Jim Sez Thursday Night Preview and More Bowl Matchups

NFL WEEK 14 REVS IT UP BEGINNING WITH TONIGHT'S VIKINGS-CARDINALS CLASH

PLUS WE TAKE A PEEK AT SUNDAY'S DIVISIONAL DUELS BETWEEN STEELERS-BENGALS, RAIDERS-BRONCOS ...

OUR JIM SEZ BOWL MENU GETS YOU ANOTHER BATCH OF TILTS AS WE TRACK THE SIX (6) GAMES ON DECEMBER 26TH

By Jim Hurley:

There's a lot of talk in/around the NFL regarding the 1972 Miami Dolphins - the standard of single-season perfection in the league where they play for pay. But let's spend a moment discussing 1974 here: That's the last time the Cardinals - back in St. Louis then - won seven consecutive games in the same season and that's what this Arizona Cards club is shooting for here on this second-Thursday-in-December tilt.

Tonight, it's ...
MINNESOTA (8-4) at ARIZONA (10-2) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network
No question the 12-and-oh Carolina Panthers are the NFL's "flavor of the month" these days but - finally - the Arizona Cardinals are getting their fair share of "pub" and the latest Las Vegas price tag has 'Zona listed as an 8.5-point betting favorite (and growing!).

The Cards have a legit MVP candidate in QB Carson Palmer who's fresh off a 356-yard passing game with two TDs in last week's 27-3 win at St. Louis and you might be interested in noting the Cards' defense has held seven foes to 20 points or less this year and now catch a Minnesota team that doesn't exactly zing it around a lot with success (ranks 30th in passing offense while averaging just 179.1 ypg).

Maybe unhappy Vikes' RB Adrian Peterson - see 8 carries for 18 yards in last week's 38-7 home loss against surging Seattle - will get his huge mitts on the pigskin more here but will that necessarily translate into a "W" here?

It sure looks to us as if Minnesota QB Teddy Bridgewater (sacked four times by the Seahawks in Week 13) has to get quicker releasing the ball and must hit a "home run" play or two here or it'll be yet another "W" for the revved-up Cardinals.

Spread Notes - Arizona is just 7-5 ATS (against the spread) overall this year but the Redbirds are a collective 28-16-1 spreadwise under third-year boss Bruce Arians. On the flip side, Minnesota is 9-3 versus the vig overall this year and a cumulative 19-9 ATS under second-year coach Mike Zimmer.

On Sunday, it's ...
PITTSBURGH (7-5) at CINCINNATI (10-2) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Let's just say the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals are hoping Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown won't be getting any more practice leaping groin-first into their goal posts at Paul Brown Stadium.
The silly celebratory acts by the NFL's best receiver aside, this one figures to come down to whether or not the Cincy pass rush gets/keeps heat on Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger (2,707 yards passing with 15 TDs) who merely picked apart Indianapolis last Sunday night while spreading the wealth to the likes of Brown and fellow targets Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton - this trio's combined for 16 TDs this year - while the flip side wonders whether the better-than-you-think Bengals' ground game (ranked ninth in the league with 118.3 ypg) can play keep-away from "Big Ben" and friends and it's duly noted that Cincinnati is 5-1-1 spreadwise at home ever since Pittsburgh busted the Bengals 42-21 in "The Jungle" last December.

Spread Notes - Cincinnati copped a 16-10 win at Pittsburgh back in Week 8 play (a pick 'em game, for you 'cappers) but still the Steelers own a 15-7 ATS advantage against the Bengals the past 10-plus years and that includes the 31-17 Steel gang playoff win in 2005.


OAKLAND (5-7) at DENVER (10-2) - 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Brock Osweiler. Peyton Manning. Hey, does it really matter when teams have to go up against this Denver defense ... one that's held seven teams to 20 points or less this year and one that seemingly scores at least one touchdown in every outing (see the 74-yard "pick six" by defensive back Chris Harris in Oakland in that 16-10 win/push back in Week 5 at Oakland)? Only way the 7-point underdog Raiders are gonna hang in here is if QB Derek Carr avoids the costly INT (duh!) and the silver-and-black force Osweiler into a couple of miscues - so far the kid seems mentally tough and more than willing to dink-and-dunk his way downfield.

Spread Notes - Denver's a wacky 6-3-3 spreadwise so far this 2015 season and overall the Broncos are 6-0-2 vig-wise in their last eight head-to-head tilts against Oakland. Note the Raiders are 6-5-1 ATS overall this year but that includes a hearty 5-2-1 spread mark when getting points.

We'll get you more goodies on upcoming College Bowl Games being played on December 26th in just a moment but first this key reminder: Don't get left out in the cold - win all week and cash in big with both Football and Basketball when you check with us here at Jim Hurley's Network either here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Sign up for our NCAA Bowl Winners now and get the discount rate from America's #1 Handicapper - Jim Hurley! And cash in with NFL Week 14 action beginning with tonight's bash between the Minnesota Vikings at the Arizona Cardinals.


COLLEGE BOWLS

Here's a look at the next 6 bowl games on Saturday, Dec. 26th.  We'll have more bowl coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez as we tackle more key tilts, so keep it right here!

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 26

ST. PETERSBURG BOWL
Tropicana Field - St. Petersburg, FL
CONNECTICUT (6-6) vs. MARSHALL (9-3) - 11 a.m. ET, ESPN
It's a late breakfast bowl in St. Pete where the UConn Huskies return to the post-season for the first time since 2010 (se Oklahoma 48, UConn 20 in the Fiesta Bowl, remember?) but we want to know if the Marshall kids really want to be here 'cause the Thundering Herd played with zero energy/enthusiasm in that regular-season-ending 49-28 loss at 12.5-point favorite Western Kentucky.
No doubt Marshall's freshman QB Chase Litton (2,387 passing yards with 22 TDs) can get unnerved when things don't go his way - and this UConn defense did hold seven foes to 17 points or less and did play five bowl-bound teams this year.
Current Line: Marshall is a 4-point betting favorite

SUN BOWL
Sun Bowl Stadium - El Paso, TX
MIAMI (8-4) vs. WASHINGTON STATE (8-4) - 2 p.m. ET, CBS
Well, at least Miami has more wins than head coaches ... the Mark Richt Era begins after this tilt as first Al Golden and then interim Larry Scott were shown the door but the Hurricanes do have a healthy quarterback here in Brad Kaaya (3,019 yards passing with 15 TDs and 4 INTs) while we might not be able to say the same about Washington State slinger Luke Falk who suffered a concussion in a late-year win against Colorado and he's a day-to-day proposition after throwing for 4,266 yards with 36 TDs and 8 INTs for the country's top passing offense.
Current Line: Washington State is currently a 2.5-point favorite

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL
Cotton Bowl - Dallas, TX
WASHINGTON (6-6) vs. SOUTHERN MISS (9-4) - 2:20 p.m. ET, ESPN
Not sure why both Washington State and Washington are playing their bowl games at the same time - hey, there's 40 bowl games and the folks couldn't figure out a way to avoid this for fans of both Apple Cup teams? - but the bottom line here is the UW Huskies will win in a route if RB Myles Gaskin (1,121 yards rushing and 11 TDs) can gallop his way over/around a Southern Miss defense that did rank a respectable 34th nationally in run defense. Did you know the USM Golden Eagles covered both of their games against power conference teams this season (see Miss State and Nebraska)? Hmmm.
Current Line: Washington is favored by 8 points

PINSTRIPE BOWL
Yankee Stadium - The Bronx
INDIANA (6-6) vs. DUKE (7-5) - 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Enough jokes already about this being a great hoops matchup ... the fact of the matter is this is a juicy pre-January bowl matchup considering the Dookies were one goofed-up multi-lateral play against Miami from starting off this season 7-1 while Indiana lost by 7 points to Ohio State, by 8 to Iowa and by 7 in double-OT versus Michigan or else this could have been a truly special year for the IU Hoosiers. Now, Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld (3,184 yards passing with 24 TDs, 5 INTs) hopes there's no howling winds inside "The House that Jeter Built" so he can challenge a Duke defense that's allowed nearly 39 ppg in its final six games of play.
Current Line: Indiana is a 2.5-point betting fav

INDEPENDENCE BOWL
Independence Stadium - Shreveport, LA
TULSA (6-6) vs. VIRGINIA TECH (6-6) - 5:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
It's bye-bye, farewell time for V-Tech head coach Frank Beamer who exits stage left after 29 years on the job (and one championship game appearance) but might the Hokies be a bit of an "overlay" here as Vegas has priced 'em as two-TD favorites against a Tulsa team that ranks 11th nationally in passing (330 ypg) behind high-quality QB Dane Evans (3,958 yards passing with 22 TDs).
The Justin Fuente Era in Blacksburg starts right after this one ends but will it be win #238 for Beamer ... or will the Golden Hurricane spoil this retirement party?
Current Line: Virginia Tech is favored by 13.5 points

FOSTER FARMS BOWL
Levi's Stadium - Santa Clara, CA
UCLA (8-4) vs. NEBRASKA (5-7) - 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
In case you were wondering, there are three 5-and-7 teams that made it to the bowl wars (also San Jose State and Minnesota) and so, while anti-Nebraska fans are up in arms that the Cornhuskers will cash a bowl check, this wound up being one of the real hard-luck stories in recent college football memory with a slew of last-second/overtime losses to the likes of BYU, Miami, Illinois, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Now, first-year 'Husker boss Mike Riley "needs" to get fans/alums off his back and so here's a case of the bowl underdog having major pressure on 'em while the Uclans are looking for big things from frosh QB Josh Rosen (3,349 yards passing with 20 TDs) who directed a top 25 passing attack this year.
Current Line: UCLA is favored by 6.5 points

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