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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 28, 2015 at 11:48 AM

Now 10-2 in the Bowls and have won last 9!!




Have to admit it: The way things were going in recent weeks, thought this might be the year the 1972 Miami Dolphins didn't get to pop the champagne corks as the here-and-now Carolina Panthers seemed unbeatable but in Week 16 play there was QB Cam Newton losing more fumbles (one) than throwing touchdown passes (zero) - no comeback victories, no close calls, nothing but their first loss of the year. We had the Falcions (+6.5) pegged for the cover on Sunday as one of our top plays along with the Jets as they beat New England.

The string of 18 consecutive regular-season wins is out the window now for Carolina - the hope now for Ron Rivera's club is that it wasn't thrown off its game by that nasty Week 15 win against the New York Giants even though talk of baseball bats, homophobic slurs and general nonsense was the talk of the week leading up to this 20-13 loss at the 7-point home underdog Atlanta Falcons.

If you really want to uncover other reasons for Carolina's Week 16 demise than point to the inability of the secondary to slow down WR Julio Jones (9 catches for 178 yards including that dramatic pluck-out-of-the-sky 70-yard TD strike from QB Matt Ryan) and the fact that a RB Jonathan Stewart-less ground game cranked out 155 rushing yards in the NFC South loss but didn't do any real damage with Newton's uninhibited 8-yard scoring run the only ground TD of the day for Carolina.

Hey, all the Panthers (14-1) have to do this Sunday is beat 11-point road underdog Tampa Bay and the NFC's numero uno seed is still theirs but it figures to be a real soul-searching week for Carolina ... and it should be!

Meanwhile, the AFC's top seed - the New England Patriots (12-3) -- no doubt need a lesson in what to do with overtime coin flips but, save for that Bill Belichick-orchestrated blunder, the fact remains the Pats are losing the war of attrition these days with OT Sebastian Vollmer (leg) the latest casualty and you get the sense that this secondary is wearing a bit thin too as Jets' wide receivers Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Quincy Enunwa combined for 231 receiving yards and three TDs.

Again, if the Pats win in Miami this Sunday, then they nab the No. 1 seed and folks will be willing to forget the coin flip faux pas, but it's the weak links within the span of this 26-20 OT loss to the surging J-E-T-S that has to have New Englanders concerned, right?

Get all the College Football Bowl Games (RIGHT NOW ON A 9-0 RUN!) including all the upcoming College Football Playoffs - that's Oklahoma vs. Clemson and Alabama vs. Michigan State on New Year's Eve -- plus wrap up the NFL Week 16 action with the Monday Night Football game between the Cincinnati Bengals at the Denver Broncos plus get all the NFL Week 17 games this weekend too when you check with us here at Jim Hurley's Network. And, of course, make sure you're all aboard for the NBA and NCAA Basketball daily/nightly winners all this week/weekend action either here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.

Tonight, it's ...
CINCINNATI (11-3) at DENVER (10-4) - 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Forget about this whole "backup quarterbacks" storyline that's dominated the lead-up to this prime-time game: The reality of the situation is that the Bengals and Broncos are battling to land first-round playoff byes and Denver - come to think of it - better not lose here as 3.5-point home favorites or else they're the ones that could be on the outside looking in at a playoff berth is things don't fall just right come this Sunday.

Denver QB Brock Osweiler - a starter for an injured Peyton Manning the past five weeks - does face some major heat here and all eyes will be watching to see if Osweiler can right the wrongs of the second half as Denver's been outscored 36-0 following intermission the past three weeks while Cincinnati signal-caller AJ McCarron is in just his second start and there's rumblings that Cincy head coach Marvin Lewis/offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will be asked to throw some more deep balls here against this "No Fly Zone" secondary that was roasted last week in that 34-27 loss in Pittsburgh.

Denver top-ranked pass defense - and top-ranked rush defense - has held four visiting teams to 20 points or less this year but gotta feeling if McCarron is allowed to cut it loose a few times than things will get real interesting in the Mile High City. Tell us if Bengals wide-out A.J. Green is good for 125-plus receiving yards, we'll tell you who wins!

Spread Notes - Denver is 3-4-3 ATS (against the spread) as betting favorites this year and the Broncos are a collective 19-14-1 vig-wise at home since the start of the 2012 season. Cincinnati is a tasty 11-2-1 against the odds this year and the Bengals are 8-3 ATS as dogs since the start of last year.


Here's a look at the Four (4) Bowl Games on tap for Tuesday, December 29th and remember we'll have complete/detailed previews of the College Football Playoff games later this week in a jam-packed edition of Jim Sez:

On Tuesday, Dec. 29th, it's ...

CALIFORNIA (7-5) vs. AIR FORCE (8-5) - 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Cal Golden Bears may, indeed, have the pro-type quarterback on their side but then how come this is just a .500 team SU (straight-up) the past two years (see 12-12 overall)? QB Jared Goff owns plenty of Cal passing records - his 90 TDs broke the mark held by Aaron Rodgers - but getting over the hump has been a problem for this Berkeley bunch that needs Goff (37 TD strikes this year) to air-mail the Pac-12 to a bowl win here while Air Force sports the nation's #2 rushing attack (averaging 322.1 ypg) with RB Jacobi Owens (1,103 yards rushing) leading a parade of ball-carriers.
For you bowl historians, keep in mind Cal overcame a 21-0 deficit to win/cover a 42-36 Armed Forces Bowl against 4.5-point pup Air Force back in the 2007 season - and that was the first bowl game for Falcons' head coach Troy Calhoun. Also, California's just 3-7 spreadwise against fellow bowl teams this 2015 season.
Current Line: California (- 7) and 67.5 points
Spread Notes - Air Force has covered six of its last seven games this year while Cal's failed to cover five of its last six games while heading into this bowl bash.

#10 NORTH CAROLINA (11-2) vs. #17 BAYLOR (9-3) - 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Good luck trying to tell the Baylor Bears here without a program! Injuries have ravaged this Big 12 team and so that's your answer as to why the good folks in Las Vegas shifted this price tag from Baylor minus 3 points to North Carolina favored by a field goal - it could well be a fourth-string starting at quarterback for Art Briles' bunch and no super-star WR Corey Coleman (20 TDs) either following his recent hernia surgery.
The UNC Tar Heels, however, are good-to-go with multi-talented QB Marquise Williams (2,829 yards passing with 21 TDs plus another 867 rushing yards with 11 TDs) running the show - let's see how many downfield "chunk plays" the Heels get here with Williams throwing deep to WRs Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer (a combined 1,379 receiving yards with 14 touchdowns).
If Baylor is gonna steal this one and thus snap its two-game bowl losing streak, than RB Johnny Jefferson (6.2 ypc) may have to have a "career game" against a North Carolina defense that ranks 103rd in FBS play against the rush (allowing 216.8 ypg). 
Current Line: North Carolina (- 3) and 70 points
Spread Notes - Baylor is 7-1 ATS as an underdog side since the start of 2012 while North Carolina is 4-7-1 vig-wise in non-ACC games the past three years.

ARIZONA BOWL - at Tucson, AZ
NEVADA (6-6) vs. COLORADO STATE (7-5) - 7:30 p.m. ET, CBSC
It seems there's lots of folks unhappy with the fact that a pair of Mountain West Conference teams are playing one another in a post-season bowl game - Nevada's angry that a 5-and-7 San Jose State team went bowling in Orlando; the MWC commish is peeved about the matchup; and players on both sides admit they would rather go outside the league for their bowls but this is what we've got and no doubt Colorado State comes in the hotter side with a four-game SU winning streak at year's end but we're waiting for the Rams to unleash star WR Rashard Higgins who last year led the nation in receiving with 1,750 yards (just 933 yards this year in a more balanced attack authored by first-year head coach Mike Bobo). Note Nevada's a rock-solid 4-1-1 spreadwise against bowl teams it faced this year.
Current Line: Colorado State (- 3) and 56 points
Spread Notes - Colorado State's 14-7 ATS as betting favorites the past three years; Nevada is 1-5-1 against the odds in its last seven bowls since 2007.

TEXAS BOWL - at Houston, TX
#20 LSU (8-3) vs. TEXAS TECH (7-5) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hey, the gang's all here!
As it turned out, LSU head coach Les Miles didn't get the proverbial pink slip at year's end and Bengals RB Leonard Fournette never did skip his sophomore season but the big guy did go from Heisman Trophy favorite at mid-season to the quietest 1,741-yard, 18-TD season in recent memory. Maybe LSU will be gung-ho here after failing to score more than 19 points in its final four regular-season games but be sure a weak Texas Tech defense will "stack the box" and hope its stop unit is better than the one that ranked 124th nationally in scoring "D" at 42.6 points per game.
It's worth mentioning that LSU allowed 30-plus points in three of its final games this year and T-Tech slinger Patrick Mahomes (4,284 3 yards passing) can get hot against anyone but he also led the Big 12 by chucking 14 INTs. The game plan for Kliff Kingsbury's club is to get off close to 100 offensive plays - if RB DeAndrew Washington (conference-leading 1,455 yards rushing) can get his hands on the ball 25 times here than you'll see a genuine shot at the upset.
Current Line: LSU (- 7) and 73.5 points
Spread Notes - LSU has failed to cover its last four consecutive bowl games while Texas Tech is a collective 3-7 spreadwise in its last 10 season-ending games.

NOTE: There's the Four (4) Wednesday bowl games next and then catch the Three (3) New Year's Eve Bowl Game Previews - including the national championship semifinal tilts between #1 Clemson vs. #4 Oklahoma and #2 Alabama vs. #3 Michigan State - later right here in the pages of Jim Sez.

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