Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, October 26, 2015 at 10:50 AM
THE JIM SEZ NFL WEEK 7 ROUND-UP - PATS, PANTHERS STAY PERFECT AND CAMPBELL IS MMMM GOOD IN MIAMI ...
PLUS OUR MNF PREVIEW AS RAVENS-CARDINALS CLASH ...
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK ...AND A WORLD SERIES PREVIEW AS METS-ROYALS TURN BACK THE CLOCK
By Jim Hurley:
Just call this the NFL version of the "suicide pool" ... surely you know somebody that plays this popular weekly game where you pick an NFL team to win (no pointspread used) and try to stay alive by winning each/every week with a different team.
Well, here we are on the back-end of October and there's still five NFL teams that have yet to lose in real life - Cincinnati, Green Bay and Denver all had Week 7 byes so they were already safe but both New England and Carolina stayed perfect on the field Sunday - and so our little game now is what NFL team is gonna be the last one standing with a perfecto record?
Granted, we have Green Bay at Denver this Sunday night so somethin' has to give and the following week it's Carolina hosting Green Bay and so ditto.
The bottom line is the Patriots are probably the "favorite" to stay unbeaten the longest but Sunday's formula in the 30-23 win against the New York Jets is not real recommended strategy: You see, New England pass-catchers dropped at least 10 of QB Tom Brady's aerials - we lost count of how many balls rusty WR Brandon LaFell dropped but it was at least five! - and that leaky and inexperienced Pats' OL may get Brady maimed before too long.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned Carolina Panthers - a 27-16 prime-time winner against 2.5-point pup Philadelphia on Sunday night - did it the old-fashioned way with RB Jonathan Stewart rushing for 119 of the team's 204 ground yards and both LBs Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis were absolute tackling machines against an Eagles' offense that often operates in slow motion ... gee, Chip Kelly, you've really revolutionized pro football just as the "experts" said you would!
The Carolina defense allowed only two red-zone trips by stumbling/bumbling QB Sam Bradford - the Birds settled for field goals - and just check out Carolina's season so far and you'll see Ron Rivera's team has not allowed any opponent to score more than 23 points in a game (that's 9, 17, 22, 23, 23 and now 16) and so the Panthers' first-ever 6-and-oh start might just mean a bit more to them than it does to a New England squad that takes little joy from anything other than a close Super Bowl win.
The Pats and Panthers stayed perfect this past Sunday - note we'll soon see how this "suicide pool" goes next week when New England hosts Miami (Thursday Night), Cincinnati plays at Pittsburgh, Green Bay plays in Denver (Sunday Night) and Carolina hosts Indianapolis (next Monday Night).
The merry-go-round continues.
Meanwhile, how about the Midas touch of brand-new Miami Dolphins' head coach Dan Campbell? Last week's rollicking 38-10 win at Tennessee might have been the usual knee-jerk reaction game from a team needing a coaching pick-me-up but then the Fish followed that up with Sunday's 44-26 never-in-doubt triumph over the white-flag waving Houston Texans. For starters, Miami sported a 41-0 halftime lead in this Game 7 tilt and the final stats for an overly efficient QB Ryan Tannehill (see 18-of-19 passing for 282 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs) had to have recently-fired Dolphins' head coach Joe Philbin wondering where that's all been, right? Tannehill and mates were aided/abetted by a defensive TD and 175 yards rushing (all in the first half, mind you) from RB Lamar Miller who raced 85 yards for his lone score.
Are the Dolphins this good ... are they merely responding to interim coach Campbell's fiery talks ... or was it merely the fact the Fish played the Titans and Texans on back-to-back weeks? Maybe it's a case of "all of the above" but best believe Campbell's giving himself a shot to land the permanent job and we found it interesting that NFL Network studio analyst Steve Mariucci claims only seven interim coaches (out of 25) since 2000 have been asked to "stay around". Thanks for the knowledge, Mooch!
We'll dig into more NFL goodies in a moment while getting you're the MNF preview/forecast of the interconference game between the Baltimore Ravens at the Arizona Cardinals but first this key reminder ...
Jim Hurley rocked the books on Sunday with big winners on the Oakland Raiders (+ 3.5) over the San Diego Chargers 37-29 and the Tampa Bay Bucs (+ 3) over the Washington Redskins in a 31-30 come-from-24-points-down non-cover win. The Raiders and Bucs are just part of the NFL Week 7 winning menu - make sure you're aboard for tonight's winner when the Ravens play at the Cardinals in Arizona (see preview below). Also, Jim's handicappers and bloggers have everything all mapped out for all the week's gridiron action when you check with us here at Jim Hurley's Network at the toll-free # of 1-800-323-4453 or right here online. In fact, get all this week's NCAA Football, NFL Week 8 action beginning with Thursday's AFC East bash between the Miami Dolphins at the unbeaten New England Patriots and get the World Series game-by-game winners too plus the NBA swings into gear on Tuesday night - so don't dare miss a beat!
Go ahead and bash the books all week long with America's #1 Handicapper!
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL PREVIEW
BALTIMORE (1-4) at ARIZONA (4-2) - 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Was it really seven years ago that the Arizona Cardinals went to their one-and-only Super Bowl? Sure was ... but the here-and-now Cardinals believe this could be "their year" what with the NFC West wounded after years of Seattle/San Francisco domination and with many fellow NFC teams looking especially mortal these days (save for Green Bay and Carolina, of course!).
In tonight's prime-time tilt in the desert, the 9.5-point favorite Cardinals - they were a 7-point opening line favorite, remember - are looking to kick a team when it's down as this has been a truly trying year for John Harbaugh and his Ravens.
And who made this Baltimore sked? This is the fourth time the Ravens are playing out West - they lost season-opening games in Denver and Oakland by a combined 10 points and lost last weekend 25-20 in San Francisco - so excuse QB Joe Flacco and friends if they've grown tired of these faraway jaunts (and keep in mind there are only three road games remaining for the Ravens the final 10 weeks of this season - at Cleveland, at Miami and at Cincinnati and so there's no leaving their "time zone" the rest of the way).
One bit of strategy here is for Arizona's defense to "bracket" Baltimore WR Steve Smith Jr. as he's really the only dependable money-man target that Flacco has these days while the Cardinals' offense - one that's averaging 33.8 points per game (second in the NFL) and has registered 16-of-17 TDs when inside the red zone in the team's four wins - needs to protect QB Carson Palmer from an oft-blitzing Baltimore defense and so expect 'Zona WR Larry Fitzgerald to nab lots of quick "out" passes here.
An X-factor? How about Baltimore's underrated 14th-ranked ground attack (averaging 111 yards per game) making sure RB Justin Forsett - over his recent ankle woes - gets 25-plus touches here?
Spread Notes - Arizona is a splendid 25-13-1 ATS (against the spread) under third-year head coach Bruce Arians and that includes a 4-2 spread log so far in this 2015 season. Meanwhile, Baltimore's 0-5-1 versus the vig out of the '15 starting gate but the Ravens are a decent 15-11 ATS as underdog sides the past four-plus seasons.
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK
Hey, there are different ways of going about the destruction of one's season when it comes to national championship dreams. If you happen to be the Utah Utes - currently ranked #13 - then you tumble 10 spots in the Associated Press Top 25 poll by having your star quarterback airmail three interceptions to the same player - that's USC linebacker Cameron Smith who took one back for a touchdown and sets up 10 more points with two other picks.
If you're the Florida State Seminoles, you brain-cramp after a blocked field goal and allow the lowly Georgia Techsters to race back 78 yards for the game-winning score with no time on the clock en route to a 22-16 home win.
Let's digress ...Utah opened last weekend #3 in the AP poll and very much in command of it's own "destiny" but better believe the Las Vegas folks/bettors knew something wasn't right 'cause Utah went from being a 3.5-point road dog at USC to a 6.5-point game-time dog and all we'll say is somebody out there in the grand U.S.A. cashed big-time. Utah QB Travis Wilson - who threw for the most hollow 254 yards in history - wound up tossing four INTs on the night in that 42-24 loss and one good friend of ours insisted the shaggy-haired Wilson was "tanking it" and perhaps one reason why the Vegas price tag climbed.
Say it ain't so!
In any event, the Utes and their national title hopes are done - yes, we read all the online articles that claimed Utah (6-1) still had plenty of time and plenty of opportunities to climb back into the top four of this FBS playoff chase but only way that happens is to run the table - that means win versus Oregon State, at Washington, at Arizona, then home to UCLA and Colorado and win the Pac-12 Championship Game AND get some outside help.
Meanwhile, Florida State (6-1) plummeted eight spots all the way down to #17 in this week's AP poll after PK Roberto Aguayo had his low-sailing 56-yard field goal try blocked and run all the way back to paydirt while the "big fatties" on FSU's offensive line dilly-dallied their way downfield and didn't contain Tech's Lance Austin who gets straight "A's" for never giving up on the play (even though his clueless head coach Paul Johnson was waving off his Yellow Jackets players as he didn't want 'em to touch the ball!).
Florida State - for the record - scored only one offensive touchdown in that weekend loss in Atlanta - and didn't really "deserve" to win that ACC bash. For all you folks that believe Florida State can make a charge back into the elite part of the polls, consider the following: Jimbo Fisher's squad has two remaining road games - at #3 Clemson and at #11 Florida - and the other games hardly elevates the Seminoles' standing ... wins against Syracuse, N.C. State and Chattanooga mean absolutely nothing to the national audience.
Nice knowing you, 'Noles!
WORLD SERIES PREVIEW
NEW YORK METS vs. KANSAS CITY - Was it really 29 years ago that Bill Buckner fell into baseball infamy en route to the Mets' title as NYM beat Boston in seven games ... and 30 years ago since that umpire Don Denkinger's bad call at first base helped the KayCee Royals defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games?
Ahhh, a pair of seven-game World Series winners a generation ago and so why shouldn't this one go the distance with the pitching-rich Mets battling the fundamentally-sound Royals who are better equipped to play at Kaufman Stadium than is this Mets' outfield but less likely to make contact at the plate than usual while facing the "big three" of RHP Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
Still, you wonder what team can have that occasional breakout inning - three-run homers, etc. - and the Mets' power bats seem more inclined to do so though nobody is expecting 2B Daniel Murphy (six dingers this post-season) to stay so raging hot.
Gotta say that if the Royals are gonna win it all one year after losing the World Series in - you got it - seven games to the San Francisco Giants than the power bats of 1B Eric Hosmer and DH Kendrys Morales (he won't play in the Citi Field games unless he's a pinch-hitter) must crack open some innings plus KayCee must prove it can get to Mets' closer Jeurys Familia - folks, he's been better than KC closer Wade Davis this post-season.
We'll have the game-by-game winners beginning Tuesday night - but right now we say it's pretty good odds we get a Game 7 if for no other reason it's great history/theater, right?
NOTE: Catch our Jim Sez Mid-Week Report in the next edition ... we'll have our latest Heisman Trophy Watch List, quickie previews of the top NCAA Football games this weekend and, of course, our NFL Week 8 Thursday Night Football Preview as the surging Miami Dolphins battle the 6-and-oh New England Patriots.