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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 4, 2015 at 10:02 AM



If you were the Green Bay Packers last night, then that 27-23 humdinger win in Detroit was a case of "divine intervention" ... but if you're a fan of the Lions then now you're sure you root for a cursed franchise. Simple as that.

Well, maybe not that simple last night when you consider a few things:

Let's point out a couple of items that were not emphasized in the post-game wrap-up shows last night after that "untimed down" 61-yard rainbow scoring toss from Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers to TE Richard Rodgers won it for the now 8-4 Packers:

First off, why were the Lions only rushing three players against a Green Bay offensive line that was in absolute tatters? Heck, they should have forced the issue and rushed five guys and thus made QB Rodgers quick to the trigger and then he never would have had the time to set and throw the ball some 70 yards in the air.

Secondly, why not have Lions' WR Calvin Johnson - all six-foot-seven inches of him - in there to help defend the Hail Mary pass into the end zone? Was it merely a brain cramp by the Detroit coaching staff following that sketchy face mask penalty that allowed Green Bay one additional down?

Finally - and we go back a bit further into the game - why did the Lions ever take their foot off the pedal on offense after charging out to a 20-0 lead? They played fast-and-loose to get ahead and so why tighten up and play scared in the game's final quarter-plus?

All we know is Detroit (4-8) can kiss away any/all hope of getting into the playoff mix now while the Packers might look back at this one in terms of winning the NFC North and maybe getting a first-round playoff bye to boot.

Maybe GB didn't deserve this one - but when you play a cursed/doomed franchise sometimes you tend to get the breaks.


Let's wrap up our week-long look at this weekend's College Football Conference Championship Games. On Saturday, it's ...

Bank of America Stadium - Charlotte, NC
#10 NORTH CAROLINA (11-1, 8-0) vs. #1 CLEMSON (12-0, 8-0) - 8 p.m. ET, ABC

It's the question nobody has answered - or really want to answer: What gives if the Clemson Tigers lose their first game of the 2015 right here in the ACC title tilt ... do they get exiled from the four-team College Football Playoff field or are they "safe" all along?

No doubt that Clemson QB Deshaun Watson (our second-place guy in this week's Heisman Trophy Watch List) has been stepping up his game on a weekly basis and he comes off a 279-yard passing/114-yard rushing game in a 37-32 non-cover win at 20-point pup South Carolina last weekend but gotta believe that RBs Wayne Gallman (102 yards rushing last weekend) must lend a helping hand against a North Carolina team that's averaged a dead-even 50 ppg in the past month of action 

Carolina QB Marquise Williams challenges the country's fourth-best passing defense but the Tar Heels might let Williams tuck it and run 20 times here while hoping to catch Clemson backpedaling on defense. Hey, the totals price is 68 points - up from 63 points at the start of the week - but this could be a "field position" game more often than not.

Spread Notes - Clemson is just 5-7 ATS (against the spread) overall this year and the top-ranked Tigers slide into this title tilt on a four-game spread losing streak. North Carolina, meanwhile, is a snazzy 8-4 versus the vig this year and note the Tar Heels have covered 10 of their last 14 games when placed in the underdog role.

Here's the last five ACC Championship Games:

2014Florida St.- 3.5Geo. Tech 37-35
2013Florida St.- 30Duke45-7
2012Florida St.- 15.5Geo. Tech 21-15
2011Clemson+ 7Va. Tech38-10
2010Va. Tech- 4.5Florida St. 44-33


Lucas Oil Stadium - Indianapolis, IN
#4 IOWA (12-0, 8-0) vs. #5 MICHIGAN STATE (11-1, 7-1) - 8:15 p.m. ET, Fox

As folks are fond of saying this week, it's a play-in to get into the playoffs. The winner of this battle in "Nap City" gets one of the four CFP berths handed out Sunday afternoon and, while everyone's been prone to knock the Iowa Hawkeyes and their "weak schedule" the fact remains that Kirk Ferentz's lunch-pail squad sports the nation's sixth-best rushing defense (allowing 11 yards a game) and has a real go-to guy in their own backfield with RB Jordan Canzeri helping to bolster a ground game that averages 203 rushing yards per game ... and Canzeri put Nebraska to sleep the day after Thanksgiving in that 28-20 Iowa win with back-to-back TD runs once he turned the corner running left behind a brilliant O-line.

Michigan State?

Well, listen to the Spartans' fans and they'll tell you this should be an unbeaten team heading into play here (see still-controversial loss against Nebraska a few weeks back) but QB Connor Cook is healthy, the defense is hitting everything that moves (nobody's scored more than 16 points versus Sparty in its last three games) and this does mark the third time in five years that Mark Dantonio's club has been here in the championship round ... will that experience help the 3.5-point favorites here?

Spread Notes - Iowa is a sturdy 7-5 versus the vig this year but did you know the Hawkeyes have covered seven of their last 10 games when in the dog role since the start of 2013? Michigan State is 5-7 against the odds this season but note Sparty has covered five of its last six games since mid-October and overall M-State is 17-8 ATS when playing fellow Big 10 foes these past three years.

Here's the four Big 10 Championship Games that have been played to this point:

2014Ohio St.+ 4Wisconsin59-0
2013Michigan St.+ 5.5Ohio St.34-24
2012Wisconsin+ 3Nebraska 70-31
2011Wisconsin- 9.5Mich. St.    42-39



Here's a couple of Sunday game previews - and there's more in tomorrow's Jim Sez including the Sunday Night game between the Indianapolis Colts at the Pittsburgh Steelers:

CAROLINA (11-0) at NEW ORLEANS (4-7) - 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
The perfect Panthers already beat the Saints once - see the 27-22 non-cover triumph over a Drew Brees-less N'Orleans team back in Week 3 action - and now have the extra "prep days" here following that one-sided 33-14 win/cover in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. Hey, maybe you cannot expect a pair of "pick sixes" here as was the case on Turkey Day (salutes to Kurt Coleman and Luke Kuechly) but gotta believe this stingy Carolina defense that's allowed more than 25 points just twice this year to bum-rush Brees who last week had his personal 45-game touchdown pass streak snapped in that lifeless 24-6 loss at 3.5-point fav Houston.

One little last note here: Don't forget Carolina PK Graham Gano (four FGs last week versus the Cowboys) is a real weapon between 40 and 55 yards out and he might be the "real reason" the Panthers have the best shot at covering the full-TD price tag here.

Spread Notes - Carolina is a sizzling 9-2 against the odds so far this year and the Panthers enter this NFC South clash with a 13-7 ATS mark in divisional games since the start of the 2012 campaign. New Orleans is 0-3-1 vig-wise in its last four games and 4-6-1 ATS overall this season. The Saints have failed to cover seven of their last 10 home games against Carolina.

SEATTLE (6-5) at MINNESOTA (8-3) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
The two-time defending NFC champion Seahawks never have gotten into any real rhythm this year but last week's five-TD passing performance by then-birthday boy Russell Wilson (including three scoring strikes to underrated WR Doug Baldwin) should be a true warning sign to a Vikings' defense that's nullified some of the league's average-to-below-average signal-callers but struggled against a chap named Aaron Rodgers a few weeks ago ... no TE Jimmy Graham (knee) for the 'Hawks but tell us now that RB Thomas Rawls will get 20-plus carries and Baldwin will see the light of day and Seattle could give Minny a punch to the gut here.

Spread Notes - Minnesota is 9-2 against the odds this season and the Vikings are a collective 9-4 ATS at home since the start of last year. On the flip side, Seattle is 4-6-1 ATS overall this year and the Seahawks are 5-8-1 ATS away the past year-and-change.

NOTE: There's NFL Week 13 Previews and more in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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