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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, September 30, 2017 at 1:20 PM




Perhaps you've heard: Since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, only five teams have started off a season at 0-3 SU (straight-up) and gone on to make the playoffs and nobody's managed to pull off that feat since the league realigned back in 2002.

So, if you're the Cincinnati Bengals (five playoff appearances in the past half-dozen years) or the New York Giants (two Super Bowl titles since 2007) or the Los Angeles Chargers (participants in eight post-season games the past 10 years) than this is truly your do-or-die weekend ... no?

Let's zip 'round their games and get you some insight while also dropping some pointspread knowledge too ...On Sunday, it's ...

CINCINNATI (0-3) at CLEVELAND (0-3) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
The Bengals have not started a year at 0-3 SU since 2008 and - well - that was a major waste of a season as that Cincinnati squad finished 4-11-1 overall. Now, Marvin Lewis' crew is counting on a bit more offensive punch here after the Bengals registered a mere two offensive TDs in their first three games. Does Browns' boss Hue Jackson have any "advantage" here after having served as Cincy's offensive coordinator in 2014-15?
Spread Stat - Cincinnati's covered five in a row against the rival Browns.

NEW YORK GIANTS (0-3) at TAMPA BAY (1-1) - 4:05 p.m. ET, Fox
There's been no shortage of drama 'round these New York "Football" Giants this week what with WR Odell Beckham, Jr. acting the part of a real clown after his touchdown grabs and with management - finally - sitting Beckham down to read 'em the proverbial riot act. If the star wide-out "dogs it" here than the Giants' season will go up in smoke while the flip side says the TB Bucs could be severely short-handed in this NFC clash as star LB Kwon Alexander (hamstring) is among the missing.
Spread Stat - The NY Giants are 14-19-1 against the odds as underdogs since the start of 2013.

PHILADELPHIA (2-1) at LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (0-3) - 4:05 p.m. ET, Fox
Guess when you come right down to it you can call it the "same old, same old" with these relocated Chargers ... they lose all the one-score games and QB Philip Rivers (three INTs in the first half of last week's 24-10 home loss against Kansas City) never does seem to come up big. Now, the Bolts will attempt to expose an Eagles' defense that surrendered 24 fourth-quarter points last week in the last-second win against the Giants and maybe a good plan of attack is to get the ball into the hands of RB Melvin Gordon a minimum of 25 times.
Spread Stat - The Chargers are 0-7-1 versus the vig while dating back to last season.

Jim Hurley's Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are set for another blockbuster winning weekend - just check in with us on game day mornings when you go online right here or 1-800-323-4453 plus get all the weekend's Major-League Baseball too. There's a robust sked on Saturday and Sunday and we'll pump out Sides/Totals winners all weekend long.

On Sunday Night, it's ...
INDIANAPOLIS (1-2) at SEATTLE (1-2) - 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
No QB Andrew Luck for the Colts (again) and no real growl from these here-and-now Seahawks ... even pre-game crooner Carrie Underwood is a bit underwhelmed by this prime-timer from the great northwest! Still, it's gonna be interesting to see if the Seahawks show any bite on "D" where right now they rank a rotten 23rd in the NFL in total defense. Anything less than a handful of sacks against Colts' QB Jacoby Brissett will be a letdown.
Spread Stats - Seattle has failed to cover six of its last seven games while dating back to late last season; Indianapolis is a decent 12-9-1 ATS (against the spread) as dogs the past two-plus seasons.


On Saturday night, it's ...
#2 CLEMSON (4-0, 2-0 ACC) at #12 VIRGINIA TECH (4-0, 0-0 ACC) - 8 p.m. ET, ABC
... And they meet again with lots on the line. Last year Clemson fought off a gritty Virginia Tech team 42-35 in the ACC Championship Game (note the Hokies grabbed the cash at + 11 points) en route to the national championship and now here comes the TD-favored Tigers into Blacksburg with a defense that's already collected 17 sacks (only Michigan's 18 sacks are more) and an offense with a new star in QB Kelly Bryant (see 873 yards passing and another 268 yards rushing).

If Virginia Tech harbors the outright upset hopes here than three things must happen: Hokies' redshirt freshman QB Josh Jackson (11 TDs and only 1 INT) must steer clear of the drive-killing pick ... it's okay to take a sack and still kick a FG;

Secondly, the famed Virginia Tech special teams must win this battle with either a blocked punt, a kick return for a score, etc. It's an old formula in these parts but still essential if Tech's gonna win here;

Finally, Virginia Tech must commit an extra man or two to defend a Clemson ground game that averages a haughty 272 yards a game. If Bryant goes "up top" a time or two than Tech's defense will have to live with the result. Contain the ground game here and the kings of college football could take a serious tumble.

Spread Stats - Clemson has covered six of its last eight overall games while tracing back to last year's championship run while Virginia Tech's a tasty 8-4 ATS as a pup the past three-plus seasons.

NOTE: Lots of NFL Week 4 recaps and more in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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