NFL Thursday Night Review, College Football Previews and Recent NFL Road Warriors
NETWORK GETS THE MONEY AGAIN ON THURSDAY NIGHT AS BROWNS (-3.5) DEFEAT BILLS, 37-24!
THE NFL WEEK 5 CARD GETS KICKED OFF WITH “FIRST-PLACE” BROWNS NABBING 37-24 WIN AGAINST THE BILLS BUT IT’S ALL ABOUT HURT QBs …MORE NCAA FOOTBALL PREVIEWS / FORECASTS …
PLUS WE PRESENT THE SHORT LIST OF BEST NFL “ROAD WARRIORS” THESE PAST FEW YEARS
By Jim Hurley
Gotta admit that we were going to get cute here and say that last night’s 37-24 win by the Cleveland Browns over the 4-point underdog Buffalo Bills was “all about the Benjamin” … as in Browns’ punt return star Travis Benjamin, who brought back one punt 79 yards for a score and returned another punt 57 yards that set up a first-half field goal.
But let’s face it:
The real story of the NFL Week 5 opener were the dual injuries to the starting quarterbacks and let’s just say one-time-starter-turned-second-stringer Brandon Weeden sure fared better for the Browns than Bills’ backup Jeff Tuel (see game-sealing pick six toss late).
Maybe – as it turns out – everyone was a bit premature in burying Weeden’s career as he came on for a battered Brian Hoyer and completed 13-of-24 passes for 197 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, and he sure looked like a “cool customer” along the way.
Yes, it was odd hearing all the post-game talk on both ESPN and the NFL Network discuss the “first-place Browns”, but there they sit at 3-2 – the first time since the 2001 season that Cleveland’s sported a winning record five games into a season – and now you're left to wonder if Weeden’s got the job back for good, or was this merely a “finest hour” bit for him?
We’ll all stay tuned.
On the flip side, it hurt even watching the replays of Bills’ quarterback EJ Manuel get whacked on the knee on a key scramble run for a first down. Manuel never did get back on the field after posting mostly pedestrian stats (see 11-of-20 passing for 129 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs, and everyone discovered free-agent Tuel is a not-ready-for-prime-time player with a suspect arm. Hurry back, EJ)!
Hey, hope you don’t have any smart-alecky kids telling you this weekend that “there’s nothing good on TV.”
The fact of the matter is the College Football menu for this first weekend in October is outstanding and – depending on your cable or satellite hookup -- you can probably get as many as 25-to-30 games on the tube.
In yesterday’s Jim Sez column, we presented Previews/Forecasts of three marquee matchups on the Saturday NCAA Football menu including #6 Georgia at Tennessee, #10 LSU at Miss State and #15 Washington at #5 Stanford – but how about us gettin’ you three of the weekend’s “most underrated” college football matchups that you can find on your “telly”.
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Two west coast games are on Friday's schedule, and my contacts have alerted me to a monsterous mismatch in one of them.
BYU plays at rival Utah State and Nevada travels to San Diego State.
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So here goes:
#25 MARYLAND (4-0, 0-0 ACC) at #8 FLORIDA STATE (4-0, 2-0 ACC) – 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
For some reason this tussle in Tallahassee has gotten a little lost in the shuffle despite the fact it’s a matchup of Top 25 teams:
True, the FSU Seminoles remain heavy-duty betting favorites, although it’s worth noting that the price tag’s come down from 17 ½ points to a mere 14 points at press time.
Now, if the born-again Maryland Terrapins wish to make this one ultra-competitive, then QB C.J. Brown must be a proverbial stat-sheet stuffer – already Brown has thrown for seven touchdowns and rushed for six more as Randy Edsall’s gang owns wins/covers against FIU, Old Dominion, UConn and West Virginia, and you gotta believe having a bye last weekend gave the Terps plenty of time to digest the work of Sems’ QB Jameis Winston (12 TD passes and ranking second nationally in pass efficiency).
Looks like Maryland’s a serious “on-the-come” team, and so don’t be surprised if this ACC showdown’s decided in the final few minutes.
TCU (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) at #11 OKLAHOMA (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) – 7 p.m. ET, Fox
Did someone out there order a sandwich?
The Oklahoma Sooners have been hearing plenty of “sandwich” talk this week as Bob Stoops’ crew comes off a 35-21 win/cover at 3 ½-point underdog Notre Dame, and on deck is the annual Red River Rivalry game against arch-nemesis Texas.
Maybe it makes too much sense to think Oklahoma’s gonna throw a flat game into the mix here after starting off this 2013 campaign with three covers in four tries, but ask yourself whether or not -- save for that cat-quick 14-0 start in the win at South Bend -- did Oklahoma really accomplish all that much in the game’s final 57-plus minutes?
On the flip side, TCU has its own bit of momentum coming in here as QB Trevone Boykin led five consecutive second-half scoring drives a week ago in that 48-17 win/cover against 17-point dog SMU. The Horned Frogs poured it on with 31 points in the third quarter, but remember the graphic NBC put up last weekend showing that Oklahoma is very much a “second-half team”.
If Boykin doesn’t flub it in the red zone, this one’s going down to the wire too – so don’t say we didn’t let y’all know!
#3 CLEMSON (4-0, 2-0 ACC) at SYRACUSE (2-2, 0-0 ACC) – 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/espn2
The truth of the matter is everyone out there – even some folks wearing orange-colored clothing – are waiting for that first time when the Clemson Tigers stub their toe.
So far, so good.
Following wins against Georgia, South Carolina State, N.C. State and Wake Forest (and by a per-game average margin of nearly 26 points a game), you won’t find many ladies/gents believing that 13 ½-point fav Clemson is gonna get kayoed from the unbeaten ranks right here.
But if they fail to do the following, then Dabo Swinney’s squad could be gasping for air come the fourth quarter:
Clemson must get a “relaxed” game from star QB Tahj Boyd, who threw three touchdowns and rushed for a fourth score in last weekend’s 56-7 romp over overmatched Wake Forest. Boyd’s been known to get a little anxious in some road settings, and the stuffy Carrier Dome could create issues for ‘em if he’s not careful;
Finally, the Orange – who get no brownie points for these recent back-to-back wins/covers against Wagner and Tulane (by a combined score of 106-to-17) – must get its ground game perked up. The ‘Cuse ranks a mere 70th nationally in rushing (averaging 161.3 ypg), and in order to keep Boyd on the sidelines, Syracuse RB Jerome Smith (team-high 217 yards rushing and 6 TDs) must make those third-down, chain-moving plays … or else Clemson’s heading out of upstate New York with yet another “W”.
My handicappers and bloggers will continue to torch Las Vegas and the off-shore books with loads of NFL and NCAA Football winners this weekend and that includes the Side & Totals winners on tonight’s College Football sked as BYU bangs heads with Utah State and Nevada is at San Diego State plus there’s a boat-load of great games on the Saturday card plus all the NFL Week 5 winners too!
Check with the Jim Hurley Network right here online at www.jimhurley.com or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 after 1 p.m. ET on week days and any time after 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.
Plus get all our MLB Playoff Winners all month long with a reminder that there’s day-time action this afternoon.
NFL NOTEBOOK –RECENT ROAD WARRIORS
Okay, so we’ve gone back to the start of the 2009 season – so that’s the past four-plus years in NFL action – and here’s the best bets as road teams in the NFL (and a reason or two why!):
MIAMI – The Dolphins exited the 38-17 Week 4 loss in New Orleans with a 21-14 ATS (against the spread) mark that’s good for a solid .600 winning rate. The Fish are a resounding 14-9 vig-wise in non-divisional road games and so that tells us that many non-AFC East teams have either underrated Miami’s talent level or simply looked past ‘em. Remember that this year Miami became the only NFL team to win/cover back-to-back season-opening road games with wins/covers in Cleveland and Indianapolis.
NEW ENGLAND – Whatta know! Here’s another AFC East team with a 21-14 ATS mark in road games dating back to the start of 2009 and you should take note the Patriots are an incredible 7-1 versus the vig as road underdog sides … and remember Bill Belichick’s gang is taking a short price this Sunday in Cincinnati. Naturally, Handicapping 101 students could tell you grabbing QB Tom Brady plus points is always a “magic formula”, but there’s deeper roots to New England’s away successes, including the fact the Pats generally play their best ball when challenged (save for Super Bowls against New York Giants teams, that is!).
TAMPA BAY – Believe it or not, the Bucs are 20-14-1 against the Las Vegas prices when playing on the road the past four-plus seasons and remember that includes a 7-0-1 ATS away mark back in 2010. Maybe you can account for some of Tampa Bay’s road covers to a defense that’s held foes to 20 points or less in 15 of these 35 away tilts but T-Bay must come up with some old tricks soon because so far both of this club’s road games have been ugly: An 18-17 season-opening loss at 3 ½-point pup NY Jets and a 23-3 loss at 7-point fav New England.
WASHINGTON – Last but not least, the Redskins are a composite 21-12-1 ATS away dating back to the start of 2009 and that .636 winning rate is best among all 32 NFL teams during this time span. Note that the ‘Skins are 7-3 ATS away in the Robert Griffin III Era, and also please note that Washington’s covered each of its last four games played in Dallas. Hmmm. You might want to check ‘em out come Week 6.
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