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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 23, 2013 at 8:47 AM



By Jim Hurley

All the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions wanted for Christmas was an NFL Week 16 win just to stay alive in their respective playoff hunts …

Well, two out of three ain’t bad!

The fact that the Lions – a 23-20 overtime loser at home to the 9-point underdog New York Giants this past Sunday afternoon/evening – are now gonzo from this post-season chase likely means a major facelift in the Motor City, and you may wish to believe the same will hold true in a few other towns where the pro football team played sub-standard ball (yes, we are talking about Washington, Houston and Oakland too) – but maybe the biggest Week 16 loser was the team that had built up this sterling reputation as the “team to beat” in the NFC.

Can someone tell us right now should the Seattle Seahawks (12-3) still be declared “unbeatable” at home after Pete Carroll’s club registered a mere 10 first downs, 192 total net offensive yards and went 2-of-13 on third-down plays in that 17-10 home loss versus 9-point underdog Arizona?

Okay, the setback didn’t cost the Seahawks their numero uno seed in the upcoming playoffs – they ought to lock that baby up next week against the visiting St. Louis Rams – but the mere fact that Seattle’s 14-game home winning streak went by the boards also proved that the defensively-sound Cardinals came up with a “blueprint” to beat QB Russell Wilson and friends, and so suddenly there is some real intrigue as to just whom will represent the NFC come Super Bowl 48 in New Jersey some 41 days from today.

The Seahawks may be the cockiest sports team of our era never to have won anything at all!

Now, Sunday’s setback that also included a missed 24-yard field goal by old reliable PK Steven Hauschka, and just 11 completions for the aforementioned Wilson will either serve as a major wake-up call for this NFC West team or it will give these bullies something to fret about … hey, when you don’t win a home game when the other quarterback (see Carson Palmer) throws four interceptions then everything’s not honkey-dorey no matter how Carroll sounded after this game.

Meanwhile, here’s some other quick-hitter observations regarding some key NFL Week 16 tilts …

In case you’re keeping track of such things, it appears that 13 of the 16 games being played this Sunday in NFL Week 17 action will have some form of “playoff meaning” and one team playing for plenty is the Carolina Panthers (11-4), who could wind up the NFC’s #2 seed should they win in Atlanta. The Panthers survived a major rain storm and a struggling QB Cam Newton to take down NFC South rival New Orleans 17-13 as journeyman WR Domenik Hixon snared a game-winning 14-yard TD grab with just 23 seconds remaining, but Carolina wins nothing here if not for LB Luke Kuechly, who collected 24 tackles and should be somewhere on the list of the top five names when it comes time to announce the league’s MVP leaders …

No doubt the Chicago Bears were humbled badly in Sunday Night’s 54-11 loss in Philadelphia, but consider the Eagles rushed for 289 yards – or 8.0 yards per carry – and you get the sense that it doesn’t matter much who starts at quarterback in the team’s Week 17 home game against the Green Bay Packers. True, the Pack’s a major question mark right now, too what with the day-to-day “medical clearance” questions surrounding QB Aaron Rodgers (he’s now missed GB’s last seven games) and RB Eddie Lacy (sprained ankle) is hurting as well, but the Bears’ defense right now is so bad against the run that you could make the case Green Bay RB James Starks (10 carries for 47 yards in the 38-31 home loss against Pittsburgh) might be good for a buck-fifty – is it too late to ask LB Brian Urlacher to return to Soldier Field?

Finally, can’t exit our NFL Week 16 notebook without a word about record-setting QB Peyton Manning:

The Denver Broncos’ mega-star now has 51 touchdown passes this season, thus breaking the six-year-old mark of New England’s Tom Brady, but how about this when it comes to Sunday’s 37-13 runaway win at 9 ½-point dog Houston … Manning threw for 400 yards even though slot receiver Wes Welker missed his second straight game with concussion issues and still six different players nabbed two-or-more Manning passes, and we’re beginning to think WR Eric Decker (10 catches for 131 yards with two scores) could have been a 100-catch guy this year (he has 73 receptions for 1,130 yards and 8 TDs) if Mr. Manning looked his way more and that has to scare any/all Denver foes come the post-season.

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 16 tilt between the Atlanta Falcons at the San Francisco 49ers … 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

Plus get all the College Football Bowl games – there’s Six (6) of ‘em between now and Friday night plus a ton after that -- plus get all the Basketball action too, so don’t get left out in the cold, folks!

Tonight, it’s …

ATLANTA (4-10) at SAN FRANCISCO (10-4) – 8:40 p.m. ET, ESPN

Hey, Bay Area ladies and gents, get those hankies ready!

It’s the end of the line for old Candlestick Park in San Francisco, and so memories will be pouring back when you think of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Dwight Clark and “The Catch”, but the here-and-now Niners have their own history to write after not yet clinching an NFC wild card playoff berth yesterday thanks to Seattle’s loss to Arizona.

So, it’s more than likely that the Niners – still pretty much locked in as the #5 seed in the NFC Playoff picture – will be on the road for any/all playoff tilts unless they happen to get to the NFC Championship Game and the opponent is the conference’s No. 6 seed … right, not very likely!

If San Francisco wishes to win – and cash as two-TD betting favorites here – then QB Colin Kaepernick must continue to be razor-sharp. Note that during this current four-game SU (straight-up) winning streak that includes home wins against St. Louis and Seattle – Kaepernick has thrown seven touchdown passes and committed just one single turnover, plus RB Frank Gore also is peaking at the right time as he’s rushed for 196 total yards the past two weeks.

Throw in the fact the San Fran defense – one that’s allowed just 50 points in all this four-game streak – ranks fourth in the NFL in pass defense and sixth in the league in rush defense the grand finale at “The Stick” could be a really long night for the going-nowhere-this-year Falcons.

Spread Notes – San Francisco is 9-4-1 ATS (against the spread) this season and that makes the 49ers a sizzling 31-17-3 spreadwise in the Jim Harbaugh Era that started back in the 2011 season – a .646 winning rate. Meanwhile, Atlanta enters this prime-time affair at 5-9 versus the vig this lost season and the Falcons are a collective 4-8-1 ATS when playing fellow NFC teams while dating back to late last year.

Monday, December 23
he underachieving Falcons travel west to face the 49'ers. But will San Francisco play its starters all game with the playoffs looming? This is a mismatch, but don't be so sure you know the spread winner. As added sweeteners to the cash pot, the Beef O'Brady Bowl winner is included. Just $25... CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!


On Tuesday night, it’s …

HAWAII BOWL – at Honolulu, HI
OREGON STATE (6-6) vs. BOISE STATE (8-4) – 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

It’s time to wrap those last-minute gifts and check out what figures to be an ultra-competitive tilt – hey, the Pac-12 split its opening two bowl games last weekend with USC slamming Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl, while Washington State somehow blew a 15-point lead with two-plus minutes left against Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl, and now Oregon State tries to show some conference pride here.

No doubt the O-State Beavers – who have not won a bowl game since a snoozy 3-0 win against Pittsburgh in the 2008 Sun Bowl – would like to put a capper on a strange 2013 season with a “W” here as 3 ½-point betting favorites, but will QB Sean Mannion snap out of his second-half-of-the-season funk where he aired 7 TDs but 11 INTs in his team’s final five games?

Mannion will be eyeballing Biletnikoff Award-winning WR Brandin Cooks (120 catches for 1,670 yards and 15 TDs) but you can expect Boise State’s defense to blitz plenty and force the issue – keep in mind the Broncos ranked a lowly 82nd among FBS teams in pass defense and so corner/safety blitzes figure to be utilized often here.

Yes, Boise State has said farewell to eight-year head coach Chris Petersen, who won 92 games and lost just 12 times since he took command back in 2006, and here it’s “bowl coach” Bob Gregory calling the shots with one-and-done Arkansas State boss-man Bryan Harsin – a former Boise State player and offensive coordinator – waiting in the wings.

Boise State RB Jay Ajayi finished second among all Mountain West Conference rushers with 1,328 yards with 18 TDs, and gotta believe he needs 25-or-more touches here if B-State is gonna pull off the mild upset on the island here.

Spread Notes – Boise State is a dead-even but vig-losing 6-6 spreadwise this season, but did you know the Broncos have covered six of their last nine bowl games including a 41-38 loss to 10 ½-point dog East Carolina in the 2007 edition of the Hawaii Bowl? Meanwhile, Oregon State’s also 6-6 against the odds this year and note the Beavers are 7-13-1 ATS as betting favorites while dating back to the start of the 2010 season.

NOTE: We’ll give you quick-hitter previews of the busy NBA Christmas day/night plus more Bowl Game Forecasts too in the next edition of Jim Sez.

***** MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! *****

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