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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, November 1, 2016 at 10:53 AM

NFL WEEK 9 GETS ROCK-N-ROLLIN’ WITH “REAL REVENGE GAME” AS FALCONS-BUCS BATTLE IT OUT ON THURSDAY NIGHT…

PLUS OUR COLLEGE FOOTBALL FEATURES: THE UPDATED HEISMAN WATCH LIST AND THESE TEAMS DESERVE YOUR HANDICAPPING RESPECT

Ladies and gents, we’ve reached the National Football League midway point of the 2016 season – give or take – and we want a show of hands to see just how many of you believed the Dallas Cowboys (6-1) would be sporting the best record in the NFC at this stage of the season.

Thought so!

Hey, how many of you good Jim Sez readers thought the likes of the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers, the Arizona Cardinals and the perennial playoff participant Cincinnati Bengals all would be sitting here with losing records?

Now, that’s why they play the games!

Just take a quickie peek at the upcoming NFL Week 9 games and you’ll see there are a half-dozen divisional duels on the docket featuring the likes of Denver at Oakland come Sunday night and the Philadelphia Eagles at the New York Giants earlier on Sunday afternoon but it all gets kick-started with Thursday’s prime-time game:

On Thursday, it’s …

ATLANTA (5-3) at TAMPA BAY (3-4) – 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC/NFL Network

No doubt about it: The word “revenge” is tossed about way too much when it comes to the NFL but here’s an in-season case where – we believe – it actually means something:

You have the 3.5-point favored Falcons coming into Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium looking for their proverbial pound of flesh following the Week 1 game where the Bucs snagged a 31-24 triumph at the Georgia Dome. You might recall that Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston aired four touchdown passes in that tilt while throwing for 281 yards but a key factor was Atlanta’s mega-star WR Julio Jones was held in check (see 4 receptions worth 66 yards including a 25-yard TD grab) … can the Bucs silence Jones again here? Hmmm.

Note the Bucs swept the season’s series from the Dirty Birds last year – by finals of 23-20 and 23-19 – and if TB’s pass-catch combo of Winston-to-WR Mike Evans (44 receptions, 6 TDs) gets hot in this tilt, than the Falcons’ hold on the NFC South would take a major hit.

Spread Notes – Atlanta has failed to cover seven of its last 10 divisional games while dating back to late in the 2014 season; Tampa Bay is a rotten 5-14 ATS (against the spread) as hosts the past two-plus seasons and that includes an 0-3 ATS home mark this year.

Lots of fantastic matchups on this early November card and here’s a quick reminder:

Jim Hurley’s veteran Handicappers and Bloggers have everything all mapped out and you can get all the NCAA Football, NFL Week 9 and NBA winners plus the World Series too when you check with us here at Jim Hurley’s Network. And don’t forget there’s College Football Games every night this week – all TV action, of course! – so don’t miss out on all the winners.

Just check with us on game days either here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Got it?

THE JIM SEZ HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH LIST

We’re back with the latest Installment of the 2016 Heisman Trophy Watch List where we offer up our top five weekly contenders for college football’s most coveted individual award … now here’s how we see things shaping up as we get set to head into another big-time gridiron week/weekend:

LAMAR JACKSON, QB, Louisville – Folks, this is a real runaway right now with this snazzy do-it-all star heading into Saturday’s game at 24-point underdog Boston College with 2,522 passing yards and 22 TDP so far to go along with 996 yards rushing (that’s a 6.8 ypc clip) and 16 scores. No doubt Jackson needed some late-game magic to dispose of pesky Virginia last week but with the ‘Ville high up in the polls this sophomore flash is making a mockery of this year’s Heisman Trophy race. Still, we did say that about LSU’s Leonard Fournette a year ago – so we’ll hold off on giving Jackson the shiny trophy just yet.

JAKE BROWNING, QB, Washington – The Huskies (8-0) stayed perfect with last weekend’s 31-24 nip-and-tuck non-cover win at 10.5-point dog Utah but truth is this soph star didn’t enhance his stat line: Browning threw for 186 yards with 2 TDs and now goes into the Cal game this weekend with 1,895 yards passing, 28 TDs and just 3 INTs. He’s firmly in second place but well back of Mr. Jackson.

DESHAUN WATSON, QB, Clemson – We’re keeping the Tigers’ superstar (and natural-born winner) in third place here following that epic 37-34 non-cover comeback win at Florida State last Saturday night. For the year, Watson’s totaled 2,328 yards passing with 22 TDs (but 10 INTs) to go along with 331 rushing yards.

JALEN HURTS, QB, Alabama – Don’t sleep on this dude just ‘cause the Crimson Tide was idle last weekend: The frosh signal-caller has 1,549 passing yards with 11 TDs and 521 yards rushing with another 9 TDs for the numero uno club in the country and thus he earns a spot on our Heisman Trophy Watch List even if most “experts” continue to leave him off their top 5.

DONNELL PUMPHREY, RB, San Diego State – First appearance on our Watch List for anyone other than a quarterback and, yo, this kid deserves some glory with his 1,469 rushing yards (at 6.6 ypc) and 13 TDs for the best west coast team that nobody talks about these days. Pumphrey remains a major workhorse (see 32 carries for 223 yards in last week’s easy-as-pie 40-13 win/cover versus Utah State) and he’s bound to get some national recognition before too long.

In other College Football Notes …

No question everyone’s hyped up regarding the first-of-the-year College Football Playoff Rankins (we’ll have some things to say about that in our next Jim Sez) but let’s focus for a moment on three teams that deserve your (and our) handicapping respect:

BYU – Folks, gotta hand it to the Cougars who are playing an Independent schedule this year and hanging tough against the likes of Utah, West Virginia and Boise State. In fact, BYU enters this weekend’s game at Cincinnati with a nifty 6-2 ATS mark with seemingly every game going down to the wire. There’s great fight on first-year head coach Kalani Sitake’s team – only problem is you won’t get ‘em as an underdog side again till the bowls.

NORTHWESTERN – Give head coach Pat Fitzgerald major kudos as the ‘Cats could have folded their tents following season-opening losses to Western Michigan and Illinois State. Instead, this Big 10 team has covered five of its last six outings and should get everyone’s wagering interests as pups the rest of the way. Could have ‘em plus a full TD at home against Wisconsin this weekend, hmmm.

TEXAS TECH – Lots of folks poke fun at the Big 12 overall for the league’s all-offense/no-defense style but the fact is that trait works for many teams including this Red Raiders’ bunch that’s scored 50-plus points in five games this year and has covered five of their last six games while heading into Saturday’s home game versus Texas. The Techsters are in every game they play – not bad for a team with a very leaky defense.

NOTE: Catch all our NCAA Football and NFL Week 9 previews/forecasts in the coming days right here at Jim Sez!

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