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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, December 20, 2017 at 2:18 PM


Network wins MNF witth Buccanneers (+7) over Falcons 21-24...Goes 4-0 in Tuesday College Basketball with St. Mary's Tulsa, Buffalo, and top play Western Illinois

Hey, NFL, are you ready for a wild finish to this season where three different NFC South clubs - Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans - could each finish 11-5 SU (straight-up)? After Monday Night's nail-biting 24-21 non-cover win by the 7-point favorite Atlanta Falcons over the out-of-it Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Tuesday morning standings read like this:

New Orleans ..10-4-0
Carolina .........10-4-0
Atlanta .............9-5-0

And when the dust finally settles on this here-and-now 2017 season, it's quite possible that all three teams here in the NFC South will be 11-5 and we know that you already realize that the defending NFC champion Falcons hold the tiebreakers and thus would win the NFC South and both the Saints and Panthers would fall into the Wild Card Round where likely first-round playoff matchups in the NFC would feature Carolina at the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans at Atlanta ... now that would be some rock-'em, sock-'em opening weekend of NFC Playoff action, eh?

The Week 16 and Week 17 skeds feature the following matchups involving NFC South squads:
Week 16 - Tampa Bay at Carolina; Atlanta at New Orleans
Week 17 - Carolina at Atlanta; New Orleans at Tampa Bay

Hey, talk about a real "round robin" and - gotta say - the Saints sport the best shot of sweeping their final two games. New Orleans is a solid 5.5-point betting favorite for Sunday's home tilt/revenge game against the Falcons and here's hoping Saints head coach Sean Payton lays off the "choke sign" gestures (directed at Atlanta RB Devonta Freeman in that first head-to-head meeting won 20-17 by Atlanta back on Dec. 7th) and sticks to play calling.

Freeman's electric performance in the MNF non-cover win in Tampa Bay - that was 22 carries for 126 yards with one touchdown to go along with 5 receptions worth 68 yards and some real fierce runs where he inflicted the pain/damage on Buc defenders - helped propel a less-than-razor-sharp Falcons team to their fifth win the past six weeks.

Maybe the karma that wasn't on Atlanta's side in a batch of earlier-season games has swung back in its favor - a season sweep over the Saints this Sunday and then a Week 17 home win against Carolina could catapult Dan Quinn's squad to bigger and better things ... and maybe even another Super Bowl.

Jim Hurley's Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have plenty of NFL Week 16 Winners beginning with Saturday's twin-bill - that's Indianapolis at Baltimore (4:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network) and Minnesota at Green Bay (8:30 p.m. ET on NBC). And don't forget the slew of College Football Bowl games roll on with action every night this week -- so check with us here online or 1-800-323-4453 and there's still time to sign up for the discounted Bowl Package with Jim Hurley. Plus, get all the daily/nightly College Basketball and NBA Winners too!


On Wednesday night, it's the FRISCO BOWL - at Frisco, TX
LOUISIANA TECH (6-6) vs. SMU (7-5)
- 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Funny how things can work in the college football universe:

Here's Louisiana Tech making its fourth straight bowl appearance under fifth-year head coach Skip Holtz (Tech's won the previous three bowl games); here's SMU going with brand-new head coach hire Sonny Dykes who replaces Arkansas-bound Chad Morris.

Who was L-Tech's head coach before Holtz came aboard in 2013? None other than Sonny Dykes!

As for this fun matchup deep in the heart of Texas, the SMU Ponies are 4.5-point betting favorites at last check thanks in large part to a high-powered offense starring QB Ben Hicks (3,442 yards passing with 32 TDs and 9 INTs) while Louisiana Tech looks to RB Boston Scott (937 yards rushing / 5.7 ypc / 8 TDs) to chew up real estate and keep SMU's 12th-ranked offense off the field. P.S., the totals price has been sitting around 70 points right from the start.

Spread Stats - SMU staggers into this bowl bash having failed to cover its last three consecutive games and six of its last seven. Overall, the Mustangs are a dead-even but vig-losing 6-6 ATS (against the spread) this season and the American Athletic Conference crew is 10-5 spreadwise as betting favorites since the start of 2013. Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech is also 6-6 ATS this season but note the Bulldogs own a 11-5 spread log as underdog sides since the start of 2014.

NOTE: More College Bowl coverage in the next Jim Sez column.


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