Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 12, 2014 at 11:38 AM
It’s been all about the “next man up” philosophy for the 2014 Arizona Cardinals - and last night’s TD-free 12-6 road win against the 6-point home favorite St. Louis Rams was just the latest case as QB Ryan Lindley had to step in for an injured QB Drew Stanton.
Starting to get the feel that the Cardinals may use more quarterbacks than some NFL teams have wins this year?
In any event, Arizona’s proud defense - one that’s now allowed fewer than 20 points in a game nine times this year - answered the bell on this NFL Week 15 lid-lifter and so the 11-3 Cards stay atop the pack in the NFC and it’s up to the Pack (as is Green Bay) to stay in lockstep this weekend. Can somebody please just hand over the Coach of the Year award to Mr. Bruce Arians already!
Now let’s check out two key NFL Week 15 divisional games on the Sunday docket
MIAMI (7-6) at NEW ENGLAND (10-3) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
One of those three N’England losses happened way back in Week 1 when Bill Belichick’s crew flopped 33-20 as QB Tom Brady lost a pair of fumbles but the here-and-now says the Patriots have won eight of their last nine games and are - get this - 52-9 SU (straight-up) in the month of December under the aforementioned Belichick.
A win here clinches New England’s 12th AFC East crown in the past 14 years and don’t be surprised if the Pats run the ball 40 times here as Miami’s defense has surrendered 661 rushing yards the past three weeks ... maybe this is a LeGarrette Blount Special (see 30+ carries, 150 yards or so) ... so stay tuned.
Spread Notes - New England is 7-2 ATS (against the spread) since that now-infamous MNF loss at Kansas City back on Sept. 29th. The Patriots are just 5-9 vig-wise against fellow AFC East teams since the start of the 2012 season. Miami, meanwhile, is a respectable 24-21 spreadwise under third-year head coach Joe Philbin and that includes a 15-11 ATS log as underdogs.
DENVER (10-3) at SAN DIEGO (8-5) - 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS
News flash: Peyton Manning’s streak of 51 consecutive games in which he chucked a touchdown pass ended with last weekend’s 24-17 non-cover home win against Buffalo ... but did you know the
Broncos have the league’s second-most productive running back since Week 10? C.J. Anderson may not be the household name that is Manning but the former has rushed for 512 yards the past four games and last week’s three-TD showing proved that Denver can beat you via the ground route as well as the air waves ... so is this a pick-your-poison game then for the scuffling SD Chargers or can Mike McCoy’s club right the proverbial ship after scoring just one offensive TD in last week’s 23-14 prime-time loss to New England? Keep an eye here on Chargers’ LB Manti Te’o who intercepted a late first-half red-zone throw by Brady and is finding himself “around the ball” more and more this season.
Spread Notes - Denver is 19-13 ATS away since the start of the 2011 season. San Diego’s failed to cover seven of its last eight games after starting off the year at 5-0 versus the vig.
My handicappers and bloggers have everything all mapped out and you can get the upcoming College Football Bowl Games plus Saturday’s Army-Navy tilt and also all the NFL Week 15 games when you check with us here at Jim Hurley’s Network - make sure you’re all aboard for the week/weekend action online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Plus don’t forget all the daily/nightly action on the hardwood as there’s NBA and NCAA Hoops action all winter long right here with Jim Hurley!
On Saturday, it’s ...
ARMY (4-7) vs. NAVY (6-5) - (at Baltimore) 3 p.m. ET, CBS
The Navy winning streak in this series is now at 12 straight - again, you must go back to Army’s 26-17 win in 2001 to find the last time the Midshipmen didn’t come out on top in this ultimate of college football rivalry games - and so now Navy heads into this weekend’s game with a 58-49-7 SU (straight-up) advantage all time and do keep in mind these folks have been playing each other since 1890!
Navy is listed as a 14 ½-point betting favorite for this tilt and the Middies bring the country’s second-ranked rush offense into this bash (the ground attack’s averaging 357.8 yards per game) and QB Keenan Reynolds remains the game’s biggest star after rushing for a team-best 1,082 yards with 20 TDs to go along with a more modest 749 passing yards with 5 TDs.
The Midshipmen are bowl-bound again - that’s six times in the seven-year run by head coach Ken Niumatalolo - as Navy’s headed to the Pointsettia Bowl against “host” San Diego State on Dec. 23rd but first things first and that means Reynolds and RB Noah Copeland (859 yards rushing with 5 TDs) will look to own clock/line of scrimmage here.
If Army is gonna snag the monster-sized upset here than the country’s sixth-best rushing attack (averaging 305.5 yards per game) must move the chains and convert third-down plays - doesn’t it seem in the past few years that the Black Knights on the Hudson move the ball in this game but just get get “mission accomplished” in the red zone?
Let’s track QB Angel Santiago here - he’s rushed for 793 yards (that’s second to RB Larry Dixon and his 1,012 yards) and thrown for 488 yards for an Army team that’s on the outside looking in at the bowl bonanza for a fourth consecutive season.
Spread Notes - Navy is just 5-6 ATS this year and that includes an 0-1 spread mark when laying double digits (see 51-14 non-cover win against 38-point dog VMI back on Oct. 11). Note the Midshipmen are a dismal 8-18 versus the vig as betting favorites these past four years. On the flip side, Army enters this traditional showdown at 4-7 against the odds this season and the Cadets are 5-20 ATS away from West Point since the start of the 2011 season.
Now, here’s the last five Army vs. Navy head-to-head matchups:
HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH LIST
The 80th Annual Heisman Memorial Trophy Presentation is set for Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) in New York City and this year there’s precious little drama this time around.
Yes, the landslide winner of this year’s Heisman Trophy will be ...
MARCUS MARIOTA, QB, OREGON - This Hawaiian product took the country by storm as his senior season included a #2 ranking for the Ducks along with the following stat line: 3,783 yards passing with 38 TDs and only 2 INTs along with 669 yards rushing and 14 scores. Mariota will become the fifth consecutive quarterback to snag the coveted award and the first ever to have played at Oregon - and it’s not out of the question (of course) that he could lead the Ducks to a national championship and then be the #1 pick in next spring’s NFL Draft. And did we mention Mariota led Oregon to eight consecutive pointspread “W’s” following that early October loss to Arizona. Cha-ching!
MELVIN GORDON, RB, WISCONSIN - This junior back just declared for the NFL this past Wednesday but he’s had pro scouts drooling for a while as Gordon’s final collegiate season featured 2,336 yards rushing (an electric 7.6 yards-per-carry average) with 26 TDs to go along with 151 receiving yards with 3 TDs. Gordon was a non-factor in last weekend’s humbling 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship Game but that showing was not enough to knock ‘em back from second place in this year’s Heisman Trophy “race”.
AMARI COOPER, WR, ALABAMA - As folks discovered this year, the days of ground-and-pound were history with first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and the biggest benefactor was this senior star who hauled down 12 passes for 83 yards in last Saturday’s 42-13 runaway win/cover against 14 ½-point dog Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. Cooper finished the season with an SEC-best 115 receptions for 1,656 yards with 14 TDs and he helped once-stody ‘Bama score 40-plus points in seven different games this year.
NOTE: There’s more NFL Week 15 Game Previews ahead in the next edition of Jim Sez.