Week 16 NFL Notes and Mon-Wed Bowl Previews

Packers Get The Cover But Total Loses as the Game Goes Over 42
NFL WEEK 16 NEWS & NOTES

THE PACKERS SLICE & DICE SHORT-HANDED BEARS ...OUR COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL COVERAGE ROLLS ON WITH FOUR BIG TILTS ON THE FINAL TUESDAY/WEDNESDAY OF THE CALENDAR YEAR

By Jim Hurley:

What, Green Bay Packers WR Jordy Nelson just did another "Lambeau Leap"?

Okay, so it just felt as if Nelson - the still underrated mega-star pass-catcher on the best team in football (see 14-1) -- spent half his night in the front rows partying with the good fans of Green Bay but let the record state that last year's Super Bowl MVP "runner-up" only finished with two touchdown catches in last night's 35-21 win/cover by the Pack over 13-point underdog Chicago. Yes, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers aired five scoring strikes in all and if he isn't the unanimous choice for league MVP when the balloting becomes final than something's really wrong!

Talk about a game that got of hand in a heartbeat as the Packers led only 7-3 in the waning moments of the first half and then promptly scored four touchdowns in four consecutive possessions and faster than you could say Max McGee the Packers had stepped on Chicago's throat and the final score wasn't nearly as close as reality - right Bears fans?

In case you were wondering Green Bay won a grand total of 14 games last year - that was after a brilliant post-season run that included wins against Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago and the Super Bowl win against Pittsburgh - and so they've already matched that season total here in 2011.

One mo' time ... when is head coach Mike McCarthy gonna now get his recognition by the all-too-often know-nothing national media?

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to win big-time this NFL season/post-season plus as there is still winnin' straight ahead in NFL Week 16 tonight with the Atlanta Falcons at the New Orleans Saints and there's all the exciting College Football Bowl Game action from here and right through the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 9th. Plus there is plenty of College Basketball and the NBA too during this holiday season and so do make sure you're part of all the winning hoops and gridiron action right into the New Year! Get the 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!

MONDAY'S FOOTBALL PREVIEWS

ATLANTA (9-5) at NEW ORLEANS (11-3) - 8:40 p.m. ET, ESPN
Let's just say that Falcons' fourth-year head coach Mike Smith no longer needs to be reminded about "The Decision": The unsuccessful overtime gamble way back in Week 10 to go for it on a fourth-and-one play from his team's own 29-yard proved to be a season changer for both NFC South sides - it catapulted the Saints on this current SU (straight-up) six-game and it truly awoke a Falcons team that's won four-of-five games SU ever since but now Atlanta's looking for revenge and - by the way - counting on getting each/every yard it needs to get here!

The Falcons figure to keep the heat on the Saints secondary with QB Matt Ryan (26 TDs and 12 INTs) looking to heat up with WR Roddy White who is fresh off a 10-catch, 135-yard, two-TD game in last Thursday's 41-14 win/cover against 13-point pup Jacksonville.

On the flip side, New Orleans QB Drew Brees - who threw for 412 yards with 5 TDs and 0 INTs in last weekend's 42-20 win/cover against 7-point home dog Minnesota - now is just 305 yards shy of breaking Dan Marino's single-season passing mark of 5,084 yards set back in 1984.

Gee, it seems like that record was gonna last forever but Brees (37 TDs and 11 INTs this year) is banging on the door and here look for him to try out lots of "seam passes" with Pro Bowl-to-be TE Jimmy Graham (87 catches).

Wanna know what will be fun here? If Smith has to make a fourth-down go-for-it call again come the fourth quarter (or OT)!

Spread Notes - New Orleans rides a six-game ATS (against the spread) winning streak into this prime-time clash inside the Superdome and note the Saints are a collective 10-4 versus the vig this year following on the heels of last year's 6-10-1 ATS campaign. On the flip side, Atlanta's just 7-6-1 against the odds overall this season but the Falcons are a solid 10-6 spreadwise inside divisional play dating back to the start of the 2009 campaign.

INDEPENDENCE BOWL - at Shreveport, LA
MISSOURI (7-5) vs. NORTH CAROLINA (7-5) - 5 p.m. ET, espn2
Hey, what would one of this year's college bowl games be without a head coach on the move? Here, it's North Carolina interim boss man Everett Withers who will be exiting stage left following this late-afternoon bowl clash as he makes way for Southern Miss' Larry Fedora while the flip side here is Mizzou's Gary Pinkel is lucky to still have his job after a late-season drunk driving arrest. Pinkel won't have top back Henry Josey (a Big 12-best 1,168 yards rushing and 9 TDs) here as serious left knee injuries shelved him several weeks back but the 5-point favored Tigers will be asking QB James Franklin (20 TD passes and 13 TD rushes) to steer the ship for this soon-to-be SEC crew.

North Carolina, meanwhile, pins much of its offensive hopes on frosh RB Giovani Bernard who rushed for 1,222 yards (a 5.4 ypc average) and 13 TDs this past regular season while sophomore QB Bryn Renner (23 TDs and 12 INTs) has shown better red-zone judgment as the season rolled on.

Spread Notes - Missouri has split its dozen pointspread verdicts so far this season and the Tigers have failed to cover back-to-back-to-back bowl games the past three years (versus Northwestern in the 2008 Alamo Bowl, Navy in the '09 Texas Bowl and Iowa in last year's Insight Bowl). Meanwhile, North Carolina also is 6-6 vig-wise this year and the Tar Heels are 14-9 ATS as underdogs since the start of the 2007 campaign.

THE TUESDAY/WEDNESDAY COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL PREVIEWS

On Tuesday, it's ...
LITTLE CAESARS BOWL
- at Detroit, MI
WESTERN MICHIGAN (7-5) vs. PURDUE (6-6) - 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
There's been lots of magic played out on this field in Motown with those NFL Lions and so let's see if offensive sparks will fly here in this battle of Mid-American vs. Big 10 - and keep in mind underdog Western Michigan averages a haughty 35.6 points a game behind slinger Alex Carder (3,434 yards passing with 28 TDs and 10 INTs) and top-flight WR Jordan White (a nation-best 127 receptions for 1.646 yards and 16 TDs.)

Meanwhile, Purdue head coach Danny Hope likes to flip-flop or alternate his quarterbacks Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve but keep in mind these guys have combined to chuck 11 INTs and only 15 TDs.

Spread Notes - Purdue is just 5-7 ATS (against the spread) this season and the Boilermakers are 5-9 versus the vig as betting favorites while dating back to early in the 2009 campaign. Western Michigan's a tasty 8-3 against the odds overall this season and did you know the Broncos covered all three of their non-conference affairs in 2011?

BELK BOWL - at Charlotte, NC
LOUISVILLE (7-5) at N.C. STATE (7-5) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Maybe Louisville head coach Charlie Strong deserved some more kudos in the Coach of the Year category as his Cardinals did win outright this year as dogs versus the likes of Kentucky, Rutgers, West Virginia, Connecticut and South Florida ... not bad, eh?

Here, the 'Ville will ask frosh QB Teddy Bridgewater (a 66 percent passer with 1,855 yards passing) to steady the ship against a State defense that allowed three foes to exceed 40 points this year (see Cincinnati, Georgia Tech and Maryland) but if the Pack is gonna nab back-to-back bowl wins following last year's 23-7 triumph over West Virginia than it's safe to say QB Mike Glennon (2,790 yards passing with 28 TDs and 11 INTs) has to be razor sharp and State's receivers must do a better job of hanging onto the ball - we saw some major dropsie issues late in the season.

Spread Notes - N.C. State is 5-6-1 ATS overall this season (remember the Wolfpack started out 0-4-1 spreadwise this season) and keep in mind the ACC gang has covered its last five consecutive bowl outings while tracing back to the 2002 season. On the flip side, Louisville is 8-4 ATS this season including a perfect 6-and-oh spread log away.

On Wednesday, it's ...
MILITARY BOWL
- at Washington, D.C.
TOLEDO (8-4) vs. AIR FORCE (7-5) - 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hey, did you realize that the AF Falcons are the one-and-only service academy team still standing here at bowl times (Army and Navy didn't make it to the bowl party this year)? The Colorado Springs-based club won four of its final five regular-season games SU (straight-up) to land a fifth consecutive bowl berth and here keep an eye trained on RB Asher Clark who rushed for 1,096 yards this year while averaging an eye-popping 7.3 yards a carry.

Toledo has its own star power with WR/KR Eric Page ready/willing/able to bust open a game at a moment's notice. Page - who caught 112 passes and scored 10 receiving TDs - has deceptive speed but the Air Force game plan here has to be crowd him at the line of scrimmage or risk having him humiliate your entire secondary.

Spread Notes - Air Force is 5-7 spreadwise overall this season (the second straight season with that spread mark) but the Fly Boys have covered seven of their last 11 games when in the point-grabbing role. Toledo is 7-5 against the Las Vegas price tags this season and note the Rockets are just 3-6 ATS in non-league affairs the past two years.

HOLIDAY BOWL - at San Diego, CA
TEXAS (7-5) vs. CALIFORNIA (7-5) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
All you really need to know about these BCS conference teams is that they didn't get to a bigger/better bowl (and should have) and they each lost late-season games to archrivals as Texas was obliterated by Heisman Trophy-winning QB Robert Griffin III in a 48-24 loss in Waco back on Dec. 3rd while Cal came up shy in a rainy/muddy 31-28 loss-but-cover against Stanford back on Nov. 19th. So, this is one of those pre-January bowl games where the winner feels as if it can "salvage" its season and so expect guns blazing on both sides (note the "totals" price is only 48 points at press time ... hmm).

Texas figures to allow both of its kid QBs to get snaps here but count on Case McCoy (team-high 1,034 yards passing) to see more minutes providing he doesn't turn it over while David Ash will also get some play time but Texas boss-man Mack Brown will have less patience with the latter than he has with the former. Got it?

California's lefty QB Zach Maynard ran hot-and-cold this year and so the game plan for Jeff Tedford's team figures to include lots of inside draws/traps for speedy RB Isi Sofele (1,266 yards rushing this year and a solid 141 yards-per-game average in the team's final four regular-season tilts).

Spread Notes - Texas is a dead-even but vig-losing 6-6 against the prices this year and note the 'Horns are 3-6 ATS in bowl tilts the past 10 years. California, meanwhile, is 7-5 ATS overall this season and the Golden Bears ride a four-game spread winning streak into this clash (and remember that Cal hasn't covered five in a row since way back in the '06 season).

NOTE: More College Football Bowl action in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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