Network Bulletin 1-4 thru 1-6 Wild Cards and BCS Title Game

Volume 29, Issue 18 - Saturday, Jan 4 thru Monday, Jan 6

THE NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND IS HERE

The National Football League's post-season chase to get to Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey figures to have lots of twists and turns to it ... even if everyone and his brother-in-law seems to be picking a Seattle vs. Denver showdown at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 2nd.

Those two top seeds will sit tight this weekend and let the wild card round clubs battle it out and no doubt the frosty conditions that some "prognosticators" are calling for come Super Sunday may, in fact, be a big part of this weekend's playoff games in Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Green Bay. Brrrr is right!

NCAA BASKETBALL CONSENSUS PLAY SCORES AGAIN SATURDAY!
6-1 In 2013 - Going For Win #7 To Tip Off 2014 - Click here
THE FINAL COLLEGE BOWL PREVIEWS

SATURDAY, JAN. 4: COMPASS BOWL - at Birmingham, AL
HOUSTON (8-4) vs. VANDERBILT (8-4) - 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
This one's an "appetizer" for the NFL Wild Card Playoff Games on this first Saturday in January and don't snooze on what figures to be a highly entertaining affair even if Vandy QB Austyn Carta-Samuels (2,268 passing yards in 2013) has declared himself out after undergoing knee surgery. Hey, the Commodores - who are playing in a school-record third straight bowl game here after losing to Cincinnati and beating N.C. State the past two years -- have some other weapons including WR Jordan Matthews who nabbed 107 balls this year and is the SEC's top wide-out. A spread note on the Houston Coogs: They enter this tilt at 10-2 against the odds and have their own snazzy wide receiver in a cat named Deontay Greenberry (76 receptions for 1,106 yards and 10 TDs).


CRUSH THE COMPASS BOWL SATURDAY AFTERNOON!
PLUS BONUS COLLEGE HOOPS
Jim Hurley's Network has the right direction in Saturday's matchup between Vanderbilt and Houston. Can the Cougars score at will against an SEC defense? Or will Vandy shut down the freshman flash, John O'Korn, and earn a final win for Coach Franklin? Jim's got a power move on this game and you can get this winner along with the day's top college basketball for only $20 when you click here.

SUNDAY, JAN. 5: GO DADDY BOWL - at Mobile, Al
ARKANSAS STATE (7-5) vs. BALL STATE (10-2) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
This one follows NFL Wild Card Sunday - we know you'll be bleary-eyed but you can make it! - and the main reason to tune in here is to check out Ball State QB Keith Wenning who threw for 3,933 yards with 34 TDs this year and did you know the B-State Cardinals are 0-6 lifetime in bowl games? Arkansas State waves bye-bye to one-and-done head coach Bryan Harsin who was just named Boise State's newest head coach ... did someone say anything about "distractions"?

SUNDAY NIGHT BOWL AND BASKETBALL BLAST
What better way to close out a weekend of football than MORE Football!

The Jim Hurley Network's handicappers eat, breathe and drink the game, so we won't take our foot off the pedal when Sunday night comes and Arkansas State and Ball State kick it off in Mobile, Alabama for the last bowl game prior to the national title showdown tomorrow night.

Arkansas State returns for the third straight time as Sun Belt Champs, this time as a 9 point dog. Last year the Red Wolves finally got their first bowl win right here but will have to play their best to beat their talented MAC opponent, Ball State.

We know what both teams are capable of and what to expect in tonight's game. Add all our knowledge up and it produces a winner! Cash in some Sunday Night Bowl Action and we'll add in some Sunday night TV college basketball like Providence-Villanova, Iowa-Wisconsin, or possibly North Carolina-Wake Forest, all for just $25 - Click here

MONDAY, JAN. 6: BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - at Pasadena, CA
#2 AUBURN (12-1) vs. #1 FLORIDA STATE (13-0) - 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
This comes straight from the "no-kidding" department: We will have reams and reams of goodies on this national title tilt in the days leading up to this final BCS Championship Game and so let's simply whet your appetite here in today's Jim Sez with a couple of items that you might not have heard as yet: The top-ranked Florida State Seminoles have beaten 12 of their 13 foes this year by at least 27 points and they're 7-1 versus the vig against fellow bowl opponents this year - is Heisman Trophy-winning QB Jameis Winston (3,820 yards passing with 38 TDs) gonna be on target here after weeks of celebrating his many awards? Meanwhile, Auburn enters this clash on a FBS-best 10-game spread winning streak and did you realize the Tigers also own a five-game bowl winning streak to boot while dating back to 2006? If RB Tre Mason (304 yards rushing in the SEC Championship Game against Missouri) averages anything near his 5.7 yards-per-carry average than the SEC will have an eighth straight BCS champ. Right?

One year ago, the Network stood in this same spot and our handicapping team rose to the challenging in delivering Alabama (-9) over Notre Dame 42-14. That was Jim's 6th Championship Game Winner in the last 8 for 75%!
And we are well prepared to win another Side & Total on this year's game. Click here for Monday's BCS Title Game

NFL WILD CARD PREVIEWS

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

NFL WILD CARD SATURDAY

KANSAS CITY (11-5) at INDIANAPOLIS (11-5) - 4:35 p.m. ET, NBC
Maybe you happened to notice that there are three "new" head coaches participating in this weekend's four NFL playoff games, and the gentlemen who made the biggest splash - KayCee's Andy Reid - here tries to get the Chiefs their first post-season win since 1993.

No doubt the buzz word here for KC is health - as the team's injury list is long and includes pass-rushing whiz LB Tamba Hali (swollen knee), who didn't practice Thursday and is iffy here, and the Chiefs have to get their long-lost pass rush back in order if they're gonna rattle second-year star QB Andrew Luck, who comes off his second straight 23-TD season (not bad considering he didn't have veteran WR Reggie Wayne most of the year).

Luck threw for 241 yards in a 23-7 win at 7.5-point favorite Kansas City in a Week 16 clash at Arrowhead Stadium, but don't put too much emphasis on that game 'cause the Chiefs were short-handed at several positions back then, and note the AFC West runners-ups are keeping fingers crossed that WR Dwayne Bowe (concussion) and LB Justin Houston (elbow) - among others - get green-lighted for this road game.

If you're looking for a key game plan item here, then let's see how often KayCee gets the ball into the hands of in-space stars RB Jamaal Charles and WR/RB Dexter McCluster here - against a Colts defense that ranks a lowly 25th in the league against the rush (yielding 125.1 ypg) the forecast here is for Charles (1,287 yards rushing) to get at least 25 carries while McCluster should be in the mix with a couple of reverses that could well flip the field.

Spread Notes - Indianapolis is 9-6-1 ATS (against the spread) overall this season and so that makes the Colts a heady 19-12-2 spreadwise since the start of last year (a spiffy .613 winning rate) and did you realize that this AFC South crew is 11-4-1 ATS as hosts the past two years? Meanwhile, Kansas City is 9-7 versus the vig in the first year of the Andy Reid Era and the Chiefs enter this playoff game at 7-1 spreadwise away.

NEW ORLEANS (11-5) at PHILADELPHIA (10-6) - 8:05 p.m. ET, NBC
Can we pose a question to 'ya right here: If the New Orleans Saints are such a rotten road team, than why are the NFC South guys only a 2 ½-point underdog at NFC East champ Philly here?

The gist of what we're saying is despite the fact the Saints have lost five of their eight road games this year - and done even worse spreadwise (see Spread Notes below) - here's the Las Vegas price tag showing the Eagles as less-than-FG favorites for this prime-time affair and do keep in mind first-year boss Chip Kelly's club has won seven of its last eight games while dating back to early November.

The Eagles sport the NFL's top-ranked rushing attack starring RB LeSean McCoy (1,607 yards rushing), but McCoy must be a factor as a pass-catcher here against a Saints defense that went nearly from worst-to-first against the forward pass this year while allowing just 194.1 aerial yards per game.

Okay, so we know Philly QB Nick Foles (27 TDs and just 2 INTs) has been fantastic ever since landing the starting spot over Michael Vick, but how will Foles react to a bevy of blitzes dialed up by Saints' DC Rob Ryan - and will the likes of McCoy, WR DeSean Jackson (82 receptions and 9 TDs) and others crank out lots of "chunk plays" here after the Birds registered an NFC-best 247 offensive plays that covered 10-or-more yards?

New Orleans - which has scored a per-game average of only 17.4 ppg in its eight road games this season - may be chucking all its eggs into the basket of veteran QB Drew Brees (5,162 yards passing with 39 TDs), but we believe the old time-of-possession stat will be key here as Brees & Company must make a concerted effort to limit Philly's offensive snaps:

If you wish to pin us down, we say that if the Eagles get off 75 snaps or more here, they'll survive and advance to next weekend's NFC Divisional Playoffs.

Still, don't be silly and think the Saints' well-documented road woes is gonna automatically mean Payton's crew is finished ever before it gets started here - if TE Jimmy Graham (86 catches for 1,215 yards and an NFL-best 16 TDs) is the red-zone menace he usually is at home, then the Saints will be the ones marching on in this chase for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Spread Notes - New Orleans is 8-7-1 against the Las Vegas prices this season, and no surprise here that the Saints are just 1-7 ATS away with the lone spread win on the road coming in a 26-18 Week 5 triumph at Chicago (a pick 'em affair). Note that N'Orleans is just 3-5 ATS in the post-season under boss-man Sean Payton. On the flip side, Philadelphia is a dead-even but vig-losing 8-8 spreadwise this season and the Eagles are 6-17-1 ATS as hosts since the start of the 2011 season (a wobbly .261 winning percentage). Note that the Birds have failed to cover their last three consecutive post-season games going back to the 2008 season

PLAYOFF PROFITS START WITH NFL WILDCARD WEEKEND
SATURDAY & SUNDAY JANUARY 4th AND 5th 

 3-1 on last year's Wild Card Weekend 

Sat Jan 5         Packers (-7.5) Vikings              WON   24-10

                       Bengals/Texans (UNDER 43)    WON   13/19
Sun Jan 6        Ravens (-7) Colts                      WON    24-9     

                       Redskins (+3) Seahawks           lost     14-24
12-6 Last 4 Years in the Wild Cards and Looking to Sweep
Again This Weekend

Saturday:       Chiefs at Colts (-2.5, 46.5)           4:35 ET (NBC)
                                Colts dominated KC on the road 3 weeks ago...can they do it at home?

                        Saints at Eagles (-2.5, 54)           8:10 ET (NBC)
                                Bitter wind chills expected, who handles the elements better may decide this.


Sunday:          Chargers at Bengals
(-7, 46)    1:05 ET (CBS)
                                Another warm weather team gets a cold reception in Cincy

                        49'ers (-2.5, 46) at Packers        4:40 ET (Fox)
                           Rodgers and Cobb back for the Pack, that and -30 wind chil
. Iis that enough to hold off red hot Frisco?


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NFL WILD CARD SUNDAY

SAN DIEGO (9-7) at CINCINNATI (11-5) - 1 p.m. ET, NBC
You might have to tune to the History Channel to find the last video proof that the Cincinnati Bengals actually won a playoff game- it was, after all, 23 years ago and so the Queen City natives have grown restless and you do wonder if that means the pressure's been building all week/season long for Marvin Lewis' club to finally produce.

If Cincinnati- a solid 6.5-point betting favorite- is gonna survive-and-advance to an AFC Divisional Playoff game next weekend in Foxboro- than any genius would tell you QB Andy Dalton better take care of the football after last week airing four INTs in a 34-17 win/cover against Baltimore.

Dalton's stats the past two playoff games- both in Houston- are not good as he's thrown four INTs and been sacked six times without tossing a single TD but here he'll look to chew up a San Diego pass defense that ranks a lowly 28th in the league (allowing 258.7 ypg) and expect both WR A.J. Green and do-everything RB Gio Bernard to get targeted plenty- can they both make significant YAC plays here?

On the flip sides, San Diego QB Philip Rivers (4,478 yards passing with 32 TDs and 11 INTs) is back in the playoff picture after a three-year franchise drought and his downfield threat WR Keenan Allen comes into this game having collected 16 receptions of 20-plus yards this year while scoring eight TDs. If the Chargers take an early lead here, the Bengals could push the panic button- but if the 2013 history of this Cincinnati team remains "true" than the Bengals will win/cover at "The Jungle" one mo' time (see Spread Notes below).

Spread Notes- Cincinnati is 10-5-1 ATS (against the spread) this season and as everyone by now knows the Bengals are a perfect 8-and-oh spreadwise at home. But did you know Cincy's covered its last four in a row against San Diego while dating back to 2009? On the flip side, San Diego is a healthy 9-6-1 against the odds this season and the Bolts are 11-7-1 ATS away since late in the 2010 campaign.

SAN FRANCISCO (12-4) at GREEN BAY (8-7-1) - 4:30 p.m. ET, Fox
Did someone say anything about the weather outside being frightful? The reports 'round Green Bay is that we could see temps fall to 28 degrees below zero with the wind chill and so both the 49ers and the home underdog Packers better bring their ground games here and do keep in mind San Fran ranked third in the NFL with 137.6 yards per game via the ground route while Green Bay ranked a better-than-you-thought seventh while averaging 133.5 ypg.

Still, the game plan for the Packers is to do everything in their power to keep their own leaky defense off the field and so QB Aaron Rodgers- fresh of last week's 318-yard passing performance that featured the game-winning 48-yard TD strike to a wide-open WR Randall Cobb with 38 seconds left in the 33-28 win in Chicago- must steer clear of picks against an opportunistic Niners defense that ranks third league-wide in scoring (17 ppg).

Gut feeling is that even without star LB Clay Matthews (broken right thumb) the Pack will load the box and stuff RB Frank Gore and QB Colin Kaepernick more than a few times but it's those occasional chunk play runs by Kaepernick that the Packers cannot afford to happen (see last year's playoff win by SF when he rushed for a QB-record 181 rushing yards).

Spread Notes - San Francisco is 10-5-1 ATS overall this season and the Niners now are a collective 32-18-3 vig-wise in the Jim Harbaugh Era for a .640 winning rate. Note that Green Bay is 6-9-1 versus the vig this season and the Packers enter this post-season tilt at 7-13-1 ATS in their last 20 games against non-divisional foes.

PLAYOFF PROFITS START WITH NFL WILDCARD WEEKEND
3-1 on last year's Wild Card Weekend - Looking to Sweep This Weekend

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