More Wild Cards and The Cotton Bowl Preview

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By Jim Hurley:

Quickie quiz: Who's the only NFL head coach participating in this weekend's Wild Card Round games not to have coached in a playoff game?

If you answered Kansas City's Todd Haley then you win a stuffed animal - yes, we know he was the Arizona Cardinals' offensive coordinator in the team's run to the Super Bowl just two years ago but he's the only head coaching first-timer here while Philadelphia Eagles boss-man Andy Reid will be taking part in his 19th post-season game in all - just thought you might like to know!

There's NFL Wild Card Round Previews in the next two editions of Jim Sez and so make sure you check 'em out but in today's column space we'll devote our attention to key pointspread results regarding the eight teams involved in these opening-round post-season games ... enjoy!


Let's get into some of the NFL Wild Card team-by-team pointspread results for this 2010 season:

In the AFC, it's ...

BALTIMORE - The Ravens registered a steady but unspectacular 8-7-1 ATS (against the spread) mark this year that included three-of-four covers down the stretch. Note that Baltimore banged out a 5-2-1 spread log when playing on the road and that included outright wins at the 1-point favored New York Jets in Week 1 and at 2 ½-point fav Pittsburgh in Week 4 play along with a spread "push" at New England in a Week 6 overtime loss in Foxboro. Overall, the Ravens are 2-1-1 spreadwise this year when in the underdog role and they're a tidy 6-3-1 versus the vig in non-divisional duels - and note that Baltimore's s keen 22-11-1 against the odds when playing folks outside the AFC North the past three years.

INDIANAPOLIS - The Colts secured an 8-7-1 spread mark in the 2010 regular season and that included a split of their eight home games. Overall, Indy's 6-7-1 spreadwise this season when in the favorite's role and did you realize that the Colts are a collective 7-4 against the odds when laying points in post-season tilts and that includes last year's 30-17 come-from-behind AFC Championship Game win against the 8-point underdog New York Jets. It's worth noting that the 2010 Colts produced a 6-3-1 spread mark when playing non-divisional foes and so date back to the team's 2006 Super Bowl-winning season and you'll see that Indianapolis is an electric 36-21-2 ATS when playing outside the AFC South (and that's a .631 winning percentage).

KANSAS CITY - The Chiefs registered a 9-7 spread mark in this 2010 regular season but keep in mind that KayCee started off things with five covers in its first six games. Note that the Chiefs chalked up a winning mark at Arrowhead Stadium this season (that's 5-3 ATS) and they also sported a winning spread mark when in the betting favorite's role with a 4-3 overall spread log. P.S., the Chiefs recorded a rotten 0-6-1 ATS mark as favorites between 2007 and '09. Believe it not, the 2010 Chiefs failed to cover five of their six AFC West games while going 8-2 ATS when heading outside their division and so maybe that qualifies as good news for anyone looking to plunk down a bob or two on Kansas City.

NEW YORK JETS - No question that the 2010 J-E-T-S often played to their level of their competition while going 9-7 against the Las Vegas prices but this is a club that is quite capable of going on a serious spread run as evidenced by a five-game ATS winning streak beginning in Week 2. Note that the Jets are 5-3 vig-wise away this year and "gang green" is a solid 4-2 ATS whenever taking points and that includes outright wins in Miami and in Pittsburgh. Date back to the start of the Rex Ryan Era in 2009 and you'll see the Jets are a solid 14-9 ATS in non-divisional games although NYJ was just 5-5 ATS when playing outside the AFC East this year.
In the NFC, it's ...

GREEN BAY - The 2010 Packers cranked out a 9-7 spread log thus giving this NFC North crew a collective pointspread mark of 41-24-2 since the start of the 2007 season (that's a .631 winning rate). Green Bay comes into Sunday's game at Philadelphia with a dead-even but vig-losing 4-4 spread mark on the NFL road this year while the Packers did cover two of their three games when in the underdog role and so GB's now an electric 15-5 ATS when grabbing points the past four years. Note that Green Bay sported a 7-3 ATS mark in non-NFC North games this year including that 27-20 win at 3-point home underdog Philadelphia back in Week One action ... remember?

NEW ORLEANS - No doubt that the "post-Super Bowl jinx" caught up with this year's Saints who finished regular-season action at 6-9-1 ATS and remember that N'Orleans didn't cash its first bet this year until that 31-6 win at 5 ½-point underdog Tampa Bay in Week 6 action (the Saints started off 0-4-1 ATS this season). Overall, the Saints registered a rotten 4-9-1 ATS mark as favorites this season (keep in mind last year's Super Bowl champion team finished just 9-8 ATS as favs).
Last year's Saints actually lost their final five regular-season games before their post-season bliss while this year's squad alternated spread wins and losses the final five weeks of play.

PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles didn't exactly get anyone rich this year as this NFC East crew sported an 8-8 ATS mark in regular-season play and note that included 4-4 ATS marks both home and away. The Birds registered a 5-6 spread log when in the favorite's role and that was a change for the worst compared to the composite spread mark of 17-10 ATS as chalk sides in 2008-09. Finally, the Eagles were 4-6 versus the vig in non-divisional affairs and note the team sported a 20-12 spread mark in such games from 2007-thru-'09.

SEATTLE - The Seahawks matched their SU (straightup) mark this year with the same mark spreadwise and it's not exactly as if Pete Carroll's club closed in a rush as this NFC West champ failed to cover three of its last four, five of its last seven and 7 of its last 10 games. The '10 Seahawks registered a 5-3 spread mark at home and they went 5-8 ATS whenever in the role of underdog. Note the only time the 'Hawks were twin-figure dogs all year was in the 34-19 loss at 11-point fav New Orleans back in Week 11 play.


Here's the playoff pointspread results the past 10 years for the teams playing in this weekend's NFL Wild Card Round Games. Note that Baltimore (2000), Indianapolis (2006) and New Orleans (2009) all have Super Bowl titles tucked away since the start of the millenium:

Baltimore 8 5 0 .615
Philadelphia 11 7 0 .611
New York Jets 5 4 0 .556
Seattle 5 4 0 .556
Indianapolis 9 8 0 .529
New Orleans 3 4 0 .429
Green Bay 3 6 0 .333
Kansas City 0 2 0 .000


COTTON BOWL - at Arlington, TX
LSU (10-2) vs. TEXAS A&M (9-3) -- 8:00 p.m. ET, Fox

The 75th anniversary of this special bowl game isn't played in Dallas anymore and does not feature any league champions but this battle between #11 LSU and #18 Texas A&M figures to be one of the most competitive bowls in a season filled with blowouts (see 17 bowl games out of 30 decided by double-digit margins).

The SEC Tigers are the slightest of favorites at press time despite the fact it's A&M that surges into this clash having won/covered its final six regular-season games behind sparkplug QB Ryan Tannehill (1,409 yards passing with 11 TDs and 3 INTs) who took over the starter's role for an inconsistent Jerrod Johnson (14 TDs but 9 INTs) after the team's 3-3- SU start. If Tannehill can stay away from LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson - this year's Jim Thopre Award winner as the nation's top D-back - than the Aggies could snap their four-game bowl losing skid.

On the flip side, LSU - 21-19-1 all-time in bowl games - has won four of its five bowls under head coach Les Miles and the Bengals believe WR Russell Shepard (33 catches and a legit threat on reverses) can be a big-time play-maker here against an Aggies defense starring LB Von Miller (9 ½ sacks) who wound up this year's Butkus Award winner.

Note that LSU is expected to allow both Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee to see time at quarterback here but note the Tigers rank a lowly 107th (out of 120 FBS teams) in passing yards per game at just 155.4 aerial yards an outing.

Spread Notes - LSU finished off regular-season play at 5-7 versus the vig and so the Bayou Bengals are a wobbly 18-29-4 ATS dating back to the start of the 2007 season. However, LSU's covered seven of its last 10 bowl games including four consecutive bowl covers between 21005-thru-'08. On the flip side, Texas A&M rampaged its way to six straight covers at the end of this 2010 season as the Aggies enter this clash at 8-4 against the odds but note that this Big 12 team has failed to cover five of its last six bowl games dating back to 2000.

NOTE: Catch our NFL Wild Card Previews in the next two editions of Jim Sez plus stay tuned for more College Bowl coverage including Monday's BCS National Championship Game clash between Oregon versus Auburn.

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