THE NFL WEEK 12 REPORT

IS THIS FINALLY “THE YEAR” FOR TONY ROMO AND THE COWBOYS?

PLUS WHAT WAS REALLY IMPORTANT ABOUT THOSE ROAD WINS BY THE BROWNS AND THE BENGALS AND QUICK-HITTER MNF PREVIEWS TOO

THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RANKINGS PLUS POINTSPREAD PALOOKAS

Let’s turn back the calendar pages to August, 2014: All the experts are weighing in when it comes to picking their potential Super Bowl 49 matchups - and not a damn soul is picking the Dallas Cowboys to make it to the “ultimate game”

And why should they?

The Cowboys are coming off back-to-back-to-back 8-8 SU (straight-up) seasons and they haven’t won a playoff game since 2009 and - better yet - the odds came in with Dallas at over/under 7.5 wins and 60-to-1 to win it all.

Fast forward to this Monday before Thanksgiving and the Cowboys are 8-3, tied with Philadelphia for first place in the two-tiered NFC East and even entertaining thoughts of grabbing hold of the conference’s #1 playoff seed.

So, think it’s gonna be a fun week in “Big D” this week as the ‘Boys close in on their Thanksgiving Day game against the hated Eagles?

But now for the “big picture” ... following that come-from-behind 31-28 non-cover win by Dallas over the 4.5-point home underdog New York Giants on Sunday Night Football (another Jim Hurley Closed Circuit Club winner on the Giants' cover) we’re wondering aloud whether or not this might actually be “The Year” for America’s Team?

Consider that veteran QB Tony Romo (275 yards passing and four TD strikes) - sore back and all - zipped in a 13-yard touchdown pass to WR Dez Bryant with 1:01 left in that Week 12 game to mark the second time this year the Cowboys overcame an 11-point deficit to beat the Giants and we’ll duly note that Dallas also has won three other games by a touchdown-or-less this year and you’re starting to think all that bad karma that surrounded this franchise has taken a dramatic change in their favor.

Okay, so everyone knows that the Dallas offensive line has been a mega-strength for this club in 2014 - the time this unit gave Romo on a couple of the late-game passes Sunday night was a joke! - but what about a defense that may not remind you of the 1985 Chicago Bears but has only allowed one team to exceed the 30-point mark this year (see Dallas 34, St. Louis 31 back in Week 3).

Okay, so no time for the ‘Boys to celebrate what with the short week and all but let’s take a second to remind you that there are upcoming road games at Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington (all winnable) along with the Turkey Day home game versus Philly and a Week 16 home tilt against Indianapolis.

If the Cowboys could finish at 12-4 - we’re marking ‘em down for a “L” in Philadelphia but wins the rest of the way -- than Dallas could well be in line for a #2 seed or maybe even a #1 seed should the QB Carson Palmer-less Arizona Cardinals stagger down the stretch.

We’ll dig into a few more NFL Week 12 key storylines in just a second plus get you’re the MNF preview/forecast of the games between the New York Jets at the Buffalo Bills and the Baltimore Ravens at the New Orleans Saints but first this key reminder: My handicappers and bloggers have everything all mapped out for tonight’s NFL Week 12 tilt and you can get the best of both games when you check with us here at Jim Hurley’s Network at the toll-free # of 1-800-323-4453 or right here online.

And remember to get all the Thanksgiving Day week/weekend games - including the trio of NFL Week 13 tilts on Turkey Day featuring Chicago at Detroit, Philadelphia at Dallas and Seattle at San Francisco - plus all the NCAA Football, NBA and NCAA Basketball winners too as we roar through the holidays with more major hot streaks to come!

MORE NFL WEEK 12 NOTES

So, nobody’s giving any ground these days in the AFC North where Pittsburgh drew a Week 12 bye while Baltimore’s got a big one in N’Orleans on Monday Night but the day-time talk ‘round the league on Sunday should have been centering on monster road wins by the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Okay, so the Browns practically hand-delivered the game away as QB Brian Hoyer aired three interceptions including that egregious first-down INT to the end zone with the Brownies holding a 23-21 fourth-quarter lead but give Mike Pettine’s crew credit for sticking it there and getting mission accomplished in that 26-24 win at 2.5-point fav Atlanta.

Hoyer had a “new toy” back in WR Josh Gordon who snagged eight passes for 120 yards - and that included a critical 24-yard completion on Cleveland’s eventual game-winning FG drive and what really is neat about these Browns (7-4) is that they’ve now rebounded from all of their losses with bounce-back wins and we almost had to utter the name Johnny Manziel had Hoyer thrown one more pick here.

Gotta say it now after this latest “W” - the Browns are “for real” and a gut-check road win like this could go a long way ...

Meanwhile, hats off to Cincinnati (7-3-1) who disproved our long-held Jim Sez theory that NFL teams - unless they’re real super-powers - simply don’t win/cover back-to-back road games in this man’s NFL but the Bengals followed up last Sunday’s 27-10 triumph in New Orleans with a spiffy 22-13 win at 2.5-point fav Houston ... okay, so we all found out later that Texans’ QB Ryan Mallett was playing through a pectoral injury he apparently suffered in warm-ups (don’t count on him for this week’s game against Tennessee, BTW!).

Cincinnati managed to overcome another QB Andy Dalton “pick six” to win deep in the heart o’Texas behind WR A.J. Green’s 12-catch, 121-yard game and let’s not forget that the Bengals converted 11-of-20 third-down plays and won clock 39:10-to-20:50.

We keep wondering whether that Week 5 tie at home against Carolina is gonna help or hurt Marvin Lewis’ squad at the proverbial finish line but, hey, maybe the Bengals won’t have to worry about that if they keep winning on the road - and the sked-makers have ‘em at Tampa Bay this Sunday making it a three-game road trip.

Isn’t that supposed to be another Handicapping 101 myth that teams “never” cover on the third leg of a three-game trip ... better think twice about that!

The Bengals are that “can’t-get-over-the-hump” team that never plays well in prime-time and never wins in the post-season but we could see this latest victory on top of the triumph in New Orleans pumping up the Cincy confidence meter.

On Monday Night Football, there’s two for the price of one thanks to that snow storm in/around Buffalo, so here’s what we got:

NEW YORK JETS (2-8) vs. BUFFALO (5-5) - at Detroit, 7 p.m. ET
The Bills snowmobiled their way out of Buffalo late last week - but now can they steer their way to a clean sweep over the J-E-T-S? If Buffalo wins/covers the 2 ½-point price at Ford Field than following the formula of that 43-23 win back in New Jersey in Week 8 is advisable.

The Jets committed six turnovers in that tilt - three first-quarter INTs by then-starting QB Geno Smith was the real death knell for Rex Ryan’s club back then - but now here it’s Michael Vick running the show for NYJ and expect him seek some long-ball chucks such as the 67-yard scoring strike he threw to no-name WR T.J. Graham in the Week 11 upset over Pittsburgh.

The flip side: The Bills - who rank a lowly 25th in the league in rushing - need RB Fred Jackson to shake a leg after he sat out last week’s 22-9 loss in Miami with groin woes.

BALTIMORE (6-4) at NEW ORLEANS (4-6) - 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Say that one again? The Saints are in first place in the NFC South with a .400 winning percentage and the Ravens are in last place in the AFC North with a .600 winning rate?

All joking aside, N’Orleans hasn’t lost three in a row at home since the Katrina-ravaged 2005 season and - of course - none of those “home games” occurred inside the Louisiana Superdome and so there’s some down-home panic setting in here prior to this game what with QB Drew Brees having thrown 10 INTs and injuries starting to wreak havoc with the starting lineup as rookie WR Brandin Cooks (thumb) and S Rafael Bush (broken leg) are both out here while Baltimore has its own problems despite the two-games-over-.500 mark as the Ravens’ pass defense ranks 21st in the league (not all garbage time stats there, folks) and don’t forget QB Joe Flacco - who won a Super Bowl in this building just two years ago - has just 5 TDs and 5 INTs in his past four games this year.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTES

Another week and another gut-wrenching win by now 11-and-oh Florida State - but don’t dare think the Seminoles will be dropping in the soon-to-be-announced College Football Playoff rankings.

The Sems - the way we see it - will stay put right there at #3 following the 20-17 win against 16 ½-point pup Boston College and nobody else will be getting moved out of the top 10 save for sagging Ole Miss.

Still, even UCLA’s 38-20 win against USC probably wasn’t enough to lift the two-loss Bruins into the top six - they were #9 last week and likely no better than #7 this week - and most folks see that we’re running out of time to have major movers-and-shakes unless you happen to believe that #1 Alabama or #2 Oregon or #3 Florida State are gonna lose in their conference championship games ... and can we go on the record to state that if Ohio State “runs the table” then the Buckeyes should indeed, pass TCU and/or Baylor because the Big 12 should not get rewarded for not having a conference title game.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL POINTSPREAD NOTES

Want to know who’s really burning lots of moolah as we get near the finish line in this here-and-now college football season? Check it out:

  • Auburn has failed to cover its last three in a row and five of its last six games ...
  • Clemson will enter this weekend’s game against archrival South Carolina skidding badly with a six-game spread losing skein ...
  • Hawaii is a rotten 1-4-1 ATS (against the spread) in its last half-dozen games ...
  • Middle Tennessee State’s lost its last three consecutive spread results and five of its last six overall ...
  • Ole Miss enters this weekend’s Egg Bowl game against Miss State on a crummy four-game spread losing skid ...
  • Nebraska has dropped its last four in a row to the Las Vegas price tags ...
  • New Mexico State has lost five in a row versus the vig while entering this week’s game at Arkansas State ...
  • Notre Dame now has dropped four in a row spreadwise following last Saturday’s 31-28 setback versus Louisville ...
  • Oregon State is 1-6-1 ATS in its last eight overall games ...
  • San Jose State is on a five-game ATS losing streak following last Friday’s 41-7 loss at Utah State ...
  • Texas A&M has failed to cover six of its last seven games dating back to late September ...
  • USF has dropped four straight to the vig including last weekend’s 31-10 setback at 20-point fav Memphis ...And Washington State’s lost five of its last six games including blowing a double-digit lead in its 52-31 loss at two-TD favorite Arizona State this past weekend.

NOTE: Get all the Thanksgiving Day/Night Football Previews from the NFL and College Football in the next edition of Jim Sez and stay with us every day this week for wall-to-wall gridiron goodies including our Heisman Trophy Watch List and much more!

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