Week 15 NFL Notes and MNF & St. Petersburg Bowl Previews

It's Bowls & Buckets On Tuesday!
College football resumes...and Cashline Basketball went 2-0 last night!
S.Dakota St (-1) Central Michigan 72-69
Clippers (-4) T-Wolves 113-90
(Football services passed on Monday Night Football)




By Jim Hurley:

In case you hadn't noticed, there were nine NFL Week 15 games on Sunday that were decided by 7-or-fewer points and that included an overtime affair in Tampa Bay - so that's where the Detroit Lions were gonna snap that league-record road losing skein! - and a pair of games decided by last-second plays.

The one that received all the highlight reel action happened inside the New Meadowlands Stadium and the other happened to include the other team that plays its home games in the New Meadowlands Stadium - Philadelphia's mind-numbing 38-31 win at the New York Giants already is receiving Joe Pisarcik-like media attention in Gotham City while the New York Jets' hang-on-for-dear-life 22-17 win in Pittsburgh may well have been "gang green's" biggest regular-season victory since the Super Bowl-winning season of 1968.

Plenty to say about the three games mentioned above in a moment and we've also got for you our Monday Night Football Preview, a College Bowl Preview (see the St. Petersburg Bowl) and some College Basketball News/Notes but first this important holiday-time reminder:

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.. Folks, the aforementioned College Football Bowls roll into action beginning Saturday and they will run straight thru January 7, 2010 (that's a total of 32 Bowl Games in all!) and so don't miss out on all the fun-and-profits as Jim Hurley's offering up the first Bowl Games through Christmas Eve plus Basketball for the low price of only $99. 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!


CHICAGO (9-4) at MINNESOTA (5-8) - 8:35 p.m. ET, ESPN
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow - well, that's what the TV execs are hoping for here in this now made-for-outdoors clash inside the NFC North. The holes in the roof at the antiquated Metrodome forced that joint to shut down operations for the Minnesota Vikings' final two regular-season home games and so this one's been shifted to TCF Bank Stadium where the Minny Golden Gophers usually are busy stinking up the place.

Now, the Vikes head into this game in nothing more than the spoiler role and without either of their top two quarterbacks now that one-time iron-man Brett Favre (see 297 consecutive game starting streak that ended last Monday Night in Detroit) and backup Tarvaris Jackson have been declared out for this tilt and so that leaves Joe Webb to get the nod here for interim head coach Leslie Frazier and let's say there's not a whole lot of confidence abounding in the Twin Cities.

On the flip side, the Bears - who have lost seven of their last eight games played at the not-so-cozy Metrodome - appear to have the frosty weather conditions in their favor here but than again Chicago didn't exactly look sharp last Sunday in that humbling 36-7 home loss against New England as that Week 14 clash was played in swirling snow and winds that whipped into the 30 mph range.

The odds are the Bears will take a conservative approach here with QB Jay Cutler (2,697 yards passing with 17 TDs and 12 INTs) not asked to bomb away and so RBs Matt Forte and Chester Taylor (a combined 1,020 yards and 8 TDs) must navigate their way through the famed "Williams Wall" starring DL Kevin and Pat Williams. P.S., in last week's 21-3 Monday night loss against the New York Giants, the Vikes surrendered a whopping 213 net rushing yards (the Hints averaged 7.6 yards a carry).

Spread Notes - Chicago is a dead-even but vig-losing 6-6-1 ATS (against the spread) this season but note the Bears have covered nine of their last 14 head-to-head matchups against Minnesota. In case you were wondering, the Vikings are 4-8-1 against the Las Vegas prices this year and overall Minny's failed to cover four of its last five divisional duels dating back to late last season.


Let's start things off with some observations regarding last night's tilt from Foxboro:

The New England Patriots' 31-27 non-cover win against 14-point underdog Green Bay may have "featured" that rollicking 71-yard kickoff return by 313-pound offensive lineman Dan Connolly and folks may still be talking about how the Packers botched the end of the game situation as QB Matt Flynn failed to handle the down-and-distance bit with no time outs left but maybe what was left unsaid following the game was the fact that GB converted 11-of-19 third-down plays, kept the ball for nearly 41 minutes and committed just two penalties for 15 yards and still lost.

Forget the aforementioned two-TD spread here - and forget the fact that Flynn was subbing for an injured Pro Bowl QB as Aaron Rodgers sat things out with a concussion. The bottom line is well-coached teams don't lose games when the stats are so darn lopsided but Packers' head coach Mike McCarthy has made a habit of losing games in which his club dominates matter.

Okay, so it's not his fault that 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year CB Charles Woodson dropped what should have been a first-quarter INT and moments later the Patriots capitalized with a 33-yard scoring run by RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis but Green Bay (now 8-6) has lost close games against Chicago, Washington, Miami, Atlanta and Detroit prior to this prime-time setback and you watch - McCarthy won't get grilled by the media even though he likely will be a big reason the Packers don't go the playoffs for the second time in three years ...

Meanwhile, the Eagles' above-mentioned triumph remained the biggest shocker on the Week 15 card - hey, it's not every day teams allow 28 points in the final seven-plus minutes and you can expect some fallout from the Matt Dodge punt that didn't get out of bounds as it was supposed to as Philly's DeSean Jackson bobbled the ball momentarily (although it seemed like forever) and then raced 65 yards for the winning score with no time on the clock.

But - alas - there was an under-the-radar culprit here in NYG's demise and it's that Giants defense that was getting so much praise earlier in the game from Fox announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.

It's not to say the Giants' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell - who has done a solid job this year (we'd rate it a B+) - is all to blame for the fourth-quarter meltdown that preceded the Jackson punt bring-back but why would containment be such a problem when dealing with Eagles' QB Michael Vick (see 215 offensive yards in the game's final 7:30 including 94 yards rushing) when the Giants handled 'em so well for the game's first three-plus quarters?

Were the defensive linemen tired from chasing Vick all game long ... did Fewell not sub properly during the course of the game or was this simply a case of Vick catching lightning in a bottle late in the game?

Maybe Giants head coach Tom Coughlin wants to keep raving and ranting at Dodge - who won't be a Giants team member by sunrise! - but he should have some questions for Fewell too as that "stop unit" surrendered fourth-quarter touchdown drives covering 75, 57 and 88 yards and all the Jints had to do was stop the Birds just once ...

One quickie item here on two other games:

The New York Jets managed to win in Pittsburgh for the first time ever - NYJ was 0-and-7 lifetime in the Steel City - despite the fact Rex Ryan's club produced only one offensive touchdown: The brilliant seven-yard quarterback bootleg run in the third quarter was one of the best play calls of the year and so oft-maligned offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer deserves to take a bow for that but Schottenheimer and the Jets also deserve a round of applause for what they didn't do and that includes no fumbles, no Sanchez INTs and a steady 7-of-14 conversion rate on third- and fourth-down plays.

If quarterbacks are often called "game managers" (and they seldom care for the term, mind you) than Schottenheimer "managed" this game well despite the one offensive TD score: The Jets threw it 29 times, rushed it 27 times and held onto every pass thrown their way ...

Finally, yes, the Lions did put a halt to that 26-game road losing streak on Sunday as PK Dave Rayner's 34-yard field goal with 9:51 left in OT won it and if the Tampa Bay Bucs ever wonder why they didn't (or won't) make the playoffs this year they can remember the fact they didn't score a touchdown in the game's final 39 minutes. Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman was sacked three times while operating behind a M*A*S*H-like offensive line (and it could have been worse) and the Bucs didn't do diddly in terms of stopping Detroit's ground game as the Lions cranked out 181 yards rushing while averaging 8.5 yards a pop.

Think Bucs' defensive line coach Todd Wash had a sleepless night on Sunday?


On Tuesday, it's ...LOUISVILLE (6-6) vs. SOUTHERN MISS (8-4) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Are we gonna get a competitive game here after the first day of College Bowls produced a per-game margin of victory of some 26 points (see last Saturday's wins by BYU, Northern Illinois and Troy)?

Odds are this one will be tight as the favored Louisville Cardinals bring a sturdy defense into this tilt - one that fired a pair of shutouts this year (against Memphis and UConn) - and the 25 days to prep for this game likely aided first-year Redbirds' boss-man Charlie Strong who "makes his vittles" teaching defense.

The other side of the coin says the Southern Miss Golden Eagles - now playing in their ninth bowl game in as many years - have plenty of offensive pop with junior QB Austin Davis (2,898 yards passing with 18 TDs and 6 INTs this season) a savvy triggerman but the real key is whether or not the Hattiesburg guys can get points each/every time they get in/near the red zone.

Note that Southern Miss PK Danny Hrapmann was a Groza Award finalist who finished regular-season play this year with 26 FGs in 30 tries and note that the Eagles played three different games this year decided by a single point, so a make or a miss here by Hrapmann in the first half could be the "diff" here.

Spread Notes - Louisville split its dozen regular-season pointspread verdicts and that included the Cardinals notching 4-of-5 away spread covers. Meanwhile, Southern Miss is also 6-6 ATS this year while entering this prime-time tilt and the USM Golden Eagles are a collective 16-24 versus the vig as underdog sides since the start of the 2001 campaign.

St. Petersburg Bowl Spread Note - Betting Favorites have won and covered each of the first two St. Pete Bowls with South Florida (- 11 ½) crushing Memphis 41-14 two years ago while Rutgers (- 3) buried Central Florida 45-24 last post-season.


It's a light hoops night on this Monday-before-Christmas but there will be plenty of eyeballs checking out the St. John's Red Storm at Madison Square Garden in the back half of this year's Holiday Festival doubleheader. Steve Lavin's Big East bunch battles Davidson (5-4) and no Stephen Curry - okay, so that's two years now - means there's no major buzz for these Wildcats but St. John's (5-3) is in a something-to-prove mood following a week-long break for final exams.

The Johnnies had everyone in the metropolitan NYC area hyped up when they beat Arizona State in the Great Alaska Shootout Championship Game a couple of weeks ago but since than there's been painful losses to the likes of St. Bonaventure and Fordham - if St. John's crashes-and-burns in this tourney (and note Northwestern plays St. Francis-NY in the opener of this twin-bill beginning at 7 p.m.) than Lavin's rookie season will lose steam even before it ever really got going.

St. John's is 67-38 all-time in these Holiday Festival games and that includes 14 titles but it says here that if St. John's is gonna enjoy any renaissance in 2010-11 than capturing this holiday crown is a must. Freshman F Dwayne Polee II has been an early-season head-turner but now is the time for Polee and the Johnnies to step up and be noticed ... or else fade into hoop oblivion.

NOTE: Catch our Jim Sez Mid-Week Update column in the next edition - we'll have a pair of College Bowl Previews including Wednesday's Las Vegas Bowl (Boise State vs. Utah) and Thursday's Poinsettia Bowl (that's Navy at San Diego State) plus there's more NFL News & Notes and Hoop Updates too.


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