Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, October 5, 2015 at 9:50 AM
THE JIM SEZ NFL WEEK 4 RUNDOWN
FALCONS, BENGALS, PANTHERS, BRONCOS AND PACKERS ALL STAY UNBEATEN PLUS OUR MNF PREVIEW AS THE WINLESS LIONS BATTLE SEATTLE
COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKEND NOTEBOOK
THE AMERICAN LEAGUE WILD CARD GAME: ASTROS-YANKEES COLLIDE IN THE BRONX ON TUESDAY NIGHT
By Jim Hurley:
Talk about long odds! Exactly what do you think the odds would have been that a pair of winless teams in the NFL - and big-name teams, for that matter - would both swipe their first victories in overtime in a pair of prime-time games?
The Baltimore Ravens finally got into the winner's column this past Thursday night with a 23-20 gut-check OT win in Pittsburgh and then last night inside the Louisiana Superdome it was the host New Orleans Saints who punched the ticket on their first win of the season with a thrilling 26-20 OT win/cover against 3-point underdog Dallas.
The 400th career touchdown pass by QB Drew Brees - his shoulder looked just fine en route to a snazzy 359-yard passing game - was a beautifully lofted ball that wound up going for an 80-yard game-winning TD by C.J. Spiller (perhaps the Cowboys should have played "tails" with the OT coin flip!) and so the Saints are alive instead of being 0-and-4. Gee, if we wind up hearing about the Ravens and Saints come playoff time, then be sure their Week 4 wins will be looked at fondly.
Meanwhile, loved the fact that NFL Network Red Zone host Scott Hanson was the first to proclaim that "83 percent of NFL teams that begin their season 4-0 go on to make the playoffs" and so no wonder there are here-to-there smiles from the fans of the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers (yes, we know the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots can be 4-0 next week if it beats the aforementioned Dallas Cowboys).
All of the above-mentioned 4-and-oh teams covered their Week 4 games save for the Broncos who squeezed out a 23-20 non-cover win against 7-point underdog Minnesota - the Denver defense sure made Minny QB Teddy Bridgewater spend much of his afternoon on his back/backside with an array of sacks/hits/etc. - and now it gets a little fun figuring out what team(s) will stay unbeaten the longest.
Let's just say the least likely unbeaten while heading into this current campaign - do you know anyone out there that thought the Falcons were gonna be some sort of juggernaut back in August? - is this team in Atlanta that humbled 4.5-point pup Houston 42-21 on Sunday and it wasn't even that close!
Go ahead and consider all the positives that are coming from Falcons-land this year - head coach Dan Quinn just about has convinced the Georgia Dome fans that he can walk on water! - but when you can smash an opponent to pieces despite getting just four catches for 38 yards from mega-star WR Julio Jones, then you're doing a whole lot of things right. Atlanta's second-year running back Devonta Freeman sported his second consecutive three-TD game and so maybe you want to switch some of Jones' early-year MVP votes over to his backfield buddy.
Meanwhile, one team that was gunning for a 4-0 start - the Arizona Cardinals - proved to be not quite up to the task en route to a 24-22 loss versus 7-point dog St. Louis. Our Jim Sez research tells us red-zone woes cost Bruce Arians his club as the Cardinals scored just one touchdown in five trips inside St. Loo's 20-yard line.
So, the beat goes on for the 4-and-oh crews but the Redbirds are gonna have to lick their wounds while heading into back-to-back road games in Detroit and Pittsburgh - in case you're wondering, the Cards are now a collective 24-12-1 ATS (against the spread) under third-year boss Arians, so maybe Week 4 critics should cut the dude some slack.
Jim Hurley's Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to torch Las Vegas and the off-shore books with tonight's winner of the Monday Night Football game between the Detroit Lions at the Seattle Seahawks (see our preview below) and don't forget there's wall-to-wall Major-League Baseball Playoff winners this week beginning with Tuesday's American League Wild Card Playoff Game between the Houston Astros at the New York Yankees. Plus there are loads of NFL Week 5 and NCAA Football winners this week/weekend and that includes such College Football goodies as Thursday's Washington at USC game on ESPN, the Friday Night tilt between N.C. State at Virginia Tech and Saturday showdowns such as Arkansas at Alabama, Oklahoma versus Texas, Navy at Notre Dame and the Pac-12 monster between California at Utah. Check with the Jim Hurley Network right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 after 1 p.m. ET on week days and any time after 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday. Get all the weekday afternoon Baseball Winners at 12 noon ET.
Tonight, it's ...DETROIT (0-3) at SEATTLE (1-2) - 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so the winless Lions know that Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch - who has been unsuccessfully battling back, neck and calf injuries in the early parts of this 2015 season - won't be part of tonight's action as he's already been scratched but does Detroit know if the Seahawks "have their plays"?
As suggested last week by one-time Seattle WR Golden Tate - now an integral part of the Lions' offense - NFL defenses have gone to school (or else simply spied) the Lions and all too often know what's coming in terms of play calls. In last week's 24-12 Lions' home loss to Denver, a couple of members of the Broncos' secondary claimed to know the calls/hand signals used by Motown QB Matthew Stafford and thus a couple of critical INTs. Now, the Lions will be going "silent count" for much of this evening in always-noisy Seattle and so that could be problematic for a Detroit team that's been outscored 80-35 ever since getting out to a 21-3 lead over San Diego back in Week 1.
Our Jim Sez sources claim the Seahawks have no worries about plugging in RB Thomas Rawls into the spot vacated by the now-injured Lynch - note that Rawls has rushed the ball 18 times for 109 yards (a 6.1 ypc average) this year - but gut feel is that Seattle's do-everything QB Russell Wilson (692 yards passing and 137 yards rushing) will run the ball 10-to-15 times here against a rebuilt Detroit defensive line that is hurting.
Spread Notes - Seattle is 32-16-1 ATS as hosts since the start of the 2009 season while Detroit is 12-24 versus the vig away the past four-plus seasons.
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT
Let's zip 'round the land and get you some quick hitters from the just-completed wild (and unusually wet) weekend:
So much for that stat saying that the Alabama Crimson Tide hadn't been an underdog for 72 straight games as last weekend's resounding 38-10 win at 1-point fav Georgia featured three INTs (one for a 50-yard TD) - guess 'Bama will be getting a bit more respect in upcoming road games at Texas A&M (Oct. 17), Miss State (Nov. 14) and Auburn (Nov. 28) ...
Funny thing is Alabama wasn't the only SEC dog to bang out an easy winner as 7-point home pup Florida - obviously over its collective bout with th flu - hammered Ole Miss 38-10 as the Gators now are 5-0 SU (straight-up) for the first time since 2012 and they sure dented the early-year Heisman Trophy hopes of Rebels' QB Chad Kelly ...
Finally, Michigan State (5-0) won yet another game and moved down in the week's Associated Press Top 25 rankings. Hey, we were calling for that in one of last week's Jim Sez columns only because the voters treated last year's Florida State squad in such fashion. Note that Michigan State's yet to cover a single outing this year following that 24-21 win against 23-point dog Purdue and so we applaud the fact Sparty has dropped from #2 to #4 (and behind Ohio State, TCU and Baylor).
P.S., the Heisman folks won't be inviting Michigan State QB Connor Cook to their little dinner in December - he threw for a paltry 139 yards against the Boilermakers and isn't even one of the Big 10's best quarterbacks so far this season.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WILD CARD GAME
On Tuesday, it's ...HOUSTON (86-76) at NEW YORK YANKEES (87-75) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Forget the fact that the Yankees lost six of their final seven regular-season games while squeaking out home-field advantage in this year's American League Wild Card Game - the bottom line is the Bombers are back but keeping fingers crossed that oft-injured and fragile RHP Masahiro Tanaka (12-7, 3.51 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP) can navigate his way through this potent Astros batting order that this year features the #1 home run-hitting team in the league (see 230 dingers) led by DH Evan Gattis' 27 homers - and there are four other 'Stros with 22-or-more HR including superstar SS Carlos Correia (22 HR, 68 RBI in just 383 at-bats).
Does Houston come back with ace LHP Dallas Keuchel (20-8, 2.48 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP) on three days' rest or will fellow southpaw Scott Kazmir (7-11, 3.10 ERA) get the nod here? Kazmir has not started since Wednesday and he hasn't exactly been sizzling with 15 runs allowed in his last 11.2 innings.
The Astros went just 33-49 on the road this year and finished with a run differential of plus 111 - and only the Toronto Blue Jays (+ 221) sported a higher run differential in the junior circuit; on the flip side, the Yankees were 45-36 at home this season and finished with a run differential of plus 66.
Folks, we'll get you the National League Wild Card Game preview - that's the Chicago Cubs at the Pittsburgh Pirates - in the next edition of Jim Sez as that game's scheduled for Wednesday night with the winner going on to face the St. Louis Cardinals.
Editor's Note ...Just for the Jim Sez record, back before this 2015 MLB season started, we predicted that the Los Angeles Dodgers would beat the Toronto Blue Jays in 7 games in the World Series ... still alive!
NOTE: Catch our Jim Hurley Mid-Week Report in the next column right here!