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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 8:08 PM



By Jim Hurley

Cheer, cheer …

The beat goes on this holiday season with a slew of mega-important NFL Week 17 games on tap this final Sunday in December.

Let’s dig deeper here into the two games involving NFC South squads:

CAROLINA (4-11) at ATLANTA (11-4) – 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Carolina Panthers-- who have not been to the playoffs since 2008 and haven’t won a post-season game since 2005-- are a solid six-point road betting favorite here as they look to wrap up the NFC South crown and there’s a smallish chance that Ron Rivera’s club could wind up being the No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoffs (hey, you never know!).

In Round I of Panthers vs. Falcons, it was a 34-10 laugher for Carolina inside the Georgia Dome back in Week 9 play, but obviously things have changed here as WR Steve Smith (knee) may have received a positive prognosis, but he’s still not gonna play in this tilt, so Carolina QB Cam Newton – who has his own ankle woes these days -- figures to rely more than ever on TE Greg Olsen who has nabbed a team-high 67 receptions this year.

The flip side says the farewell game of Atlanta TE Tony Gonzalez (79 catches and 8 TDs this year) could be a game-wrecker here, and gotta believe QB Matt Ryan will target Gonzalez 12-to-15 times – hey, if the Panthers don’t get a grip on the future Hall of Famer inside the red zone than Carolina could blow this shot to be a division winner.

Spread Note – Carolina is an electric 8-2-1 ATS (against the spread) since Week 6 play and note the Panthers have covered their last three in a row against Atlanta.

TAMPA BAY (4-11) at NEW ORLEANS (10-5) – 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

Maybe the Saints should just keep on clicking their heels and saying “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home …”

After all, this here-and-now New Orleans team is 7-0 SU (straight-up) and 6-0-1 ATS this year inside the Louisiana Superdome, while on the road Sean Payton’s club is a rotten-to-the-core 3-5 SU and 1-7 versus the vig, and the oddsmakers here have proclaimed the Saints to be 12-point betting favorites at press time and playing from in front is key here, ‘cause Tampa Bay’s a crummy 32nd (and dead-least) in the NFL in passing offense.

Hey, if there’s gonna be an upset here it will be if Saints QB Drew Brees misfires on his throws – four INTs in his last two games have been a major bummer, but what about the fact that the New Orleans O-line has been a sieve with Brees sacked a total of 10 times the past two weeks including six in last Sunday’s 17-13 rain-filled loss in Carolina?

No wonder word is Payton will opt for a wet-behind-the-ears rookie to play left tackle here – say on your toes, Mr. Brees!

Spread Note – New Orleans is just 9-9 versus the vig against fellow NFC South clubs while dating back to late in the 2010 season but the Saints have covered three of their last four games when laying a twin-figure price tag.

Extra, extra …

Get all the College Football Bowl Games continuing on with Friday’s tripleheader including Marshall-Maryland, Syracuse-Minnesota and BYU-Washington plus Saturday’s quartet of bowl bashes -- 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 or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155.


Here’s a look at the four Bowl Games on tap for Saturday, December 28th:

PINSTRIPE BOWL -- at The Bronx, NY
RUTGERS (6-6) vs. NOTRE DAME (8-4) – 12:05 p.m. ET, ESPN

Let’s see if it’s gonna be a “great day for the Irish” in New York City on this bowl occasion, but can someone please remind us that Notre Dame might be playing the worst bowl team this year as Rutgers didn’t beat a single bowl-bound team the whole 2013 campaign – what, wins against Norfolk State, Eastern Michigan, Arkansas, SMU, Temple and South Florida are supposed to raise our eyebrows?

The fact of the matter is Notre Dame is a two-TD betting favorite despite the fact Brian Kelly’s club ranks 46th nationally in pass offense and 82nd nationally in rush offense, and the biggest star on this side of the ball here for Notre Dame is wide receiver TJ Jones (65 catches for 1,042 yards and 9 TDs) – can error-prone QB Tommy Rees (13 INTs) zip Jones the ball here and further deflate this Rutgers season, or could Kyle Flood’s club show some gumption behind backup-turned-starting QB Chas Dodd?

Spread Notes – Notre Dame is just 5-6-1 against the odds this year and did you know the ND Fighting Irish has failed to cover five of its last seven bowl decades the past decade? Meanwhile, Rutgers is a money-torching 4-8 ATS this year but the Scarlet Knights are a dandy 5-2 vig-wise in bowl games the past 10 years.

BELK BOWL – at Charlotte, NC
CINCINNATI (9-3) vs. NORTH CAROLINA (6-6) – 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN

There’s a feeling that Cincy and North Carolina mirrored one another’s 2013 season what with some early-season struggles and key injuries to starting quarterbacks but let’s say this:

The job Carolina head coach Larry Fedora did after his Tar Heels dug themselves a 1-5 SU hole was downright amazing as mobile QB Marquise Williams threw 14 TD passes and rushed for six more in leading the ACC gang to wins against the likes of Boston College and Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, first-year Cincinnati boss-man Tommy Tuberville had his team on the prowl in the American Athletic Conference as QB Brendon Kay (3,121 yards passing with 22 TDs) took over for an injured Munchie Legaux and energized the Bearcats, who scored 28-or-more points on six occasions. Watch out here for the Kay-to-WR Anthony McClung combo after the latter snagged 68 balls worth 908 yards and 5 TDs.

There’s a distinct home-field edge for the UNC Heels here but keep in mind the ‘Cats did win four-of-six away games this year and that this Cincy defense ranks fifth nationally versus the run … just sayin’.

Spread Notes – North Carolina is 7-5 against the odds overall this season and the UNC Tar Heels are 5-11 ATS away dating back to the start of the 2011 campaign. On the flip side, Cincinnati is a dead-even but vig-losing 6-6 spreadwise this season and the UC Bearcats are a solid 5-2-1 ATS as dogs the past three seasons.

MIAMI (9-3) vs. #18 LOUISVILLE (11-1) – 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

There’s plenty of reasons the Louisville Cardinals could be bummin’ about not playing a New Year’s Day/January bowl game following this spiffy one-loss season,but the 3 ½-point favored U of L Cardinals figure to have major focus here:

Start with the fact there are 23 players on the Louisville roster hailing from the Miami area, including QB Teddy Bridgewater (3,523 yards passing with 28 TDs), who willed his way to back-to-back late-year wins against Memphis and Cincinnati, and who’s gonna soon forget the break-out-of-the-pocket first-down play that Bridgewater made in the 31-24 win against the B-Cats in early December?

Then there’s the other side of the coin here:

The Miami Hurricanes don’t have their most explosive offensive weapon for this game as RB Duke Johnson (920 yards rushing) is out with a busted ankle, and so that heaps more pressure on QB Stephen Morris (2,868 yards passing with 21 TDs and 12 INTs) and one key for the ‘Canes here is hunger … remember Miami has not won a bowl game since a 21-20 triumph over Nevada in the MPC Computer Bowl back in 2006.

Spread Notes – Louisville’s 5-7 against the Las Vegas prices this year but the Cardinals still sport a 26-21-1 ATS log under fourth-year head coach Charlie Strong. Miami, meanwhile, is also 5-7 spreadwise overall this season and the Hurricanes are a spiffy 10-4 ATS as underdog sides since the start of 2011.

MICHIGAN (7-5) vs. KANSAS STATE (7-5) – 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

A pair of BCS conferences collide here for another “bragging rights” game but the key question here is what does “Big Blue” do without injured QB Devin Gardner (foot) who totaled 3,443 yards and 32 TDs?

Gardner is out for this under-the-lights tilt in the desert, and so in steps Shane Morris to start at quarterback for Michigan... and that’s surely one reason why the price tag for this game has climbed to read Kansas State minus 4 ½ points at press time.

Keep in mind the K-State Wildcats have not won a bowl game since the 2002 Holiday Bowl bash against Arizona State – yes, that’s five straight bowl setbacks ever since – and here veteran head coach Bill Snyder will trust RB John Hubert (968 yards rushing and 9 TDs) to slice/dice a Michigan rush defense that ranks a decent 26th nationally (yielding nearly 140 rushing yards per game) but keep in mind the Big 10 team has allowed 40-plus points in three of its last seven games including that 42-41 humdinger loss-but-cover against 17 ½-point fav Ohio State.

Spread Notes – Michigan is 7-5 odds-wise this 2013 season and the maize-and-blue own a three-game spread winning streak heading into this bowl clash. Note that Kansas State’s 7-5 against the odds this season but the Wildcats are 0-5 ATS in bowl games the past 10 years and that includes last year’s 35-17 loss to TD fav Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.

NOTE: Get more NFL Week 17 Previews in tomorrow’s Jim Sez plus we’ll also bring you Monday’s Four (4) Bowl Games too!

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