Sunday's Divisional Playoff Previews

2-1 On Saturday's Divisional Playoffs. Won with 49'ers over Saints, Broncos/Patriots (Over 50) and lost with Broncos.

THE NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF ROUND

CHECKING OUT THE SUNDAY SHOWDOWNS BETWEEN TEXANS-RAVENS & GIANTS-PACKERS

Let's get right to Sunday's NFL Divisional Playoff Round Games from Baltimore and Green Bay:

AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF GAME -
#3 HOUSTON (11-6) at #2 BALTIMORE (12-4)
- 1 p.m. ET, CBS

You've heard all the chatter ...The Houston Texans are playing this game with "house money" after copping the franchise's first-ever playoff victory last week with the resounding 31-10 win/cover against 4 ½-point underdog Cincinnati - maybe so but sixth-year Texans head coach Gary Kubiak and right-hand man defensive coordinator Wade Phillips believe there's still lots more ammo that's yet to be spent.

If the 7 ½-point underdog Texans are gonna send shock waves through Baltimore here in what could be a wintry mix type game (check the accu-weather readings, folks) than the key is limiting the "touches" for Ravens' RB Ray Rice (1,364 yards rushing with 12 ground scores) as we say that if Rice gets his hands on the ball 25-or-more times than he's bound to break a big run sooner or later - hold 'em to, say, 16 or 17 carries and a reception or two and the Texans are "live" here.

No doubt the spotlight's on Houston rookie quarterback T.J. Yates who completed 11-of-20 passes for 159 yards in last week's AFC Wild Card win but look for the Texans' offensive game plan to keep things simple for Yates and have him throw some quick "out" passes to WRs Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter (a combined 72 receptions this year) as the burden will rest with hard-charging RB Arian Foster who rushed for 1,224 yards in regular-season play and another 153 yards and two TDs last weekend.

Key stat here regarding Baltimore QB Joe Flacco:

He's thrown only 4 TDs and 7 INTs with two lost fumbles in seven previous playoff games and the Ravens never really have asked Flacco to "carry" them to the finish line - or when they did he failed (see last year's 31-24 loss at Pittsburgh in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game).

Spread Notes - Houston enters its first-ever playoff game with a solid 10-5-2 ATS (against the spread) mark on the year and did you know the Texans are 3-2-1 spreadwise as underdogs this season and 5-3 vig-wise away? Meanwhile, Baltimore is 9-7 against the odds overall this 2011 season and the Ravens are a collective 41-32-2 ATS the past four years. Note that the AFC North champs covered 5-of-6 division games this year but went just 4-6 ATS outside the division after having gone 23-11-1 ATS in non-AFC North games the prior three seasons.

NOTE: All home teams below are in CAPS and the "W" or "L" or "T" in the Result category pertain to what the feature team did against the spread:

HOUSTON TEXANS

WK FAV SPREAD DOG TEXANS RESULT
#1 HOUSTON - 8.5 Indianapolis W 34-7
#2 Houston - 3 MIAMI W 23-13
#3 NEW ORLEANS - 3 Houston L 33-40
#4 HOUSTON - 4 Pittsburgh W 17-10
#5 HOUSTON - 4.5 Oakland L 20-25
#6 BALTIMORE - 7 Houston L 14-29
#7 TENNESSEE - 2.5 Houston W 41-7
#8 HOUSTON - 10 Jacksonville T 24-14
#9 HOUSTON - 10.5 Cleveland W 30-12
#10 Houston - 3.5 TAMPA BAY W 37-9
#11 Bye Week
#12 Houston - 6 JACKSONVILLE W 20-13
#13 Atlanta - 1 HOUSTON W 17-10
#14 CINCINNATI - 2.5 Houston W 20-19
#15 HOUSTON - 5 Carolina L 13-28
#16 Houston - 7 INDIANAPOLIS L 16-19
#17 Tennessee - 1 HOUSTON T 22-23
WC HOUSTON - 4.5 Cincinnati W 31-10

WC = Wild Card Round

BALTIMORE RAVENS

WK FAV SPREAD DOG RAVENS RESULT
#1 BALTIMORE - 1.5 Pittsburgh W 35-7
#2 Baltimore - 5.5 TENNESSEE L 13-26
#3 Baltimore - 6 ST. LOUIS W 37-7
#4 BALTIMORE - 5 NY Jets W 34-17
#5 Bye Week
#6 BALTIMORE - 7 Houston W 29-14
#7 Baltimore - 10 JACKSONVILLE L 7-12
#8 BALTIMORE - 11.5 Arizona L 30-27
#9 PITTSBURGH - 3.5 Baltimore W 23-20
#10 Baltimore - 7 SEATTLE L 17-22
#11 BALTIMORE - 6.5 Cincinnati W 31-24
#12 BALTIMORE - 3 San Francisco W 16-6
#13 Baltimore - 6.5 CLEVELAND W 24-10
#14 BALTIMORE - 15.5 Indianapolis L 24-10
#15 Baltimore - 1 SAN DIEGO L 14-34
#16 BALTIMORE - 11 Cleveland L 20-14
#17 Baltimore - 3 CINCINNATI W 24-16

NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF GAME -
#4 NEW YORK GIANTS (10-7) at #1 GREEN BAY (15-1)
-- 4:30 p.m. ET, Fox
Let's get the weather report out on the table here: Expect it to be in mid-to-high 20s with only a 10-to-15 percent chance of snow and - as New York Giants QB Eli Manning quipped to reporters earlier this week, "That's about 40 degrees warmer than the last time (see 2007 NFC Championship Game overtime win by the G-men)."

So, nobody will be using the cold as an excuse here but it is worth mentioning that this marks the first real "away" game for the Giants since that 37-34 win in Dallas way back on December 11th as the NFC East champs played their last four games at MetLife Stadium (home wins against Dallas and Atlanta with the latter being last weekend' solid 24-2 playoff triumph along with a loss to Washington and that wild Christmas Eve "road" win against the New York Jets) - so will that be a factor?

And what about the fact that Green Bay's MVP-to-be QB Aaron Rodgers (4,643 yards passing with 45 TDs and just 6 INTs) hasn't thrown a pass since that Christmas Night win against Chicago - he sat out the team's 45-41 shoot-'em-up finale win against Detroit and, of course, the top-seeded Packers drew a bye last weekend and so you might expect some rust to be built up on his right arm.

When Rodgers does start cranking it up, he must utilize his legs - one of his great underestimated features - to step up in the pocket and throw and step out of the pocket and run for first downs against a Giants defense that more than likely will operate much of the time here with four defensive ends on the field - that's Jason Pierre-Paul (16 ½ sacks), Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Dave Tollefson.

Perhaps the Pack will counter this move with more draws, traps and screens but - let's not kid ourselves - the real threat is Rodgers going vertical with a receiving corps that loves to get big-time yardage after the catch and WR Jordy Nelson (68 catches with an 18.7 yards-per-grab average and 15 TDs) could wreck the Giants should they get consumed with one-on-one coverage down the field.

Now, how about a pair of X-factors here?

The Giants - an eight-point dog for this game (as they were for that 23-20 OT win in Green Bay nearly four years ago to the day) - need to win the "hidden yardage" battle and last week P Steve Weatherford was an extremely important if underrated star of that win against the Falcs as his first three punts pinned Atlanta inside its 15-yard line - more of the same is needed here if the Giants wish to spring the upset;

Lastly, how will the Packers handle the emotion of the week following the death of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin's 21-year-old son? No doubt it's cast a major pall over the Lambeau Field setting this week and now we'll see if perhaps Rodgers is negatively affected by possibly not having Philbin "in his ear" here.

Spread Notes - Green Bay's 11-5 overall against the Las Vegas prices this season and that includes a 7-1 ATS mark at Lambeau Field and a more modest 6-4 spread log when playing non-NFC North foes. Note that the Pack is 5-2 spreadwise in all post-season games under sixth-year head coach Mike McCarthy. The New York Giants are 9-8 ATS overall this season and that includes a current three-game spread winning streak (and five covers in the last six games). The Jints are 5-2 versus the vig in post-season games under eighth-year head coach Tom Coughlin.

NEW YORK GIANTS

WK FAV SPREAD DOG GIANTS RESULT
#1 NY Giants - 1.5 WASHINGTON L 14-28
#2 NY GIANTS - 7 St. Louis W 28-16
#3 PHILADELPHIA - 7.5 NY Giants W 29-16
#4 NY Giants PK ARIZONA W 31-27
#5 NY GIANTS - 9.5 Seattle L 25-36
#6 NY GIANTS - 3.5 Buffalo L 27-24
#7 Bye Week
#8 NY GIANTS - 9.5 Miami L 20-17
#9 NEW ENGLAND - 10 NY Giants W 24-20
#10 SAN FRANCISCO - 4 NY Giants L 20-27
#11 NY GIANTS - 6 Philadelphia L 10-17
#12 NEW ORLEANS - 7 NY Giants L 24-49
#13 Green Bay - 7 NY GIANTS W 35-38
#14 DALLAS - 4.5 NY Giants W 37-34
#15 NY GIANTS - 6 Washington L 10-23
#16 NY JETS - 2.5 NY Giants W 29-14
#17 NY GIANTS - 3 Dallas W 31-14
WC NY GIANTS - 3 Atlanta W 24-2

WC = Wild Card Round

GREEN BAY PACKERS

WK FAV SPREAD DOG PACKERS RESULT
#1 GREEN BAY - 4 New Orleans W 42-34
#2 Green Bay - 10.5 CAROLINA L 30-23
#3 Green Bay - 4.5 CHICAGO W 27-17
#4 GREEN BAY - 12 Denver W 49-23
#5 Green Bay - 6.5 ATLANTA W 25-14
#6 GREEN BAY - 14 St. Louis W 24-3
#7 Green Bay - 10 MINNESOTA L 33-27
#8 Bye Week
#9 Green Bay - 5.5 SAN DIEGO W 45-38
#10 GREEN BAY - 12.5 Minnesota W 45-7
#11 GREEN BAY - 13.5 Tampa Bay L 35-26
#12 Green Bay - 6 DETROIT W 27-15
#13 Green Bay - 7 NY GIANTS L 38-35
#14 GREEN BAY - 12 Oakland W 46-16
#15 Green Bay - 11 KANSAS CITY L 14-19
#16 GREEN BAY - 13.5 Chicago W 35-21
#17 Detroit - 6.5 GREEN BAY W 45-41

COLLEGE BASKETBALL'S WEEKEND NOTEBOOK

Let's zip around the College Basketball universe and get you some holiday weekend quick-hitter items:

Only three teams entered the weekend without a single loss on their records - that's #1 Syracuse (18-0), #4 Baylor (16-0) and #15 Murray State (17-0) - but all of the above will be facing tough road challenges in the not-too-distant future as the 'Cuse plays at Notre Dame next Saturday while the Baylor Bears travel to Kansas for a "Big Monday" bash on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the M-State Racers play at gritty Morehead State this Wednesday night and so please nobody be penciling in any/all of these teams as the next mid-1970s Indiana Hoosiers, okay? ...

On the left coast, keep an eye on the California Golden Bears (14-4, 4-1 in Pac-12 play) who enter Saturday night's home game against woe-be-gone Utah having won eight of their last 10 games including a snazzy come-from-behind 57-50 non-cover win against 13-point underdog Colorado this past Thursday night.

The Bears outscored the Buffs 35-21 after intermission and won despite the fact they shot just 35 percent from the field (20-of-57 made FGs) but it was that stingy defense that held Colorado to 32 percent FG shooting that saved 'em. Harper Kemp registered 14 points and 8 rebounds in that win for the Berkeley boys and his baseline lay-up with 48.7 seconds left was a key down-the-stretch play ...

Another team that's been rather lost in the shuffle this 2011-12 College Basketball Season has been Alabama (13-3, 2-0 SEC) who surely has been forced to play "second fiddle" to the school's national championship football team in recent days.

The 'Bama hoopsters - at Miss State on this second Saturday of the month - followed up what the gridiron guys did two nights after that BCS title tilt with a resounding 69-53 triumph over 11 ½-point pup LSU as Trevor Releford poured in a season-high 20 points and note the Tide won/covered despite the fact it shot just 3-of-12 beyond the three-point arc. 

A long time ago we marked down Alabama head coach (and one-time Virginia Commonwealth boss) Anthony Grant as one of the best in the biz and his defensive stamp has been felt as the Tide is allowing just 55.7 points a game ...

Finally, Sunday may represent one of the best NFL days of the year with Divisional Playoff games between Houston at Baltimore and the New York Giants at Green Bay but don't "sleep" on a healthy college hoops board (see 19 on-the-board games including the Big 10 hoedown between Indiana at Ohio State at high noon ET and that ACC clash between Duke at Clemson).

Make sure you get all the weekend hoops winners with Jim Hurley at the toll-free # of 1-800-323-4453 or right here online. Let's pile up the profits this winter season!

18
Nov

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