Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 22, 2014 at 12:00 AM
THE NFL WEEK 16 REPORT/WRAP-UP –
SEAHAWKS, COWBOYS & CHARGERS ARE BIG WINNERS
BUT WE’RE HERE TO BURY THE SAINTS, EAGLES
(AND MAYBE THE RAVENS TOO!) …
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL PREVIEW:
BRONCOS-BENGALS JOUST IN “THE JUNGLE” …
PLUS MORE COLLEGE BOWL PREVIEWS
It’s safe to say that America at large owes the Seattle Seahawks (11-4) an apology:
After all, it was back on Oct. 19th when the defending Super Bowl champions stood at 3-3 SU (straight-up) and with one hellacious post-Super Bowl “hangover” – just about every single TV talking head and scribe was kicking dirt on Seattle and telling anyone that would listen that there would be no repeat champion in this 2014 NFL season.
Okay, so there still might not be but the bottom line is the Seahawks have won eight of their last nine games and they just so happened to have covered their last five in a row including Sunday Night’s utter domination 35-6 win in Arizona.
Now, with a Week 17 home win against a dysfunctional St. Louis Rams team this coming Sunday – hey, we tell it like it is here, pal! – it’s the Seahawks who will be owning that #1 seed in the NFC playoffs and you watch:
Now, everyone will be picking ‘em to win it all come Super Bowl 49.
Hey, everyone’s allowed to change their minds, right?
In Seattle’s latest cruise-job win – note the Seahawks have beaten these last five foes by a per-game margin of 16.2 points per game – there was, as NBC analyst Cris Collinsworthsuggested, lots of “magic” taking place from that dynamic 79-yard tackle-breaking touchdown run by RB Marshawn Lynch (didn’t look sick to us!) to that dazzling now-you-see-me, now-you-don’t five-yard TD run by QB Russell Wilson that capped the night’s scoring action but better yet for you Seahawk fans there was that muscle-flexing defense holding the injury-wracked Cardinals to 4-of-16 on third/fourth-down plays and making life quite miserable for third-stringer-turned starting QB Ryan Lindley who must have felt as if he received a large lump of coal in his holiday stocking.
The Seahawks weren’t the only really big winners on Week 17 weekend:
The Dallas Cowboys roared past an admittedly apathetic Indianapolis Colts team 42-7 as QB Tony Romo – suddenly receiving late-year MVP support – completed 18-of-20 passes while throwing four TDs and how ‘bout a round of applause for the never-say-die San Chargers who surged back from a 21-point second-half deficit to beat San Francisco 38-35 in overtime on Saturday night.
Okay, all those Week 16 wins were neat but you know “negative press” is what sells and so let’s focus our Jim Sez energies for a few moments on the weekend’s biggest losers:
NEW ORLEANS (6-9) – Maybe you wish to curse the Saints for their ugly-as-sin 30-14 home loss to Atlanta that cost Sean Payton’s sad-sack team any hopes of winning the woeful NFC South but we’ll remind one-and-all that N’Orleans four other games this year by three points or less and when you can’t put the hammer down on a bad Falcons’ team that may have gotten a break with that TE Jimmy Graham fumble at the start of the fourth quarter … but no excuses.
Two more picks of all-too-erratic QB Drew Brees – wow, what a lousy year he just had -- and a shoddy defensive showing (the Falcs averaged 6.5 yards a play and didn’t commit a single turnover) doomed the Saints this past weekend and they’re right where they outghta be – out of the playoff race and out of anyone’s consciousness.
PHILADELPHIA (9-6) – Boo Santa Claus?
Heck, the football fans that inhabit the City of Brotherly Love may trek down to the Meadowlands this Sunday just to boo Chip Kelly’s club if it’s gonna make ‘em all feel better as this collapse was a doozy.
The Eagles were 9-3 back on Thanksgiving Night after besting the Dallas Cowboys but back-to-back-to-back losses to Seattle, Dallas and Washington (egads!) along with the Cowboys’ aforementioned Week 16 win against the Colts kayoed Philly’s post-season hopes and QB Mark Sanchez’s 13th turnover in seven games this year wound up being the one replayed on late-night TV time after time as Sanchez was intercepted by Washington CB Bashaud Breeland late in a tie game with that pick leading to the game-winning FG in the Redskins’ 27-24 upset win – was Sanchez the right guy for the job after that collarbone injury to Nick Foles? Uhh, take two guesses!
BALTIMORE (9-6) – The holidays may not be just rough on that Jim Harbaugh fella, his brother John could wind up getting savaged in the press for the better part of Christmas week and not just for a silly (if eventually meaningless) decision to go for a two-point conversion after cutting the deficit to 12 points in that 25-13 loss in Houston (what, doesn’t the Ravens’ head coach know how to add!).
Baltimore was completely unprepared for this road tilt that “featured” a season-high three INTs by QB Joe Flacco and what about the play-calling of former Texans head coach and current Baltimore OC Gary Kubiak … whew, now that was some bad stuff!
Now, the only way Baltimore makes it to the post-season is by beating the visiting Cleveland Browns this Sunday and having San Diego lose in Kansas City – hey, maybe the AFC North now is only gonna wind up with one playoff team. We’ll see.
My handicappers and bloggers have everything all mapped out and you can get all the upcoming College Football Bowl Games plus all the NFL Week 17 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 at www.jimhurley.com or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.
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MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL PREVIEW
DENVER (11-3) at CINCINNATI (9-4-1) – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Best believe that there will be lots of NFL players eye-balling this game from their favorite easy chair – this Broncos-Bengals bash will influence lots of folks on the NFL playoff front but you already know all the post-season “ifs” and so let’s concentrate on what’s at hand:
The visiting Broncos have turned into a run-first offense in recent weeks while averaging some 165 rushing yards per game since that humbling/bumbling 22-7 loss in St. Louis a month ago but press us for an answer and we say QB Peyton Manning (8-0 SU lifetime against Cincinnati) will have to get busy with some deep throws and whether or not WR Demaryius Thomas goes for 100-plus receiving yards or not will be key) while the never-ready-for-prime-time Bengals looks to take some heat off QB Andy Dalton – will RBs Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard have any real success against the NFL’s second-best rush defense (71.6 ypg)?
Spread Notes – Denver’s split its 14 pointspread verdicts thus far in this ’14 season but note the Broncos are 20-13 ATS (against the spread) away since the start of the 2011 season. Cincinnati is 25-14-2 ATS versus non-AFC North foes the past three-plus seasons.
COLLEGE BOWL REPORT –
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 23
BOCA RATON BOWL – at Boca Raton, FL
MARSHALL (12-1) vs. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (11-2) – 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
Always wondering what incentive teams have for the so-called minor bowls and it could be a problem for 10-point fav Marshall who blew any shot of playing on New Year’s Eve/Day with that epic 67-66 OT loss to Western Kentucky the day after Thanksgiving.
Keep an eye on Marshall QB Rakeem Cato (3,622 yards passing with 37 TDs) who can be a chain-mover with his legs on key third-down plays.
Spread Notes – Marshall staggered into this bowl tilt on a three-game spread losing skid but note the Thundering Herd’s covered all three of their bowl games while dating back to the 2009 campaign. Northern Illinois is 8-4 vig-wise as underdogs the past four years and that includes bowl setbacks the past two years against 2 ½-point favorite Utah State (2013 Poinsettia Bowl) and 14 ½-point fav Florida State (2012 Orange Bowl).
POINSETTIA BOWL – at San Diego, CA
NAVY (7-5) at SAN DIEGO STATE (7-5) – 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Now that Air Force delivered a Potato Bowl win this past weekend, there’s some heat on Navy to knock out a bowl win for service academy pride and note this is the first time since 2004-05 that the Midshipmen could win back-to-back bowls.
Quarterback Keenan Reynolds (1,182 yards rushing and 826 yards passing) will challenge a SDSU Aztecs defense that has held seven foes to 21 points or less this year.
Spread Notes – San Diego State’s a snazzy 11-6-1 ATS at home since the start of the 2012 campaign while Navy enters this bowl bash having covered six of its last eight games when in the underdog role.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 24
BAHAMAS BOWL – at Nassau, Bahamas
CENTRAL MICHIGAN (7-5) vs. WESTERN KENTUCKY (7-5) – 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Maybe you weren’t around for the Bacardi Bowl back in 1937 but that happened to be the last time a bowl game was played outside the U.S./Canadian border … until now.
This game will keep you company while wrapping those last-minute gifts and check out Western Kentucky QB Brandon Doughty who threw for 4,344 yards and 44 TDs (for the season, not just in the game against Marshall!).
Spread Notes – Western Kentucky is just 7-14 versus the vig when in the chalk role these past three years (the Hilltoppers split their six games when laying points this year) while Central Michigan’s a dismal 7-21 ATS when in the underdog role since the start of the 2011 campaign.
HAWAII BOWL – at Honolulu, HI
FRESNO STATE (6-7) vs. RICE (7-5) – 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Nothing like a sub-.500 team getting rewarded with a bowl game in the 50th state – gee, Fresno State could have done a whole lot worse but the Bulldogs’ “punishment” is getting to deal with Rice QB Driphus Jackson (2,524 yards passing with 21 TDs and 8 INTs) who fared well against inferior foes but lost to the likes of fellow bowl teams Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Marshall and Louisiana Tech by a combined 131 points … ouch!
Spread Notes – Rice is a rock-solid 8-4 against the odds this year but did you know the Owls are 24-14-1 spreadwise overall the past three years? Fresno State is 0-5 ATS in its last five bowl games since 2008 and the Bulldogs are a decent 16-10-1 away the past four years.
NOTE: Catch our Jim Sez Mid-Week Report next – plenty of NFL Week 17 News/Notes and more College Bowl Previews!