World Series Wrap - NFL Big Game Previews




Wonder how many folks in the Bay Area are gonna name their kids “Madison” the next few months!

Safe to say that San Francisco Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner - 5-1 this post-season including 3-and-oh in the 2014 World Series - made himself a name this whole month of October and his dazzling five-inning, shutout showing in relief last night sparked the Giants to an ultra-snug 3-2 win over the Kansas City Royals and thus gave the Giants their third World Series crown in the past five years.

Okay, so we blew by claiming in yesterday’s Jim Sez that you shouldn’t expect more than a single inning from Bumgarner - instead he threw 68 pitches (50 of ‘em for strikes) just three nights after tossing 117 pitches in a Game 5 complete-game shutout win.

And that’s why Bumgarner was the no-brainer MVP of this Fall Classic and why SF manager Bruce Bochy is a slam-dunk Hall of Fame manager - but then you knew that already - but what’s worth mentioning is that the Giants never did get to this vaunted KayCee bullpen all series long and still won the championship ... incredible.

One last Major-League Baseball note: Don’t count the Giants out next season even if it’s an odd-numbered year ‘cause gut feel is they’ll re-sign free agent 3B Pablo Sandoval (3-for-3 with two runs scored in Game 7) and they should have a healthy RHP Matt Cain back in the rotation. Part hard, San Fran!

Lots of top-flight showdowns on this Sunday’s card but nothing beats the “Game of the Year”, it’s ...

DENVER (6-1) at NEW ENGLAND (6-2) - 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
Tell us if you’ve heard this one before...Manning vs. Brady.

Okay, so the records state that this is actually the 16th all-time head-to-head meeting between QBs Peyton Manning and Tom Brady including three times in the AFC Championship Game where Manning’s teams have won two-of-three against Brady’s Pats - note Manning is 1-1 in title tilts against Brady when playing for Indianapolis and last year Denver beat NE in the AFC Championship Game (see chart below).

But let us be among the first people to suggest this isn’t only about a Manning v. Brady duel - in fact, assuming these two mega-stars “push” in terms of the all-important stats we’ll go out on a proverbial limb and say the 3-point road-favored Broncos win providing their top-ranked rush defense (allowing just 72.4 yards per game) plays to their ability.

So, that might just mean Brady will have to chuck it 50-plus times here - and he’s quite capable of ringing up his own special numbers (see 2,059 passing yards and 18 TDs so far) even if they so far have been bettered by the Manning stats that include 2,134 passing yards and 22 TDs.
Last week Brady hooked up with TE Rob Gonkowski for three scoring strikes and you might say he’s the non-QB key here:

If “Gronk” lets loose (see 40 catches and 7 TDs this year after a slowish start) here, than the Broncos will be in hot water and so let’s pay particualry close attention to the red-zone numbers as that’s where Brady-to-Gronkowski hookups could mean the difference between 7’s and 3’s ... and winning/defeat.

Two major keys for the Manning-led Broncos’ offense in this “Game of the Year”:

Denver must hang onto the football at all times - right now the weather report says chilly in the low 40s with sprinkles and so RB Ronnie Hillman (averaging 4.7 ypc) must not gag it up and WRs Demaryius Thomas (47 receptions and 6 TDs this year) and Wes Welker can’t be fumble-prone in “plus” territory.

Remember Welker’s punt return botch last year cost Denver the game in overtime in a key regular-season affair.

Here’s the head-to-head Manning vs. Brady matchups since the start of 2012 (note Home Teams are in CAPS below):

2012NEW ENGLAND- 6Denver31-21
2013NEW ENGLANDPKDenver (ot)34-31
*2013DENVER- 5New England26-16

* = AFC Championship Game

Spread Notes - Denver rides a four-game ATS (against the spread) winning streak into this bash but note the Broncos did start off the year with three consecutive spread losses. Overall, the AFC West team is a collective 26-16-1 ATS in the Manning Era that started in 2012. On the flip side, New England’s split its first eight pointspread verdicts this season and the Patriots have covered 11 of their last 16 home games while dating back to late 2012.

PHILADELPHIA (5-2) at HOUSTON (4-4) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
There were plenty of critics that believed Philly’s 5-1 SU (straight-up) record while heading into last week’s game at Arizona was “phony” and maybe they have more ammo after QB Nick Foles was unable to air what would have been the game-winning touchdown pass from Arizona’s 16-yard line on the final play. Whatever.

The Eagles now trek back on the road for an interconference clash and Foles (411 yards passing with two TDs and two INTs in that 24-20 loss in Glendale) must make quicker decisions here while facing DE J.J. Watt who’s already had three games this year with a sack and a fumble recovery in the same game.

Houston had a snazzy run/pass balance last week of 212 yards rushing and 193 yards rushing in that 30-16 win/cover versus 3 ½-point home pup Tennessee - more the same needed here with RB Arian Foster (20 carries for 151 yards rushing and three TDs in all versus the Titans) apparently all the way back from his earlier-season injuries.

Spread Notes - Philadelphia is 4-3 ATS so far this season and a dead-even but vig-losing 12-12 spreadwise in the Chip Kelly Era. Meanwhile, Houston’s is 5-3 against the odds the first half of this 2014 campaign and note the Texans have covered four of their six non-divisional games after going 3-7 ATS outside the AFC South last year.

Note -- Lots more NFL Week 9 game previews in the next couple of Jim Sez columns!

My handicappers and bloggers have everything all scoped out and you can get the NFL Week 9 Side & Totals winners beginning with tonight’s game between the New Orleans Saints at the Carolina Panthers when you check with us here at the blazing-hot Jim Hurley’s Network and then keep rollin’ in the green all week/weekend long with all the NCAA Football, the NFL and the NBA too! There’s College Football this evening too with a pair of games on the docket including #2 Florida State at Louisville (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) and on Friday night there’s another two College Football games including Cincinnati at Tulane (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). On Saturday/Sunday there are full slates of key gridiron games and so make sure you check in with us on game days either here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - put a capper on this month of October and start November off with a major bang!

Okay, so the first-ever College Football Playoff (CFP) playoff rankings are out ... and we’re taking a little time to monitor the top four teams:

1. MISS STATE (7-0) - A night game against 10.5-point underdog Arkansas might at first appear as a “walk-in-the-park” win for the mighty Bulldogs but remember that QB Dak Prescott exited the 45-31 non-cover win at Kentucky last week with a walking boot on and the M-State defense did surrender 504 offensive yards, so don’t make this an automatic “W” just yet. For you pointspread lovers, note Miss State’s 5-2 versus the vig this year and the Dawgs have covered eight of their last dozen SEC games.

2. FLORIDA STATE (7-0) - The Seminoles are spending the better part of this short week answering more scandalous questions - this time about RB Karlos Williams - and so we’ll see if the focus is sharp for tonight’s game at #25 Louisville.

No doubt Florida State’s risen to the moment in close-call wins against Oklahoma State, Clemson (in OT) and Notre Dame but can dodging bullets every other week be bad for FSU’s health? Quarterback Jameis Winston has completed 70.6 percent of his passes this year and yet the ‘Noles are a money-roasting 1-6 against the odds ... hmmm..

3. AUBURN (6-1) - The weekend’s marquee matchup takes place in Oxford where these third-ranked Tigers battle fourth-ranked Ole Miss and who knew but Auburn has scored 40-plus points in five of its seven games this season while Ole Miss has held all eight of its foes to 20 points or less.

Quickie footnote on Auburn: They covered all six of its games last year when in the underdog role and this is the first time in 2014 the oddsmakers have ‘em gobbling up points.

4. OLE MISS (7-1) - Say this for the Rebels: They don’t rank in the top 15 in any of the key run/pass or run defense/pass defense categories and yet they’ve knocked off five teams by margins of 21 points or more. It could be that QB Bo Wallace - whose first pass picked off in SEC play this year came on the final play at LSU last week - will have to chuck it 50-or-so times here. Note that in last year’s 30-22 loss at 2-point home underdog Auburn, Wallace completed 25-of-48 passing attempts for 336 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs.

NOTE: There’s plenty more NCAA Football and NFL Week 9 Previews/Forecasts straight ahead in the next couple of editions of Jim Sez ... we’ll get you the Sunday Night game between the Baltimore Ravens at the Pittsburgh Steelers and plenty more so don’t dare miss out!


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