Network Bulletin 1-4 thru 1-6 Wild Cards and BCS Title Game
Volume 29, Issue 18 - Saturday, Jan 4 thru Monday, Jan 6
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SATURDAY, JAN. 4: COMPASS BOWL - at Birmingham, AL
SUNDAY, JAN. 5: GO DADDY BOWL - at Mobile, Al
MONDAY, JAN. 6: BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - at Pasadena, CA
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%!
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NFL WILD CARD SATURDAY
KANSAS CITY (11-5) at INDIANAPOLIS (11-5) - 4:35 p.m. ET, NBC
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
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
Sat Jan 5 Packers (-7.5) Vikings WON 24-10
Bengals/Texans (UNDER 43) WON 13/19
Redskins (+3) Seahawks lost 14-24
Saturday: Chiefs at Colts (-2.5, 46.5) 4:35 ET (NBC)
Saints at Eagles (-2.5, 54) 8:10 ET (NBC)
49'ers (-2.5, 46) at Packers 4:40 ET (Fox)
$75 for the whole Wild Card Weekend, or $50 for each day.
NFL WILD CARD SUNDAY
SAN DIEGO (9-7) at CINCINNATI (11-5) - 1 p.m. ET, NBC
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
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
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