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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, January 2, 2017 at 11:55 AM



The folks in/around the National Football League – especially the head coaches – like to call it the “tournament”.

It’s a survival-of-the-fittest deal involving a dozen NFL teams to see who can make it to Super Bowl LI in Houston this year and, as always, there are mucho storylines.

No doubt the biggest one going is will NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell be handing over the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the New England Patriots and their mega-star QB Tom Brady come the evening of February 5th?

Or are we gonna get a “surprise” team that wins it all like what happened in 2010 when those Green Bay Packers were the NFC’s #6 seed and ran the table?

Take note that half of last year’s playoffs teams are back in the post-season – that’s Green Bay, Houston, Kansas City, New England, Pittsburgh and Seattle – and, of course, neither of last year’s Super Bowl 50 participants even made the playoff cut this time around.

Such is life in NFL-land.

Ahh, the NFL Playoffs is unlike any other “tournament” and we want you to know the following:

You can get the Side & Totals Winners of this weekend’s NFL Wild Card Round games when you check with us here on game-day mornings 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 either online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.

Plus, the College Football Season ain’t over yet – There’s Four (4) big bowls being played here on the first Monday of the New Year plus the National Championship Game is set and we’re having a rematch between #2 Clemson versus #1 Alabama on Monday, January 9th from Tampa… let us put a capper on what’s been a great post-season with Side & Totals winners in today’s Bowls and the Championship Game next Monday night!


On Saturday, it’s…

OAKLAND (12-4) at HOUSTON (9-7) – 4:35pm ET
Good luck trying to figure out the offensive game plans to this one – the Raiders may well be banking on novice QB Connor Cook to rescue what appears to be a sinking ship while indications are once-benched QB Brock Osweiler will get the start for the woeful Texans offense. Hey, maybe you saw the TV graphic that informed us the past three #1 team defenses in the NFL made it to the Super Bowl… and Houston’s the #1 defense in the NFL. Just sayin’.

DETROIT (9-7) at SEATTLE (10-5-1) – 8:15pm ET
Good for NBC’s Mike Tirico for pointing out the fact the Lions really are getting jobbed when it comes to the schedule: The NFC North’s top runner-up played last Monday night in Dallas, hosted the Week 17 Sunday Night game – and lost 31-24 to Green Bay – and now must play on the first day of the playoffs out in Seattle. No wonder the off-their-game Seahawks still are 7½-point betting favorites for this clash at The Link.

On Sunday, it’s…

MIAMI (10-6) at PITTSBURGH (11-5) – 1:05pm ET
If you happen to be old enough to remember some of those great 1970’s playoff matchups between these teams, then goody for you! Okay, there’s no 1972 “perfect” Dolphins team here but gotta like Miami’s grit under first-year boss Adam Gase and – dare we say – if RB Jay Ajayi can scoot free for a buck-fifty or so here, the star-studded and 9½ point favored Steelers could have their hands full.

NEW YORK GIANTS (11-5) at GREEN BAY (10-6) – 4:40pm ET
If defense “travels” then the visiting NY Giants have reason to be optimistic for this game at what figures to be a frosty Lambeau Field – note the G-men have allowed 16 points or less on seven different occasions this year and Green Bay’s banged-up O-line could have major trouble holding the fort for mobile QB Aaron Rodgers (300 yards passing with 4 TD strikes and lots of key runs in Sunday Night’s win in Motown).


Tonight, it’s the SUGAR BOWL: Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans, LA

#14 AUBURN (8-4) vs. #7 OKLAHOMA (10-2) – 8:30pm ET, ESPN

The college kids head into this day-after-New Year’s with bowl favorites just 13-24 against the odds… and that’s with a real recent surge (see six of last year were chalk winners) and now Vegas has Oklahoma a shaky 3-point fav for this game and keep in mind the Sooners originally opened as 6-point favs.

One reason the number’s dipped is because of the off-the-field nonsense involving RB Joe Mixon and his domestic abuse situation and it’s worth noting that “distracted teams” often struggle at bowl time. If Oklahoma’s gonna cover this short price, then it’ll be because the QB Baker Mayfield (38 TD passes) to WR Dede Westbrook (16 TD receptions) combo struck it rich.

Conversely, the Auburn game plan is to run it plenty with an up-tempo beat – the nation’s sixth-best ground attack stars RBs Kamryn Pettway (1,123 yards rushing, 7 TDs) and Kerryon Johnson (862 rushing yards, 11 TDs).

Auburn’s covered all three of its games when grabbing up points – pointspread "W’s" against Clemson, LSU and Alabama.

Spread Notes – Oklahoma is a dead-even/vig-losing 6-6 ATS (against the spread) this season but overall the Sooners are 126-106-1 spreadwise under 18th-year head coach Bob Stoops. Auburn is 6-3 vig-wise against fellow bowl teams this year and War Eagle enters this prime-time bash having covered six of its last eight bowl tilts dating back the past 10 years.

NOTE: More NFL Playoff talk plus College Football News/Notes in the next Jim Sez.

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