Network Bulletin 12-28 thru 12-30


Volume 29, Issue 17 - Saturday, Dec. 28 thru Monday, Dec. 30

The NFL's Week 17 is Upon Us!

The National Football League’s Week 17 division-only games figure to be a blast … but just what teams that are counting on to secure a playoff bid or a better seeding are gonna get “blown up”?

You know the various playoff/seeding scenarios, and you know that 13 of the league’s 16 games on this final Sunday of regular-season play have some sort of post-season “meaning” – hey, we even like the way this all breaks down with eight games played at 1 p.m. ET, seven games at 4:25 p.m. ET and then that winner-take-all, loser-goes home NFC East tilt between Philadelphia at Dallas come Sunday Night Football at 8:25 p.m. ET.

Some spread notes to keep in mind as prepare for Week 17 action:

  • Baltimore is 3-5-2 ATS (against the spread) since mid-October and that includes the 20-17 OT win against 1 ½-point dog Cincinnati back in Week 10 play.
  • Philadelphia is 5-2 ATS away this year including divisional wins/covers in both Washington and at the New York Giants, but note the Birds have failed to cover six of their last nine regular-season finales.
  • Carolina is an electric 8-2-1 ATS (against the spread) since Week 6 play!
  • New Orleans has covered three of their last four games when laying a twin-figure price tag.
  • Chicago has covered just three of its last 12 head-to-head matchups with the GB Packers and that includes the 27-20 win as 10-point dogs at Lambeau Field back in Week 9.
  • Miami has covered six of its last eight games overall and the Dolphins are 6-3-1 ATS (against the spread) in their last 10 games against the Jets.
  • San Francisco is a rotten 4-10 versus the vig when playing fellow NFC West foes while dating back to late in the 2011 campaign.

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COLLEGE BOWL PREVIEWS

There are still plenty of bowl games left to take advantage of Jim Hurley's Bowl and Playoff Package! Check in with Jim Hurley either online at www.JimHurley.com or at the exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 after 10am (ET) on game-day mornings and after 1pm. ET for the weeknight games.

Here’s a look at the four Bowl Games on tap for Saturday, Dec. 28th:

PINSTRIPE BOWL -- at The Bronx, NY
RUTGERS (6-6) vs. NOTRE DAME (8-4) – 12:05 p.m. ET, ESPN

Let’s see if it’s gonna be a “great day for the Irish” in New York City on this bowl occasion, but can someone please remind us that Notre Dame might be playing the worst bowl team this year as Rutgers didn’t beat a single bowl-bound team the whole 2013 campaign – what, wins against Norfolk State, Eastern Michigan, Arkansas, SMU, Temple and South Florida are supposed to raise our eyebrows?

The fact of the matter is Notre Dame is a two-TD betting favorite despite the fact Brian Kelly’s club ranks 46th nationally in pass offense and 82nd nationally in rush offense, and the biggest star on this side of the ball here for Notre Dame is wide receiver TJ Jones (65 catches for 1,042 yards and 9 TDs) – can error-prone QB Tommy Rees (13 INTs) zip Jones the ball here and further deflate this Rutgers season, or could Kyle Flood’s club show some gumption behind backup-turned-starting QB Chas Dodd?

Spread Notes – Notre Dame is just 5-6-1 against the odds this year and did you know the ND Fighting Irish has failed to cover five of its last seven bowl decades the past decade? Meanwhile, Rutgers is a money-torching 4-8 ATS this year but the Scarlet Knights are a dandy 5-2 vig-wise in bowl games the past 10 years.

BELK BOWL – at Charlotte, NC
CINCINNATI (9-3) vs. NORTH CAROLINA (6-6) – 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN

There’s a feeling that Cincy and North Carolina mirrored one another’s 2013 season what with some early-season struggles and key injuries to starting quarterbacks but let’s say this:

The job Carolina head coach Larry Fedora did after his Tar Heels dug themselves a 1-5 SU hole was downright amazing as mobile QB Marquise Williams threw 14 TD passes and rushed for six more in leading the ACC gang to wins against the likes of Boston College and Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, first-year Cincinnati boss-man Tommy Tuberville had his team on the prowl in the American Athletic Conference as QB Brendon Kay (3,121 yards passing with 22 TDs) took over for an injured Munchie Legaux and energized the Bearcats, who scored 28-or-more points on six occasions. Watch out here for the Kay-to-WR Anthony McClung combo after the latter snagged 68 balls worth 908 yards and 5 TDs.

There’s a distinct home-field edge for the UNC Heels here but keep in mind the ‘Cats did win four-of-six away games this year and that this Cincy defense ranks fifth nationally versus the run … just sayin’.

Spread Notes – North Carolina is 7-5 against the odds overall this season and the UNC Tar Heels are 5-11 ATS away dating back to the start of the 2011 campaign. On the flip side, Cincinnati is a dead-even but vig-losing 6-6 spreadwise this season and the UC Bearcats are a solid 5-2-1 ATS as dogs the past three seasons.

Saturday Double Bowl Blowout
I'll go 2-0 AGAIN TODAY!

The Bowls continue Saturday with 4 more games. My Network has kicked itself into high gear to close the college season with a barrage of winners. We've got more sharp edges on at least 2 games Saturday!

PINSTRIPE BOWL - at The Bronx, NY
RUTGERS (6-6) vs. NOTRE DAME (8-4) - 12:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

BELK BOWL - at Charlotte, NC
CINCINNATI (9-3) vs. NORTH CAROLINA (6-6) - 3:25 p.m. ET, ESPN

RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL - at Orlando, FL
MIAMI (9-3) vs. #18 LOUISVILLE (11-1) - 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

BUFFALO WILD WINGS BOWL - at Tempe, AZ
MICHIGAN (7-5) vs. KANSAS STATE (7-5) - 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

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RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL – at Orlando, FL
MIAMI (9-3) vs. #18 LOUISVILLE (11-1) – 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

There’s plenty of reasons the Louisville Cardinals could be bummin’ about not playing a New Year’s Day/January bowl game following this spiffy one-loss season,but the 3 ½-point favored U of L Cardinals figure to have major focus here:

Start with the fact there are 23 players on the Louisville roster hailing from the Miami area, including QB Teddy Bridgewater (3,523 yards passing with 28 TDs), who willed his way to back-to-back late-year wins against Memphis and Cincinnati, and who’s gonna soon forget the break-out-of-the-pocket first-down play that Bridgewater made in the 31-24 win against the B-Cats in early December?

Then there’s the other side of the coin here:

The Miami Hurricanes don’t have their most explosive offensive weapon for this game as RB Duke Johnson (920 yards rushing) is out with a busted ankle, and so that heaps more pressure on QB Stephen Morris (2,868 yards passing with 21 TDs and 12 INTs) and one key for the ‘Canes here is hunger … remember Miami has not won a bowl game since a 21-20 triumph over Nevada in the MPC Computer Bowl back in 2006.

Spread Notes – Louisville’s 5-7 against the Las Vegas prices this year but the Cardinals still sport a 26-21-1 ATS log under fourth-year head coach Charlie Strong. Miami, meanwhile, is also 5-7 spreadwise overall this season and the Hurricanes are a spiffy 10-4 ATS as underdog sides since the start of 2011.

BUFFALO WILD WINGS BOWL – at Tempe, AZ
MICHIGAN (7-5) vs. KANSAS STATE (7-5) – 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

A pair of BCS conferences collide here for another “bragging rights” game but the key question here is what does “Big Blue” do without injured QB Devin Gardner (foot) who totaled 3,443 yards and 32 TDs?

Gardner is out for this under-the-lights tilt in the desert, and so in steps Shane Morris to start at quarterback for Michigan... and that’s surely one reason why the price tag for this game has climbed to read Kansas State minus 4 ½ points at press time.

Keep in mind the K-State Wildcats have not won a bowl game since the 2002 Holiday Bowl bash against Arizona State – yes, that’s five straight bowl setbacks ever since – and here veteran head coach Bill Snyder will trust RB John Hubert (968 yards rushing and 9 TDs) to slice/dice a Michigan rush defense that ranks a decent 26th nationally (yielding nearly 140 rushing yards per game) but keep in mind the Big 10 team has allowed 40-plus points in three of its last seven games including that 42-41 humdinger loss-but-cover against 17 ½-point fav Ohio State.

Spread Notes – Michigan is 7-5 odds-wise this 2013 season and the maize-and-blue own a three-game spread winning streak heading into this bowl clash. Note that Kansas State’s 7-5 against the odds this season but the Wildcats are 0-5 ATS in bowl games the past 10 years and that includes last year’s 35-17 loss to TD fav Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.

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Here's the bowl action for Monday, Dec. 30

ARMED FORCES BOWL – at Fort Worth, TX
NAVY (8-4) vs. MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (8-4) – 11:45 a.m. ET, ESPN

The $64,000 question here was the 22 days that Middle Tennessee State had to prep for Navy’s triple-option attack “enough time” to decipher this offensive scheme?

No doubt Navy QB Keenan Reynolds – who set an FBS single-season record by quarterbacks with 29 touchdown rushes this year – is one tough dude to defend, but keep in mind the MTSU Blue Raiders own a pretty potent ground game of their own (ranking 25th nationally with Navy ranking #2) as RBs Jordan Parker and Reggie Whatley combined for more than 1,400 rushing yards.

If State QB Logan Kilgore (2,289 yards passing with 16 TDs) can zing the Navy secondary with some deep balls, then we might be on “upset alert” here deep in the heart o’ Texas!

Spread Notes – Navy is 9-3 ATS overall this year, but the Middies are just 6-12 spreadwise as betting favorites the past three seasons. Middle Tennessee State’s 5-7 against the odds this 2013 season and did you know the Blue Raiders are 1-6 ATS away since late last year?

MUSIC CITY – at Nashville, TN
OLE MISS (7-5) vs. GEORGIA TECH (7-5) – 3:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

Let’s put this into the category labeled “salvage the season” as both of these BCS conference teams have been a tad ragged this year, although Ole Miss does own wins against both Texas and LSU while Georgia Tech’s beaten fellow bowl squads Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

Now, G-Tech makes its 17th consecutive bowl appearance with a ground game ranked fifth in the land (311.7 rushing yards per game) against an Ole Miss defense that’s not allowed more than 24 points in its last six games.

However, if the 3-point favored Rebels are to win/cover here than QB Bo Wallace – who threw for only 17 TDs with 9 INTs – must connect plenty with top wide-outs Laquon Treadwell, the SEC’s Freshman of the Year who caught a team-high 67 balls, and Donte Moncrief.

Obviously, lots of eyes here on Ole Miss star frosh DE Robert Nkemdiche, who either will get faked out plenty by Georgia Tech QB Vad Lee or else he’ll swallow up plenty of Tech ball-carriers here.

Spread Notes – Ole Miss is a dead-even and vig-losing 6-6 ATS this year and the Rebels enter this bowl bash with a spiffy 16-5 ATS mark in non-conference games while dating back to 2008. Georgia Tech is 5-6-1 odds-wise this ’13 season and the Yellow Jackets have failed to cover six of their last eight bowl tilts.

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MONDAY'S "MINOR" BOWLS MAKE MAJOR MONEY!

I like the edges I'm getting on 2 of the 4 games!
Do you see the games I'm talking about?


Armed Forces Bowl:
Navy (-6) vs. Middle Tennessee St.
Music City Bowl: Mississippi (-3) vs. Georgia Tech
Alamo Bowl: Oregon (-13) vs. Texas
Holiday Bowl: Arizona State (-14) vs. Texas Tech

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ALAMO BOWL – at San Antonio, TX
TEXAS (8-4) vs. #10 OREGON (10-2) – 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

When this 2013 season started, the Oregon Ducks were ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and the Texas Longhorns were ranked #15 – and so let’s just say both clubs had bigger/better bowl dreams and both could have been conference champs if not for sour losses to Stanford and Baylor, respectively.

No doubt the Ducks – who average an eye-popping 46.8 points per game – are the Page 2 guys here as the lead to this game is this represents the final chapter in Mack Brown’s 16-year career at Texas.

Hey, don’t get us started with how the school administration handled this mess – but Brown’s hoping to see his team rising to the occasion and cop a second straight Alamo Bowl (see last year’s come-from-behind 31-27 win against 3-point favorite Oregon State). One thing Brown would like to see here is his team pound the ball at an Oregon defense that ranked 64th nationally against the run while yielding 164.3 yards per game, and remember Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti just announced his retirement following this game.

Stay tuned if Texas RB Jonhnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown (a combined 1,554 rushing yards) can dent this Ducks defense.

On the flip side, one-time Heisman Trophy hopeful QB Marcus Mariota (3,412 yards passing with 30 TDs and just 4 INTs) will look to carve up a Texas defense that surrendered 30-or-more points on six different occasions this year, and we’ll be paying special attention to clutch WR Josh Huff who nabbed 1,036 yards worth of passes along with 11 TDs.

Will this be the first team to 40 points wins? Hmmm.

Spread Notes – Texas has split its 12 pointspreead verdicts this year and the Longhorns enter this game at 6-12 ATS as dogs the past five years. Oregon is 5-5-2 against the odds this season and did you realize the Ducks are an electric 13-5 ATS away since the start of the 2011 season?

 

HOLIDAY BOWL – at San Diego, CA
TEXAS TECH (7-5) vs. #14 ARIZONA STATE (10-3) – 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

In case you had lost count, the Pac-12 put nine teams into the post-season bowl party this year, and this here-and-now Arizona State Sun Devils squad might have as much/more talent than anyone in the league – just one reason why Todd Graham’s crew is a two-TD betting favorite for this game in SoCal.

Arizona State lost two of its three games this year to rival Stanford – including a 44-14 beat-down in the Pac-12 Championship Game earlier this month – but here QB Taylor Kelly (3,510 yards passing with 28 TDs) will look to scorch a slumping Texas Tech team that lost its final five regular-season games and here there’s distractions brewing with Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year QB Baker Mayfield gone after announcing back on Dec. 11th that he would be transferring out of town, and so that leaves the quarterback duties here to Davis Webb and Michael Brewer (hey, the Techsters rank second nationally in pass offense while averaging 392 yards per game).

If there’s an X-factor that could help the heavy-duty dogs from Lubbock it’s that maybe Arizona State won’t have a 100 percent healthy RB Marion Grice (leg) as he missed ASU’s final two games after rushing for 5.2 yards a pop this year with 996 yards and 14 TDs.

Spread Notes – Arizona State’s 7-6 against the Las Vegas price tags this year and the Sun Devils have covered five of their last six games when placed in the role of double-digit favorite. Meanwhile, Texas Tech is 5-7 ATS overall this season and that includes the current five-game spread losing skid. The T-Tech Red Raiders also are 1-6 vig-wise in bowl games dating back to the 2005 season.

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KEY NFL WEEK 17 PREVIEWS

Get all of Jim Hurley's NFL Week 17 winners when you check with him on game day Sunday after 11 a.m. ET and after 1 p.m. ET on Monday for the MNF game either online at www.JimHurley.com or at the exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453

NFL Final Week Showdown Wins Sunday

Of the 16 Sunday games, 2 are "playoffs" for the division title, 4 have no meaning for any of the playoff races, while the other 10 have either a direct or indirect bearing on who goes to the post-season.

There is one of those under-the-radar games this final football Sunday, that from all the reports I'm getting, looks to be the one of the bigger Cinch Plays of the Season. Last year's final week game was the Lions (+3) covering vs. the Bears 24-26, and this year's game rates much stronger.

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NEW YORK JETS (7-8) at MIAMI (8-7) – 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Plan A for the Miami Dolphins here is win this game and then have Baltimore lose in Cincinnati or win here in South Florida and have San Diego win … then the Fish would be en route to their first post-season berth since 2008 and who would have thunk that amidst all of this year’s “BullyGate”?

Last week Miami was blanked for the first time since last year’s season finale, and so if Joe Philbin’s club is gonna get its offense jump-started here then getting the ground game purring is key as Miami rushed the ball for 125 yards in a 23-3 walkover win at the J-E-T-S back in Week 13 action at MetLife Stadium.

The NY Jets are trying to play spoiler and possibly “save” the job of fifth-year head coach Rex Ryan and rookie QB Geno Smith (only two picks thrown in his last 89 passes) must also make some plays with his legs here.

Notice how the Jets are the team “taking money” these days?

SAN FRANCISCO (11-4) at ARIZONA (10-5) – 4:25 p.m. ET
You can’t blame the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers for “dreaming big dreams” these days …

After all, a win here in the desert and losses by Seattle and Carolina actually would make the 49ers this year’s No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoffs, but reality says that Jim Harbaugh’s club probably will be playing a wild card round playoff road game next week.

On the flip side, Arizona could become an 11-win team that doesn’t make it to the playoffs with a “W” here and a New Orleans win against 12-point pup Tampa Bay – but if the Cardinals are gonna get revenge for a 32-20 loss back in Week 6, then protecting QB Carson Palmer (3,867 yards passing) is key as the Niners have registered 16 sacks during this current five-game SU (straight-up) winning streak.

BALTIMORE (8-7) at CINCINNATI (10-5) – 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Note the Cincy Bengals have not only been perfect SU (straight-up) in their own backyard this year, but Marvin Lewis’ squad has been a brilliant 7-and-oh ATS (against the spread) and that includes a 20-10 win/cover against 6 ½-point underdog Pittsburgh in Week 2 play and a 41-20 romp over 4 ½-point pup Cleveland in Week 11 action as those two AFC North crews went ka-boom at “The Jungle”.

If Cincinnati – the AFC North champ that still has a shot to land a #2 seed if it wins here and New England loses to Buffalo – is gonna roll here then QB Andy Dalton (four TD passes in last weekend’s easy-chair 42-14 win against Minnesota) must spread the wealth as last weekend six different Bengals nabbed two-or-more passes including wide-out A.J. Green (7 catches for 97 yards and two TDs).

Naturally, there’s a whole lot more pressure here on the defending champ Ravens who are one of the AFC’s three 8-and-7 teams right now along with Miami and San Diego, and so John Harbaugh’s club needs a “W” and some outside help to get mission accomplished but might Baltimore be better served here having QB Joe Flacco operate solely from the shotgun and make more quick/precise passes after his 0-TD, 2-INT performance in last Sunday’s ugly 41-7 loss to New England?

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GREEN BAY (7-7-1) at CHICAGO (8-7-1) – 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
Win and you’re in … either one of you bumbling NFC North teams!

The visiting Green Bay Packers – who followed up their back-to-back one-point wins against Atlanta and Dallas with last week’s painful 38-31 home loss to Pittsburgh – were granted new life hours later when Chicago flopped facemask first 54-11 in Philadelphia – so we won’t bother to ask which one of these black-and-blue rivals “deserve” to win divisional honors this year, but which team has fewer question marks here:

Will Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers play or not … how about star RB Eddie Lacy, who suffered a sprained ankle, and what to make of Chicago’s putrid rush defense that last week allowed the Eagles to cruise their way to 289 ground yards or a whopping 8.0 yards a carry?

If Chicago can’t convert its own third-down plays here (see just 5-of-14 in Philly last Sunday Night), then Marc Trestman’s first year as Bears’ boss is gonna end badly, but expect Chicago RB Matt Forte (just 13 touches last weekend) to handle the ball up to 30 or 35 times here as a time-of-possession game appears Chicago’s best bet to survive-and-advance.

We’ll have the Rodgers update and who’s gonna win this one when you check in with Jim Hurley on game-day morning – get all the NFL Week 17 winnin’ treats then!

CAROLINA (4-11) at ATLANTA (11-4) – 1 p.m. ET, Fox
The Carolina Panthers-- who have not been to the playoffs since 2008 and haven’t won a post-season game since 2005-- are a solid six-point road betting favorite here as they look to wrap up the NFC South crown and there’s a smallish chance that Ron Rivera’s club could wind up being the No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoffs (hey, you never know!).

In Round I of Panthers vs. Falcons, it was a 34-10 laugher for Carolina inside the Georgia Dome back in Week 9 play, but obviously things have changed here as WR Steve Smith (knee) may have received a positive prognosis, but he’s still not gonna play in this tilt, so Carolina QB Cam Newton – who has his own ankle woes these days -- figures to rely more than ever on TE Greg Olsen who has nabbed a team-high 67 receptions this year.

The flip side says the farewell game of Atlanta TE Tony Gonzalez (79 catches and 8 TDs this year) could be a game-wrecker here, and gotta believe QB Matt Ryan will target Gonzalez 12-to-15 times – hey, if the Panthers don’t get a grip on the future Hall of Famer inside the red zone than Carolina could blow this shot to be a division winner.

TAMPA BAY (4-11) at NEW ORLEANS (10-5) – 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
Maybe the Saints should just keep on clicking their heels and saying “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home …”

After all, this here-and-now New Orleans team is 7-0 SU (straight-up) and 6-0-1 ATS this year inside the Louisiana Superdome, while on the road Sean Payton’s club is a rotten-to-the-core 3-5 SU and 1-7 versus the vig, and the oddsmakers here have proclaimed the Saints to be 12-point betting favorites at press time and playing from in front is key here, ‘cause Tampa Bay’s a crummy 32nd (and dead-least) in the NFL in passing offense.

Hey, if there’s gonna be an upset here it will be if Saints QB Drew Brees misfires on his throws – four INTs in his last two games have been a major bummer, but what about the fact that the New Orleans O-line has been a sieve with Brees sacked a total of 10 times the past two weeks including six in last Sunday’s 17-13 rain-filled loss in Carolina?

No wonder word is Payton will opt for a wet-behind-the-ears rookie to play left tackle here – say on your toes, Mr. Brees!

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Eagles at Cowboys 
It's winner-take-all and loser-go-home in this battle of intense rivals. We'll have the latest scoop on Dallas QB Romo and any other injuries that may factor in to this decision, and have the final determination after talking with my scouts, handicappers and NFL insiders. Click here to get this winner for only $20!

PHILADELPHIA (9-6) at DALLAS (8-7) – 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
The soap opera that is the here-and-now Dallas Cowboys rolls on and cynics could have claimed this 2013 season could only end one way … with heartache after QB Tony Romo botches something in the end but the reality of the situation is Romo is gone for the year with a herniated disk in his back and so somebody else will have to play “scapegoat” for the ‘Boys lose in Week 17.

Romo led last week’s go-ahead TD drive against Washington that covered 87 yards on nine plays and capped by a 10-yard scoring strike to RB DeMarco Murray but now it will have to be QB Kyle Orton who must shine if Dallas is gonna finally survive-and-advance here.

The Cowboys will need the aforementioned Murray (22 carries for 96 yards and three catches for 15 yards last week in D.C.) for a major workhorse game because the idea here is to play keep-a-way against an Eagles team that leads the league in rushing and last week had two backs in LeSean “Shady” McCoy (133 yards rushing) and Bryce Brown (115 yards rushing) power past the century mark and we haven’t even mentioned the fact that Philly QB Nick Foles has thrown 25 TDs and only 2 INTs and both NBC’s Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were correct in stating this dude needs to get some MVP love behind the likes of Denver QB Peyton Manning and Kansas City RB Jamaal Charles.

If there’s one X-factor at work here it’s this:

The Birds need a fierce pass rush to “panic” Orton here and so Philadelphia DE Trent Cole – who snagged three sacks last Sunday night – must make his presence felt or else!


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