Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, December 22, 2018 at 4:00 PM
As that old song went …
It’s getting, it’s getting, it’s getting kinda hectic in the National Football League where – technically – 11 of the 13 games being played on Sunday have playoff-type implications. We’ll run thru a bunch of ‘em with quick-hitter comments below but first this important reminder:
Jim Hurley’s Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have plenty of NFL Week 16 Side & Totals winners on this Sunday-before-Christmas – so go ahead and cash in big when you call us at the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or get ‘em online here online. And don’t forget that the College Football Bowls resume Wednesday with Three (3) big games … and the playoffs are Saturday, Dec. 29th with #1 Alabama vs. #4 Oklahoma (Orange Bowl) following #2 Clemson vs. #3 Notre Dame (Cotton Bowl). We’ll have plenty to say about those tilts all next week right here at Jim Sez.
On Sunday, it’s …
HOUSTON (10-4) at PHILADELPHIA (7-7) – 1 p.m. ET, CBS
The defending Super Bowl champs are proving to be tougher to KO than an in-his-prime Muhammad Ali. Still, Doug Pederson’s club has a razor-thin margin of error while heading into this tilt against a Texans team that is 10-1 SU (straight-up) since Week 4 and a nifty 5-2-1 ATS (against the spread) since Oct. 21st. Maybe Philly will stay in a relaxed mode here behind QB Nick Foles (see 270 yards passing and just one INT in last week’s stunning 30-23 win at the two-TD favored LA Rams) but may we suggest that the Eagles double-team pass rushers J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney at every turn. P.S., Houston has failed to cover all three of its games this year against NFC East competition.
TAMPA BAY (5-9) at DALLAS (8-6) – 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Heck, even we were surprised to learn that the Cowboys last week suffered their first shutout loss in 15 years – the 23-0 slam-dunk of Dallas by a better-than-you-think Indy Colts crew shook the NFC East leaders to their proverbial core and now RB Ezekiel Elliott (1,349 yards rushing) better have it strapped on tight because he’s gonna get 30-or-more carries here against a Tampa Bay defense that ranks 27th in the NFL in rush defense (128.1 ypg). Here’s a spread stat you might like to chew on: Dallas is 8-14-1 ATS (against the spread) when playing non-divisional foes the past two-plus seasons. Ugh!
CHICAGO (10-4) at SAN FRANCISCO (4-10) – 4:05 p.m. ET, Fox
Is there a letdown staring the NFC North champion Chicago Bears straight in the facemasks here? Rookie head coach Matt Nagy’s team is fresh off back-to-back high-profile wins/covers against the LA Rams and the archrival Green Bay Packers but remember the Bears are just 3-3 SU and 3-3 ATS away in 2018 and these underdog SF 49ers are finishing a season with a flourish … again. If Niners’ slinger Nick Mullens (10 TDs and a 96 QB Rating) can evade pass-rushers Khalil Mack and friends, then the Bay Area guys might stay hot, hot, hot.
PITTSBURGH (8-5-1) at NEW ORLEANS (12-2) – 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
Geez, if you’ve listened closely to the TV talking heads this week, then you might believe Saints QB Drew Brees (3,666 yards passing with 31 TDs and 5 INTs) is in a massive slump (see 50 total points the last three games) but he’s been forced to go without LT Terron Armstead (pec/knee) the last five weeks. Now, word is Brees’ top blocker is back and you can expect a slew of downfield chucks against a Steelers’ secondary that’s middle-of-the-pack (ranked 16th in pass defense). If Pittsburgh – which is 5-0-1 ATS as underdogs since the start of 2017 – is gonna spring the upset inside the Superdome here, then not only QB Ben Roethlisberger must play like a Hall of Fame – hear that, DE Cam Jordan? – but the “D” better put on some heat against Brees who did get whacked around some in Monday Night’s 12-9 non-cover win in Carolina.
On Sunday Night, it’s …
KANSAS CITY (11-3) at SEATTLE (8-6) – 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
Okay, so here’s the numbers lowdown: The visiting KC Chiefs rank second in the NFL in passing offense (averaging 324.5 ypg) while the host Seahawks rank numero uno in rushing offense (154.9 ypg) – so, what’s gonna be more dominant here in this prime-time affair on the left coast? Well, Seattle’s game plan should be 35-or-so carries between QB Russell Wilson / RB Chris Carson while the Chiefs want/need QB Patrick Mahomes (4,543 yards passing with 45 TDs) to throw it a lot when moving the pocket ‘cause this Seahawks’ pass rush has been a force in recent weeks. For you spreadmeisters, note that the Chiefs are an abysmal 1-5-1 vig-wise following a 7-0 ATS start.
NOTE: Get Monday’s Jim Sez – we’ll unpack the NFL playoff picture and get you a game preview of Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders.