Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, December 13, 2014 at 1:00 AM
Sure, everyone in and around the National Football League is hyped up regarding all the divisional/wild card races but what about those five teams that are sitting there with identical 2-11 records?
The New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all have their opportunities to “tank” the last three weeks of regular-season play and keep fingers crossed for that numero uno pick in next spring’s NFL Draft - so that’s the other side of the coin in the league these days and ask us right now and we think the Jets vs. Titans loser in this Sunday’s game in Nashville likely gets the #1 pick and thus the shot to land Oregon QB Marcus Mariota.
You don’t really think those teams are ready to put their future in the hands of Geno Smith and Zach Mettenberger now ... do you?
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 too when you check with us here at Jim Hurley’s Network - make sure you’re all aboard for the week/weekend action online here 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!
PITTSBURGH (8-5) at ATLANTA (5-8) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
No doubt about it that there’s been a “good Steelers” and a “bad Steelers” this year - last week’s 42-21 win in Cincinnati may have been Pittsburgh’s finest hour this season as RB Le’Veon Bell tore it up with 235 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns and now he shoots for a fourth straight game of 200-plus yards from scrimmage (that would be an NFL record that he currently shares with Walter Payton).
However, the Falcons believe they can play keep-a-way from Bell here with QB Matt Ryan looking to piggyback his great second half in Green Bay last Monday Night with another strong showing but can he depend on WR Julio Jones (11 catches for a franchise-record 259 yards versus the Packers) after that hip injury suffered late in the MNF game?
Spread Note - Pittsburgh is just 7-11 ATS (against the spread) in its post-Cincinnati game the past 10 years.
CINCINNATI (8-4-1) at CLEVELAND (7-6) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Still wondering if that Cincinnati tie against Carolina is gonna help or hurt the Bengals? Us too! Meanwhile, the AFC North remains the class of the league with everyone playing better-than-.500 ball but it’s not as if these Ohio teams are distinguishing themselves down the stretch here as the Bengals barely slipped past Tampa Bay two weeks ago and then flopped face-first in the final quarter of last week’s aforementioned 21-point home loss to Pittsburgh while the Browns - benching QB Brian Hoyer here in favor of Johnny Manziel - have lost two straight with the 26-10 setback in Buffalo followed by last week’s 25-24 collapse against Indianapolis.
So, who’s gonna get their wake-up call first? The Manziel Factor is difficult to decipher - will the Bengals’ defense be even more jacked up than the Browns’ offense? - and will Cleveland be able to run the ball the way it did in that 24-3 win at Cincy back on Nov. 6th when RBs Terrance West (94 yards rushing) and mates galloped free for 170 ground yards in that one?
Spread Note - The Bengals are 1-4-1 ATS in their last half-dozen head-to-head games against the Browns.
HOUSTON (7-6) at INDIANAPOLIS (9-4) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Maybe it gets overshadowed because of New England’s soon-to-be 12 AFC East crowns in the past 14 years but how about a round of applause for the Indy Colts who - with a win here - would land their ninth AFC South crown in the past 13 seasons and their second straight under QB Andrew Luck.
Okay, so the maestro signal-caller didn’t have his greatest game last Sunday in the one-point win against the Browns (two lost fumbles and two INTs) but managed that fantastic last-second drive capped by a one-yard scoring strike to WR T.J. Hilton - now Luck looks to evade J.J. Watt (12.5 sacks) and keep the “Horseshoes” marching towards a possible first playoff weekend bye.
Spread Note - Indianapolis is 30-17-1 ATS overall since the start of the 2012 season and that includes a nifty 9-4 ATS log this year.
On Sunday Night, it’s ...
DALLAS (9-4) at PHILADELPHIA (9-4) - 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Maybe it was appropriate that the year’s first meeting between these long-time NFC East rivals was played on Thanksgiving Day because the Eagles absolutely carved up the Cowboys with back-to-back long touchdown drives to start the game and then coasted into the winner’s circle with a 33-10 win.
No doubt there’s been plenty said about the fact the Philly defensive line “owned” the Cowboys’ much-hyped O-line in that tilt - hey, Dallas QB Tony Romo was sacked four times in that game and never did look comfortable in the pocket - and so all eyes will be on the Dallas blocking wall to see if they can keep Romo clean here.
Keep in mind this could be a tired Eagles defense - one that was kept on the field for nearly 42 minutes in last week’s 24-14 home loss versus Seattle and you keep hearing the buzz that second-year head coach Chip Kelly may indeed “go to the bullpen” for QB Nick Foles if current starter Mark Sanchez struggles out of the gate.
One X-factor to watch here: Dallas RB DeMarco Murray (NFL-best 1,606 yards rushing this season) may get the ball thrown his way lots here in an attempt to keep Philadelphia LB Connor Barwin from “spying” Romo and make ‘em cover Murray in one-on-one routes.
Spread Notes - Dallas is 9-4 versus the vig as underdog sides since the start of last year and that includes outright wins this season against 3-point fav Tennessee, 3-point favorite New Orleans and 10-point chalk guy Seattle. Meanwhile, Philadelphia is 5-2 against the odds at home this year and the Eagles own a dour 4-6 ATS mark in their last 10 regular-season home finales.
NOTE: Lots to cover in the next issue of Jim Sez as we’ll examine the NFL Week 15 Sunday results, get you the Monday Night Football Preview (that’s New Orleans at Chicago) and offer up our opinions on the Heisman Trophy too ... so don’t miss out! And remember we’ll continue our Bowl Blitz early next week right here at Jim Sez as we’ll pick up with the bowl games beginning Tuesday, Dec. 30th.