Sunday Playoff Previews and Monday Championship Preview

HERE'S THE NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF SUNDAY SHOWDOWNS - COWBOYS-PACKERS & COLTS-BRONCOS

Can we join the chorus of folks out there claiming Sunday's NFL Divisional Playoff Games - that's Dallas at Green Bay and Indianapolis at Denver - might just be the best single day of playoff action in years? Enjoy and here's the Sunday game previews:

NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

#3 DALLAS (13-4) at #2 GREEN BAY (12-4) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Are this year's Dallas Cowboys a "team of destiny" ... or are they, in fact, just lucky to be here at frosty Lambeau Field for this second-round playoff game? Consider that the 'Boys survived-and-advanced to this round off last week's highly controversial 24-20 non-cover home win against the 6-point underdog Detroit Lions with the following all taking place:

  • Dallas allowed six sacks of QB Tony Romo
  • WR Dez Bryant caught just three passes worth 48 yards
  • NFL rushing leader RB DeMarco Murray ran for only 75 yards (and averaged a shade less than four yards a carry)
  • And all-everything PK Dan Bailey missed a chip-shot FG ... and still the Cowboys managed a rare post-season win.

Right, you wish to be one of the millions of folks making major noise regarding that pick-up-the-flag non-penalty call against Cowboys' LB Anthony Hitchens midway through the fourth quarter than you go right ahead but remember the Lions could have stopped that Romo-led 11-play, 59-yard, go-ahead TD drive capped by WR Terrance Williams' second touchdown grab but they didn't and so Dallas is alive and with upset dreams in mind here.

Damn the "Ice Bowl" of 1967 - the here-and-now Cowboys can't re-write history but they can pen their own unique story and do keep in mind the 'Boys have won all eight of their road games this 2014 season.

The fact also remains that the Dallas offensive line - yes, still the best blocking unit in the league - has to play better than it did a week ago when Detroit's raging DT Ndamukong Suh took apart the middle of this Cowboys' O-line and you've gotta believe that Jason Garrett's club learned its lesson after digging itself a 14-0 hole.

If high-octane Green Bay charges out to a 14-zip lead here in front of the home folks, you'll get really long odds on the Cowboys making a comeback-for-the-ages two weeks in a row and so the whole key - the way we see it - is Dallas must stay within range all game long here and then count on one of those aforementioned playmakers (that's Romo or Bryant or Murray) to make a big play (or two) at crunch time.

Meanwhile, the Packers won all eight of their home games this season while averaging nearly 40 points per game but the $64,000 question here is what's the status of QB Aaron Rodgers' calf? All week long we've been hearing reports that Rodgers himself doesn't believe he'll be close to 100 percent by game time but gotta believe last weekend's playoff bye has helped immensely and so Rodgers (4,381 yards passing with 38 TDs and 5 INTs and the likely winner of this year's MVP award) may not be the threat with his legs but expect 'em to be sharp here and - as usual - a major key to this game will be whether or not WRs Jordy Nelson (98 catches for 1,519 yards with 13 TDs) and Randall Cobb (91 grabs for 1,287 yards and 12 TDs) can be flip-the-field specialists here against a Dallas defense that last week yielded a 99 ¾-yard touchdown drive to the Lions.

While the Rodgers injury has received plenty of attention the past few days, don't discount the hurts of RB Eddie Lacy (1,139 yards rushing and 9 TDs) who had shoulder and leg/ankle woes late in the regular season. We say the Packers probably won't win here unless Lacy gets 20-to-25 rushes and 100 yards. Okay?

Defensively, Green Bay's been a different team ever since moving Pro Bowl LB Clay Matthews to the middle - hey, the numbers speak for themselves as the Packers surrendered some 153.5 yards a game on the ground to their first eight opponents and have allowed just 86.4 yards rushing in the last eight games - but an X-factor here is will the Packers' active secondary lend a major hand in run defense or will it be so wrapped up in containing the likes of Bryant, Williams and TE Jason Witten ... you might see Murray bust a couple of long ones provided that Dallas offensive line can occupy Matthews here.

Spread Notes - Dallas is 10-7 ATS (against the spread) overall this season and that includes a nifty 4-1 spread log when placed in the underdog role (see chart below). Meanwhile, Green Bay's 9-6-1 ATS overall this season and note the Packers are 7-3-1 vig-wise in post-season games under head coach Mike McCarthy.

DALLAS COWBOYS

WEEK

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

#1

San Francisco

- 3.5

DALLAS

28-17

#2

Dallas

+ 3

TENNESSEE

26-10

#3

Dallas

- 1

ST. LOUIS

34-31

#4

DALLAS

+ 3

New Orleans

38-17

#5

DALLAS

- 5

Houston

20-17

#6

Dallas

+ 10

SEATTLE

30-23

#7

DALLAS

- 5.5

Giants

31-21

#8

Washington

+ 9.5

DALLAS

20-17 (ot)

#9

Arizona

+ 2

DALLAS

28-17

#10

Dallas

- 7.5

Jacksonville
(at London)

31-17

#11

Bye

 

 

 

#12

Dallas

- 4.5

NY GIANTS

31-28

#13

Philadelphia

+ 3

DALLAS

 33-10

#14

Dallas

- 3.5

CHICAGO

41-28

#15

Dallas

+ 3

PHILADELPHIA

38-27

#16

DALLAS

- 3.5

  Indianapolis

42-7

#17

Dallas

- 6

  WASHINGTON

44-17

WC

DALLAS

- 6

Detroit

24-20

GREEN BAY PACKERS

WEEK

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

#1

SEATTLE

- 4.5

Green Bay

36-16

#2

GREEN BAY

- 7

Ny Jets

31-24

#3

DETROIT

- 1

Green Bay

19-7

#4

Green Bay

- 1.5

CHICAGO

38-17

#5

GREEN BAY

- 9.5

Minnesota

42-10

#6

Green Bay

- 1.5

MIAMI

27-24

#7

GREEN BAY

- 6.5

Carolina

38-17

#8

NEW ORLEANS 

- 2

Green Bay

44-23

#9

Bye

 

 

 

#10

GREEN BAY

- 9.5

Chicago

55-14

#11

GREEN BAY

- 5.5

Philadelphia

53-20

#12

Green Bay

- 7.5

MINNESOTA

24-21

#13

GREEN BAY

- 3

New England

26-21

#14

GREEN BAY

- 13.5

Atlanta

43-37

#15

BUFFALO

+ 3.5

Green Bay

21-13

#16

Green Bay

- 11.5

TAMPA BAY

20-3

#17

GREEN BAY

- 9

Detroit

30-20

Get all the NFL Divisional Playoff Game winners this Saturday and Sunday when you check with us after 10 a.m. ET on game days plus there's NBA and NCAA Basketball winners each and every day right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - pile up the profits this winter! We will have the Side & Totals winners of the College Football Championship Game between Oregon vs. Ohio State on game-day Monday after 11 a.m. ET ... so make sure you cap the college season with a bang!

AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

#4 INDIANAPOLIS (12-5) at #2 DENVER (12-4) - 4:40 p.m. ET, CBS

We'll save you the trouble of looking it up ... Denver QB Peyton Manning won nine post-season games while employed by the Indianapolis Colts from 1998-through-2011 but now he and his Broncos are listed as full touchdown betting favorites to beat the "Horseshoes" this weekend.

Okay, so Manning is a career 11-12 SU (straight-up) in all post-season games in his NFL lifetime and that includes a pair of Super Bowl losses but now here come the Broncos barreling into this "second season" much healthier than they were at the tail-end of the regular season when the likes of WRs Demaryius Thomas (hand) and Emmanuel Sanders (back) were hurting and don't forget the down time last weekend also helped heal up leading tackler LB Brandon Marshall (foot) and key safety T.J. Ward (neck) to say nothing of the 38-year-old Manning who admitted he could use a break in the action before journeying out on this playoff drive.

The Broncos have changed philosophies in mid-stream this year with less pressure heaped on Manning and a better-balanced offense leading the way with back C.J. Anderson capping off a neat regular season with his three scoring runs versus Oakland in Week 17 play but to beat frisky Indianapolis here we believe Manning will have to challenge this so-so secondary often and that means he needs some help from oft-invisible TE Julius Thomas.

Indianapolis, meanwhile, is searching for its second "post-Manning" playoff win - last year's Colts downed Kansas City 45-44 after digging themselves a hefty 28-point hole -- but now the heat's being turned up on third-year QB Andrew Luck who threw for 376 yards and one touchdown in last week's 26-10 home win/cover against Cincinnati and now here he looks for a signature road playoff win in the Mile High City.

Luck completed 31-of-44 aerial attempts last week against the Bengals but he was betrayed by some "bad hands" as the Colts dropped five or six on-target strikes and even wide-out T.Y. Hilton (six catches for 103 yards last Sunday) dropped a couple of balls that would have given the Colts a tad more breathing room later in the game.

One part of Luck's game plan here is to see how often he turns to new #1 running back Daniel "Boom" Herron as a pass-catcher - Herron nabbed a team-high 10 receptions worth 85 yards against the Bengals but he did fumble twice and that remains a major concern for head coach Chuck Pagano and Company.

If you're looking for the Colts to possibly "throw a curveball" at the Broncos' defense than look for Indy to feature a few designed runs by Luck who - as we've been telling you for the past three years now - is a major threat with his legs and so extending drives with a couple of Luck runs here could be critical.

Spread Notes - Indianapolis is a tasty 11-5-1 against the odds this year and so that makes the Colts a collective 32-18-2 ATS the past three years (a .640 winning percentage). On the flip side, Denver's a dead-even but vig-losing 8-8 against the numbers this year and the Broncos enter this playoff bash at 16-10-1 ATS at home during the head coach John Fox/QB Manning Era.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

WEEK

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

#1

DENVER

- 8.5

Indianapolis

31-24

#2

Philadelphia

+ 3

INDIANAPOLIS

30-27

#3

Indianapolis

- 6

JACKSONVILLE

44-17

#4

INDIANAPOLIS 

- 7

Tennessee

41-17

#5

INDIANAPOLIS

- 3

Baltimore

20-13

#6

Indianapolis

- 2.5

HOUSTON

33-28

#7

INDIANAPOLIS

- 3.5

Cincinnati

27-0

#8

PITTSBURGH

+ 5

Indianapolis

51-34

#9

Indianapolis

- 3

NY GIANTS

40-24

#10

Bye

 

 

 

#11

New England

+ 3

INDIANAPOLIS   

42-20

#12

INDIANAPOLIS

- 13.5

Jacksonville

23-3

#13

INDIANAPOLIS

- 8

Washington

49-27

#14

Indianapolis

- 3

CLEVELAND

25-24

#15

INDIANAPOLIS

- 7

Houston

17-10

#16

DALLAS

- 3.5

Indianapolis

42-7

#17

Indianapolis

- 7.5

TENNESSEE

27-10

WC

INDIANAPOLIS

- 3.5

Cincinnati

26-10

DENVER BRONCOS

WEEK

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

#1

DENVER

- 8.5

Indianapolis

31-24

#2

DENVER

- 13.5

Kansas City

24-17

#3

SEATTLE

- 5

Denver

26-20 (ot)

#4

Bye

 

 

 

#5

DENVER

- 8.5

Arizona

41-20

#6

Denver

- 9.5

NY JETS

31-17

#7

DENVER

- 7

San Francisco

42-17

#8

DENVER

- 9

San Diego

35-21

#9

NEW ENGLAND

+ 3

Denver

43-21

#10

Denver

- 12.5

OAKLAND

41-17

#11

ST. LOUIS

+ 8.5

Denver

22-7

#12

DENVER

- 6.5

Miami

39-36

#13

Denver

PK

KANSAS CITY

29-16

#14

DENVER

- 9

Buffalo

24-17

#15

Denver

- 4.5

SAN DIEGO

22-10

#16

CINCINNATI

+ 3.5

Denver

37-28

#17

DENVER

- 16

Oakland

47-14

 

THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

WE DISSECT MONDAY NITE'S TILT BETWEEN #2 OREGON AND #4 OHIO STATE

Ladies and gents, it's time to find out who's the king of the College Football world in Year One of the playoffs ...

Is it the flash-and-dance gang from Oregon that roars into this title tilt on a nine-game SU (straight-up) and nine-game ATS (against the spread) winning streak or will it be a reconfigured Ohio State squad that's dug deep into its quarterback depth chart to arrive in Arlington for the ultimate game of this 2014 season?

One thing's for certain and that both Oregon and Ohio State claim they were quick to put their New Year's Day/Night wins in the "rear view mirror" and so now both the Ducks and the Buckeyes (or Ducks and Bucks, if you prefer) have laser-like focus on this championship game and here's some quick-hitter points before we get to our official Jim Sez Game Preview:

Oregon has covered seven-of-eight games played this year against teams that were part of the bowl scene - the only team the Ducks didn't cash in against was Arizona in that now-infamous 31-24 loss as 21.5-point home favorites. Otherwise, the Pac-12 champions were pure gold against any/all other bowl sides;

On the flip side, Ohio State's a snazzy 8-3 versus the vig when playing fellow bowl squads this year with the Big 10 champs having won 12 in a row SU while going 8-4 vig-wise ever since that still hard-to-explain 35-21 loss to 11-point pup Virginia Tech back on Sept. 6th.

Get all the NFL Divisional Playoff Game winners this weekend when you check with Jim Hurley any time after 10 a.m. ET on game days plus there's NBA and NCAA Basketball winners each and every day right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - pile up the profits this winter! And - of course -- we will have the Side & Totals winners of the College Football Championship Game between Oregon vs. Ohio State on game-day Monday after 12 noon ET ... so make sure you cap the college season with a real bang!

On Monday Night, it's: #4 OHIO STATE (13-1) vs. #2 OREGON (13-1)
AT&T Stadium - Arlington, TX; 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

The history books are stacked in Ohio State's favor - the Buckeyes are gunning for their eighth national championship and their first since the 2002 season - while Oregon's looking for its first-ever national title but the Las Vegas oddsmakers have installed the Ducks as a 6-point betting favorite here and note that's the "shortest price" since Oregon was a mere 1.5-point fav at UCLA back in early October.

The fact is Oregon's won its last six in a row by 24-or-more points as Heisman Trophy-winning QB Marcus Mariota (4,121 yards passing with 40 TDs and another 731 yards rushing with 15 TDs) has upgraded his play as the season wore on and here Mariota comes off that masterful showing in the 59-20 Rose Bowl win against Florida State when he threw for 338 yards with two TDs plus added a 23-yard rushing score late.

If Mariota is able to juke his way through the big creases normally set by this unheralded Oregon O-line, then he'll take advantage with lots of spread option runs - there's a sense that the Buckeyes may not be quick enough on the corners to "set the edge" and so Mariota the rusher may well be the biggest threat here.

Expect the Ducks to vie for real balance too - note they had 45 rushes and 36 passes in the Rose Bowl - and while frosh RB Royce Freeman can be a real banger, the'll need someone to strike it big downfield after WR Darren Carrington (who snagged seven catches for 165 yards and two TDs against the FSU Seminoles) was declared ineligible for this title game.

Meanwhile, Ohio State - down to third-string QB Cardale Jones (243 yards passing and one scoring strike in that 42-35 upset against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl) - may not necessarily need another 230-yard rushing game from RB Ezekiel Elliott here but keep in mind the 'Eyes converted 10-of-18 third-down plays against 'Bama and that O-State balance (281 rushing yards and 256 passing yards) was critical in turning back the favored Crimson Tide.

Is this the game where the absence of Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu costs the Ducks on "D" ... or can Mariota and Co. merely cover for any other weak points here and it's worth mentioning that Oregon has allowed 20 points or less in five of its last six games.

Hold the 'Eyes to 20 points or less on this night and it's Oregon that's gonna be holding the first-ever playoff trophy come late Monday night.

Finally, much is being said about the coaches - Ohio State's Urban Meyer has been wonderful in big games both here and at Florida and Utah - while Oregon's Mark Helfrich is a relative newcomer to the big stage but it's hard to knock anything the second-year Ducks coach has done the past two-plus months, right?

Spread Notes - Oregon is 10-4 ATS overall this year (see chart below) and that includes a 5-1 spread log whenever laying away points. The Ducks are a collective 10-6 against the odds when playing non-league foes dating back to the start of the 2010 season. Meanwhile, Ohio State is 9-5 spreadwise this year and the Buckeyes are a composite 12-2 versus the vig as underdogs the past six years.

OHIO STATE

DATE GAMESCORE
8-30 * Ohio St. - 13.5 Navy 34-17
9-6 Virginia Tech + 11 OHIO ST. 35-21
9-13 OHIO ST. - 31 Kent St. 66-0
9-27 OHIO ST. - 17 Cincinnati 50-28
10-4 Ohio St. - 6.5 MARYLAND 52-24
10-18 OHIO ST. -21 Rutgers 56-17
10-25 Ohio St. - 14 PENN ST.31-24 (OT)
11-1 OHIO ST. - 28.5 Illinois 55-14
11-8 Ohio St. + 4 MICHIGAN ST.49-37
11-15 Ohio St. - 12.5 MINNESOTA 31-24
11-22 OHIO ST. - 36.5 Indiana 42-27
11-29 OHIO ST. - 20.5 Michigan 42-28
12-6# Ohio St. + 4 Wisconsin 59-0
1-1 % Ohio St. + 7.5 Alabama 42-35

* = at Baltimore
# = Big 10 Championship Game
% = Sugar Bowl

OREGON DUCKS

DATE  GAMESCORE 
8-30 OREGON - 55 South Dakota 62-13
9-6 OREGON - 14 Michigan St. 46-27
9-13 OREGON - 42.5 Wyoming 48-14
9-20 Oregon - 23 WASH ST. 38-31
10-2 Arizona + 21.5 OREGON 31-24
10-11 Oregon - 1.5 UCLA 42-30
10-18 OREGON - 21 Washington 45-20
10-24 Oregon - 17.5 CALIFORNIA 59-41
11-1 OREGON - 7 Stanford45-16
11-8 Oregon - 10 UTAH 51-27
11-22 OREGON - 33 Colorado 44-10
11-29 Oregon - 20.5 OREGON ST. 47-19
12-5 * Oregon - 14.5 Arizona 51-13
1-1 # Oregon - 7.5 Florida St.59-20

*= Pac-12 Championship Game
# = Rose Bowl

NOTE: Get all the NFL Divisional Playoff Game re-caps in the next Jim Sez.

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