field-goal.

Now, you wonder if/when Tucker – fresh off a six-FG game and riding a 33-straight FG try run – will become a major player in this game with major playoff implications.

One thing for sure is New England – just 1-of-4 in red-zone success last week against the Dolphins – must be able to score “7’s” here against a Ravens defense that has allowed 20 points or less in eight games this year and after all the hullabaloo over no TE Rob Gronkowski for the Pats you get the idea that QB Tom Brady (364 yards passing with 2 TDs and 1 INT last Sunday) will try to “trick” an aggressive Baltimore front seven on defense with some red-zone trap runs to RB LaGarrette Blount who should be a major figure here.

Hey, did you know the Patriots had one penalty for two yards and one turnover last week … and still lost! Meanwhile, the Ravens have won four in a row and they have not won five in a row since late 2010 (the final four regular-season games plus a playoff triumph at Kansas City).

Spread Notes – Baltimore’s 6-6-2 spreadwise this year and the Ravens are a dead-even but vig-losing 9-9-1 ATS as betting favorites since the start of last year. Meanwhile, New England is 6-8 ATS this season and the Pats enter this clash having failed to cover 7-of-10 games against fellow AFC competition.

On Sunday Night, it’s …
CHICAGO (8-6) at PHILADELPHIA (8-6) – 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC

Here’s a couple of playoff-hopeful teams that sure have gotten to 8-and-6 in different ways: The Bears – who again look to QB Jay Cutler (265 yards passing with 3 TDs and 2 INTs in last week’s 38-31 win in Cleveland) to spark ‘em here – need more third-down success as was the case with a 9-of-14 rate against the Brownies but can WRs Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery (11 catches combined for 167 yards last Sunday) beat Philly on those medium-to-long range pass plays and what about the Eagles’ ground game one week after LeSean “Shady” McCoy managed just 38 yards rushing in a 48-30 loss in Minnesota?
Okay, so McCoy’s eight carries were the byproduct of Chip Kelly’s club being so far behind in that Week 15 tilt but we’ll go on record to state Philadelphia must get McCoy 25-or-more touches here … or else.

Spread Notes – Philadelphia is 7-7 against the Las Vegas price tags this season and keep in mind the Eagles are 5-17-1 ATS at home the past two-plus years (that’s a .227 winning percentage). Chicago is an ugly 4-8-2 vig-wise overall this year but did you know the Bears have covered four of their last five head-to-head showdowns with Philly since 2007?

My handicappers and bloggers have everything all mapped out and you can get the upcoming College Football Bowl Games beginning with Saturday’s Four (4) games including Fresno State vs. USC in the Las Vegas Bowl plus all the NFL Week 16 games too when you check with us here at Jim Hurley’s Network – make sure you’re all aboard for the week/weekend action here online 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!

In other Sunday action, it's...

MIAMI (8-6) at BUFFALO (5-9) – 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Everyone’s jumping on the Dolphins’ bandwagon, but can the Fish trust QB Ryan Tannehill to play another near-flawless game here one week after throwing for 312 yards with 3 TDs and no picks in that heart-stopping 24-20 home win against New England? Stay tuned!

INDIANAPOLIS (9-5) at KANSAS CITY (11-3) – 1 p.m. ET, CBS
The KC Chiefs have scored 167 points in their past four games (that’s 41.8 per) and RB Jamal Charles (1,181 yards rushing and 655 yards receiving) has to get some MVP votes after his five-TD game in Oakland last Sunday, but we’ll be watching NFL sack leader DE Robert Mathis of the Colts (16.5 sacks this year) to see what impact he has on this AFC tilt.

DALLAS (7-7) at WASHINGTON (3-11) – 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Did you realize the Cowboys have lost three games by one point apiece this year? Last week’s major meltdown in that 37-36 home loss to Green Bay might stick to Dallas’ ribs for a long time, but QB Tony Romo (3,602 yards passing) could well feast on this ‘Skins defense that ranks 21st in the league in pass defense. Yikes!


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THE COLLEGE BOWL REPORT
Here’s the Four (4) Bowl Games set for Saturday, December 21st, plus Monday's Beef O'Brady's Bowl:

NEW MEXICO BOWL – at Albuquerque, NM
COLORADO STATE (7-6) vs. WASHINGTON STATE (6-6) – 2 p.m. ET, ESPN

Not a whole lot of recent “bowl history” for either one of these squads as Washington State – believe it or not – hasn’t played in a bowl game since 2003 (a 28-20 win against Texas in the Holiday Bowl) while Colorado State’s not bowled since 2008 when those Rams bested Fresno State 40-35 in that particular edition of the New Mexico Bowl.

Now, C-State head coach Jim McElwain will count on RB Kapri Bibbs (1,572 yards rushing and an FBS-best 28 TDs) and QB Garrett Grayson (3,327 yards passing) to pull off the mild upset here against a freshmen/sophomore-oriented Washington State club that stars QB Connor Halliday (4,187 yards passing with 28 TDs).

Hey, is the totals price of 65 ½ points a bit “too light”?

Spread Notes – Washington State’s a tasty 9-3 ATS this season and the Cougars covered all four of their games this year when placed in the chalk role. Colorado State is 9-4 against the odds this year and the C-State Rams are 5-2 ATS away after going a collective 9-22-1 ATS away from 2008-2012.

LAS VEGAS BOWL – at Las Vegas, NV
#20 FRESNO STATE (11-1) vs. #25 USC (9-4) – 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

As we stated back when these bowl games were first announced, it’s rather rare to get a matchup of top 25 teams in any pre-New Year’s Day bowl tilt but consider this a tad strange anyway as USC’s on its third coach (see Clay Helton) with former Washington boss Steve Sarkisian waiting in the wings to take over.

The Trojans won six-of-eight games under one-time interim boss Ed Orgeron and USC did it with “D” as Southern Cal ranked first among Pac-12 teams in passing defense and that’s critical here when facing off against Fresno State gunslinger Derek Carr who threw for 4,866 yards and 48 TDs for the country’s third-ranked passing attack.

Carr has a deep array of pass-catchers at the ready but keep a close eye on WR Davante Adams whose 122 receptions leads the country.
On the flip side, USC will be without oft-injured RB Silas Redd (knee) and so Javorius Allen gets the start at running back and note he’s averaged better than 112 yards rushing in his last five games while cranking out 10 TDs.

Did you know USC’s not won a post-season bowl game since the 2009 Emerald Bowl (see USC 24, Boston College 13) … it’s true!

Spread Notes – USC is 6-7 vig-wise overall this year but note the Men of Troy have covered six of their last eight bowl games since 2003. Fresno State was one of the country’s biggest cash-burners this year with a 4-7-1 ATS log heading in here but the Bulldogs are 11-6-2 ATS away the past three years.

FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL – at Boise, ID
BUFFALO (8-4) vs. SAN DIEGO STATE (7-5) – 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Often times the best part of these bowl showdowns are the matchups within the matchups – San Diego State RB Adam Muema (1,015 yards rushing with 12 TDs) figures to have plenty of encounters with Buffalo LB Khalil Mack – a Butkus Award finalist – on the blue turf here at Boise and so crank up the volume on your flat-screen TV to hear all the action!

Meanwhile, the SDSU Aztecs also will try their hand chucking it as WR Ezell Ruffin (1,061 yards receiving on 63 catches) is a real stud while WR Colin Lockett (49 receptions and 5 TDs) could be a lost-in-the-shuffle star for the now 1-point favored crew from the Mountain West Conference.

Buffalo QB Joe Licata (2,628 yards passing with 21 TDs and 7 INTs) must be respected here by a San Diego State defense that surrendered 40-plus points four different times this year and Bulls RB Branden Oliver (1,421 yards rushing and 15 scores) has something to prove after being limited to 46 yards on 18 carries in last month’s crushing 24-7 loss to Bowling Green.

Spread Notes – San Diego State’s 6-5-1 against the prices this season and just 4-8-1 ATS in non-conference games the past three years. Meanwhile, Buffalo is a solid 8-4 ATS overall this year and the Bulls enter this bowl game at 1-7-1 ATS in their season finale the past nine years.

NEW ORLEANS BOWL – at New Orleans, LA
UL-LAFAYETTE (8-4) at TULANE (7-5) – 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

Great storylines here inside the Louisiana Superdome as UL-Lafayette guns for its third straight New Orleans Bowl win while “host” Tulane is saying farewell to this old building and you’ve gotta wonder whether Joe’s son Nick Montana will have some magic finish on tap for the Green Wave and note Montana’s expected to play after re-injuring his shoulder in the team’s regular-season finale loss to Rice.

Hey, UL-Lafayette beat San Diego State 32-30 as 6-point dogs two years ago and bested East Carolina 43-34 as 6 ½-point favs last year in this bowl game but there are questions as to whether or not QB Terrance Broadway (broken right arm) will be patched up for this tilt after he threw for 2,276 yards and 19 TDs this year. Watch for Lafayette WR Jamal Robinson (50 catches for 812 yards and 8 TDs) who could be a playmaker deluxe here.

Spread Notes – Tulane is 9-3 odds-wise this season and a spiffy 10-3 ATS at home since the start of last year while UL-Lafayette’s 4-8 against the numbers this season but the Rajin’ Cajuns have covered 12 of their last 16 games when in the dog role.

BEEF O’BRADY’S BOWL – at St. Petersburg, FL
OHIO (7-5) vs. EAST CAROLINA (9-3) – 2 p.m. ET, ESPN

Matinee action this Christmas Week as heavy-duty favorite East Carolina takes center stage inside Tropicana Field, but will Conference USA Most Valuable Player QB Shane Carden (3,866 yards passing with 32 TDs) have a feast here against an Ohio defense that allowed opponents to score on average 36.5 ppg in the final four games of this regular season?

Carden will eyeball WR Justin Hardy (105 receptions and 8 TDs), but if you’re looking for a possible star for the two-TD underdog Ohio Bobcats, then consider QB Tyler Tettleton who bounced back from some late-season sour showings to throw for 243 yards and two scores in a 51-23 romp over UMass.

Spread Notes – East Carolina is 6-6 ATS (against the spread) this season and the Buccos are just 4-5 vig-wise as twin-figure favorites while dating back to the start of 2012. Meanwhile, Ohio is also just 6-6 against the odds this season but did you know the Bobcats are 21-12-2 ATS as underdogs since 2007?

 

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