Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, January 15, 2016 at 11:41 AM
MORE NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF PREVIEWS: HERE'S THE SUNDAY MENU FROM CHARLOTTE AND DENVER
The NFL Divisional Playoffs rock-n-roll their way through the weekend with the conference's #1 seeds - that's Carolina in the NFC; Denver in the AFC - taking center stage on this Sunday afternoon ... but there's Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks steering the two visiting teams here.
Will Seattle's Russell Wilson and/or Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger get "mission accomplished" in their respective tilts in Charlotte and Denver? We've got the Jim Sez Game Previews in just a sec but first this key reminder:
Make sure you cash in big with Side & Totals winners this Saturday and Sunday in the NFL Divisional Playoff Games as the Kansas City Chiefs are at the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers are at the Arizona Cardinals in Saturday games (see previews in yesterday's Jim Sez column) - and they're followed on this Sunday by the Seattle Seahawks at the Carolina Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Denver Broncos: Just check with us at Jim Hurley's Network right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 on game-day mornings. Plus remember all the NBA and College Basketball action when you check with us each and every day all throughout this winter of fun-n-games!
NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
In the NFC on Sunday, it's ...
#6 SEATTLE (11-6) at #1 CAROLINA (15-1) - 1:05 p.m. ET, Fox
You know the old saying in sports ... if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.
Well, the Seattle Seahawks have been the best the NFC's had to offer the past couple of years - they're gunning to get back to a third straight conference championship game should they win here in Carolina - but now comes perhaps the biggest challenge from within the NFC to Pete Carroll's club that has won a franchise-record six consecutive road games with the latest, of course, being that act-of-God 10-9 non-cover triumph in Minnesota last weekend.
Okay, so Vikings' placekicker Blair Walsh badly botched the 27-yard gimme FG with 26 seconds left in that NFC Wild Card Game (and some of the Seahawks had the audacity to claim they "willed" their way to the victory!) but sometimes you get the sense in post-season play that when a team wins such a game, they are a "destiny's darlings" type and so that's why many in-the-know folks are saying beware of the Seahawks from this point forward.
In reality, Seattle needs a whole lot more pop in its attack from QB Russell Wilson (142 yards passing and one TD last week in freezing-cold Minnesota) and that means either RB Marshawn Lynch - if he feels like playing - or someone else is gonna have to lend a helping hand 'cause top-flight WR Doug Baldwin could be shadowed by NFL Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner CB Josh Norman here. If Norman "takes away" half the field and also "takes away" Baldwin, than Seattle is gonna need the ground game to power 'em up and do keep in mind Carolina ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing defense (allowed 88.4 ypg).
You could clearly make the case that if Seattle is indeed gonna get back to a third straight conference title tilt, than that defense starring a reshaped "Legion of Boom" secondary must take charge - last week the Seahawks put the clamps on Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson as the NFL's leading rusher for 2015 managed just 45 yards (one reason why the Vikes just fired their offensive line coach) but can the 'Hawks "intimidate" MVP leader Cam Newton (3,837 yards passing with 35 TDs and 10 INTs to go along with 636 rushing yards and 10 scores) and his playmates here?
Newton already authored one "W" against Seattle this season when he rescued the Panthers from a 13-point, second-half road deficit to win 27-23 - the oft-replayed 26-yard scoring strike to a wide-open uber-dependable TE Greg Olsen with 32 seconds left won it - and already this one has that feel of a last-minute lead-change or non-lead change ... could there be another late-game missed FG here?
Current Line: Carolina (- 1) and 43.5 points
Spread Notes - Carolina is 11-5 ATS (against the spread) overall this season and that includes six-of-eight home covers. Note the Panthers are a composite 18-9-1 vig-wise as hosts dating back to late in the 2012 season. Seattle is 8-8-1 against the odds this season and did you know the Seahawks are 11-2-1 ATS as underdogs since the start of the 2012 season?
Here's the last three head-to-head meetings between the Seahawks and the Panthers (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|2014 *||SEAHAWKS||- 13.5||Panthers||31-17|
*NFC Divisional Playoffs
Here's the team-by-team charts for both the Seahawks and the Panthers this year (note all home teams are in CAPS below and spread listed is according to the winner):
|3||CAROLINA||- 9.5||New Orleans||27-22|
|4||Carolina||- 3||TAMPA BAY||37-23|
|8||CAROLINA||- 5||Indianapolis||29-26 (ot)|
|9||CAROLINA||+ 2.5||Green Bay||37-29|
|13||Carolina||- 6||NEW ORLEANS||41-38|
|15||Carolina||- 4.5||NY GIANTS||38-35|
|17||CAROLINA||- 9.5||Tampa Bay||38-10|
In the AFC, it's ...
#6 PITTSBURGH (11-6) at #1 DENVER (12-4) - 4:40 p.m. ET, CBS
If you're a true/blue NFL fan this is what you want to see here ... Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger and Denver QB Peyton on the field and loud-mouth Steelers' assistant coach Joey Porter NOT on the field.
Okay, maybe there's no need to rehash last Saturday's silliness in Cincinnati where Porter's on-field agitation of the hometown Bengals helped to sink that team's ship for this 2015 season but you can be darn sure that the NFL "zebras" will be making sure that no coaches venture onto the playing field here - now if only we can get "Big Ben" and Manning to stay in one piece than this one could be a real classic.
Consider that Manning (9 TDs and 17 INTs this season) will be starting his first game since a blowout Week 10 home loss to Kansas City - his foot woes kept 'em sidelined in favor of career backup Brock Osweiler for the next six-and-a-half games until the Broncos roared back for a second-half win against San Diego in Week 17 - but will the four-time league MVP stick around for the whole game here and that's the same question we're wondering about the sore-shouldered Roethlisberger who threw for 380 yards in that Week 15 come-from-way-behind 34-27 non-cover win against the Broncos.
If Roethlisberger's limited to those quick "out" passes and some short screen tosses, than that deep threat posed by WR Antonio Brown (yes, we expect him to play after that alleged concussion last week) will be taken away and also remember that Roethlisberger and Company is dealing with the NFL's top-ranked passing defense (allowed 199.6 ypg this season). The Broncos have the monsters to sack you (see OLB Von Miller, among others) and the secondary stars to shut you down (see CB Aqib Talib).
The Las Vegas oddmakers have been deftly dancing around the number this week - they have it at the Broncos minus a full TD with the totals price shifting about some between 39 and 40.5 points - but it's safe to suggest that Manning's comfort level with WR Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders will be the other real key here besides how the Broncos handle what could be a compromised Steelers passing game ... if Thomas/Sanders can expose a rotten Pittsburgh secondary with five-or-more "chunk plays" (that's 20+ yards) then the home folks should hold serve.
Current Line: Denver (- 7) and 39.5 points
Spread Notes - Denver is 7-6-3 against the odds this season and the Broncos have failed to cover five of their last six post-season games dating back to the 2011 season. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is 9-6-2 ATS overall this year including a decent 5-3-1 spread mark away. The Steelers are 10-4 spreadwise in post-season action since 2005.
Here's the last three head-to-head meetings between the Steelers and the Broncos (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|2011 *||BRONCOS||+ 7.5||Steelers||29-23 (ot)|
*AFC Wild Card Game
Here's the team-by-team charts for both the Steelers and the Broncos this year (note all home teams are in CAPS below and spread listed is according to the winner):
|2||Denver||+ 3||KANSAS CITY||31-24|
|6||Denver||- 3||CLEVELAND||26-23 (ot)|
|8||DENVER||+ 2.5||Green Bay||29-10|
|10||Kansas City||+ 3.5||DENVER||27-24|
|12||DENVER||+ 2.5||New England||30-24 (ot)|
|13||Denver||- 6||SAN DIEGO||17-3|
|16||DENVER||- 3.5||Cincinnati||20-17 (ot)|
|17||DENVER||- 10||San Diego||27-20|
Note: More NFL and NCAA Basketball Notes in the next Jim Sez.