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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 15, 2014 at 12:00 AM


Face it …
There were occasions this 2014 NFL season in which the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos didn’t exactly resemble world–beaters but here we are two weeks from the “finish line” of the regular season and all of the above come off division title–clinching wins this past weekend.

Okay, so maybe you consider that dog–bites–man type of headlines, right?
Well, if you’re looking for NFL Week 15 drama instead then let’s revisit/analyze the wins by Buffalo and Dallas (or, maybe more appropriately, let’s delve into what happened to Green Bay and Philadelphia):

BUFFALO 21, GREEN BAY 13 — Somebody “knew something” when you consider the Packers opened the week as 5–point betting favorites in Buffalo and by game time it was down to 3½ points.

C’mon, who was gonna be betting against the Packers with QB Aaron Rodgers sporting this MVP–type/Hall of Fame season?

Well, Mr. Rodgers might have issued the coolest quote of the year when he told fidgety Packers’ fans two months back that they needed to R–E–L–A–X and yet here was the Green Bay slinger looking very much stressed out with two interceptions and a lost fumble in his own end zone (correctly ruled a safety with 1:51 remaining in the game) and did we mention that Rodgers completed only 17–of–42 passes with no TDs and he and his receivers were out of synch from the proverbial get–go?

Yes, Green Bay superstar WR Jordy Nelson dropped a sure–fire 94–yard touchdown pass on one on–the–money Rodgers throw but let’s not heap all the blame on the Green Bay offense — the Bills’ hearty/well–coached defense played spectacular ball with SS Baccari Rambo picking off Rodgers twice while DE Mario Williams forced the lost Rodgers fumble on that 2–point safety and generally menaced an overmatched GB offensive line for much of this game.
What did it all really mean here?

Well, the win secured the Bills’ first 8–win (or more) season since 2004 and pointspread mavens are aware that Buffalo covered three–of–four games against the NFC North this year while winning all four games in SU (straight–up) fashion.

Also, it signified Green Bay’s third spread loss in four games after Mike McCarthy’s crew had gone 6–3–1 ATS (against the spread) in the team’s first 10 games.

This is no time to be slip–sliding away, Pack!

DALLAS 38, PHILADELPHIA 27 — Start fast, finish fast.
Guess that was the motto for the NFC East–leading Cowboys (10–4) who gagged up a 21–0 lead to trail 24–21 before scorching the Eagles (9–5) with 17 of the game’s final 20 points.

Okay, so the QB Tony Romo–to–WR Dez Bryant combo that connected for three scoring strikes pretty much stole all the headlines and got “game balls” from NBC sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya but let’s bring a couple of other items into clearer focus here:

The ‘Boys — who sure got their revenge for that ugly 33–10 Thanksgiving Day loss to the Eagles — did lots of things right from harassing Philly QB Mark Sanchez (see four sacks, two INTs and countless other hurries) to slowing down RB LeSean “Shady” McCoy (see only 65 yards rushing/receiving on the night) to owning clock (that’s 41:55–to–18:05) and did we happen to mention that this here–and–now Dallas team shows gumption!

It’s the seventh win in seven away games for Jason Garrett’s club this year and this team’s overcome deficits/in–game collapses to win important games against St. Louis and Houston and the New York Giants and now Philadelphia too — heck, the ‘Boys from 2011–13 under Garrett would have coughed up most/all of these games but instead this bunch still has #1 seed dreams even if they don’t dare say so publicly.

In other NFL Week 15 News/Notes …
So, you’re not gonna let us get away from writing this column without some mention of Johnny Manziel, right?
Well, no need to pile up the former Heisman Trophy winner here — everyone knows he was a major bust in his first–ever NFL start as Cincinnati clobbered Cleveland 30–0.

The guy they call “Johnny Football” completed just 10 passes for 80 yards and — as he said afterwards — “laid an egg” but how ‘bout some blame on first–year Browns’ head coach Mike Pettine who pulled the plug on QB Brian Hoyer at least one game too late and thus those playoff dreams in northern Ohio have been squelched again …

So, who exited Sunday’s action as the hottest spread side in pro football?

Well, it’s a three–way tie with aforementioned Buffalo, Minnesota and Seattle all riding four–game spread winning streaks while heading into the Week 16 action but the defending champion Seahawks get an extra gold star ‘cause Pete Carroll’s crew has held Arizona, San Francisco (twice) and Philadelphia to a grand total of 27 points the past four weeks and the fun stat that came out of Sunday’s 17–7 win/cover against the 9 ½–point underdog Niners is Seattle had six sacks and one INT while allowing just 11 pass completions in all by jittery San Fran QB Colin Kaepernick.

Wow, they’ve made Kaepernick “play scared” twice now this year.
Dare we say the Seattle defense is playing better right now than at any time last year?

Finally, we head into the Monday Night Football here in Week 15 with NFL Betting Favorites having gone 7–7–1 ATS this week and so the up–to–the–minute yearly stats say NFL chalk sides are 106–110–4 with 3 pick ‘em games … we shall keep you posted right through the end of this regular season.

Our MNF preview in just a second here but first this important reminder …
My handicappers and bloggers have everything all mapped out for tonight’s NFL Week 15 tilt between the New Orleans Saints  at the Chicago Bears … get the Side & Totals winners game–day afternoon when you check with us here at Jim Hurley’s Network at the toll–free # of 1–800–323–4453 or right here online at
Plus get all the upcoming College Football Bowl games (they kick off Saturday with 5 Games) plus the Basketball action too … don’t get left out in the cold, folks!

Tonight, it’s …
NEW ORLEANS (5–8) at CHICAGO (5–8) — 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Pay no attention to those ill–advised folks who don’t believe a sub–.500 team should make the playoffs — hey, if the NFL is gonna have divisions than the winner of said divisions should gain playoff entrance.

‘Nuff said.
And don’t think for a moment that Sean Payton’s Saints would be a post–season pushover even if they happen to stumble into the playoffs as the champion of the woe–be–gone NFC South.

The Saints — to be fair — have lost some brutally bad games this year with three of their first four setbacks coming by 3 (in OT), 2 and 1 point to go along with 21–, 17– and 31–point blowouts too.

If QB Drew Brees (3,983 yards passing with 28 TDs and 12 INTs) can’t zing in in the Chicago wind here than it could mean all the heat’s on a Saints’ ground game that ranks an underrated ninth in the league (123.7 ypg) while the Bears pin their hopes on mistake–prone QB Jay Cutler who when he’s not receiving tearful apologies from offensive coordinator Aaron Cromer is usually losing a fumble in the pocket or flipping an INT — he has six lost fumbles and 15 INTs this year and so you’re surprised the Bears are headed towards a fourth consecutive non–playoff campaign?

No WR Brandon Marshall who is out for the year with back/lung injuries suffered in that 41–28 loss to Dallas two Thursday Nights ago.
Spread Notes — New Orleans is a money–torching 3–8 ATS as betting favorites this season but date back to the start of the 2008 campaign and you see the Saints are a collective 49–39–1 against the odds, not bad. Chicago, meanwhile, is 5–8 overall versus the vig this season and a shabby 9–19–1 ATS under second–year head coach Marc Trestman.

Just wanted to take a moment to re–print something we wrote at this very time a year ago and it went like this when discussing the possible 2014 Heisman Trophy winner…

“ … if it’s not another redshirt frosh than you might want to keep an eye on not only (Jameis) Winston for an Archie Griffin–like repeat (see 1974–75) or maybe you’ll want to consider the aforementioned (Marcus) Mariota and/or some other Pac–12 or Big 12 quarterback.”

So, as far back as 12 months ago we chatted up Mr. Mariota’s name as a real threat to win this year’s Heisman Trophy and our weekly “Watch List” has Mariota on top for the final four weeks … so it was no big surprise that the Oregon signal–caller nabbed the hardware in a runaway vote as his 788 first–place votes and 2,534 overall points smashed the respective candidacies of Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon (1,250 points) and Alabama WR Amari Cooper (1,023 points) and so now we’ll all see if a standing Heisman Trophy winner can nab a national championship to boot as Florida State QB Winston did a year ago.
Mariota not only received the second–highest percentage of possible points for the award (90.92) behind Ohio State QB troy Smith (91.63 back in 2006) but his humility and decent nature might well have put him above Winston in terms of quarterbacks picked in next spring’s NFL Draft.

Pin us down right now and we’ll tell you Mariota probably will be playing for the Tennessee Titans — gee, could he beat out Zach Mettenberger and the always–injured Jake Locker? — while Winston’s probably a pretty good candidate to play for the Tampa Bay Bucs.

P.S., both Gordon and Cooper are sure first–round picks but it says here that the ‘Bama stay will be nabbed in the top 10 — while Gordon probably doesn’t go till #20 or so.

There we go again predicting the future of both Mariota and Winston and some other dudes too!

NOTE: We will have quick–hitter comments on the Six (6) December 30–31 College Football Bowl Games in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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