The NFL Week 16: Who Is Gonna Have Themselves A Very Merry Christmas?

Network Sweeps Thursday Football with Boise's Blowout and Colts' Comeback!

Boise State (-14) crushes Arizona State 56-24 & Colts (+6.5) beat Texans outright 19-16!



By Jim Hurley:

The stocking's full of important NFL Week 16 showdowns and so we'll get to 'em all in a moment with a reminder that we'll preview Sunday Night's Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers later in this article. Now, here are the Saturday key tilts in the league where they play for pay:

On Saturday, it's ...

OAKLAND (7-7) at KANSAS CITY (6-8) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Just had to feel really great for KayCee Chiefs interim head coach Romeo Crennel for last week's stunning 19-14 win against previously-unbeaten Green Bay ... the long-time defensive coordinator and one-time Cleveland Browns head coach has been a brilliant strategist for years in the league (going way back to his New York Giants days) and yet he rarely ever received the nation-wide rave reviews. Now, the $64,000 question is can Crennel get another "A+" performance from his team here as it looks to hang in the wild/wacky AFC West race? Maybe if DE Tamba Hali (three sacks last Sunday) wrecks the day for Raiders QB Carson Palmer than the Chiefs could enter Week 17's game in Denver with a post-season shot.

DENVER (8-6) at BUFFALO (5-9) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
It's safe to say that "Tebow-mania" took a little dip with last Sunday's 41-23 Broncos home loss against mighty New England (although the TV ratings for CBS were out-of-sight for a Sunday afternoon game!) and it'll be interesting to see how the swirling winds in western New York now effect QB Tim Tebow's throws here - might the former Heisman Trophy winner be running the ball another 20-plus times? It's great that Broncos' boss John Elway just proclaimed that "Tebow isn't going anywhere" but, than again, what did you expect him to say at this late stage of the 2011 campaign? Meanwhile, memo to Buffalo's sagging defense - how about showing up for a day's worth of work (see a 32 points-per-game average yield during this seven-game losing skid)?

JACKSONVILLE (4-10) at TENNESSEE (7-7) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Don't think that you're the only one who's believed the 2011 Tennessee Titans have been merely playoff imposters ... there are plenty of folks who have not "bought in" to Mike Munchak's squad and gotta wonder if it's time to let rookie QB Jake Locker man the controls after recent showings by sagging vet Matt Hasselbeck - his pick at the goal line in last week's two-TD loss in Indianapolis was amateurish stuff, so say the least! Locker - who sported a nifty 108.3 QB rating last weekend while completing 11-of-16 passes with one TD and no picks -- would bring some mental and physical toughness to the position and the Titans need that considering RB Chris Johnson has been out-to-lunch for much of this year (see just 930 yards rushing and only 4 TDs so far this year).

ARIZONA (7-7) at CINCINNATI (8-6) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
No doubt about it: The 'Zona Cardinals are one of four NFL teams surging late in hopes of gobbling up a playoff berth (see also Philadelphia, San Diego and Seattle) and if the Redbirds - winners of four in a row and six of the last seven SU (straight-up) - wish to stay on track here than ace rookie return specialist Patrick Peterson likely will have to made a couple of big plays on special teams and QB John Skelton must not take "bad" sacks here. Hey, the Bengals have held three of their last four foes to 20 points or less but keep in mind Cincy's a very dreary 0-5-1 ATS (against the spread) the past six weeks.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will win big-time in NFL Week 16 action and - of course -- don't forget all the College Football Bowl Games right through the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 9th. Plus there is plenty of College Basketball action and the NBA gets things tipped off on Christmas Day with Five (5) big games including an NBA Finals rematch between the champion Dallas Mavericks and the runner-up Miami Heat. So make sure you're part of all the winning pro hoops action right into the New Year! And make sure you get all the Football and Basketball winners at our toll-free # of 1-800-323-4453 or else get it online right here as America's #1 Handicapper keeps up the winning beat!

MIAMI (5-9) at NEW ENGLAND (11-3) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Just like that the Patriots are the top seed (for now) in the AFC Playoffs race and who would believe the fact that this much-maligned New England has surrendered more than 27 points just once this whole year (see 34-31 loss in Buffalo way back in Week 3 play)? Heck, if you didn't know any better than you might think the Pats allow 30-plus points a game on a weekly basis but that's simply not the case and here Bill Belichick's stop unit must wrap up red-hot RB Reggie Bush (973 yards rushing and a 5.0 yards-per-carry average this year) who - believe it or not - might be one of the NFL's top 10 backs at this very moment. Remember that New England could be home for a month straight right now 'cause the Week 17 game is in Foxboro versus the aforementioned Bills and than the Pats could have a playoff first-round bye and than two home games. Hmmm.

CLEVELAND (4-10) at BALTIMORE (10-4) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
All this talk about just who are the "real Ravens" gets us to thinking one thing: Maybe fourth-year head coach John Harbaugh hasn't done such a great job this season after all when you stop to consider those sloppy losses in Tennessee, Jacksonville, Seattle and San Diego. Okay, so Baltimore's home here where the AFC North crew is 7-0 SU and 5-2 ATS but when is QB Joe Flacco gonna step into his passes with conviction and how come WR Anquan Boldin has been the invisible man in so many of his team's games this year? Remember the Ravens (- 6 ½) beat the Browns 24-10 in Cleveland back on Dec. 4th when Ravens RB Ray Rice rushed for 204 yards (and a sizzling 7.0 ypc average).

NEW YORK GIANTS (7-7) at NEW YORK JETS (8-6) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Memo to Jets head coach Rex Ryan ... shut up already! The non-stop motor-mouth has been trash-talking since Monday morning - gee, how come he didn't have very many things to say about his team's 45-19 no-show loss in Philadelphia last weekend? - but the only way his J-E-T-S have the proverbial "last laugh" here is if his offensive line can offer better pass protection to a battered QB Mark Sanchez who last week hit the canvas more often than Rocky! On the flip side, the Giants' secondary has become a real laughingstock this season and so maybe with time Sanchez can hook up with 20-plus yard pass plays to WRs Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress - game plan for the G-men should be to get RB Ahmad Bradshaw loose in space and hope the slowish NYJ LBs/DBs can't wrap 'em up. Gee, wonder what "Fireman Ed" is getting for Christmas this year?

ST. LOUIS (2-12) at PITTSBURGH (10-4) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Now that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has spent the better part of this week answering critics who said injured QB Ben Roethlisberger (high ankle sprain) should have been sitting the final seven-plus minutes of that 20-3 lights-out loss in San Francisco in MNF, the AFC North crew gets to take a deep breath and play a Rams team that is a dreadful 2-11-1 ATS this year. Expect the Pittsburgh game plan to be jump on St. Loo early - and somebody better block DE Chris Long (13 sacks) and here's hoping that assignment does not go alone to LT Max Starks who was awful against Niners' rookie DE Aldon Smith.

SAN DIEGO (7-7) at DETROIT (9-5) - 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS
The numbers don't lie and they say the SD Chargers have outscored their last three opponents 109-to-38 and think it has anything to do with the fact QB Philip Rivers has lots of time to dissect things downfield? The O-line that's still missing two starters has jelled nicely in recent weeks plus Rivers has been less prone to throw up-for-grabs passes but, ironically enough, the way the Lions may win here will be if WR Calvin Johnson (9 receptions for 214 yards and two TDs last week in the thrilling 28-27 come-from-behind win at Oakland) catches all those up-for-grabs balls tossed in his general direction. One X-factor for this ultra-important tilt at Ford Field: Can Detroit's defense here jar the ball loose from fumble-prone Chargers RB Ryan Mathews? Stay tuned.

SAN FRANCISCO (11-3) at SEATTLE (7-7) - 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
Let's see: It's a short week plus travel plus fresh off a monstrous MNF win against Pittsburgh - is that all part of the recipe for failure here for the San Fran 49ers? No doubt Jim Harbaugh's gang wants to keep the N'Orleans Saints in the rear-view mirror when it comes to that all-important #2 playoff seed in the NFC but to bang out a road win here the Niners are gonna have to hit some red-zone plays. Believe it or not, San Francisco's now not scored a touchdown in 17 of its last 22 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Note the following when it comes to these scorching-hot Seahawks who've won five of their last six games SU: Pete Carroll's crew is 10-2 versus the vig ever since opening the year with back-to-back spread setbacks.

PHILADELPHIA (6-8) at DALLAS (8-6) - 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
Here's what we've noticed about the Philly Eagles while winning easy the past two weeks against Miami and the NY Jets: They're having fun again and playing with mucho confidence. Okay, so maybe it will turn out to be too-little, too-late for Andy Reid's club but the fact of the matter is the QB Michael Vick-to-TE Brent Celek tandem is burning up enemy defenses (see five catches for 156 yards and a score for Celek last week against the Jets) and sack master DE Jason Babin is disrupting everything but morning train schedules! If Babin (an NFL-high 18 sacks) isn't blocked (from wherever he lines up) here, than Cowboys slinger Tony Romo won't have the time to wait for WRs Miles Austin and Laurent Robinson to get deep - you heard it here first! Hey, maybe it would only be appropriate in this mediocre NFC East if the Eagles, Cowboys and NY Giants all finished up the year at 8-8 ... right?


Hey, it really is too bad that Chicago Bears injured QB Jay Cutler won't be playing here in this Christmas Nite game from Lambeau Field - after all, Cutler hails from Santa Claus, Indiana and so that would have been a perfect backdrop to this NFC North affair between the Bears and the now 13-and-1 Green Bay Packers ... right?

As it is, the once-upon-a-time 7-3 Bears are now just a .500 team and fighting an uphill battle for their playoff lives here on the second-to-last weekend of this 2011 NFL regular season while the Packers have bigger fish to fry. Yes, Green Bay's not won back-to-back Super Bowl championships since the 1966-67 seasons which happened to be Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II (of course) but this year's club is the odds-on favorite to win it all again.

Heck, we just checked with the good folks in Las Vegas and the current price to "win it all" for Green Bay is listed at -125-to-$100 meaning you actually risk $125 to win $100 - crazy but true. Now the Packers look to wrap up the NFC's #1 playoff seed in a Christmas Nite prime-time affair and so let's get to the game preview and the pertinent spread notes ...

CHICAGO (7-7) at GREEN BAY (13-1) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
Now that we all know the GB Packers "work holidays" - they played Thanksgiving Day in Detroit, here on Christmas Night against Chicago and they'll be part of the New Year's Day sked next Sunday with a home game against the archrival Lions - the key question will be just how hard does sixth-year head coach Mike McCarthy push his troops here now that a perfect season is gonzo and there's lots of walking-wounded on the Green Bay side.

On the flip side, Chicago will start ultra-journeyman Josh McCown at quarterback - nope, that Caleb Hanie experiment didn't work too well! - and so look for Packers DC Dom Capers to "send the house" in passing situations and so don't be surprised when/if Green Bay defensive backs Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams (among others) scoot off with a pick six or two.

The Bears need to win their final two games and get some outside help in games involving Detroit and/or Atlanta - the odds are stacked against Lovie Smith's squad, for sure - while the Pack could nail down the #1 conference seed with a "W" here and QB Aaron Rodgers (297 yards passing and three aerial TDs in 27-17 win/cover at 4 ½-point dog Chicago back in Week 3 play) won't have his full complement of targets with WR Greg Jennings (67 catches and 9 TDs) out here with a knee injury.

Spread Notes - Green Bay is 9-5 ATS (against the spread) overall this season and note the Packers are a composite 20-8 versus the vig dating to the middle of the 2010 campaign. Since 2001, the Packers are 14-7-1 against the odds in head-to-head showdowns against the Bears. Meanwhile, Chicago's 0-3-1 ATS overall since late November but "Da Bears" are a decent 8-5 vig-wise in divisional duels dating back to late in the 2009 season.


Hope when New York Jets WR Santonio Holmes wakes up Christmas morning that Santa Claus will have brought him a brain (and some humility too) ...

Maybe the fat guy with the white beard wearing the red suit will also be kind enough to bring Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz a book on anger management - he could read it to himself and than read it aloud to his undisciplined NFC North crew ...

Maybe the Cleveland Browns will gets lots of Christmas gifts like an offense that doesn't break down every five minutes (see 14 points or less scored in eight Browns games this year) ...

Here's hoping that Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett gets an egg timer for Christmas - that might help remind him when to call a time out ...

For Indianapolis Colts fans, here's a crying towel for you all! After nine consecutive playoff appearances and a Super Bowl win back in 2006, the Colts fans came across like major whiners during this Peyton Manning-less season. Sorry to be Grinch-like here but we're half hoping the Colts don't draft Stanford QB Andrew Luck next spring ...

On that theme, a Christmas wish that the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins each find an I.O.U. from Santa Claus that promises a franchise quarterback for 'em beginning in 2012. Perhaps now that USC's Matt Barkley has announced his return to the Men of Troy - and good for him - maybe the Fish can get their hands on Heisman Trophy-winning QB Robert Griffin III and the 'Skins can nab Wisconsin's Russell Wilson ...

Let's hope Oakland Raiders QB Carson Palmer gets some new contact lenses so he can make out who are his teammates and who are the opponents - some of his picks this year have been that dreadful ...

Finally, a major lump of coal in the stocking of the Tampa Bay Bucs and the Buffalo Bills - each of you showed major quit along the way after promising starts and shame on the players/coaches on both teams here. Naughty, naughty!

NOTE: Catch our NBA Opening-Day Report in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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