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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 2:07 PM


Wait a second ...Does everyone in the National Football League sport a winning record or does it only seem that way as we enter a Week 14 card that features seven - yes, seven - games pitting teams with better-than-.500 marks against one another?

Folks, for that to be the case on the first weekend in December is quite unique - trust us - but here we are with half of Sunday’s menu matching up winning squads versus one another while there are four showdowns between sub-.500 teams too.

We’ll get to three of this weekend’s marquee matchups in the league where they play for pay but first let’s examine a couple of hot topics making the NFL rounds:


The Cleveland Browns knew that at some point in this 2014 season there was gonna be a controversy at the all-important quarterback position and it’s all played out this week in the media and at Browns headquarters.

Okay, so we give a thumbs-up to the decision by rookie head coach Mike Pettine to stay with Brian Hoyer (3,056 yards passing with 11 TDs and 10 INTs) for this Sunday’s home game against the Indianapolis Colts but now the question is when/if does Pettine pull Hoyer if things start to get away from the Brownies here?

No doubt Hoyer has earned his right to stay in the starting role for Cleveland (7-5) which is one of the many AFC teams in a jumbled playoff picture right now but did you ever wonder what this year would be like had the Browns opted to start rookie Johnny Manziel right from the very start?

Would the Browns’ record be better - or worse - had Manziel come out of the preseason listed #1 on the depth chart? We’ll never know.

What we do know is Manziel energized the Browns with an 80-yard touchdown drive capped by his wild 10-yard scoring run in last Sunday’s 26-10 loss in Buffalo and there’s plenty of folks in/around Cleveland that believe the change is needed now because Hoyer (three INTs in Atlanta two weeks ago) may have run his course as the starter.

We say stay with Hoyer as the starter here but if he winds up being turnover-prone and the Browns lose big to Indy, then check out Manziel for the Week 15 game against Cincinnati.
In other words, it’s Hoyer’s job ... but he doesn’t own it.


It’s been a busy week for the college football world in terms of coaching changes as Florida and Nebraska were quick to name Jim McElwain and Mike Riley as “new men in town”, respectively and Michigan is another high-profile university that’ll name a new boss soon but what gives in the NFL coaching world ... here’s some thoughts:

CHICAGO - Following that disjointed 41-28 loss to Dallas on Thursday night, it’s safe to say the Bears (5-8) will be in the market for a new coach to replace the embattled Marc Trestman. The Bears likely will want a coach with prior NFL head coaching experience and so let’s see if soon-to-be-axed New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan is available. Buddy’s son would be a big hit in Chitown and gotta believe he could upgrade this sad-sack defense.

CAROLINA - The Ron Rivera Era is quickly coming to an end as the Panthers (3-8-1) have been brutal for weeks now ... note the six-game losing skid while heading into Sunday’s game in New Orleans. Maybe malcontent QB Cam Newton helped bring down the ship here but Rivera’s time is up and we see the Panthers reaching for an offensive-minded guy and so San Francisco offensive coordinator OC Greg Roman and/or Denver OC Adam Gase could well be on the team’s short shopping list.

NEW YORK GIANTS and NEW YORK JETS - Okay, so we said our piece about Ryan who’s a goner from “gang green” at year’s end but good luck trying to figure out what the J-E-T-S are gonna do as first they must figure out whether second-year GM John Idzik stays put.

Best guess here is Idzik and Ryan both get shown the door and the Jets let a new GM make the coaching selection while the Giants continue to wrestle with the notion of firing Tom Coughlin at year’s end.
Don’t look for the two-time Super Bowl winner to stay on board - the Giants probably will make a move for an up-and-coming NFL coordinator, perhaps Seattle Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell.   

My handicappers and bloggers have everything all scoped out and you can get the NFL Week 14 games and all the basketball action when you check with us here at the red-hot Jim Hurley’s Network - make sure you’re all aboard for the week/weekend action here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.


PITTSBURGH (7-5) at CINCINNATI (8-3-1) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
This is Round I this year as Steelers-Bengals collide again come Week 17 but first things first and everyone wants to know about Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger and his sort right wrist.
No question Roethlisberger nosedived after the 12-TD/2-game showing a few weeks back as he’s thrown 4 TDs and 5 INTs in his last three games and now a Bengals’ defense that’s yielded only 26 total points in that three-game road winning streak comes after “Big Ben” here.

What to Watch - Bengals have allowed just 3.06 yards per carry since getting torched for 170 rushing yards by Cleveland back in a Week 10 game.

SEATTLE (8-4) at PHILADELPHIA (9-3) - 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
Have the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks found their “swagger”? Sure seems that’s the case as Pete Carroll’s crew has strung together back-to-back brilliant showings in beating Arizona and San Francisco by identical 19-3 scores and let’s just say the return to health of the Seattle “D” has been key as LB Bobby Wagner and hard-hitting S Kam Chancellor are playing lights-out ball and it’s duly noted that chatterbox CB Richard Sherman (two INTs vs. the Niners) is back on his game after some minor stumbles.

What to Watch - The Eagles rank fifth in the league in passing (286 ypg) and sixth in rushing (130 ypg) and Philly head coach Chip Kelly would like to keep close to a 50/50 run/pass balance here and so don’t be surprised if RB LeSean McCoy gets 30 carries all by himself.

On Sunday Night, it’s ...
NEW ENGLAND (9-3) at SAN DIEGO (8-4) - 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Both Patriots QB Tom Brady and Chargers’ slinger Philip Rivers love the holiday season - the former is a sizzling 45-7 SU (straight-up) in December games in his star-studded career while the latter is 30-6 SU in month-of-December tilts and so - for argument’s sake - let’s say these signal-callers are a “wash” in this prime-time affair.
Then what?

Well, the Patriots have proven that a slew of guys can take the reigns as #1 running back (although we would like to see punished RB Jonas Gray get a bunch of runs here) while the Bolts rank a dismal 27th in the league in rushing and so San Diego probably is putting more on the plate of Rivers and a so-so defense here.

What to Watch - Expect the Pats to pay special attention to San Diego TE Antonio Gates (9 TDs) as take away his third-down plays and SD could well be sunk - maybe New England head coach Bill Belichick will parade LBs/DBs in Gates’ direction once he gets off the line of scrimmage but if Gates is silent than the Chargers lose this by double digits.


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