Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, December 11, 2018 at 12:00 AM
THE NFL REPORT: WHAT'S STRAIGHT AHEAD THESE FINAL 3 WEEKS OF REGULAR-SEASON PLAY ...
IT'S COLLEGE BOWLMANIA - AND WE'RE FEEDING YOU KEY SPREAD STATS
Just in case you wanted to be precise, NFL teams have now played 81.3 percent of their regular-season schedule as we head towards a gigantic Week 15 beginning with Thursday Night's Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs ... and yet with less than 20 percent of the sked still straight ahead, there's precious little that's been decided: The aforementioned KC Chiefs have clinched a playoff berth in the AFC while the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams have nailed down division titles in the NFC South and NFC West, respectively. And yet even those three playoff-bound squads have plenty to play for these next three weeks. We'll get to what's straight ahead these final three weeks of NFL regular-season play in just a moment but first this key reminder ...
Jim Hurley's Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will be pounding out lots more Football winners this week beginning with Thursday Night's high-profile NFL Week 15 clash between the Los Angeles Chargers at the Kansas City Chiefs - go ahead and get the Side & Totals of that game when you call us game-day at 1-800-323-4453 or get 'em online right here. Hey, it's also time to kick off the College Bowl Season this weekend as there are Five (5) big bowl games on the Saturday docket - sign up now with Jim Hurley and get all the College Bowl Games this year plus all the College Basketball and NBA winners too!
THE NFL REPORT
Okay, so you've got the current NFL standings at your fingertips, so let's take you thru some of what lies ahead.
In the AFC ...
Hey, don't be so darn quick to pencil in Kansas City (11-2) as the numero uno seed in this conference 'cause following this prime-time showdown with the Chargers (a revenge game for Philip Rivers and Company after losing 38-28 at home in Week 1) is a Week 16 road game at red-hot Seattle and then a home game against archrival Oakland. There's a shot - however slim you may feel - that the Chiefs could tie with New England (9-4) with identical 12-4 marks and N'England would get that top seed based on the 43-40 head-to-head non-cover win back in Week 6 action. Also, two-of-three Kansas City losses from this point forward combined with a run-the-table deal for the Chargers (10-3) and those Bolts would bound into the AFC West top spot and the #1 AFC seed.
On the flip side, the Pats are not even "in the clear" when it comes to a definite first-weekend bye: Bill Belichick's crew - still stinging from last weekend's wild 34-33 last-second loss in Miami - really needs to win in Pittsburgh this weekend or else they might get passed by in the standings by Houston (9-4) which plays at the New York Jets this Saturday, then at fast-fading Philadelphia and then hosts Jacksonville ... a clean sweep by the Texans and one Pats' mis-step and New England would be hosting a wild card weekend game and the Patriots have never won it all starting out of the wild card round.
In terms of the playoff chase, there are four teams sitting there at 7-6 SU (straight up) right now and here's the lowdown: Miami rolls into Minnesota this Sunday on a three-game ATS (against the spread) winning streak and who has better mojo than these Dolphins right now? Baltimore has a major decision to make at quarterback right here / right now: Is it time for Joe Flacco to return or does dual-threat rookie Lamar Jackson stay under center? Note the Ravens play a Week 16 game at the LA Chargers; Indianapolis has won six of its last seven games overall and next comes back-to-back home games against NFC East foes Dallas and the New York Giants. If it all comes down to Week 17, the Colts are at Tennessee - yes, the final 7-6 team we're discussing here - and note Indy's already crushed the Titans 38-10 this year.
In the NFC ...
The battle royal rages on for the #1 seed here with both New Orleans and the LA Rams locked in at 11-2 but with the Saints - of course - holding the tie-break thanks to that 45-35 home win back in Week 9. Go ahead and check the remaining sked ... the Saints are at Carolina in the next Monday Night Football game before returning home to the Superdome for tilts with Pittsburgh and Carolina. The Rams, meanwhile, host Philadelphia this Sunday, play at weakling Arizona in Week 16 and then round out regular-season play at home against San Francisco. In short, we'd be more than a wee bit surprised if the Rams lost at all and so there's major heat on Sean Payton's Saints who have rattled off 10 pointspread wins in its last 11 games.
Chicago (9-4) and Dallas (8-5) are into "magic numbers" right now in terms of securing their own divisions in the NFC - it would take major miracles for either not to make it into the playoffs - but how about the fight to finish with the #3 seed as we're pretty sure the Bears and the Cowboys would like to avoid a first-weekend playoff date with surging Seattle (8-5). The Seahawks - fresh off Monday Night's not-so-riveting 21-7 win over 3-point underdog Minnesota - are 7-1-1 spreadwise since Oct. 7th and that sure looked like a championship-style defense against the Vikes with sideline-to-sideline pursuit not seen in those parts in years.
Meanwhile, there are three teams at 6-7 and the aforementioned Vikings at 6-6-1 that are battling it out for the remaining playoff berth in the NFC and it's worth noting that Washington is shot (down to fourth-string QB Josh Johnson this week at woeful Jacksonville), Philly is operating with minor-league style cornerbacks and Carolina's falling like a rock with five consecutive SU/ATS losses. Best thing you can say about any of these playoff hopefuls is that maybe their Week 17 opponents won't "need" the game (see Minnesota home to Chicago; Philadelphia at Washington). Stay tuned.
Let's get it started already: There's 40 College Football Bowl Games on this holiday season menu beginning with a handful of tilts this Saturday ...here's a few Key Spread Stats on some of the teams in action this weekend:
NEW MEXICO BOWL - North Texas vs. Utah State
Utah State's dropped from a 10-point favorite down to -8 points with Texas Tech-bound coach Matt Wells gonzo. Still, U-State is 8-2 ATS as betting favorites this year.
LAS VEGAS BOWL - Arizona State vs. Fresno State
Can't ignore the fact that Fresno State's a rotten 1-6 versus the vig in bowl games dating back the past 10 years.
NEW ORLEANS BOWL - Middle Tennessee vs. Appalachian State
Did you know that since the 2010 season the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders are a rotten 1-4 ATS in bowl games ... and that includes last year's 35-30 win against 3.5-point fav Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl?
NOTE: Catch our Chargers-Chiefs game preview plus lots more here at Jim Sez next.