Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, January 12, 2017 at 10:48 AM
NFL DIVISISIONAL PLAYOFFS - HERE'S THE SATURDAY GAME PREVIEWS
Let's get right to the NFL Playoff action as the Divisional Playoffs take center stage this weekend. Here's the two tilts scheduled for Saturday:
NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF
SEATTLE (10-5-1) at ATLANTA (11-5) - 4:35 p.m. ET, Fox
No doubt about it: Every time the Atlanta Falcons do make it into the playoffs (and 2012 was the most recent excursion) the good folks in Georgia have high hopes of winning it all ... something that's never happened to this franchise which was born way back in 1965.
But maybe there's signs that this is the year as QB Matt Ryan had an MVP-type season with 4,944 yards passing, 38 TDs and just 7 INTs and the Seahawks are not "whole" with Pro Bowl S Earl Thomas out (broken leg) even if "experts" pile on praise for holding the Detroit Lions to just two FGs in last week's 26-6 NFC Wild Card Game win.
If the 'Hawks can chew up yardage on the ground with RB Thomas Rawls (27 carries for 161 yards against Detroit) here, then it'll keep Ryan and Company on the sidelines and suck the life from the Falcons' always-noisy fans.
An X-factor here?
Atlanta needs a "second target" for this game: WR Julio Jones snagged seven balls worth 139 yards in that first go-around with Seattle this year (see Seahawks 26, Falcons 24 in Week 6) but he didn't get that all-important late-game pass interference call - here speed merchant WR Taylor Gabriel (6 TDs) must make a couple flip-the-field plays.
Spread Notes - Atlanta is 10-6 ATS (against the spread) this year but the Falcons are a collective 10-21 vig-wise as betting favorites the past four years. On the flip side, Seattle is 9-8 against the odds overall this year and remember the Seahawks have failed to cover four of their last five post-season games.
Get the Side & Totals of this weekend's NFL Divisional Playoff games plus basketball on our BASH-FOR-CASH Weekend. Cash in with Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots on the Saturday menu; then win with the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers at the Dallas Cowboys on the Sunday card. 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.
HOUSTON (9-7) at NEW ENGLAND (14-2) - 8:15 p.m. ET, CBS
At last check, all anybody wanted to talk about when it comes to this game was the pointspread: The NE Patriots are 15.5-point faves - sounds about right to us! - and so is this simply a yawn-and-move-on game for Bill Belichick's club?
Well, if the twin-figure dog Texans have any realistic hopes (paging Super Bowl III, perhaps) than Houston must own the ground game and the clock and so that means RB Lamar Miller must do a heckuva lot better than the 31 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown he registered in last weekend's 27-14 win against short-handed Oakland.
If this winds up being an out-of-the-gate 10-0 or 14-3 type game that the Patriots lead after one quarter, than it'll fall on busteroo QB Brock Osweiler to save the day - and while we applaud the fact Osweiler is trying hard to establish a real rapport with superstar WR DeAndre Hopkins (5 receptions for 67 yards and one TD last week versus the Raiders), what's the realistic hopes that Hopkins will sport a big stats game against this Patriots' defense that allowed 17 points or less in a whopping 11 games this year?
Okay, so maybe we're "burying the lead" here but here's the skinny on New England QB Tom Brady (28 TDs, 2 INTs this year) and a Pats' offense that can bludgeon you with the run or pass even without TE Rob Gronkowski:
If the Texans don't press coverage WR Julian Edelman (1,106 yards receiving) than they'll be making a major mistake and if DE Jadeveon Clowney and mates don't slow RB LeGarrette Blount behind the line of scrimmage, than this could be one of those 31-7 type N'England wins.
Spread Notes - New England is a brilliant 13-3 against the Las Vegas prices this season and the Patriots enter this prime-time tilt at 4-and-oh spreadwise as twin-figure betting favorites. Houston is 7-9-1 ATS overall this '16 season and did you know the Texans are 6-13 spreadwise as point-grabbers since the start of last season? Yikes!
COLLEGE BASKETBALL NOTES
If you're checking out the Thursday college hoops menu, than don't sleep on the Fox 1 showdown between #4 UCLA (16-1, 3-1) at Colorado (10-6, 0-3).
True, the Buffs have not yet won a Pac-12 game so far but this is an athletic group that hopes to keep pace with a Bruins bunch that averages a league-high 92.8 ppg (that's third-best in the country) and for all the noise surrounding UCLA's Lonzo Ball (14.7 ppg) you gotta check out T.J. Leaf who happens to lead Steve Alford's crew with 17.4 ppg.
The Bruins have strung together three straight double-digit league wins following that late December loss at Oregon - if Leaf and Ball are "on their game" than the Uclans will keep on steamrollin' but this could get scary if Colorado's Derrick White stays hot (hitting 51.2 percent of his field goals this season).
NOTE: Catch our NFL Divisional Playoff Sunday Games in the very next edition of Jim Sez.