Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 9:55 AM
IT’S NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME WEEKEND
WE BOUNCE ‘ROUND SOME KEY STATS PLUS THERE’S NFL NEWS & NOTES HERE TOO …
THE NFL UP-TO-DATE POINTSPREAD STANDINGS …
THE COLLEGE B-BALL REPORT: QUICK-HITTER WEEKEND PREVIEWS
By Jim Hurley:
Okay, so we’ve been hearing all these wonderful things about the four teams involved in Sunday’s AFC and NFC Championship Games but keep this in mind:
The New England Patriots have not won a Super Bowl since 2004; The Denver Broncos last won a Super Bowl in the 1998 season; The last time the San Francisco 49ers won it all was way back in the 1994 season; And the Seattle Seahawks – the team that’s the slight fav to win Super Bowl XLVIII in two weeks from now – have never won it all.
Hey, no matter how you slice it that’s a long time “between drinks” and so even though the consensus report is these are – indeed – the best four teams in the National Football League the fact of the matter is none of the above exactly have piled up Vince Lombardi Trophies in recent years … right?
Here’s a few stats to keep in mind as we approach Sunday’s two games:
In the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots are fresh off their 43-22 win/cover against Indianapolis in last week’s AFC Divisional Playoff round and one number overlooked in that double-digit win was New England’s third-down success rate – now when’s the last time an NFL playoff time converted on a whopping 11-of-18 third-down plays in a single game?
If the Pats even come close to duplicating that stat line here, than QB Peyton Manning and the Broncos will be destined for disappointment once again …
In the NFC Championship Game, note the Seahawks didn’t commit a single turnover in their 23-15 non-cover win against New Orleans in that Divisional Playoff tilt.
The ‘Hawks – as a matter of fact – were a plus 19 in the interception department in regular-season action (28-to-9) and Seattle lost just 10 fumbles (to the opponent’s 11 lost fumbles) and so after having played 17 games so far, Pete Carroll’s crew has turned the ball over just 19 times – pretty amazing, eh?
It says here that unless San Francisco forces three-or-more Seattle turnovers in this game, the Seahawks will be the ones jetting east for SB 48.
In other NFL News & Notes …
Let’s get a little caught up on all the coaching news as there are new sidelines bosses in Houston, Tennessee, Washington, Detroit, Minnesota and Tampa Bay:
Houston – Bill O’Brien was a modern-day miracle-worker in his two years at Penn State but we’re wondering how he will “translate” in the pros. Yes, we know all about that sideline spat years ago with New England QB Tom Brady but there will be major pressure to produce right away with a talent-laden team that needs a new look at quarterback. Will a “marriage” between Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and O’Brien work? We wonder.
Tennessee – Hats off to the hiring of San Diego Chargers’ offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt who was always an under-the-radar screen star coach with the Arizona Cardinals (see Super Bowl in 2008 season). The Titans needed some stability at the head-coaching spot and Whisenhunt – who will make a positive influence on QB Jake Locker – should get Tennessee back to the post-season next year.
Washington – No need to kick any more sand in the face of Jay Gruden who didn’t exactly come off his finest hour after the Cincinnati Bengals flopped in their AFC Wild Card loss to San Diego two weeks ago. The Bengals former offensive coordinator has a lot of fixing to do with this ‘Skins offense and we would have preferred Washington to land an experienced hand (why not Jim Caldwell here before he was plucked by Detroit).
Detroit – The hiring of the aforementioned Caldwell was “safe” considering someone had to come in and reign in QB Matthew Stafford and the one-time Indianapolis head coach/Baltimore Ravens’ offensive coordinator has a masterful touch but one thing we wonder about is perhaps the Lions needed a firmer hand here to control this undisciplined team. Hey, we thought Bill Cowher made sense here but guess he’s never coming out of retirement.
Minnesota – Nothing against long-time Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer but we believe he’s more cut out to be an NFL D-coordinator and thus the Vikes (we thought) should opt for an offensive mind such as San Francisco 49ers OC Greg Roman or perhaps current New Orleans OC Pete Carmichael, Jr. Hey, who’s gonna fix this messy QB spot now, Norv Turner?
Tampa Bay – Let’s just say it was patently unfair that long-time Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith didn’t have a head-coaching job following four double-digit win seasons in nine years in the Windy City, so our blessing to this choice although in this day-and-age of offensive football you do at least get to wonder if the Bucs should have sought out Roman first … just sayin’.
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NFL POINTSPREAD STANDINGS
It’s been a while and so let’s get everyone in Jim Sez-land up to snuff with the NFL Pointspread Standings – note all post-season games are included below:
COLLEGE HOOPS NOTEBOOK
Lots of great College Basketball action all holiday weekend long and here’s a few games we’ll be paying especially close attention to:
On Saturday, it’s …
TENNESSEE (11-5, 2-1 SEC) at #13 KENTUCKY (12-4, 2-1 SEC) – 12 p.m. ET, CBS
The UK Wildcats may be a whole different outfit from last year’s squad but you better believe head coach John Calipari will be reminding his troops they were beaten 88-58 by the Vols last year in Knoxville – let’s see if Kentucky boxes out better than it did the other night in that OT loss at Arkansas!
#9 OKLAHOMA STATE (15-2, 31- Big 12) at #15 KANSAS (12-4, 3-0 Big 12) – 4 p.m. ET, CBS
Surprise, surprise … the Kansas Jayhawks sit alone atop the Big 12 Conference these days but if Bill Self’s crew is still gonna be in first place at day’s end then putting the brakes of Okie State G Marcus Smart (17.9 ppg) is key here and note the Jayhawks might have to step it up on defense where Kansas ranks just 69th nationally. Maybe frosh star Andrew Wiggins (15.8 ppg) makes this a coming-out party of sorts but let’s see how he handles some gimmick defenses here.
On Sunday, it’s …
OREGON (13-3, 1-3 Pac-12) at OREGON STATE (9-7, 1-3 Pac-12) – 8 p.m. ET, ESPNU
No doubt the Ducks and Beavers would like to dig themselves out of the lower tier of the current Pac-12 standings (only Washington State and USC are worse at the present time) and so this league affair takes on great importance and let’s see if Oregon State G Roberto Nelson (21.4 ppg) can light it up in a quicker-than-you-think game here. NOTE Catch our AFC and NFC Championship Game re-caps in the next edition of Jim Sez.