Week 15 NFL Key Previews (December 19, 2010)

Last Sunday, our top NFL Shocker was the Lions (+7) over the Packers in a 7-3 outright upset and we have an even bigger stunner today!



By Jim Hurley:

Ever hear of "gut-check games"?

Sure you have and there's plenty of them on this NFL Week 15 Sunday card and the fact of the matter is there is a great cross-section of blood-and-guts matchups here including a pair of ultra-important interconference clashes - that's the New Orleans Saints at the Baltimore Ravens (a Super Bowl 45 preview, anyone?) and the Green Bay Packers at the New England Patriots - along with a pair of key divisional duels (see the Philadelphia Eagles at the New York Giants along with the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Indianapolis Colts) and maybe the best of 'em all is that AFC showdown game between the sagging New York Jets at the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

Wow ... that is some monster menu, right?

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to rock-n-roll you this holiday season with nothing but Winners in the NFL, the College Football Bowls and the NBA and NCAA Basketball too when you call us daily at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you log online right here.. And here's an important Note:The check-in times are after 1 p.m. ET Monday-thru-Friday for all the Football/Basketball weeknight games and then anytime after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays. Keep on piling up all the Football & Basketball Winners right through the end of the calendar year!


Her are Five (5) Key Week 15 NFL Previews but don't forget there's meaningful matchups between "Show Me State" rivals Kansas City at St. Louis along with key tilts for AFC South sides Tampa Bay (the Buccaneers are hosting Detroit) and Atlanta (the hot-hot-hot Falcons are at Seattle):
NEW ORLEANS (10-3) at BALTIMORE (9-4) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
The Saints are hoping to be rollin' a "7" here as in seven straight wins and it's a born-again offense that's rallied the troops - New Orleans is averaging 30.5 ppg during this six-game SU (straightup) winning streak that happens to include a pair of victories against AFC North teams Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and for Sean Payton's gang to keep on truckin' here the ground game must be really potent.

The Saints rushed for 132 yards in last week's 31-13 home triumph over St. Louis and that means N'Orleans has exceeded the 100-yard rushing mark four times in its last five games - if RB Pierre Thomas can sledgehammer his way for some key between-the-guard plays here than life will be a tad easier for QB Drew Brees (3,855 yards passing and 28 TDs).

On the flip side, the Ravens come off their third overtime game this year (they've won two of 'em) - last Monday's 34-28 OT triumph in Houston was won by the "pick six" of CB Josh Wilson - but if Baltimore is gonna nab this home game than QB Joe Flacco must remain turnover-free. Note that Flacco's not thrown an interception in his last two games and he enters this high-profile tilt with 21 TDs and just 8 picks on the year ... not bad at all!

Note that both Baltimore wide-outs Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason have exceeded the 50-catch mark (while teaming for 13 TDs) and here it might take one or both of these pass-catchers to have a bust-out stat game for the Ravens to prevail.

Spread Notes - Baltimore has covered 13 of its last 22 home games while dating back to the start of the 2008 season and note the Ravens are a collective 7-4 ATS (against the spread) when facing NFC opponents the past two-plus seasons. New Orleans is just 5-7-1 against the Las Vegas prices this season but the Saints are 19-10-2 ATS in non-NFC South tilts since the start of the '08 campaign.

NEW YORK JETS (9-4) at PITTSBURGH (10-3) - 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Will either/both offenses wake up here? We ask that pointed question 'cause the Steelers - riding a four-game SU winning streak - have not scored an offensive TD in the past 11 quarters of play (see the 19-16 OT win in Buffalo back in Week 12) - while the free-falling Jets have been held to a grand total of three Nick Folk field goals in their recent back-to-back AFC East losses to New England and Miami.

Hey, folks want to see someone score here just so we can catch the J-E-T-S tripping someone on a kickoff!

Now that Rex Ryan's club embarrassed itself - again - with that stupid incident involving knucklehead strength coach Sal Alosi you wonder if NYJ's collective head is on straight for this clash at Heinz Field (and note the Jets have never/ever won a game in the city of Pittsburgh).

Look here for the Steelers' super-aggressive defense to get right in the face of slumping Jets' QB Mark Sanchez (16 TDs and 12 INTs this season) with S Troy  Polamalu really digging in on blitzes here and so it's not all that likely former Pittsburgh WR Santonio Holmes will have some monster game in his return to the Steel City.

On the flip side, there's talk that the Steelers already have "worn down" RB Rashard Mendenhall (275 rushing attempts this year for 1,073 yards and 9 TDs) and so expect QB Ben Roethlisberger to throw it more on first downs and also at other times when the Jets figure to be keying on the run.

Spread Notes - The NY Jets have failed to cover five of their seven post-bye games this year but overall the AFC East crew is a decent 13-8 ATS in non-divisional duels the past year-and-change. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, enters this Week 15 bash with an 8-5 spread log this season one year after staggering through a 5-10-1 ATS campaign. Overall, the Steelers are just 24-28-1 ATS as betting favorites under fourth-year head coach Mike Tomlin.

PHILADELPHIA (9-4) at NEW YORK GIANTS (9-4) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Would you be apt to say that the New York Giants sport the quietest three-game winning streak in all the NFL? Heck, Tom Coughlin's club has been a veritable punching bag in the New York City tabloids at times this season and yet here's the "G-men" coming into this ultra-important NFC East showdown off back-to-back-to-back wins against Jacksonville, Washington and Minnesota with that latest 21-3 conquest coming in Detroit after a three-city, three-night junket through the Midwest.

The Giants still have a M*A*S*H-like look to their team as O-line injuries are piling up - see G Chris Snee and C Shaun O'Hara - and the announcement earlier this week that Pro Bowl WR Steve Smith is lost for the year was a real punch to the gut. Here, Giants QB Eli Manning (3,169 yards passing with 24 TDs and 19 INTs) must prove to be a solid game manager as you'll note he's thrown seven INTs in his last four games against Philly and so it's no total shock that NYG has dropped its last five games in a row to the archrival Eagles.

One note on Philly here: WR DeSean Jackson (a great player but an A-1 jerk!) missed Wednesday's practice with a sprained left foot and he comes off that epic 4-catch, 210-yard receiving game in last Sunday Night's 30-27 non-cover win in Dallas.

Spread Notes - The Giants are a head-shaking 4-12 against the odds when hosting games since late in the 2008 season and that includes the 23-11 NFC Divisional Playoff loss as 4-point favorites two years ago against Philly and last year's 45-38 home loss to the 1-point favored Eagles. Meanwhile, Philadelphia is just 6-7 against the juice this year but overall the Birds are a tasty 26-16 ATS away the past four-plus seasons (a .619 winning rate).

Here's something that you might find tough to believe: The J'ville Jaguars have not won a divisional crown in 11 years but Jack Del Rio's club can accomplish that fact with a win at Lucas Oil Field against the injury-riddled and inconsistent Indy Colts - and there's been some trash talking that's taken place all week long including the Del Rio comments that claimed the Colts "pipe in" noise when opposing teams are on offense.

Hey, now that's rivalry stuff chatter!

The Jags have won just five of 17 head-to-head matchups against Indianapolis since the NFL realigned divisions back in 2002 but the here-and-now says Jacksonville has won five of its last six games this year while averaging a piping-hot 193 rushing yards per game and the formula is rather simple here:

If Jacksonville RB Maurice Jones-Drew (1,278 yards rushing) can move the chains here and make the occasional long burst than the Colts could be kaput when it comes to chasing down a playoff berth - yes, Indy's been to the post-season every year since '02 but even four-time league MVP quarterback Peyton Manning (4,028 yards passing with 26 TDs and 15 INTs) might not be able to save 'em this time.

Spread Notes - Indianapolis is a money-losing 7-11 ATS in head-to-head showdowns against Jacksonville while tracing back to the 2000 season. The Colts stagger into this divisional duel on a three-game spread losing skid and you have to go all the way back to the end of the 2005 season to find a longer spread losing streak (five consecutive ATS setbacks back then). On the flip side, the Jaguars roll into this clash on a six-game spread winning streak and overall J'ville has notched spread wins in seven of its last 10 AFC South games.

On Sunday Nite, it's ...

GREEN BAY (8-5) at NEW ENGLAND (11-2) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
Can we stop hearing talk of anyone other than Patriots QB Tom Brady winning this year's league MVP? The issue was settled a long time ago and here Brady (3,398 yards passing with 29 TDs and 4 INTs) now must make sure he stands tall in the pocket behind the sport's best offensive line while looking to have LB Clay Matthews (and others) kept at arm's length. Note that the Pats have not committed a single turnover during this current five-game SU winning streak while the New England defense has collected 13 takeaways ... amazing.

Obviously, the big health issue here is whether or not Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers (concussion) plays but the fact that this is his second concussion this 2010 season almost assuredly will keep him from this prime-time tilt.

And who doesn't want to see another starry QB Matt Flynn performance here (see 182 yards passing with one pick so far this season)?

Spread Notes - New England is 8-4-1 versus the vig overall this season and did you know the Patriots are 13-6-1 ATS in their last 20 non-AFC East games? Meanwhile, Green Bay's 25-15 versus the vig while dating back to the start of the 2006 and that includes a pair of key away covers against AFC sides with the 9-0 win at the 6 ½-point favored New York Jets in Week 8 action and last year's 37-36 loss-but-cover at 3-point fav Pittsburgh. 

NOTE: Catch all our NFL Week 15 Roundup Notes plus get the Monday Night Football Preview - that's Chicago at Minnesota (outdoors!) - in the next edition of Jim Sez. Plus, continue to stay tuned in the coming days for all the remaining College Football Bowl Games as we'll preview/analyze/dissect all 35 Bowl Matchups!



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