Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, December 18, 2014 at 9:45 AM
WE OFFER UP QUICK-HITTER PREVIEWS FOR TONIGHT’S TITANS-JAGS TILT PLUS SATURDAY’S EAGLES-‘SKINS & CHARGERS-49ERS GAMES
PLUS CATCH OUR JAN. 1 BOWL BLITZ TOO!
The NFL Week 16 card is chock full of monster matchups this Saturday/Sunday/Monday and we’ll touch on tonight’s Tennessee at Jacksonville tilt plus the two Saturday games right here in today’s column - we’ll have lots to say about the Sunday/Monday games in the next Jim Sez -- plus we’ll follow it up with a look at the Five (5) New Year’s Day/Night games. So, let’s go!
NFL WEEK 16
TENNESSEE (2-12) at JACKSONVILLE (2-12) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Okay, so obviously no “playoff implications” here but there’s plenty of chatter about the #1 draft pick that may or may not go to the loser of this sad-sack AFC South affair and may we be the first to inform you that the Titans and Jaguars have combined for an 8-19-1 ATS (against the spread) mark this year (a .296 winning rate ... ugh!).
Spread Notes - Tennessee is 1-6-1 vig-wise in its last eight head-to-head matchups against Jacksonville and that includes the Jaguars’ cover at plus 4 points in a 16-14 loss back in Week 6 play.
On Saturday, it’s ...
PHILADELPHIA (9-5) at WASHINGTON (3-11) - 4:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network
The Eagles are still reeling after back-to-back home losses to Seattle and Dallas the past two weekends and there’s no telling what the mindset is for Philly CB Bradley Fletcher who was torched for three TDs by Cowboys’ star Dez Bryant. Can Washington QB Robert Griffin III expose Fletcher with some long balls here ... and what wide receivers are healthy enough for the ‘Skins to make ‘em downfield threats here? Expect the Birds to stay with slumping QB Mark Sanchez as word is former starter Nick Foles is only at “70 percent” with his once-busted collarbone.
Spread Notes - Philadelphia is a rotten 6-11-1 ATS in divisional games since the start of the 2012 season. Washington enters this tilt at 9-21 ATS overall since the beginning of the 2013 season.
SAN DIEGO (8-6) at SAN FRANCISCO (7-7) - 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS
So, what exactly went wrong for this year’s SF 49ers ... got a few hours to listen!
Jim Harbaugh’s dysfunctional bunch was kayoed from this year’s playoff chase with last weekend’s 17-7 loss in Seattle and note that marked the seventh time in the 49ers’ last eight games the NFC West team scored 17 points or less in a game. The passing game ranks a lowly 28th in the NFL - QB Colin Kaepernick has been lost in space for weeks now - and none of the team’s wide receivers/tight ends have been happy with their involvement in the aerial game. A key for the SD Chargers here? Get something from a floundering ground game that ranks 30th in the league (averaging just 82.6 ypg) and keep QB Philip Rivers in one piece against a Niners’ defense that figures to blitz often.
Spread Notes - San Diego’s failed to cover eight of its last nine pointspread verdicts after starting out 5-and-oh odds-wise this year. San Francisco is 4-6-1 ATS as betting favorites this season.
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THE NEW YEAR’S DAY BOWL BLITZ
A reminder that we’ll have complete/in-depth Bowl Previews all holiday season long generally a day or two before the games ... this is just a little whet-your-appetite treat as we look towards Jan. 1, 2015:
Raymond James Stadium - Tampa, FL
#19 AUBURN (8-4) vs. #18 WISCONSIN (10-3) - 12 p.m. ET, espn2
Wait, another bowl game and Barry Alvarez is back to coach it for the Wisky Badgers (see Rose Bowl two years ago)? The sudden departure of head coach Gary Andersen to take the Oregon State gig left Badger Nation befuddled but Alvarez will steer the ship here with RB Melvin Gordon (2,336 yards rushing and 26 TDs) the centerpiece player here but Auburn’s the 6.5-point (and growing) betting favorite right now with do-it-all QB Nick Marshall (2,315 yards passing and 18 TDs) looking to expose a Wisconsin secondary that can underwhelming.
AT&T Stadium - Arlington, TX
#8 MICHIGAN STATE (10-2) vs. #5 BAYLOR (11-1) - 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Baylor head coach Art Briles made the rounds a couple of weekends back while first lobbying for his team’s inclusion into the four-team playoff and then railing against said system that failed to make his Bears an invite. Now, will that negative vibe hangover carry over to this New Year’s Day game against a Michigan State crew that - let’s be honest - lost its only two important games on the year (see versus Oregon and Ohio State)? The Spartans are buoyed by the news that veteran QB Connor Cook (2,900 yards passing with 22 TDs) will return for his senior season but it’ll be interesting to see how often Cook can connect with top target WR Tony Lippett (60 receptions for 1,124 yards and 11 TDs) in what’s expected to be a high-scoring affair ... the current totals price is 71.5 points. Naturally, Baylor’s high-octane passing game generally rolls to 40-point plus scoring performances and QB Bryce Petty (3,305 yards passing with 26 TDs) should be close to 100 percent after getting a full month off.
CAPITAL ONE BOWL
Florida Citrus Bowl - Orlando, FL
#16 MISSOURI (10-3) vs. #25 MINNESOTA (8-4) - 1 p.m. ET, ABC
Okay, so this one doesn’t rank as a quintessential New Year’s Day game but they are both ranked teams with “signature wins” on their respective dockets and it’s worth noting both Mizzou and Minnesota were major money-makers this year with a combined 16-9 ATS mark. Missouri - coming off its second consecutive SEC Championship Game loss - won at South Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M and Tennessee this year and so packing the bags ain’t a problem for Gary Pinkel’s team that needs QB Maty Mauk (2,551 yards passing with 23 TDs) to make big plays when scrambling out of the pocket while the Minny game plan here is a bit more 1960’ish with RB David Cobb (1,548 yards rushing and 13 TDs) likely needed to carry the pigskin 25-plus times here if the 5-point pup Golden Gophers are gonna pull the outright upset. P.S., Minnesota owns 2014 wins against 10-point favorite Michigan and 8 ½-point fav Nebraska ... and Minny’s 5-1 spreadwise as underdog sides this season, so there!
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA
#3 FLORIDA STATE (13-0) vs. #2 OREGON (12-1) - 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
Now wouldn’t it be something if the oft-criticized FSU Seminoles “shocked the world” and beat Oregon here and had a shot to repeat as national champions this year? No doubt the ‘Noles were the unofficial punching bags of the College Football Playoff committee that kept dropping Jimbo Fisher’s team all the while staying unbeaten but now here’s the opportunity for QB Jameis Winston (3,559 yards passing with 24 TDs) to silence those committee folks. Okay, so Heisman Trophy winner QB Marcus Mariota (3,783 yards passing with 38 TDs) does stand in the way and did we happen to mention that the Ducks enter this national semifinal affair riding an eight-game pointspread winning streak? Mariota has Oregon averaging a haughty 48 points per game during this aforementioned spread winning streak and you may want to keep an eye out here for sensational frosh RB Royce Freeman (1,299 yards rushing with 16 TDs) who is already being talked up as a leading Heisman Trophy candidate for 2015.
Superdome - New Orleans, LA
#4 OHIO STATE (12-1) vs. #1 ALABAMA (12-1) - 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Quick ... who has the longer winning streak while heading into this national semifinal playoff game? Right, it’s Ohio State that’s won 11 straight following that 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech back on Sept. 6th - Alabama’s won eight in a row since its early October loss at Ole Miss - and Buckeyes’ boss Urban Meyer now needs another monster showing by his defense that blanked Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship Game and keep in mind ‘Bama has scored 40-plus points seven times this year with QB Blake Sims (3,250 yards passing with 26 TDs) still maybe the most unsung slinger in the land. In case you’re wondering, Alabama is a healthy 5-2 against the odds in all bowl games under eighth-year head coach Nick Saban.
Note: Get Saturday’s College Bowl Game Previews in the next Jim Sez.