Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 8:00 AM
THE NFL’S WEEK 17 IS UPON US – WE CHECK OUT RAVENS-BENGALS, PACKERS-BEARS AND EAGLES-COWBOYS …PLUS THERE’S MORE COLLEGE BOWL PREVIEWS
AS WE EXAMINE FRIDAY’S ESPN TRIPLE-HEADER INCLUDING BYU VS. WASHINGTON IN THE FIGHT HUNGER BOWL IN SAN FRANCISCO
By Jim Hurley
The National Football League’s Week 17 division-only games figure to be a blast … but just what teams that are counting on to secure a playoff bid or a better seeding are gonna get “blown up”?
You know the various playoff/seeding scenarios, and you know that 13 of the league’s 16 games on this final Sunday of regular-season play have some sort of post-season “meaning” – hey, we even like the way this all breaks down with eight games played at 1 p.m. ET, seven games at 4:25 p.m. ET and then that winner-take-all, loser-goes home NFC East tilt between Philadelphia at Dallas come Sunday Night Football at 8:25 p.m. ET.
So, what are we dilly-dallying for here in today’s Jim Sez when there’s NFL Week 17 game previews ahead … here goes:
Here’s a look at some of the key NFL Week 17 games this Sunday (more in store in tomorrow’s Jim Sez) …
BALTIMORE (8-7) at CINCINNATI (10-5) – 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Note the Cincy Bengals have not only been perfect SU (straight-up) in their own backyard this year, but Marvin Lewis’ squad has been a brilliant 7-and-oh ATS (against the spread) and that includes a 20-10 win/cover against 6 ½-point underdog Pittsburgh in Week 2 play and a 41-20 romp over 4 ½-point pup Cleveland in Week 11 action as those two AFC North crews went ka-boom at “The Jungle”.
If Cincinnati – the AFC North champ that still has a shot to land a #2 seed if it wins here and New England loses to Buffalo – is gonna roll here then QB Andy Dalton (four TD passes in last weekend’s easy-chair 42-14 win against Minnesota) must spread the wealth as last weekend six different Bengals nabbed two-or-more passes including wide-out A.J. Green (7 catches for 97 yards and two TDs).
Naturally, there’s a whole lot more pressure here on the defending champ Ravens who are one of the AFC’s three 8-and-7 teams right now along with Miami and San Diego, and so John Harbaugh’s club needs a “W” and some outside help to get mission accomplished but might Baltimore be better served here having QB Joe Flacco operate solely from the shotgun and make more quick/precise passes after his 0-TD, 2-INT performance in last Sunday’s ugly 41-7 loss to New England?
Spread Note – Baltimore is 3-5-2 ATS (against the spread) since mid-October and that includes the 20-17 OT win against 1 ½-point dog Cincinnati back in Week 10 play.
GREEN BAY (7-7-1) at CHICAGO (8-7-1) – 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
Win and you’re in … either one of you bumbling NFC North teams!
The visiting Green Bay Packers – who followed up their back-to-back one-point wins against Atlanta and Dallas with last week’s painful 38-31 home loss to Pittsburgh – were granted new life hours later when Chicago flopped facemask first 54-11 in Philadelphia – so we won’t bother to ask which one of these black-and-blue rivals “deserve” to win divisional honors this year, but which team has fewer question marks here:
Will Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers play or not … how about star RB Eddie Lacy, who suffered a sprained ankle, and what to make of Chicago’s putrid rush defense that last week allowed the Eagles to cruise their way to 289 ground yards or a whopping 8.0 yards a carry?
If Chicago can’t convert its own third-down plays here (see just 5-of-14 in Philly last Sunday Night), then Marc Trestman’s first year as Bears’ boss is gonna end badly, but expect Chicago RB Matt Forte (just 13 touches last weekend) to handle the ball up to 30 or 35 times here as a time-of-possession game appears Chicago’s best bet to survive-and-advance.
We’ll have the Rodgers update and who’s gonna win this one when you check in with Jim Hurley on game-day morning – get all the NFL Week 17 winnin’ treats then!
Spread Note – Chicago has covered just three of its last 12 head-to-head matchups with the GB Packers and that includes the 27-20 win as 10-point dogs at Lambeau Field back in Week 9.
On Sunday Night, it’s …
PHILADELPHIA (9-6) at DALLAS (8-7) – 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
The soap opera that is the here-and-now Dallas Cowboys rolls on and cynics could have claimed this 2013 season could only end one way … with heartache after QB Tony Romo botches something in the end but the reality of the situation is Romo is gone for the year with a herniated disk in his back and so somebody else will have to play “scapegoat” for the ‘Boys lose in Week 17.
Romo led last week’s go-ahead TD drive against Washington that covered 87 yards on nine plays and capped by a 10-yard scoring strike to RB DeMarco Murray but now it will have to be QB Kyle Orton who must shine if Dallas is gonna finally survive-and-advance here.
The Cowboys will need the aforementioned Murray (22 carries for 96 yards and three catches for 15 yards last week in D.C.) for a major workhorse game because the idea here is to play keep-a-way against an Eagles team that leads the league in rushing and last week had two backs in LeSean “Shady” McCoy (133 yards rushing) and Bryce Brown (115 yards rushing) power past the century mark and we haven’t even mentioned the fact that Philly QB Nick Foles has thrown 25 TDs and only 2 INTs and both NBC’s Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were correct in stating this dude needs to get some MVP love behind the likes of Denver QB Peyton Manning and Kansas City RB Jamaal Charles.
If there’s one X-factor at work here it’s this:
The Birds need a fierce pass rush to “panic” Orton here and so Philadelphia DE Trent Cole – who snagged three sacks last Sunday night – must make his presence felt or else!
Spread Note – Philadelphia is 5-2 ATS away this year including divisional wins/covers in both Washington and at the New York Giants but note the Birds have failed to cover six of their last nine regular-season finales.
Extra, extra …
Get all the College Football Bowl Games continuing on with Thursday’s two tilts – that’s Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl and Utah State vs. Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl and the Friday tripleheader from Annapolis, Houston and San Francisco -- plus all the NFL Week 17 games too when you check with us here at Jim Hurley’s Network.
And, of course, make sure you’re all aboard for the NBA and NCAA Basketball daily/nightly winners all this week/weekend action either online here at www.vegassportsmasters.com or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155.
THE COLLEGE BOWL REPORT –
Here’s a look at the three Bowl Games on tap for Friday, December 27th:
MILITARY BOWL – at Annapolis, MD
MARSHALL (9-4) vs. MARYLAND (7-5) – 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
There’s local flavor in this matinee bowl bash as the Maryland Terrapins have just a 27-mile trek to get here, but it’s been a longer journey than that to get back into the bowl wars after Randy Edsall’s gang finished a collective 6-18 SU in 2011-12. If Edsall’s Terps are gonna spring the mild upset here, than the country’s 33rd-ranked pass defense is gonna have to handle Marshall slinger Rakeem Cato (3,579 yards passing with 36 TDs) who helped to power the Thundering Herd to a 43.0 points-per-game average this year.
In fact, the Cato-to-WR Gator Hoskins combo – the latter nabbed 13 scoring strikes in 2013 – should tell the tale here because if they “go off” than Maryland will be left in the dust, but the Terps are banking on QB C.J. Brown who threw for 2,045 yards and ran for 538 yards and offers a real dual-threat to a Marshall team that allowed 28-or-more points on six different occasions.
Spread Notes – Maryland is 7-5 against the odds overall this year and the Terrapins enter this tilt having covered four of their last five bowl games dating back to 2003. Marshall, meanwhile, is 8-5 ATS (against the spread) this 2013 season and did you know the Thundering Herd’s failed to cover six of its last nine away games?
TEXAS BOWL – at Houston, TX
SYRACUSE (6-6) vs. MINNESOTA (8-4) – 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Minnesota Golden Gophers are one of seven Big 10 teams playing in post-season bowl games but it’s safe to say nobody in that conference – or even in the whole country – experienced what the Gophers did when it came to head coach Jerry Kill.
The third-year Minny head coach either missed or was in the press box for a handful of games due to his epilepsy, and so hats off to Tracy Claeys, who really held everything together for a team that sported important wins against Northwestern, Nebraska and Penn State.
If Minnesota now is gonna cap its best season in 10 years than it will need to get something – anything – from the nation’s 114th-ranked passing attack while RB David Cobb (1,111 yards rushing and 7 TDs) has to break away versus a Syracuse defense that sports the 25th-best rush defense in the land.
Hey, the Orange is playing in back-to-back bowls for the first time in a decade and QB Terrel Hunt is a cool customer who led Syracuse to a 34-31 comeback win against Boston College to cinch a bowl berth and note the upstate New York team did hold six teams to 17 points or less this year.
Spread Notes – Minnesota is an electric 9-3 against the numbers this year and that includes a current six-game spread winning streak that dates back to Oct. 19th. The Golden Gophers are a collective 6-2 ATS as betting favorites since the start of last season. On the other hand, Syracuse is 8-4 vig-wise under first-year head coach Scott Shafer and the Orange own s a splashy 14-7 ATS mark when playing non-league foes the past five years.
FIGHT HUNGER BOWL – at San Francisco, CA
BYU (8-4) vs. WASHINGTON (8-4) – 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Here’s how the Washington coaching carousel has gone …
Steve Sarkisian is gone to USC, QB coach Marques Tuiasosopo is the acting bowl coach here, and former Boise State boss Chris Petersen is waiting in the wings to take control of this Pac-12 team that here is playing in its fourth straight post-season bowl game. Got it?
If the UW Huskies – who staggered through one three-game losing skid this year or else they’d be playing in a New Year’s Day game – are gonna win/cover here as 3 ½-point betting favorites then RB Bishop Sankey (1,775 yards rushing and 18 TDs) must crank out some chunk plays against a BYU defense that was a so-so 54th nationally in rush defense (allowed 157.4 ypg), but the bigger question here is what kind of game QB Keith Price will play after suffering a shoulder injury late in the year. Price (20 TDs and 5 INTs) has thrown only one INT in his last five outings – just sayin’.
On the flip side there’s BYU QB Taysom Hill (1,211 yards rushing and 2,645 yards passing) who looks to confound a Washington defense that yielded point totals of 41, 45 and 53 points against three Pac-12 bowl teams this year.
One bowl-related note: BYU is playing in its ninth consecutive bowl game and the Cougars are 6-2 SU in these affairs.
Spread Notes – Washington’s a dead-even but vig-losing 6-6 against the odds this year and the Huskies are a collective 15-21 ATS away since the start of the 2008 campaign. Meanwhile, BYU is just 5-7 against the price tags this year including a current four-game spread losing skid but note the Coogs have covered their last four consecutive bowl tilts with spread wins against San Diego State, Tulsa, UTEP an Oregon State.
NOTE: More Bowl Previews plus NFL Week 17 Forecasts too in the next edition of Jim Sez … so don’t miss out!