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|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|01-14-18||Saints +4 v. Vikings||Top||24-29||Loss||-110||161 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: The Saints visited Minnesota in Week 1 of the 2017 season and the Vikings came away with a 29-19 victory. The two teams meet again Sunday in the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs, after both teams captured their respective divisions. The Saints won the NFC South and then edged the Carolina Panters 31-26 in last weekend's wild card round, setting up this re-match with the 13-3 Minnesota Vikings, winners of the NFC North and owners of the No. 2 seed. In most cases, the Saints and Vikings would take a strong look at their Week 1 matchup as they prepare for Sunday's NFC playoff game but taht won't be the case here. Both teams have undergone significant changes since that Sep. 11th meeting. Minnesota QB Sam Bradford completed 27-of-32 passes for 346 yards and three TDs that one, earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. However, Bradford played only a single half the rest of the season, as Case Keenum has replaced injured Bradford and put himself in MVP consideration.
As for New Orleans, the Saints jettisoned former Vikings RB Adrian Peterson after a miserable four-game run and have thrived with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara, becoming one of the league's most dangerous running back duos.
New Orleans: Drew Brees completed 23 of 33 last Sunday for 376 yards with two TDs and one INT. He made up for a Minnesota running game which struggled, as Kamara led the team in rushing with 23 yards on 10 carries with Mark Ingram adding just 22 yards on nine carries. That's not indicative of that duo's play during the regular season, as Ingram ran for a career-high 1,124 yards (12 TDs) and Kamara added 728 yards (8 TDs) plus had 81 catches for another five scores. Michael Thomas was the team's leading receiver on the season (104 catches) and led the team with eight catches for 131 yards, while Ted Ginn Jr. (53 catches) added four catches and a TD. The Saints made great strides defensively this season but couldn't stop Cam Newton (349 yards and two TD passes), as the Panthers rolled up 413 total yards.
Minnesota: Case Keenum came into this season 9-15 as an NFL starter but became a dark-horse MVP candidate after recording career highs in completions (325), attempts (481), yards (3,547), touchdowns (22) and passer rating (98.3) while posting an 11-3 mark as a starter. The QB position wasn't Minnesota's only notable change from the season opener ,as Latavius Murray's workload was nondescript before impressive rookie Dalvin Cook saw his season end due to an ACL injury. Murray recorded eight TDs in his last 10 games of the season (finished with 842 yards rushing), while fellow RB Jerick McKinnon (570 yards rushing) caught 43 of his 51 receptions over the last 12 games. Minnesota ended the regular season averaging 122.3 YPG on the ground, ranking 7th. WR Stefon Diggs overcame injury issues to catch 64 passes and matched TE Rudolph (57 catches) for a team-high eight TD receptions. Thielen led all Viking receivers with 91 catches and 1,276 receiving yards. Minnesota had a better than expected offense but it was the defense which was he "star of the show," ranking first in the NFL in points allowed (15.8 per) and total defense (275.9 YPG) on the season.
|01-14-18||Jaguars v. Steelers -7||Top||45-42||Loss||-110||158 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The Jacksonville Jaguars made their first playoff appearance since 2007 last weekend vs. the Buffalo Bills, after winning the franchise's first division title since 1999 by winning the AFC South with a 10-6 record. That Jags were a huge surprise in 2017, as the team entered the season with a pathetic 22-74 (.229) record the previous six seasons. The Jags' 10-3 victory over the Bills was generally said to be "unwatchable" at times but so be it, the Jags will head to Pittsburgh's Heinz Field on Sunday with a chance to advance to the AFC championship game. The postseason is nothing new to the Steelers, as Pittsburgh is in the playoffs for the 8th time in Mike Tomlin's 11 years as the team's head coach. A highly controversial 27-24 home loss to the Patriots in Week 15, is the only thing keeping the 13-3 Steelers from being the AFC's no. 1 seed (that loss cost them the tie-breaker with the 13-3 Pats). However, Pittsburgh could just as easily blame its 30-9 Week 5 home loss to Jacksonville as the culprit for failing to earn the No. 1 seed.
Jacksonville: Blake Bortles was almost replaced as the team's starting QB in the preseason but the Jags really had no "Plan B." The former UCF star had a solid season, keeping his TOs to a minimum (21-13 ratio) and benefiting from the NFL's No. 1 ground game. The Jags averaged 141.4 YPG in the regular, led by rookie Leonard Fournette (1,040 yards and 9 TDs but just 3.9 YPC). The Jacksonville offense kept putting its defense in trouble last season but that all changed in 2017. The Jags' D is the reason this team went 10-4 to clinch its playoff berth. The Jags did lose their final two games but the defense still ended the regular season second in both scoring D (16.8 PPG) and total D (286.1 YPG). The defense showed up last week vs. Buffalo, holding the Bills to 263 yards and only a mere FG. However, the Jags' offense was awful, Leonard Fournette had just 57 rushing yards on 21 carries in his playoff debut and Blake Bortle's passing numbers were just plain 'ugly!' He was 12 of 23 for a pathetic 87 yards (76.8 QB rating, although he did pass for the game's lone TD (did not throw a pick) and added a game-high 88 yards rushing. Still, one wonders how the Jags will fare against Pittsburgh's defense?
Pittsburgh. The 2017 Steelers' D is not the dominant "Steel Curtain" of years past but it's a quality stop-unit allowing 19.2 PPG (7th) on 306.9 YPG (5th), while leading the NFL with 56 sacks. After that 30-9 loss to the Jags, Pittsburgh won 10 of its last 11 games down the stretch to finish 13-3. Ben Roethlisberger completed 64.2% for 4,251 yards with 28 TDs and 14 interceptions. RB Le’Veon Bell led the team with 1,291 rushing yards (9 TDs) plus caught 85 balls for two TDs. WR Antonio Brown led Pittsburgh’s receiving corps with 101 catches for 1,533 yards and 9 TDs, despite sitting out Weeks 16 & 17. JuJu Smith-Schuster chipped in 917 receiving yards and seven TDs in his 58 catches. He had 15 receptions and two TDs in the final two weeks with Brown sidelined.
The pick: Roethlisberger wondered aloud "if he still had it" when meeting with reporters after that 30-9 Week 5 loss to the Jags. He had thrown five interceptions in that contest, two of which were returned for TDs by the Jags. However, Big Ben would throw 22 TDs and just seven INTs over his final 10- games, then sat out Week 17. He's still "got it" plus owns arguably the NFL's best all-around RB in Bell and its best WR in Brown. That's not to mention an always excellent defense to "have his back." Pittsburgh owns the most playoff victories in league-history at 36, while Jacksonville's 10-3 win over Buffalo was just the team's second playoff win in the new millennium. It's Big Ben vs. Blake Bortles! You make the call? Then again, let me. Make Pittsburgh an 8* play.
|01-13-18||Falcons v. Eagles OVER 41||Top||10-15||Loss||-115||137 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: Surely no one reading this would be unaware that the Atlanta Falcons led the New Patriots 28-3 in last year's Super Bowl before a monumental collapse led to the Patriots winning 34-28 in OT. No one knew quite what to expect from the Falcons in 2017 but it was hardly a surprise that the team struggled throughout the entire regular season. In fact, the Falcons were forced into a "must win" situation in Week 17 of this year in order to qualify for the NFC's final playoff berth as the No. 6 seed. However, Falcons began their quest to return to the Super Bowl as the NFC's representative last Saturday with a wire-to-wire 26-13 win over the Rams in Los Angeles. The Philadelphia Eagles boasted the NFL's top mark throughout much of the season and tied a franchise record with 13 wins but as everyone knows, the team was 11-2 when Carson Wentz was lost for the season due to injury. Nick Foles finished off that game against the Giants in style but looked very 'shaky' as the Eagles went 1-1 with him as as a starter (more in a bit). So, the Eagles find themselves as the first No. 1 seed to enter its opening playoff game as an underdog in league history.
Atlanta: QB Matt Ryan (personal reasons) and WR Julio Jones (ankle, ribs) both missed practice Tuesday but are expected to start on Saturday. Ryan was 21 of 30 for 218 yards and a touchdown in the 13-point win over the Rams., giving him his first road playoff win in three starts. Jones reeled in nine receptions for 94 yards and a TD grab last week. The Falcons also possess a potent RB tandem in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman (combined for 1,493 rushing yards and 12 TDs this season). PK Matt Bryant nailed four FGs against the Rams and the Atlanta defense held the Rams (the league's highest-scoring team in the regular season at 29.9 PPG, to just one TD and 13 points. Speaking of that Atlanta defense, it has stepped up its game by allowing just 16.3 PPG over its last six games.
Philadelphia" Without Wentz, it's difficult to note Philly's offensive numbers during the regular season. Foles was outstanding in relief of Wentz vs. the Giants (24 of 38 with four TD passes) but was a combined 23 of 49 for 202 yards (one TD / two INTs) in Weeks 16 & 17. He hasn't given Philly's fickle fans much to cheer by leading the Eagles to just 16 points in their last nine quarters. Philly does have a solid running game though, averaging 132.3 YPG on the ground (3rd-best). The Philly defense has been terrific all season and comes in ranked 4th in scoring (18.4 PPG) and total D (306.5 YPG). Philly's No. 1 rush D (79.2 YPG) will be a real test for Atlanta's running game.
The pick: The Eagles can silence the critics on Saturday when they host the sixth-seeded Atlanta Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field, where they went 7-1 SU As alluded to above, the Eagles are the first top seed to be a home dog in the Division Round since the seeding system was introduced in 1975. However, last season's NFL MVP, Matt Ryan told reporters after the win over the Rams, "We're not here just to get here. We want to make noise while we're here." Ryan had just recorded his fifth consecutive playoff game with at least a 100.0 passer rating in Atlanta's 26-13 win over the Los Angeles Rams Motivation abounds on both sides and while Foles is no Ryan, he did have that 'magical' 2013 season for Philly back in 2013 when he threw 27 TDs and just two INTs (119.2 QB rating) in 13 games. Make the Over a 10* play.
|01-08-18||Alabama v. Georgia OVER 45||Top||26-23||Win||100||148 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: The SEC has been CFB's unquestioned top conference for some time now and it's only fitting that the 2017 SEC champion Georgia Bulldogs will square off in this year's CFP national championship game against their SEC rivals, the Alabama Crimson Tide. The winner will claim the national title for the ninth time in the past 12 seasons for the SEC. That said, the Bulldogs will be looking to win their first national title since the Herschel Walker-led team won the 1980 crown, while the Crimson Tide are striving for their fifth during Nick Saban's amazing 11-season tenure at Alabama. The Georgia Bulldogs are coming off a 54-48 double-overtime victory over the Oklahoma Sooners (arguably the best and most exciting game of the 2017 season, to-date), while Alabama left no doubt that it was fully deserving of being included in this year's 'Final 4' (despite not even winning the SEC West), by completely dominating No. 1 Clemson 24-6.
Georgia: The Bulldogs fell behind Oklahoma 31-14 but then scored the game's next 24 points to take a 38-31 lead. Oklahoma re-took the lead 45-38 but Georgia sent the game to OT tied at 45-all. After exchanging FGs in the first OT, Georgia blocked Oklahoma's FG attempt in the second OT and clinched a spot in the title game on Sony Michel's 27-yard TD run. Michel ran for 181 yards (16.5 YPC and 3 TDs) while Nick Chubb ran for 145 yards (10.4 YPC & 2 TDs). Georgia's freshman QB Jake Fromm has been seen a possible weak link for Georgia but he was 20-29 for 210 yards (2 TDs / 0 INTs) against Oklahoma, after going 16 of 22 for 183 yards (2 TDs & 0 INTs in the SEC title game vs. Auburn. No defense is capable of stopping Oklahoma's offense (Georgia allowed 48 points and over 500 yards) but note that Georgia entered the Rose Bowl matchup allowing just 13.2 PPG on 270.9 YPG.
Alabama: Speaking of defense, how about 'Bama's? The Crimson Tide stepped up last week and looked like the Alabama Crimson Tide of old, playing physical, nasty defense and doing just enough offensively to pull away. Make no mistake about it. Alabama won that game with its defense, giving the offense a short field with an interception and then getting a pick six. Alabama entered its game with Clemson allowing an FBS-low 11.5 PPG on 258.9 YPG and held Clemson to 188 totals yards (64 rushing yards) and six points. BTW, Clemson came in averaging 35.4 PPG and almost 450 YPG , including 244.1 YPG on the ground. Jalen Hurts continues to be under appreciated, but while he threw for just 120 yards he had two TD passes and did not throw an INT in 24 attempts. Hurts has passed for more than 200 yards in only two games this season but the Tide scored 37.9 PPG, and a multi-headed rushing attack ranks 10th nationally led by slashing RB Damien Harris (983 YR & 7.6 YPC / 11 TDs) and slamming 235-lb. Bob Scarbrough 573 YR / 4.8 YPC & 8 TDs). Plus, the elusive Hurts added another 808 YR (5.5 YPC & 8 TDs). Hurts is more feared as a runner but has 17 touchdown passes against just one interception (248 attempts) and enters this contest 27-2 as a starting QB.
The pick: Nick Saban will meet his former DC in Georgia's Kirby Smart, who is adamant that it doesn't give him crucial insights to the methods of the Crimson Tide. "There's not a lot of tendencies that he has that are just going to be ground-breaking to allow us a benefit," Smart said during a press conference. "The bottom line is our players got to go out and we've got to play a really good football game to stay with these guys." Saban also downplayed the situation, saying "I don't think the game is about the coaches. I think it's about the players." Aabama leads the nation in rushing defense at 92.8 YPG and will receive a big test from Georgia's senior duo of Nick Chubb (1,320 yards) and Sony Michel (1,129) bu that's what we thought against Clemson's running game, too. Athens may be in the same state as Atlanta but don't think this venue creates an edge for Georgia. The Crimson Tide are 6-0 in the Georgia capital overall since 2014. "We treat Atlanta like it's our home," Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson said. "We win a lot of games there." Should I close with the fact that Saban is 11-0 SU in his career vs. his former assistant coaches? Maybe, but instead, I expect to see a score closer to the Rose Bowl final than to what we saw in the Sugar Bowl. This total is TOO low. Make the Over a 10* play.
|01-07-18||Panthers v. Saints OVER 48||Top||26-31||Win||100||120 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The Mercedes-Benz Superdome will be the site of the last of four NFL wild card games this weekend. The Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints both finished 11-5 in 2017 but New Orleans won both regular season meetings, earning the Saints home field advantage for this contest. After opening 0-2, the Saints won 34-13 at Carolina in Week 3, jump-starting an eight game winning streak. The Panthers were just 4-3 after seven games but won seven of their final nine but the team's 31-21 Week 13 loss at New Orleans plus a 22-10 Week 17 loss in Atlanta, cost Carolina a chance to host this wild card contest. Conventional wisdom states that "it's hard to beat the same team three times in one season." However, teams that swept the regular-season series also won the playoff rematch 13 out of 20 times since 1970. So here we are.
Carolina: Cam Newton threw for for just 180 yards with one TD and three interceptions on 14-of-34 passing in the Week 17 loss in Atlanta. Newton clearly needs to bring his "A game" to this contest as he's basically a one-man show. He's far off his MVP numbers of 2015 (59.1% with a 22-16 ratio and an 80.7 QB rating) but Newton 's 754 rushing yards (5.4 YPC and six TDs) is a team high and his effectiveness is the main reason why Carolina ranks 4th in rushing on the season at 131.4 YPG. Stewart is the leading RB with 680 yards but he averages only 3.4 YPG. Rookie McCaffrey has added 435 yards (3 TDs) but his biggest contribution is his team-leading 80 catches (5 TDs). Devin Funchess is the team's best (only?) WR, with 63 catches and a team high 8 TD grabs. Carolina's D is allowing 20.4 PPG (11th) on 317.1 YPG (7th).
New Orleans: Discussions surrounding the Saints always start (and mostly end) with Drew Brees. However, things have changed in 2017. It's not that Brees has not been terrific but rather that the Saints' ground game and much-maligned defense, have made major improvements. The seemingly ageless Brees will turn 39 on Jan. 15 and had another 4,000-plus passing season (4,334 yards) and completed 72.0% of his passes. His TDs were down (23) but he threw just eight INTs and his QB rating checks in at 103.9. Anyone hear lately how the Saints made a mistake in sending A.P. to the Cards? Ingram ran for 1,234 yards (4.9 YPC & 12 TDs), while rookie RN Kamara ran for 728 yards (6.1 YPC & 8 TDs) plus caught 81 passes for another five TDs. Then there is the New Orleans' D, which after allowing 29.8 and 28.4 PPG the last two seasons, allowed just 20.4 PPG (10th) in 2017.
The pick: The Panthers haven't been able to slow the Saints in either of the two regular season meetings (allowed 34 and 31 points) and why should the Saints struggle to score here? After all, the Saints are 7-1 SU at home, averaging 31.0 PPG. That said, I expect Newton to be effective in this, his first postseason game since he and his team was dominated by the Broncos' D in the Super Bowl after the 2015 season. I'll stay away from the side but will make the Over an 8* play.
|01-07-18||Bills +9 v. Jaguars||Top||3-10||Win||100||117 h 55 m||Show|
The set-up: The 9-7 Buffalo Bills visit the Jacksonville Jaguars in an AFC Wild Card matchup in Sunday's first game. I doubt there is anyone not aware that the Bills will be making their first postseason appearance since 1999, ending the longest playoff drought in the NFL, as well as in all four major sports. The last time the Bills made the playoffs the team became victim of "The Music City Miracle." Google this if you need a refresher. Buffalo ended its playoff drought by benefiting from a minor miracle of its own, when the Bengals beat the Ravens by connecting on a 49-yard TD pass with 44 seconds remaining, on a 4th-and-12 play last Sunday! The 10-6 Jacksonville Jaguars will be making their first playoff appearance since 2007, with their first AFC South championship and speaking of 1999, the team's first division title since that 1999 season. The Jags' playoff drought was just nine seasons but entered this season without a single winning season in the span. In fact, the Jags opened the 2017 season with a pathetic 22-74 (.229) record the previous six seasons.
Buffalo: It's safe to say the Bills are hardly "all in" on QB Tyrod Taylor (see the Nathan Petrerman 'experiment') but h'es completing 62.6% with 14 TDs and just four INTs (in 420 attempts). He can extend plays with his mobility and has run for 427 yards (5.1 YPC) but Buffalo ranks 31st in passing yards at 176.6 per game. LeSean McCoy rushed for 1,138 yards and a team-high six rushing touchdowns plus was also the team's leading pass-catcher with 59 receptions. Buffalo ranks sixth in rushing yards at 126.14 YPG but that's down almost 40 YPG from 2016, when the team led the NFL with 164.4 YPG on the ground. Buffalo's D is no better than average, allowing 22.4 PPG (18th).
Jacksonville: Blake Bortles was almost replaced as the team's starting QB in the preseason but the Jags really had no "Plan B." The former UCF star had a solid season, keeping his TOs to a minimum (21-13 ratio) and benefiting from the NFL's No. 1 ground game. The Jags average 141.4 YPG, led by rookie Leonard Fournette (1,040 yards and 9 TDs but just 3.9 YPC). Marqise Lee led the team with 56 catches but he has an ankle issue and no other player has as many as 45 catches. The Jacksonville offense kept putting its defense in trouble last season but that all changed ion 2017. The Jags' D is the reason this team went 10-4 to clinch its playoff berth. The Jags did lose their final two games but the defense still ended the regular season second in both scoring D (16.8 PPG) and total D (286.1 YPG).
The pick: The Jacksonville Pass D has been terrific, holding opposing QBs to 56.8% completions and a QB rating of just 68.5 (No. 1 in both categories). The Jags' 55 sacks rank second to only Pittsburgh's 56. Taylor will surely be tested but his counterpart, the Jags' Bortles, is coming off back-to-back games (both losses) in which he threw five INTs, after throwing just eight in the team's 10-4 start. Then there is RB Leonard Fournette, who has only 300 yards rushing on 3.2 YPC over his last four games. Getting back to Buffalo QB Taylor, I may like him more than Buffalo's management does. Expect him to be able improvise and extend plays vs. the Jacksonville pass rushers. Taylor is playing the best football of his career right now, having completed 57 of 94 for 709 yards & two TD passes and no interceptions over the last three games. As for the Buffalo D, it has been strong the last six weeks, except in two games against the Pats and Tom Brady. In the four games against teams NOT led by Brady, Buffalo has allowed just 12.3 PPG. Anyone think Bortles resembles Brady in any way shape or form. Make Buffalo a 10* play.
|01-06-18||Falcons +6.5 v. Rams||Top||26-13||Win||100||100 h 55 m||Show|
The set-up: Not many are unaware that the Atlanta Falcons led the New Patriots 28-3 in last year's Super Bowl before a monumental collapse led to the Patriots winning 34-28 in OT. No one knew quite what to expect from the Falcons in 2017 but it was hardly surprise that the team struggled throughout the entire regular season.. In fact, the Falcons were forced into a "must win" situation in Week 17 of this year in order to qualify for the NFC's final playoff berth as the No. 6 seed. The 10-6 Falcons will begin their quest to return to the Super Bowl as the NFC's representative this Saturday night in Los Angeles, when they face the 11-5 Rams, who won the NFC West. The Rams have been one of NFL 2017's biggest surprises, going from 4-12 in 2016 to 11-5 in 2017. The Rams are in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, after winning their first NFC West crown since 2003. Atlanta: The Falcons reached the playoffs in the last week of the season with a 22-10 home win over Carolina (actually, Atlanta didn't actually need to win, as Seattle lost at home to Arizona). Matt Ryan threw for 317 yards and a TD on 28 of 45 passing but for the year, came nowhere his MVP numbers of 2016. Ryan threw for 4,095 yards with 20 TDs and 12 INTs, compiling a 91.4 QB rating this season. However, he just missed throwing for 5,000 yards in 2016 (4,944), while throwing 38 TDs against just seven INTs (117.1 QB rating). Freeman and Coleman were once again a very good RB tandem plus Julio Jones (88 catches on 16.4 YPC but just three TDs) remains among the very best WRs in the NFL but after leading the NFL with 33.8 PPG in 2016, the Falcons are a middle-of-the-pack 15th (in a 32-team league) in scoring here in 2017 at 22.1 PPG. Defensively, the Falcons have held their own, allowing 19.7 PPG (8th) on 318.4 YPG (9th). LA Rams: First-year head coach Sean McVay has transformed the Rams, as after LA averaged NFL lows in points (14.0 PPG) and total offense (262.7 YPG) in 2016, this year's team was the NFL's highest scoring team at 29.9 PPG. The Rams are the second team in history to lead the league in scoring, after ranking last the previous season. Jared Goff became an accomplished QB over night (3,804 yards, 28 touchdowns and 7 interceptions for a QB rating of 100.5) and RB Todd Gurley could possibly be the 2017 MVP. He has 1,305 yards rushing and 13 rushing TD, sin addition to finishing 2nd on the team in receiving yards with 788 yards with a team-high 64 receptions (plus six more TDs). WR Cooper Kupp led the team with 869 receiving yards on 62 catches (5 TDs), while Robert Woods added 781 yards and 5 TDs on 56 catches. Sammy Watkins caught just 39 passes but leads the team with eight TDs. The offense got most of the glory but LA's defense has allowed 20.6 PPG to rank a respectable 12th. The pick: It’s been a while since the Rams played a postseason game at the venerable Coliseum. The answer to that trivia question would be, the 1978 NFC title games in a 28-0 loss to the Dallas Cowboys and Roger Staubach. Are the 31-year-old MvVay and his second-year QB (Goff) really up to this kind of pressure? Let's not forget that Atlanta's entire season has been about redemption after blowing that 28-3 Super Bowl lead and the Falcons come in having won six of their last eight, with the only two losses coming against division winners Minnesota and New Orleans. 'Matty Ice" is no MVP in 2017 but he's thrown 12 TD passes and just one interception over his last four playoff games. Take the points and make the Falcons an 10* play.
|01-06-18||Titans +9 v. Chiefs||Top||22-21||Win||100||96 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The 9-7 Tennessee Titans are in the postseason for the first time since 2008, earning a wild card bid as the AFC's No. 5 seed. The Titans will head to Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday for a game against the 10-6 KC Chiefs, who won the AFC West after a season of streaks (more in a bit). Tennessee has not won a playoff game since 2003 but it's also worth noting that the Chiefs haven't won a home playoff game since Jan. 8, 1994, having lost five straight postseason home contests (OUCH!).
Tennessee: The Titans' offense has shown flashes of brilliance but has been inconsistent. QB Marcus Mariota leads a passing offense that ranks just 23rd in the NFL (199.4 YPG), throwing more interceptions (15) than TD passes (13). His QB rating is awful, at 79.3. Tennessee relies on its running game but after Murray (1,287 yards on 4.4 YPC) led the way in 2016, with the team ranking ranking third with 136.7 YPG (4.6 YPC) on the ground in 2016, things have not gone as well in 2017. Murray has just 659 yards (3.6 YPC!) and while fellow RB Henry (744 yards) has had his moments, the Titans rank just 15th in rushing this season (114.6 YPG), with the team's average falling from 4.6 YPC to 4.1 (that's big!). The Titans are scoring a modest 20.9 PPG (19th) and the defense ranks 17th, allowing 22,2 PPG.
Kansas City: The Chiefs opened the 2017 season by beating the Patriots up in New England in the NFL's Thursday night season opener. Led by veteran QB Alex Smith and rookie RB Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs opened 5-0 SU & ATS. The team then "hit a wall," going 1-6 SU & ATS, before going 4-0 SU &ATS down the stretch. Smith's had a career-season, completing 67.5% for 4,042 yards with 26 TDs and just five INTs (104.7 QB rating). Hunt had a mid-season slump but ran for a league-high 1,327 yards (4.9 YPC with 8 TDs) and caught 53 passes with three more TDs. TE Kelce led the team with 83 catches and 8 TDs, while WR Hill added 75 catches and 7 TDs. Defensively, the Chiefs are allowing 365.1 YPG (28th) but some better news is that they rank higher in the most important defensive category, points allowed (21.2 PPG ranks 15th).
The pick: KC has the better offensive weapons and the defense played much better down the stretch, allowing just 13.7 PPG in the first three of the team's four-game season-ending winning streak (allowed 24 points n a meaningless Week 17 win). However, I can't ignore the fact that the Chiefs have lost FIVE consecutive home playoff games and here, they have a significant pointspread to cover (note: it seems to be rising by the day!). Four of the Titans' seven losses came by six points or less and over Tennessee's last 10 games, the Titans' allowed more than 20 points just three times. Take the big points and make Tennessee an 8* play.
|01-01-18||Alabama -1.5 v. Clemson||Top||24-6||Win||100||648 h 46 m||Show|
The set-up: I must admit that I was more than a little surprised that there was so much suspense surrounding the CFP Selection Show back on Dec. 3. Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia were 'locks,' and everyone knew that. The drama revolved around "Who was No. 4?" Was anyone really all that surprised that the committee chose Alabama, which set up a 'rubber match' contest with Clemson? The Tide and Tigers have met in the lat two championship games, Alabama winning the first 45-40 and Clemson winning the rematch, 35-31. As for Ohio State, not only did the Buckeyes have two losses to the Crimson Tide's one but Ohio State's two losses came at home to Oklahoma (31-16) and at Iowa, 55-24. Then there was the fact that Clemson had embarrassed Ohio State in last year's semifinal game, 31-0. Choosing Alabama over Ohio State to set up Clemson/Alabama III, seemed like a "no-brainer" to me.
Alabama:The Tide opened as the nation's No. 1 team in both preseason polls and stayed there until their loss at Auburn in the team's regular season finale. Alabama relies on an outstanding running game (265.3 YPG ranks 9th) and a dual-threat QB Jalen Hurts (2.005 passing yards with a 15-1 ratio plus 768 YR on 5.6 YPC with 8 TDs) to average 39.1 PPG (11th). Combine that with a defense which allows an FBS-low 11.5 PPG on 258.9 YPG (2nd-best) and it should come as no surprise that Alabama has become a "regular" in the CFP's 'Final 4.' However, Hurts' passing issues popped up again when he went 12-of-22 for 112 yards in the loss to Auburn,.
Clemson: The Tigers have great offensive balance, averaging 244.1 YPG through the air (52nd) and 244.1 YPG on the ground (32nd). That adds up to an offense averaging 35.4 PPG (21st). QB Kelly Bryant is no Deshaun Watson (few are) but he was accurate (67.4%) and productive this season, as he threw for 2,678 yards with 13 TDs and six INTs. Bryant added 646 RY with 11 TDs, helping Etienne (744 YR / 7.2 YPC / 13 TDs) and Feaster (659 YR / 6.4 YPC / 7 TDs) give Clemson a strong rushing attack which ranks 32nd (205.1 YPG). Like Alabama, Clemson has a terrific ""stop unit!" Clemson ranks second (to only Alabama) in allowing 12.8 PPG and the Tigers rank fifth in total defense (277.9 YPG ranks 5th).
The pick: This game should be a "classic" bu then again, one never knows.I realize that Clemson's 'excuse' for losing at Syracuse was that Bryant got hurt during that game but c'mon, 4-8 Syracuse lost all five games after shocking the Tigers (as a 24-point home dog!), allowing 43.2 PPG. Think there is ANY way Alabama would/could lose to Syracuse? It's rare that Alabama comes into a game with a "chip on its shoulder" and with "something to prove." However, that is exactly the case here. I'm "all in" on the Tide. Make Alabama a 10* play.
|01-01-18||Georgia v. Oklahoma +2.5||Top||54-48||Loss||-105||52 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: The first of two Jan. 1 CFP semifinal games will take place at the Rose Bowl, as the 12-1 and No.2 Oklahoma Sooners (champions of the Big 12) will take on the 12-1 and No.3 Georgia Bulldogs (champs of the SEC). Both schools went 8-1 in their respective conferences with Oklahoma dominating TCU 41-17 in the Big 12 title game (Sooners also beat the Horned Frogs 38-20 during the regular season), while Georgia avenged its lone regular season loss (40-17 at Auburn), with a easier than expected 28-7 victory over Auburn in the SEC title game.This is not a "traditional Rose Bowl (Big Ten vs. Pac 8, 10 or 12) but it is a meeting of two legendary football programs which will be meeting for the very first time!
Georgia: The Bulldogs feature one of CFB's best ground games, averaging 263.5 YPG (10th). Nick Chubb leads the team with 1,175 rushing yards (6.2 YPC) and 13 TDs, while Sony Michel added 948 rushing yards (7.2 YPC) and 13 TDs of his own. Freshman QB Jake Fromm remains a question mark, as Georgia ranks just 110th with its 170.1 YPG through the air. However, Fromm made few mistakes (five INTs in 230 attempts) and was excellent in the SEC title game, completing 16 of 22 for 183 yards with two TDs and zero INTs. Fromm leads an offense good enough to average 34.9 PPG (23rd). That Georgia D has been terrific, holding opponents to 19 points or less in all but two of the team's 13 games. Georgia will take on Oklahoma's explosive offense allowing an average of just 13.2 PPG (3rd) on 270.9 YPG
Oklahoma: Any discussion of Oklahoma begins with its offense, led by Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. He's thrown for 4,340 yards, while completing 71.0% with 41 TDs and just five INTs (in 369 attempts). Not a single receiver has topped 1,000 yards but 13 different players have caught a TD pass. That group is led by WRs Brown and Lamb plus TE Andrews. That trio has accounted for 21 TD catches. The ground game averages 215.9 YPG (27th) and 5.6 YPC. Anderson leads with 960 yards (5.9 YPC & 11 TDs) but Sermon (710 YR / 6.0 YPC) and Adams (542 YR / 9.2 YPC) are also dangerous. All together, Oklahoma enters averaging 583.3 YPG (tops in the nation) and 44.9 PPG (4th). There have been concerns all season about Oklahoma's defense (Sooners allow 25.0 PPG to rank 50th) but over the final four games of the season, Oklahoma has looked significantly better on the defensive side of the ball, allowing 17.8 PPG.
The pick: Both storied programs Both are playing in the “Grandaddy of Them All” for just the second time. Georgia is making its 21st consecutive (15-5 SU & 14-6 ATS), while it’s 19 in a row for Oklahoma (just 9-9 SU & 7-11 ATS). Not sure those stats mean much here. The Sooners have been a "team on a mission" since its 38-31 home upset loss to Iowa State in early October, capturing eight straight games and going 5-1 ATS its last six. Oklahoma has covered four in a row vs. SEC opponents, including bowl wins over Alabama (45-31 in the 2013 Sugar Bowl) and last year's 35-19 victory over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. Make Oklahoma an 8* play.
|01-01-18||Central Florida v. Auburn -10||Top||34-27||Loss||-109||48 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: The Peach Bowl will be played Jan 1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the site of the 2017 National Championship Game. It's quite a story that the UCF Knights, a school that went 0-12 in 2015, will take a 12-0 record into this contest with a chance for the school's first-ever undefeated campaign. UCF"s opponent will be SEC stalwart Auburn (10-3), that came within one win of becoming the first two-loss team to make the four-team CFP field. The Tigers ran out of gas against Georgia in the SEC championship game but still have a chance to win at least 11 games for the third time in the last eight.
Central Florida: UCF will try to complete its historiic season with the head coach that led this team to its remarkable two-year turnaround leaving for Nebraska right after the game. Scott Frost took over a UCF team that was winless in 2015 and turned them into a 12-0 team two years later. The pull to "come home" was too great for Frost to ignore but he will coach the Knights before moving on to his new job. "It’s gonna take us being together every step of the way,” UCF senior linebacker Shaquem Griffin told the Orlando Sentinel. “Ups and down, we’re gonna have to be able to stick it out. Auburn is an amazing team, but we’re an amazing team also.” Dual threat QB McKenzie Milton lead an offense averaging an FBS-high 49.4 PPG. Milton is completing 69.2% for 3,795 yards with 35 TDs and just nine INTs. He's the team's second-leading rusher with 497 yards on 5.3 YPC with seven TDs. Killins is the team's best RB (762 yards on 6.7 YPC with 10 TDs) and WR Smith has 54 catches while averaging 20.0 YPC with 13 TDs. With an offense generating 540.9 YPG (4th) and just under 50 PPG, the defense does not need to be great and that pretty much sums ups UCF's stop unit, which is allowing 25.2 ppg (52nd) on 428.5 YPG (94th).
Auburn:The Tgers lost early on 14-6 at Clemson and 27-23 at LSU but then made a great late-season run, including knocking off No. 1 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama in a three-game span. However, both the games were played in Auburn and after its emotional win over the Tide, the Tigers drew Georgia in a re-match but this time the game was played in Atlanta, a distinct advantage for the Bulldogs. Auburn just ran out of gas in the second half and Georgia pulled away for a 28-7 win. Auburn's had some time off to re-group and brings outstanding offensive balance into this game. The Tigers have run for 228.2 YPG (21st) and pass for 225.8 YPG, leading to an average of 34.4 PPG (25th). QB Jarrett Stidham is completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 2,827 yards with 17 TDs and only four interceptions. RB Kerryon Johnson leads the way with 1,320 yards rushing and 17 TDs. Defensively, Auburn is allowing 17.3 PPG (9th) on and 317.3 YPG (13th). Those numbers are even more impressive when one considers Auburn faced five ranked teams this season, including four games against team ranked in the top-six when they met!
The pick: Clearly, there is a huge difference in class in this game, SEC vs. AAC. However, let's note that the last time UCF came into a bowl of this magnitude riding a 'Cinderella-like season," was in 2013. That year , as 16 1/2-point underdogs, the Knights upset then-No. 6 Baylor 52-42 in the Fiesta Bowl.This year's UCF is better than the 2013 edition, so just maybe it's "deja vu all over again." I will note that Auburn is just 1-3 in bowl games underrMalzahn and that the Tigers, like those Baylor Bears in 2013, come as a top-10 team (No. 7). Make UCF an 8* play.
|12-31-17||Bills -3 v. Dolphins||Top||22-16||Win||100||115 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: AFC East rivals the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins meet Sunday in Week 17 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. The 6-9 Dolphins will finish with a non-winning season for the eighth time in the last nine seasons. It's particularly disappointing because the Dolphins lone winning season in that span was last year's 10-6 mark. Miami limps in with losses in seven of its last nine games and the team will miss the playoffs for the 14th time in the last 16 seasons. As for the 8-7 Bills, they find themselves in unfamiliar territory as they remain in contention for a playoff berth entering the final week of the regular season. However, in order for that to happen, the Bills would not only have to win in Miami, they need help. The most direct way to earn a playoff spot, which would end a 17-year drought, would be a Baltimore home loss to Cincinnati. They other path would require Tennessee and the LA Chargers to lose to Jacksonville and Oakland, respectively. "It's exciting, I've got to believe, for this city," Bills head coach Sean McDermott said. "(This organization is) in a position that we haven't been in, this city hasn't been in, for a number of years."
Buffalo:The Bills rank dead last in passing at 175.9 YPG and the running game has fallen off from last year as well, averaging 126.1 YPG (6th), which is down from 164.4 YPG in 2016, which ranked first in the entire NFL. The QB situation is strange, as the team is not sold on Tyrod Taylor but there is no current "Plan B." Taylor completes 62.1% but as noted, the team ranks last in passing yards. He's thrown just 13 TDs but also has just four INTs in 393 attempts. Also, he can make plays with his feet (392 rushing yards on 5.0 YPC) and is also capable of extending plays with his mobility. The defense has not had its best season, allowing 22.9 PPG (18th) on 355.1 YPG (25th).
Miami" Once upon a time, the Dolphins were 4-2 but a 40-0 Thursday night loss at Baltimore sent the team's season on a downward spiral from which it never recovered. Jay Cutler was never the answer at QB and in Miami's first game against the Bills in Buffalo, he was done in by three interceptions. Miami traded away its best (only?) RB before the trade deadline in Ajayi and enters this game 28th with 86.3 YPG on the ground. The Dolphins offense scores a modest 17.7 PPG, which ranks 27th. The defense is Buffalo-like, allowing 24.7 PPG (28th) on 337.3 YPG (18th).
The pick: As noted above, there a few scenarios that could qualify Buffalo for its first playoff berth since 1999 and while none are "all that likely," ALL scenarios involve Buffalo winning here. Miami has 14 players on injured reserve, including six projected Opening Day starters. Two key players listed as questionable for Sunday are running back Damien Williams and rookie CB Cordrea Tankersley. With only 1 TD pass the last two weeks, the Jay Cutler era is ending quietly for the Dolphins and Adam Gase might be tempted to go with Matt Moore, if his foot has healed. The problem there is, he also stinks! The Dolphins are minus-13 in turnover differential, while their 28 turnovers are tied for second most in the league. Throw in that Miami is 5-14 ATS in its last 19 December games and why not take the Bills? Make Buffalo an 8* play.
|12-31-17||Panthers v. Falcons OVER 45||Top||10-22||Loss||-110||115 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: The 9-6 Atlanta Falcons may never get over having a 28-3 lead in last year's Super Bowl, before losing in OT. However, the team can take a "first step" towards doing just that by winning here at home in its showdown with NFC South rival Carolina. It's hardly been smooth sailing for the Falcons this season but the scenario is quite simple, beat the Panthers and no matter what happens in Seattle, the Falcons will advance to the playoffs as the NFC's No. 6 seed. The 11-4 Panthers have rebounded nicely from last season 6-10 'disaster,' but with a win here and a loss by the Saints (home to the Bucs), Carolina would win the NFC South. Even better, if the Rams lose on Sunday too, the Panthers would wind up with the NFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye! Carolina: Cam Newton didn't match his MVP numbers of 2015 but without much offensive help, he's led the Panthers back into the postseason. Newton has 3,122 passing yards with 21 TDs and 13 INTs. He's also the team's leading rusher with 695 yards (5.4 YPC) and six TDs. Stewart has 680 yards rushing but averages just 3.4 YPC. Rookie McCaffrey added 421 yards (2 TDs) but also leads the team with 75 receptions (5 TDs). Carolina ranks 11th with 23.5 PPG and its defense has been very good, allowing just 313.5 YPG (7th) and 20.3 PPG (12th). Atlanta: Despite all the teams ups and downs this season, the Falcons could have captured the NFC South by beating the Saints last Sunday in New Orleans and then beating the Panthers here in Atlanta in Week 17. However, Atlanta was knocked out of contention for the division title with a 23-13 loss at New Orleans last week.That means Atlanta must beat the Panthers here, as they can hardly expect Seattle to lose at home vs. the Cardinals. Matt Ryan has a modest 19 TD passes (with 12 INTs), giving him a QB rating of 91.4. That's quite a drop-off from his MVP numbers of 2016, when he had 38 TDs (17 INTs) and a 117.1 QB rating. Atlanta was the NFL's highest scoring team last season (33.8 PPG) but enters Week 17 averaging just 22.1 PPG (15th). The Atlanta defense has held its own, ranking 11th in allowing 20.3 PPG on 323.1 YPG (10th). The pick: No one is quite sure how Carolina will play this one, as if the Saints win at Tampa Bay, the Panthers can't do much about their playoff seed. However, both of these games start at 4:25 ET. I'm betting the Panthers go "all out" and that's exactly what I expect from the Falcons, as well. Make the Over an 8* play.
|12-31-17||Cardinals v. Seahawks -9||Top||26-24||Loss||-101||115 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: Arizona's 13-3 regular season and appearance in the NFC championship game seems a lot further away than 2015. The Cardinals beat the Giants 23-0 last Sunday and end their season with a Week 17 viist to CenturyLink Field in Seattle with a chance to finish the year at .500, after climbing to 7-8 with that victory over the NY Giants. Seattle won 21-12 last Sunday in Dallas, despite accumulating just 136 yards of total offense. The victory gave Seattle a 9-6 record but a win here does not ensure a playoff berth. The only way Seattle can make the 2017 playoff field, extending its streak of consecutive playoff appeaarnces to six (assuming the Seahawks win here), is if the Falcons lose to the Panthers in Atlanta (or of course, tie). is if
Arizona: The Cards are relying on Drew Stanton these days at QB and he completed 20 of 34 for 209 yards with two TDs but also two INTs in the 23-0 win over the Giants. A.P. made a big splash when he first arrived but has been on IR since late November. The Arizona rushing game ranks 30th, averaging just 84.7 YPG. Despite a revolving door of QBs due to injury (Palmer, Gabbert and Stanton), WR Larry Fitzgerald checks in with 101 catches and six TDs (he's a remarkable player). Fitzgerald signed a contract for next year but hasn't yet committed to playing despite another standout campaign. The 34-year-old is the fifth player in NFL history to record five straight 100-catch seasons and his first against the Seahawks - provided he doesn't get shut out - will stretch his streak to 211 games with a reception, which would tie Tony Gonzalez for the second-longest in league history. Athe Cards are also allowing 22.5 PPG (17th).
Seattle: The injury-plagued Seattle defense came through last Sunday in Dallas with three sacks, a forced fumble that they also recovered and a pair of INTs, including a 30-yard pick-six from Justin Coleman. QB Russell Wilson has carried this team all season with 3,762 passing yards, 32 TDs and just 11 INTs (94.7 QB rating). He's also the team's leading rusher with 550 yards (6.1 YPC) and three TDs. However, over the last two weeks, he's thrown for just 142 and 93 yards! Seattle's "Legion of Boom" defense has been plagued by injuries but still checks in 13th in both points allowed (20.4 per) and total defense (327.5 YPG).
The pick:Seattle has to win and then hope things turn out well for them in Atlanta but the team has to be concerned that the Cardinals are 3-1 in Seattle during Bruce Arians' tenure.Then again, isn't forewarned, forearmed? Make Seattle an 8* play.
|12-31-17||Browns +14 v. Steelers||Top||24-28||Win||100||112 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Browns will meet the Pittsburgh Steelers for this Week 17 game at Heinz Field. Can we actually call it an AFC North rivalry game? At one time it was and there is still likely no love lost between the two teams but with the Browns sitting at 0-15 an d the Steelers at 12-3 (need a win and a New England loss at home to the Jets to earn the AFC's No. 1 seed), the two teams operate in separate 'universes' in NFL 2017. The Browns are down to their last chance to get a win this season, after falling 20-3 at the Chicago Bears last Sunday, while the Steelers come in off clinching a first round bye with a 34-6 win over Houston on Christmas Day.
Cleveland: The Browns have lost five in a row to Pittsburgh, including a 21-18 setback at home in the season opener. Cleveland enters having been limited to 10 points or less in four of its last six games, as QB DeShone Kizer's rocky rookie season continues and will come to an end with this contest. Kizer is completing 53.6% for 171.1 YPG with 9 TDs and 21 INTs (QB rating of 57.9). Running back Isaiah Crowell rushed for a career-best 152 yards in the 2016 regular-season finale against Pittsburgh and has had a decent 2017 season, with 832 yards (4.4). Fellow RB Johnson has just 328 yards (4.3 YPC) but is the team's leading receiver with 68 catches. Speaking of receivers, WR Josh Gordon has been back on the field for the last four games and has 14 catches, while averaging 15.7 YPC. Still, the bottom line is that the Browns rank dead-last in scoring (14.0 PPG) and despite allowing a modest 326.8 YPG (12th), allow 25.5 PPG (30th). A league-high 39 giveaways, including a league-worst minus-28 TO margin, has a way of doing that!
Pittsburgh: Here's the rub. Pittsburgh's only chance at wresting the top overall seed from New England is to have the Patriots lose at home to the New York Jets. Tomlin said it will likely be an "11th-hour decision" as to how much playing time to give his starters but insisted there will be no "empathy" toward the plight of the Browns factoring into his thoughts. "More important than anything is we lay a foundation of our plan and get going in terms of things we need to do to play well. That's always been our mentality," Tomlin insisted. "Those are things (playing) we'll decide later in the week." WR Antonio Brown, who has 101 receptions and NFL-best 1,533 yards, has already been ruled out for the second straight game with a calf injury. Despite his absence, Pittsburgh rolled over Houston 34-6 last week as Ben Roethlisberger threw for 226 yards and two scores, including one to promising rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has 32 of his 49 receptions over his past six games. RB Le'Veon Bell, the NFL's third-leading rusher with 1,291 yards, managed only 32 in the season opener and could be a candidate to sit out or see limited time. It's expected he will and that Big Ben will sit as well. Pittsburgh's defense ranks second in the league with 50 sacks. The defense ranks 4th in yards allowed (302.4 per) and unlike with the Browns, the Steelers allow just 18.9 PPG (5th).
The pick: The Steelers expect the Pats to beat the Jets (both games start at 1;00 ET) but who knows? Still, Tomlin is unlikely to take too many chances. Taht said, the Browns did play teh Steelers close in Week 1 and Pittsburgh has more that its fair share of 'close shaves' against poor team sin 2017. I was able to take 14 points with the Browns and even though that line is long gone, I'm recommending taking the Browns. Remember Crowell's success vs. them l in last season's finale and also note that Josh Gordon has 21 catches in his last two versus the Steelers. Make Cleveland a 10* play.
|12-31-17||Cowboys -2.5 v. Eagles||Top||6-0||Win||100||112 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: Cowboys/Giants and Cowboys/Redskins may be more intense rivalries but Cowboys/Eagles has always been a traditionally heated rivalry in the NFC East, as well/ However, this Week 17 meeting between the two clubs will conclude the 2017 season on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field as almost an afterthought. The 13-2 Eagles have already clinched home-field advantage throughout the postseason following their 19-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Christmas night. As for the 8-7 Cowboys, they were eliminated from playoff contention last Sunday after a disappointing 21-12 home loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Dallas: The Cowboys just couldn't make the key plays against Seattle last Sunday. Dak Prescott threw for 182 yards and two interceptions, while Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 97 yards on 24 carries in his first game back from his six game suspension. It's frustrating to lose a game by nine points, when Dallas held Seattle to just 136 yards of total offense! Elliott's return from his suspension helped but in the end, turnovers hurt the Cowboys and ultimately ended their hope of a playoff berth. Dak Prescott was intercepted twice and the offense was unable to produce a touchdown. Prescott has tossed 13 interceptions this season against just four a season ago."It's really disappointing," tight end Jason Witten told reporters. "We had a chance and fought there at the end. It's not overly complicated. Opportunities in this league are fleeting. You have to take advantage of them when you can. We just weren't able to do that well enough."
Philadelphia:Nick Foles was brilliant taking over for an injured Wentz against the Giants (237 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs for 115.8 QB rating) but that was not the case last Monday night vs. the Raiders. He completed just 19 of 38 passes for 163 yards with one TD and one INT, giving him a QB rating of 59.4. The Eagles gained just 78 yards on the ground, way below the team's average of 136.2 YPG (2nd). In fact, Philly had just 216 yards of total offense (average 375.5 YPG on the season to rank 4th) and team's 19 points were well below the team's average of 30.5 PPG, the second-best total in the NFL. While Philly's offense struggled, the defense rose to the occasion. he Eagles had three INTs interceptions and three forced fumbles. All three were recovered, including a fumble return for a TD for Derek Barnett as time expired. All while holding Oakland to just 274 yards of total offense and a 3 for 13 mark on 3rd down in the win. Philly's defense heads into its final game allowing 19.3 PPG (6th) on 306.9 YPG (5th).
The pick: It's unclear how many snaps the Cowboys' starters will receive given that Sunday's game solely is about pride or for that matter, how the Eagles will handle things with the NFC's No. 1 seed already clinched. However, I'm siding with Dallas, which is playing for nothing but pride. "Zeke" is within 120 yards of joining Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett as the only RBs in Dallas history to begin their careers with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. As for Dak, the 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, his worst game of the season came in Philly's 37-9 blowout win over the Cowboys in Dallas, when he threw for 145 yards without a TD and three INTs, 'earning' a QB rating of 30.4. Make Dallas an 8* play.
|12-30-17||Washington v. Penn State OVER 55||Top||28-35||Win||100||21 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: The University of Phoenix Stadium is the setting for this year's Fiesta Bowl, featuring the 10-2 Washington Huskies and the 10-2 Penn State Nittany Lions. Each school was 7-2 in their respective conference schedules, the Huskies in the Pac-12 and the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten. Washington opened 6-0 but was then upset, losing to Arizona State on October 14. The Huskies won four of their last five games, including an Apple Cup rout of Washington State. Penn State began 7-0 but coughed up a big lead in losing 39-38 at Columbus to Ohio State, then lost the following week 27-24 at Michigan State. Penn State closed out with three straight wins, averaging 52.3 PPG.
Washington: The Huskies have an excellent QB in Jake Browning and a big-time RB in Myles Gaskin. Browning is completing 68.8% for 2,544 yards with 18 TDs and just five INTs. Gaskin (1,282 yards / 6.2 YPC / 19 TDs) leads a ground game averaging 189.8 YPG (38th). Washington will check in averaging 36.9 PPG (16th). Browning has seen a dip of nearly 900 yards and 25 TDs from his phenomenal 2016 campaign, but he is the school's all-time leader with 77 TD passes and is on the verge of becoming its second 9,000-yard career passer. Washington's defense is top-notch, allowing 14.5 PPG (5th) on 278.3 YPG (6th).
Penn State: RB Saquon Barkley was an early Heisman front-runner but he ended the regular season with 1,134 yards (5.7 YPC) and 16 TDs, while catching 47 passes for another 594 yards with three TDs. QB Trace McSorley led the Big Ten in passing (3,228 yards) and added 431 yards and 11 TDs on the ground to pace the nation's sixth-ranked scoring attack (41.6 PPG). The defense checks in allowing 15.5 PPG (7th) on 329.4 YPG (17th).
The pick: Penn State is 9th in the CFP rankings and returns to the area, if not the exact site, of one of its greatest bowl triumphs, the 14-10 victory over then-No. 1 Miami in the 1986 season. Penn State enjoyed a wonderful history in the Fiesta Bowl, going 6-0. Both teams had designs on a berth in the College Football Playoff (Washington for the second straight season) but both suffered two single-digit losses on the road, which was just enough to keep them on the outside looking in. While both teams owns outstanding defenses, expect the offenses to rule the day. Make the Over a 10* play.
|12-30-17||Iowa State v. Memphis -4||Top||21-20||Loss||-115||18 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: 7-5 Iowa State (5-4 in the Big 12) and 10-2 Memphis (7-1 in the AAC) will square off in this year's Liberty Bowl from Memphis, Tn. The Cyclones come in having lost three of their last four games but they own wins at Oklahoma (then-No. 3 in the AP poll) 38-31 and at home '14-7 over TCU (then No.4 in the AP poll). Memphis made it all the way to a second overtime in the most entertaining of all the conference championship games before falling 62-55 at UCF, the lone unbeaten team in FBS. The loss cost the Tigers a chance to go to a New Year's Six bowl.
Iowa State: Senior QB Kyle Kempt had thrown just two passes in his career before taking over for Jacob Park, who went on leave for undisclosed personal medical reasons. His first game was the upset of Oklahoma and he's thrown for 1,473 yards with 13 TDs and just three INTs, since. RB David Montgomery leads the Iowa State rushing attack with 1,094 yards (4.7 YPC) and 11 TDs. Iowa State averages 29.9 PPG (52nd) but has relied more on its defense, which comes in allowing 21.0 PPG (28th) on 368.4 YPG (45th). Iowa State managed to hang onto its head coach, as Matt Campbell (named the Big 12 Coach of the Year) signed a six-year extension worth a reported $3.5 million annually. Campbell's defense limited eight of its last 10 opponents to 20 or fewer points.
Memphis:The Tigers had a great run going with seven straight wins but fell in their last outing to UCF in two overtimes. In that one, Memphis QB Riley Ferguson put up 471 yards and four TDs with one INT but it wasn't enough. Ferguson has 3,971 passing yards with 36 TDs just nine INTs. RB Darrell Henderson is the top Memphis rusher with 1,161 yards (8.9 YPC with 9 TDs) and was supported by Taylor, who ran for 807 yards on 5.8 YPC with 13 TDs. WR Anthony Miller has 92 catches for 1407 yards (15.3 YPC) with 17 TDs. Memphis checks in averaging 47.7 PPG (2nd) on 548.2 YPG (4th).
The pick: Iowa State was "looking good" at 6-2 at the end of October but the Cyclones got off track in their last four games with only a win over Baylor in that time, while scoring 23 points or less three ttmes in that span. Sure, Memphis couldn't best nemesis UCF in two tries but the Tigers come in scoring at least 41 points in seven of their last eight games. Just in case you may not be aware, the Liberty Bowl is Memphis' home stadium. The Tigers enter 22-4 SU at this venue the last three seasons, including 7-0 tn 2017, while outscoring opponents 50.1-to-30.9 PPG. Make Memphis an 8* play.
|12-30-17||Louisville -6.5 v. Mississippi State||Top||27-31||Loss||-115||18 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: Louisville opened the season ranked No. 16 in the AP's preseason poll and were led by 2016's Heisman Trophy winner, QB Lamar Jackson. However, while Jackson actually improved on his 2016 season (more on that, later), Louisville, was only 4-3 following a 45-42 home upset loss to Boston College on Oct. 14. The Cardinals did finish strong though, winning four of their last five, including their last three. Louisville's opponent in the Taxslayer Bowl (Jacksonville, Fl.) is Mississippi State. The Bulldogs (23rd in the CFP rankings) also come in 8-4 but without two major pieces. QB Nick Fitzgerald was KO'd in the Egg Bowl vs. Ole Miss plus head coach Dan Mullen left to take the Florida job, taking several coaches with him. Running backs and special teams coach Greg Knox will serve as the interim coach, before former Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead takes over the program in 2018. The Cards are 'bowling' for the 8th straight time (4-3 ATS), as are the Bulldogs, who are 5-2 SU in the postseason under former HC Dan Mullen.
|12-29-17||USC v. Ohio State -6.5||Top||7-24||Win||100||575 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: The latest Cotton Bowl will be played on December 29 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, when the 11-2 USC Trojans take on the 11-2 Ohio State Buckeyes. Both schools had designs on making the 2017 CFP's 'Final 4,' as Ohio State opened No. 2 in the AP's preseason and USC began at No. 4..Ohio State and USC each won their respective conference championship games but both also had 'ugly' losses which kept them out a place in this year's Final 4.Ohio State's 55-24 loss Nov. 4 was, in the end, too much for the committee to overlook (Buckeyes ended No. 5 in the final CFP rankings. As for USC., the Trojans were never really considered for a Final 4 spot, as the school's final ranking was No. 8 (USC's 49-14 loss at Notre Dame on Oct. 21 was a deal-breaker). USC and Ohio State have had many memorable Rose Bowl meetings and the hope is that these two powerhouse programs deliver a Cotton Bowl Classic .
USC: After that loss at Notre Dame, the Trojans finished the year on a five-game win streak against Arizona State, Arizona, Colorado, UCLA and Stanford (Pac-12 championship game). QB Sam Darnold threw for 325 yards with two TDs. in the win over Stanford. He struggled early (9TDs and 8 INTs thru five games) but over USC's last eight games, he had 17 TDs and just four INTs. RB Ronald Jones is one of the least appreciated RBs in the nation, rushing for 1,486 yards with 18 TDs. USC's offense is just fine (34.5 PPG ranks 24th) but its defense allows 405.5 YPG (78th) and 26.3 PPG (62nd).
Ohio State: Two of the most successful QBs in the nation meet in thsi one, as Sam Darnold's opposite number is Ohio State's J.T. Barrett. He has thrown for career highs of 2,939 yards and 35 TDs (just INTs), while rushing for yards 732 yards (4.9 YPC with 10 TDs). Last year's star freshman RB Mike Weber struggled early with injury issues but checks in with 608 yards on 6.3 YPC and 10 TDs. This year's star freshman has been J.K. Dobbins, who has run for 1,364 yards on 7.5 YPC with seven TDs. Ohio State's great run/pass balance has led to the team averaging 42.5 PPG (5th). Defensively, despite allowing 31 and 55 points in the school's two losses, the defense is allowing 19.9 PPG on the season (22nd)
The pick: This will be the 24th matchup between the schools with rich football histories with seven of the previous games coming in the Rose Bowl (USC won four of those). If one believes in series history, the Trojans enter this contest having won seven straight meetings, including the last showdown in 2009 when they defeated the Buckeyes 18-15 in Columbus. However, that means these schools haven't met in almost 10 years, so how much do past meetings really mean? USC 'limps' in just 3-9-1 ATS this season (talk about underachieving) and just 1-4 ATS in its last five bowl games. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are 6-1 ATS in their last seven neutral-site games and 10-2-1 ATS in their last 13 versus the Pac-12. Make Ohio State a 10* play.
|12-29-17||Kentucky v. Northwestern -7.5||Top||23-24||Loss||-110||19 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: The Kentucky Wildcats enter this bowl game 7-5 but sure don't head into it with much momentum. The Wildcats lost four of their last six games but still have, with a victory, a shot at eight wins for the first time since 2007. However, Kentucky hasn't won a bowl game since the 2008 season. The Wildcats will square off with the 9-3 Northwestern Wildcats in the Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Northwestern enters this game on a seven-game winning streak and has a shot at double-digit wins for the third time in the last six years. However, the Wildcats are just 3-10 all-time in bowl appearances. These two Wildcat schools have only one prior meeting (way back in 1928!) and while Northwestern is making its first trip to the Music City Bowl, this is Kentucky's fifth.
Kentucky:The Wildcats ended the regular season with four losses in six games, including a 42-13 loss to Georgia and a 44-17 loss to Louisville. QB Stephen Johnson is completing 60.7 percent of his passes for 2,048 yards, 10 TDs and four INTs. The Kentucky Wildcats ground game is averaging 169.8 YPG (57th), led by sophomore RB Benny Snell, Jr. Snell ran for 1,091 yards as a freshman and surely had no sophomore jinx, running for 1,318 yards on 5.1 YPC with 18 TDs. However, Kentucky's 25.8 PPG (84th) hardly makes up for a defense allowing 28.6 PPG (80th) on 425.7 YPG (90th).
Northwestern: QB Clayton Thorson is completing 60.6 percent of his passes for 2,809 yards with 15 TDs and 12 INTs. The ground game is averaging 160.9 YPG (70th) and Justin Jackson leads the way with 1,154 yards (4.5 YPC) and nine TDs. The senior has topped 1,000 rushing yards in each of his four seasons at Northwestern. The Wildcats average 29.7 PPG (52) and unlike Kentucky, have a strong defense, allowing 19.8 PPG (16th) on 358.8 YPG (37th)..
The pick: "That bad taste in our mouth from that last game hasn't gone away," Kentucky QB Stephen Johnson said, speaking of the team's 44-17 rout at the hands of in-state rival Louisville. "A lot of us are really trying to go out and get this win. Last year, we were really excited because we beat Louisville, our rival, and now we have that bad taste in our mouth and we are eager and anxious to go out and win that last game." Northwestern has won seven consecutive games - its longest winning streak since the memorable Rose Bowl run in 1996 - and is also a perfect 7-0 ATS, as well. Northwestern also has a chance to cap off a successful campaign by posting back-to-back postseason victories for the first time in program history. The Northwestern defense is for real, allowing only 20 points in its last three games, and it faces a Kentucky team that is 2-9 ATS its last 11 outside the SEC. Meanwhile, Pat Fitzgerald’s team won all seven games last season by seven points or more and has won all nine this year by at least a TD. Lay the points and make Northwestern an 8* play.
|12-29-17||NC State -6.5 v. Arizona State||Top||52-31||Win||100||18 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The 8-4 NC State Wolfpack (6-2 in the ACC) will take on the 7-5 Arizona State Sun Devils (6-3 in the Pac-12) in the Sun Bowl from El Paso, Texas. North Carolina St surprised many by challenging Clemson for the ACC Atlantic Division crown and has a shot at its first nine-win season since 2010. The Wolfpack finished No. 24 in the final College Football Playoff rankings. The Sun Devils averaged 40 points while winning three of their last four games to reach bowl eligibility but head coach Todd Graham was fired at the end of the regular season. However, he is staying on with his staff to coach the bowl game, with Herm Edwards set to succeed Graham as Arizona State's new head coach.
NC State:QB Ryan Finley has 3,200 yards passing (63.9%) with 16 TDs and just six INTs. WRs Harmon an Meyers combined for 121 catches with each snaring four TD throws. TE Samuels led the team with 69 catches (4 TDs) but also was a short-yardage back, leading the team with 11 rushing TDs. RB Nyheim Hines rushed for a team-high 1,040 yards and nine TDs, for a ground game averaging 177.8 YPG (51st). The Wolfpack enter the game averaging 30.6 PPG (49th). The defense allows 24.8 PPG (50th) on 377.2 YPG (54th). The Wolfpack gave up just under 25 points per game, while giving up 377 yards of total offense per game this season. Senior defensive end Bradley Chubb leads the defense. He's a consensus All-American, winning the Bronko Nagurski and Ted Hendricks awards as the best defensive lineman in the nation. He has 60 tackles for losses, including 26 sacks, in his career.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils are in their fifth bowl game in the last six seasons but ASU's inability to get to the Rose Bowl since 1997, plus a general downward trend, cost Graham his job. The Sun Devils had 28 victories in his first three seasons after replacing Dennis Erickson and reached the Pac-12 championship game in 2013, but they have only 18 wins over these last three seasons. QB Manny Wilkins is a dual threat. He's completing 63.5 percent for 2,918 yards with 17 TDs and just five INTs. He also has 269 rushing yards (6 TDs), to go along with RBs Richard (972 yards / 5.7 YPC / 12 TDs) and Ballage (657 yards & 6 TDs). WRs Harry and Williams have combined for 132 catches for 13 TDs. ASU has a nice pass (247.7 YPG)/run (180.7 YPG) balance, leading to 31.9 PPG (40th. )New head coach Herm Edwards is keeping most of the coaching staff but defensive coordinator Phil Bennett elected to leave. Maybe with good reason, as ASU is allowing 31.2 PPG (88th) on 447.2 YPG (110th).
The pick: The argument for ASU would be that the team is "circling the wagons" one last time for Graham. I'm not buying it, as NC State is easily the superior defensive team and Finley gets to throw against a pass defense ranked 118th, allowing 268.1 YPG. Make NC State an 8* play.
|12-28-17||Michigan State v. Washington State OVER 47||Top||42-17||Win||100||20 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: This year's Holiday Bowl from San Diego will feature 9-3 Michigan State (7-2 in the Big Ten) and 9-3 Washington State (6-3 in the Pac 12). Michigan State bounced back from last season's awful 3-9 season to make a run at the Big Ten's East Division. The Spartans finished with three wins in their final four games (checking at No. 16 in the last CFP rankings), including an impressive 27-24 home win over then-No. 7 Penn State on Nov. 4. However, the very next Saturday, the Spartans were crushed 48-3 at Columbus and wound up one game back of the 8-1 Buckeyes, who went on to win the Big Ten championship game. The Cougars ended the 2016 season with three straight losses (including a bowl loss to a depleted Minnesota team) but opened 2017 in the AP's top-25 poll at No. 24 and closed at No. 21 (Washington St. is 18th in the latest CFP rankings).
Michigan State: The Spartans have been up and down offensively this season. The passing game averages 215.4 YPG (76th) and the ground game 162.9 YPG (67th). QB Brian Lewerke has thrown for 2,580 passing yards and 17 TD (just six INTs) but note that 845 of those yards and six of his scoring passes came over a two-game span bridging October and November (445 yards at Northwestern and 400 yards at home against Penn St.). Similarly, leading rusher LJ Scott (785 yards / 4.3 YPC / 6 TDs) gained 341 and had three TDs in two wins, at Minnesota and home against Maryland. Looking back at his season and we find that he had fewer than 40 yards rushing in four games this season. Teams coached by Mark Dantonio have always been known for defense and this yera's Spartans come in 9th in total defense (297.4 YPG allowed) and 24th in scoring defense at 20.2 PPG.
Washington State: The Cougars will challenge MSU's defense with one of the best offensive passing attacks in the country (374.8 YPG ranks 2nd), led by their record-setting QB, Luke Falk, who has thrown 3,593 yards with 30 TDs and 13 INTs (he became the Pac-12's all-time career passing leader in November)..Falk has thrown to a deep group of receivers throughout his three seasons as Washington State's starting QB, while operating behind a stout offensive line. This season's leading receivers for the Cougars has been Tavares Martin Jr. (70 catches / 9 TDs), Isaiah Johnson-Mack (60 catches / 5 TDs) and Kyle Sweet (50 catches / 2 TDs). Then there is RB Jamal Morrow who had 56 catches and four TDs. However, the Cougars' running game ranks 129th, averaging a woeful 71.1 YPG. WSU averaged 38.2 YPG but this year's team checks in at a more modest 31.4 per. A challenge will be that Tavares Martin Jr. was dismissed from the team and Isaiah Johnson-Mack left the program. However, that doesn’t mean the team won’t continue to go to the air, especially with seven players remaining that have caught 24 or more passes this season. Mike Leach has always been known for his "Air Raid" offense but after his first three Washington St. teams allowed 33.7, 32.5 and 38.6 PPG, his next two dipped under the 30 PPG mark. This year's unit checks in at 24.4 PPG (45th) and in allowing only 313.9 YPG, ranks 13th.
The pick: Washington State was 6-0 and ranked 8th in the country after beating Oregon 33-10 on October 7. However, the Cougars were "no-shows" at Cal the following week in a 37-3 loss. Two weeks after that, they gained 653 yards at Arizona, yet lost by 21! Washington was still alive for the Pac-12 North title its final game against Washington (Apple Cup) but were humiliated 41-14. Welcome to Mike Leach's world. This is nothing new! Michigan State will be 'bowling' for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons but head coach Mark Dantonio still feels a bit slighted nationally. When unranked Michigan (the school's biggest rival which lost to the Spartans this year) was selected for a New Year's Day bowl rather than MSU, it didn't sit well. Dantonio got into a bit of a Twitter war with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh about the perceived snub and many of the Michigan State players made their unhappiness known as well. Something tells me MSU is out to prove something here and Washington St. needs to wash the bitter taste out of its mouth after a second staright embarrassment in the Apple Cup. What's in store? How about an 8* play on the Over.
|12-28-17||Stanford v. TCU -3||Top||37-39||Loss||-109||20 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The 9-4 Stanford Cardinal and the 10-3 TCU Horned Frogs meet Thursday in the Alamo Bowl, fittingly played at the Alamodome. Both team's lost in their respective conference championship games. Stanford in the Pac-12 (to USC) and TCU in the Big 12 (to Oklahoma). The Cardinal are 4-2 in bowls under head coach David Shaw and a win would also give Stanford at least 10 wins for the sixth time in Shaw's seven seasons. A victory would give TCU at least 11 games for the 12th time in school history and for the 10th time under head coach Gary Patterson.
Stanford: Bryce Love is arguably the best RB in college football (maybe, not many would argue). He was a Heisman finalist and enters this game with 1,973 yards (8.3 YPC) and 17 TDs. The problem was, the Cardinal's offense was fairly one-dimensional before K.J. Costello took over as the starting QB late in the season (replacing Keller Chyrst) and finished with a total of 11 TDs against just two INTs. Costello’s favorite targets are wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside (43 catches / 16.7 YPC / 6 TDs) and TE Dalton Schultz, an All-Pac-12 First-Team selection. Stanford will check in averaging 32.0 PPG (39th), a good number when the team's defense is allowing just 21.5 PPG (29th).
TCU: QB Kenny Hill is completing 67.2 percent of his passes for 2,838 yards with 21 TDs and just six INTs. TCU averages 237.7 YPG through the air and that's balanced nicely by ground game that is averaging 176.3 YPG (52nd). RB Darius Anderson led the way with 768 yards (6.0 YPC) and eight TDs but an injury in the Big 12 title game will keep him out here. The Horned Frogs are scoring 33.2 PPG (33rd) and play defense even better than Stanford, allowing 17.6 PPG (11th) on 328.5 YPG (18th). In fact, TCU had five All-Big 12 First-Team selections on defense, including DEs Mat Boesen and Ben Banogu, LB Travin Howard, safety Nick Orr and CB Ranthony Texada.
The pick: Two of TCU's three losses came to Oklahoma and the San Antonio location won't hurt the team from Fort Worth. TCU's elite rush defense will get its toughest test here vs. Love but it has allowed just 99.8 YPG (4th) on 3.2 YPC (eighth in the nation). Stanford's an old-school grind it out team and TCU's defense should handle that better than it did Oklahoma's high-powered passing game. Make TCU an 8* play.
|12-28-17||Virginia Tech v. Oklahoma State -5.5||Top||21-30||Win||100||16 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up A pair of 9-3 teams will square off in the Camping World Bowl on Thursday in Orlando. Both the No. 22 Hokies and No. 19 Cowboys opened 7-1 and both flirted with CFP hopes. However, each faltered in November (each went 2-2), proving they didn't belong. The reward is a trip to 'Disney World.'' Mason Rudolph (QB at Oklahoma State) was once recruited by Virginia Tech, while current Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente, once a highly recruited QB in the state of Oklahoma, was recruited by Gundy, who was then a graduate assistant with the Cowboys. Hokies offensive line coach Vance Vice played with Gundy in Stillwater from 1986-88 where the two won the 1987 Holiday Bowl and 1988 Liberty Bowl alongside Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders. The schools ]have only met twice before, with each winning once. Virginia Tech: The Hokies' 7-1 start was derailed by losses at Miami (28-10) and Georgia Tech (28-22) but Virginia Tech finished up with wins over Pitt and Virginia. Freshman QB Josh Jackson has thrown for 2,743 yards with 19 TDs and eight INTs. He gets very little help from his running game, as no RB has as many as 450 yeards but the team has managed to average 167.2 YPG (61) and overall, Va. Tech averages 28.8 PPG (62nd). The fact that Travon McMillian, who led the Hokies in rushing (439 yards), has decided to transfer and will not play, won't really hurt. Veteran DC Bud Foster is still around to work his magic and the Hokies allow just 13.5 PPG (5th) on 305.2 YPG (11th). Another edge the Hokies often hold over opponnets is special teams, as they rank in the top-30 nationally in all four major special teams categories – punts, punt returns, kickoffs and kickoff returns. Oklahoma State: QB Mason Rudolph comes in completing 65 percent of his passes for 4,553 yards with 35 TDs against nine INTs. He led FBS in passing yards and points responsible for per game (22.5). He has two extremely talented tragets, as WRs Washington and Ateman have both have over 1,000 yards. Washington has 69 catches (20.6 YPC / 12 TDs) and Ateman 54 catches (19.4 YPC / 8 TDs). Sophomore RB Justice Hill ran for 1,347 yards, the most by a Cowboy in five years, averaging 5.5 YPC with 14 TDs. and 14 TDs. It all adds up to an offense averaging 46.2 PPG (3rd) on 578.9 YPG (2nd). However, the team's Achilles Heel is a defense allowing 30.1 PPG (86th) on 400.2 YPG (75th). OSU's final two losses both came at home when the Cowboys allowed 62 points to Oklahoma and 45 points to Kansas State. The pick:This will be the Hokies' 25th consecutive bowl game but in the end, I believe Oklahoma's State's offense is just too much. The Cowboys put up at least 40 points in each of their last five games, while.the Hokies' offensive scored just 30 points over their last two games and no more than 22 in any of their last four (15.5 PPG in that span). Make Oklahoma State a 10* play.
|12-27-17||Missouri v. Texas +3||Top||16-33||Win||100||24 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: This year's Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium in Houston will feature 7-5 the Missouri Tigers (4-4 in SEC play) and the 6-6 Texas Longhorns (5-4 in Big-12 play). Missouri's season is quite remarkable, as the Tigers opened 1-5 but rebounded to win six in a row, while averaging 51.3 PPG, never scoring less than 45 points in any game. The Texas Longhorns are looking for a victory which will give them the school's first winning season since 2013 and its first bowl victory since 2012. Both teams are back in bowl games for the first time in three years.
Missouri: A win by the Tigers would give Missouri at least eight wins for the ninth time in the last 12 seasons. QB Drew Lock is completing a modest 58.2 percent of his passes but for 3,695 yards, 43 TDs and just 12 INTs. WRs J'Mon Moore and Emanuel Hall have combined for 1,834 receiving yards and 18 TDs while freshman TE Albert Okwuegbunam has just 25 catches with 11 TDs. Missouri's ground game is averaging 199.6 YPG (35th), led by Ish Witter (992 yards / 5.8 YPC / 5 TDs). Defensively, The Tigers had their share of trouble, especially against the pass (261.8 YPG which ranks 110th). Overall, the Tigers are allowing 31.8 PPG (94th).
Texas: Sam Ehlinger is completing 56.5 percent of his passes for 1,803 yards, 10 TDs and seven INTs, while Shane Buechele has passed for 1,350 yards with six TDs and four INTs (65.8% completions)..No runner has as much as 400 yards rushing, as Texas has run for 141.8 YPG (94th) and enters this contest averaging 29.2 PPG (59th). The defense has played well, allowing just 21.7 PPG (31st) on 363.6 YPG (40th). Remember, the Longhorns play in the offense-dominated Big 12, so their defensive stats are impressive.
The pick: Missouri comes in on quite a roll on offense but the Texas D should be up to the task. Texas is the more physical team and is capable of handling the smaller Missouri Tigers in the trenches. We also need to see whether or not Missouri can sustain its success with someone else calling the plays, after offensive coordinator Josh Heupel was named the new head coach at UCF. The Longhorns own a 17-6 all-time record against the Tigers and have captured 15 of the last 17 meetings. Houston is not Austin but Texas should be seeing plenty of orange in the stands. More importantly, head coach Tom Herman’s 9-1 ATS mark as underdog mark (including brief time at Houston), is tough to ignore. Make Texas a 10* play.
|12-27-17||Purdue v. Arizona -3||Top||38-35||Loss||-115||23 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: The 6-6 Purdue Boilermakers (4-5 in the Big Ten) will take on the 7-5 Arizona Wildcats (5-4 ion the Pac-12) in the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Wednesday night. Purdue lost its final seven games last year for its fifth consecutive losing season and then lost starting quarterback David Blough to a knee injury Nov. 4 against Illinois. However, the Boilermakers rallied to win their final two games and qualified for a bowl game for the first time since 2012. Arizona was picked to finish last in the Pac-12 South but won five of six conference games from Oct. 7 to Nov. 11. Yes, Arizona lost three of its last four games but a 7-5 finish is hardly a disappointment for a team with such low preseason expectations. Purdue won both prior meetings between the two schools but they occurred way back in 2003 and 2005. Each school is making its first appearance in this Bay Area bowl, which has had four different names (Think we need more bowl games?).
Purdue: Starting QB Blough (65.0% / 9 TDs & 4 INTs) has been replaced by Elijah Sindelar,who has completed 55.8% of his passes for 14 TDs and six INTs while averaging 154.8 passing YPG. No RB reached 500 yards on the season, as Purdue averages just 150.9 YPG on the ground (83rd). Injuries in the backfield have opened the door for junior Markell Jones to emerge as the primary ball carrier and he was exceptional in the final regular-season game, rushing for a career-high 217 yards on 31 carries in the 31-24 victory against Indiana. Jones (480 yards / 5.2 YPC) surpassed D.J. Knox (460 yards / 5.8 YPC) as the leading rusher on the season and Knox is expected to be limited against Arizona after undergoing thumb surgery shortly after the Indiana game. The defense is allowing just 19.3 PPG (16th) on 372.3 YPG (49th) and has forced 19 turnovers on the season, finishing the regular season with an overall turnover margin of plus-3.
Arizona: The Wildcats own one of the most exciting players in the nation in sophomore QB Khalil Tate. He didn't take over full time until the fifth game against Colorado, when starter Brandon Dawkins was injured on a late hit on the opening drive of the game. He stepped in to rush for 327 rushing yards in the 45-42 victory, an FBS rushing record by a QB. Tate would total 1,207 rushing yards and 11 TDs over a six-game span, before Oregon and Arizona State found ways to contain him during the final two games, resulting in losses by the Wildcats. However, he did finish the regular season with 1,353 rushing yards on a nation-leading 10.2 YPC (12 TDs). He passed for 1,289 yards (completed 61.4%) with 9 TDs and 8 INTs.Tate led the way fro Arizona's 324.8 YPG on the ground (3rd), as the team averages 41.8 PPG on the season (6th). However, the defense allows 34.1 PPG (109th) on 467.0 YPG (117th).
The pick: Purdue is looking for its first winning season since 2011 (also the last time Purdue won a bowl game) and has transformed quicker than expected under 1st-year head coach Jeff Brohm, who led Western Kentucky to three consecutive bowl victories. Arizona's Rich-Rod is a money-burning 2-8 ATS in bowls dating back to his West Virginia days but I just can't help but side with the 'electric' Tate. Make Arizona an 8* play.
|12-27-17||Southern Miss v. Florida State -14.5||Top||13-42||Win||100||16 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: The 8-4 Southern Miss Golden Eagles will take on the 6-6 Florida State Seminoles in Wednesday's Independence Bowl. Florida State needed to win its last three games, including a 38-22 victory at Florida on Nov. 25, to become bowl-eligible for the 36th straight season. The Seminoles erupted for 157 points (52.3 PPG) during that span with wins over Delaware State 77-6 on Nov. 18 and Louisiana Monroe 42-10 on Dec. 2, after scoring 163 in their first nine games (18.1 PPG). Southern Miss also finished strong, winning its final three games while a scoring 137 points (45.7 PPG), including a 66-21 rout of Charlotte. The two schools have met 22 times (FSU leads 13-8-1) but this 23rd meeting is the first time that Florida State and Southern Miss have met in a bowl.
Southern Miss:The Golden Eagles are led by QB Kwadra Griggs,with 1,793 yards, 15 TDs and just two INTs. Second-year head coach Jay Hopson effectively alternated QBs (Keon Howard had 1,199 passing yards with 8 TDs and 5 INTs) but Griggs is the established starter now. RB Ito Smith is the team's leading rusher with 1321 yards (5.7 YPC) and 13 TDs. WR Korey Robertson has 72 receptions for 1,070 yards and 11 scores. The offense is well-balanced, passing for 249.3 YPG (48th) and 189.0 rushing YPG (39) to average 30.5 YPG (50th). The defense is good, allowing 23.0 PPG (39th) on just 321.9 YPG (17th).
Florida State: The Seminoles were No. 3 in the AP's preseason poll but as No. 11 Alabama pulled away for a 24-7 win on Sep. 2, Heisman hopeful QB Deondre Francois was lost in the 4th0quarter with a season-ending knee injury. True freshman QB James Blackman didn’t get an immediate chance, as subsequent games vs. ULM (which would have been a good tuneup) and Miami were postponed due to Hurricane Irma. That three-week layoff hurt , as the season never got back on course, disrupted irreparably by injuries and the weather in September. At 3-5, the Seminoles had to win four of five (including theri last three), to reach bowl-eligibility. The final win Oover ULM) came after Jimbo Fisher left to take the Texas A&M job. Interim head coach Odell Haggins will coach in Shreveport before Florida native Willie Taggart, hired away from Oregon in mid-December, takes over. It's hard to judge FSU by its season stats, as he Seminoles' winning streak coincides with the improved play of Blackman (57.2 percent completion rate, 15 touchdowns, 11 interceptions), who has thrown six TDs and three INTs while completing 60.3 percent of his passes during that span. Running back Cam Akers (930 yards, seven TDs) needs 79 yards to break the school record for rushing yards by a true freshman set by Dalvin Cook in 2014. Junior running back Jacques Patrick (687 yards, six TDs), who rushed for a season-high 155 yards and two touchdowns versus ULM, is another strong threat out of the backfield.
The pick: This is Southern Miss' third appearance in the Independence Bowl and the Golden Eagles won their other two appearances. However, even though it's a "down year," for the Seminoles, this is still a game against Florida State for Southern Miss, which faces one of the nation's top programs for the last 30 years. This C-USA school is stepping up in class here vs. FSU and was handled by a combined 48-27 score vs. modest SEC East foes Kentucky and Tennessee. The Golden Eagles were also easily outclassed by Washington two years ago at Dallas in its last bowl vs. a “Power 5" foe, 44-31. Make FSU an 8* play.
|12-26-17||Kansas State v. UCLA UNDER 60.5||Top||35-17||Win||100||26 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The 7-5 Kansas State Wildcats (5-4 in Big-12) will take on the 6-6 UCLA Bruins (4-5 in Pac-12) in the Cactus Bowl at Chase Field in Phoenix. The Wildcats finished the season strong, winning four of their last five games and will be participating in their 8th consecutive bowl game. The Bruins had an up and down season but were able to reach a bowl game after their 30-27 victory over the California Golden Bears on the last weekend of the season. However, after its Nov. 18th loss to USC, UCLA decided to part ways with head coach Jim Mora. The Bruins have already made a big splash with the hire of Chip Kelly but that's for next season, UCLA will be led by interim head coach Jedd Fisch in this one.
UCLA: QB Josh Rosen finished the regular season 10th in the FBS in passing yards with 3,717 (62.5% with 26 TDs and 10 INTs) but he has been slowed by injuries the past two seasons and twice was unable to finish a game this fall. He was replaced against California after getting sacked three times in the first half but he has since returned to practice and appears ready to go against Kansas State.
The pick: Some (many) expected QB Zach Rosen to go the Christian McCaffrey-Leonard Fournette route and opt out of the bowl before his likely early entry into the NFL draft (more than a few believe he's the best prospect) but all indicators are that he’s a go for this game. Why not? The Kansas State pass D is awful, ranking 129th in allowing 310.2 YPG. However, given the coaching situation and distractions in preparation caused by fires in the L.A. area, I'm not all that convinced the Bruins will bring their "A game." Kansas State is making its eighth consecutive bowl appearance -- a streak that is tied for 13th in the FBS -- and its 19th under coach Bill Snyder, who twice has turned the program around, once following a short retirement.I say Under is worth an 8* play.
|12-26-17||Northern Illinois +6 v. Duke||Top||14-36||Loss||-110||31 h 46 m||Show|
The set: Ford Field in Detroit is the setting for the Quicken Lane Bowl featuring 8-4 Northern Illinois out of the MAC and Duke from the ACC. The Huskies were 6-2 before finishing 2-2 and at 8-4 are back 'bowling' after having a streak of eight consecutive bowl appearances snapped last season. Duke's 2017 journey was quite a bit different. The Blue Devils opened 4-0 but then dropped six consecutive games. However, Duke was able to beat Georgia Tech and Wake Forest in its final two games to reach 6-6. The Blue Devils ended a long bowl drought by playing in 2012's Belk Bowl (previous bowl appearance had been in 1994) but last season's 4-8 record ended a four-year bowl run. Northern Illinois: The Huskies finished in a tie for second place in the West Division of the MAC (6-2) with the tewam's signature victory coming in a 21-17 win at Big Ten-member Nebraska. QB Marcus Childers took over under center in early October after Ryan Graham suffered an elbow injury in Week 1 and Daniel Santacaterina battled turnover issues. Childers completed 57.3 percent of his passes for 1,440 yards with 15 TD against five interceptions plus added 454 rushing yards with five more TDs. He was named the MAC Freshman of the Year. Childers has five receivers that caught between 28 and 39 passes, while senior RB Jordan Huff had 740 rushing yards (5.8 YPC) in nine games. The ground game averaged 190.0 YPG (37th) but Huff is out with an ankle injury. NIU's defense has been quite good, led by sophomore defensive end Sutton Smith, the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year and first Huskie since 1993 to be named to the Walter Camp Football Foundation All-America first team. Toledo ranks 18th in total defense (328.4 YPG) and 27th in points allowed (20.8 per game). Duke: The Blue Devils looked pretty miserable during their six-game losing streak, scoring more than 17 points only once during that stretch. However, the good news is that the Blue Devils put up a total of 74 points in their last two of games (both wins). In the team's 31-23 triumph over Wake Forest on Nov. 25 (which clinched a bowl bert), QB Daniel Jones had a career-high 346 passing yards and three total TDs (two passing / one rushing). Jones is completing just 55.7% on teh season for 2,439 yards with 12 TDs and 11 INTs. He's added 432 rushing yards (six TDs) to go along with senior RB Shaun Wilson (743 / 5.1 YPC / 5 TDs) and freshman RB Brittain Brown (660 yards / 5.6 YPC / 6 TDs). Duke averages 168.2 YPG on the ground (57th) but just 25.8 PPG (84th). Sophomore linebacker Joe Giles-Harris was a first team All-ACC and second team All-American pick and Duke's D is solid as well, allowing 20.8 PPG (26th) on 338.8 YPG (25th). The pick: Prior to Jones' big outing against the Demon Deacons, the Duke QB had passed for more than 200 yards only twice in his seven previous games.His struggles are why the Blue Devils ranked last in the ACC in passer efficiency rating (110.3) and greatly contributed to why Duke ranked 12th in ACC scoring offense (25.8 points per game). NIU's Sutton Smith will likely be the most impactful player on the field, as the DE leads the FBS in sacks (14), tackles for loss (28.5), pressures (73) and defensive touchdowns (two), all school records. He enters just 3 1/2 tackles for a loss away from the NCAA single-season record of 32 set by Western Michigan's Jason Babin in 2003. The Huskies are no strangers to Detroit and Ford Field, playing here in six consecutive MAC championship games from 2010-15. Make Northern Illinois a 10* play.
|12-26-17||Utah v. West Virginia +7||Top||30-14||Loss||-113||40 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: The Heart of Dallas Bowl will be played at the Cotton Bowl and features the 6-6 Utah Utes and the 7-5 West Virginia Mountaineers.The Utes opened the season 4-0 but lost six of their last eight games and with a loss here would experience a losing season for the first time since 2013. The Big Ten couldn’t fulfill its allotted slot opposite the Big 12’s West Virginia but the officials still wanted a matchup of Power Five teams. Utah needed a 34-13 win over visiting Colorado in its regular-season finale to become bowl eligible, giving the Pac-12 nine postseason teams. West Virginia heads into the bowl season splitting its last eight games and has a shot to earn at least eight victories for the third straight year.
Utah: The Utes have used two QBs in 2017, Tyler Huntley and Troy Williams. Huntley has seen the most action, throwing for 2,246 yards with 15 TDs and 10 INTs. Williams has thrown for 812 yards with two TDs and four INTs. Huntley is probable for this game and was 5-4 as a starter, ranking 15th nationally with an average of 302.9 YPG of total offense. If Huntley can’t play, the Utes have a capable backup in senior Troy Williams, who is 10-6 as a starter over the last two seasons, including a 9-4 mark a year ago. Whomever is throwing passes, WR Darren Carrington II, an Oregon transfer, is the No.1 target (68 catches / 6 TDs). The rushing attack averages 161.2 YPG (69th) and Utah's 29.5 PPG ranks 57th. The defense is solid, allowing 23.9 PPG (43rd) on 353.5 YPG (32nd).
West Virginia: Will Grier, was the nation’s seventh-ranked passer in terms of efficiency with 3,490 yards and 34 TD passes but had surgery after breaking the middle finger on his throwing hand in the first quarter of the Mountaineers’ loss to Texas on Nov. 18. Head coach Dana Holgorsen said the chances of him playing against Utah are “not good.” That would leave Chris Chugunov, who is completing 54.8 percent of his passes for 407 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Chugunov enters this game with 67 career pass attempts under his belt. WRs Gary Jennings (94 catches but just one TD), David Sills V (60 catches and 18 TDs) and Ka'raun White (58 catches and 11 TDs) make up a remarkable trio. RB Justin Crawford leads the way with 1,061 yards and seven TDs for a ground game averaging 160.8 YPG (72nd). Defense has been an issue for West Va, as the Mountaineers are allowing 31.6 PPG (92nd) on 425.5 YPG (111th).
The pick: The Utes own an impressive 16-4 all-time bowl record and Kyle Whittingham has accounted for 10 of those wins for an NCAA-best postseason record of 10-1, including victories in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl over Pittsburgh (as a co-head coach) and the 2009 Sugar Bowl over Alabama. “Our secret formula is our players prepare hard and do it the right way, and that’s what it’s all about,” Whittingham said in the Dec. 3 bowl media conference call. “We don’t have a routine or a process that’s top secret. It’s just our guys in the program taking a lot of pride in bowl games, and they prepare the right way.” West Virginia RB Justin Crawford has decided to pass on this game to focus on his preparation for the upcoming NFL draft. However, his backup is Kennedy McKoy, who has proven he’s a valuable commodity, rushing for 1,037 yards (5.6 YPC). and 11 TDs in two seasons as a backup. Will Grier's absence is a bigger deal.That said, Utah limps into this contest with six losses in its last eight games. Utah's outstanding bowl record woun't help them here! Make West Virginia an 8* play.
|12-25-17||Raiders +10 v. Eagles||Top||10-19||Win||100||27 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: The second-half of Week 16's MNF doubleheader features the 6-8 Oakland Raiders visiting the 12-2 Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Raiders' slim postseason hopes were dashed following back-to-back losses to Kansas City and Dallas. "We're just going to play to win," coach Jack Del Rio said of his team's mindset. "We're going to do everything we can to get over this 'close but no cigar' finish we had." As for the Philadelphia Eagle, they are looking for their 13th victory of the season and to secure a top seed in the NFC. The Raiders will making their first appearance in Philadelphia since 2005
Oakland: The Raiders are coming off a tough 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday. QB Derek Carr was 21 of 38 for just 171 yards but with two TD passes to WR Michael Crabtree. Carr has completed 63.1 percent for 3,113 yards with 20 TDs and 10 INTs (88.4 QB rating). Crabtree has had seven receptions in back-to-back contests since serving a one-game suspension for his actions in the early going against Denver on Nov. 26. Amari Cooper (42 catches and five TDs in 12 games) was limited in Friday's practice with an ankle injury, leaving questions as to whether he'd take the field against the Eagles. Oakland ran for 122 yards, including 76 from running back Marshawn Lynch. Lynch has been a disappointment with 695 yards rushing, as Carr hasn't gotten much help from a ground game producing just 93.7 YPG (25th). The Raiders' offense has underachieved in 2017, scoring 20.1 PPG (22nd), while the defense is allowing 23.1 PPG (19th).
Philadelphia: Carson Wentz (33 TDs / 7 INTs / 101.9 QB rating) is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered against the Rams in Week 14 but backup Nick Foles proved he is ready for the challenge that awaits the rest of the way. He started against the Giants last Sunday and finished 24 of 38 for 237 yards with four TD passes and no interceptions. The four scores, which went to four different receivers, were the most he tossed since he had seven against the Raiders during the 2013 season. "I just think his poise and his play-making," Philadelphia offensive coordinator Frank Reich said when asked what stood out about Foles. "Obviously, you could tell right away, he's been there before. Then he did what we needed him to do. He played good, sound football, but also be ready to make big plays. He provided that as well." Blount (717 yards on 4.5 YPC) and the addition of Jay Ajayi (356 yards on 6.4 YPC in his six games with Philly), give Philly the NFL's second-best running game, averaging 140.5 YPG. WR Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor have combined for 1,503 receiving yards and 17 TDs while TE Zach Ertz has 63 receptions (eight TDs). The Philadelphia Eagles average 31.3 PPG (2nd) and the defense is allowing 19.9 PPG (8th) on 309.2 PPG (6th).
The pick: Sure, a win and teh Eagles clinch the NFC's No. 1 seed plus Philly is 6-0 (5-1 ATS) at home in 2017, outscoring opponents 35.0-to-15.2 PPG. However, the Raiders should relish the role of playing spoiler plus have ave nothing to lose. Hard to imagine Foles playing as well as he did last Sunday, as I believe the Eagles are not quite he same team minus Wentz. Take the big points and make Oakland a 10* play!
|12-24-17||Houston v. Fresno State UNDER 49||Top||27-33||Loss||-108||36 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: There are few nicer places to spend Christmas Eve than in Hawaii. Sunday night from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, the 7-4 Houston Cougars will face the 9-4 Fresno State Bulldogs The Houston Cougars won three of their last four games to make it to their fifth consecutive bowl game.As for the Bulldogs, coming off a 1-11 season in 2016, they won the MWC West Division at 7-1 and then lost 17-14 to Boise State in the MWC championship game
Houston: The Cougars own impressive road wins at Arizona (19-16) and South Florida, when Houston ended USF's 12-game winning streak with a 28-24 victory..Houston also lost two "close ones" at home vs.Texas Tech (27-24) and Memphis (42-38). Houston's season has seen them go through three QBs and sophomore D’Eriq King is currently making it seem like "the third time is a charm." He led the comeback win against USF and has completed 73 percent of his passes for 832 yards over the last three games (Cougars won twice and lost by three at Tulane). Houston has a stable of RBs but no standout. The team is averaging a respectable 175.5 YPG on the ground (53rd) and the team's defense has been very solid (23.0 PPG ranks 40th).
Fresno State: Former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford has had some "first season." The Bulldogs lost back-to-back games at Alabama and Washington by a combined 63 points in their second and third games, then won four in a row, capped by a dominant 27-3 victory at San Diego State. Tedford’s squad followed the win in San Diego with an ugly home loss to UNLV but closed the regular season with four straight victories, including a 28-17 triumph over Boise State (as noted above, the Bulldogs then lost 17-14 to Boise in the title game). The team's remarkable turnaround has been sparked by a revitalized defense and the arrival of junior quarterback Marcus McMaryion, a transfer from Oregon State who has thrown 14 touchdown passes against just four interceptions. FSU allowed 30.9 PPG on 415 YPG last year but enter this contest allowing 17.2 PPG (9th) on 319.0 YPG (16th).
The pick: Fresno State has not won a bowl game since 2007, when it beat Georgia Tech 40-28 in the Humanitarian Bowl. Its most recent bowl game did not go well, a 30-6 loss to Rice in Hawaii in 2014 that dropped the school to 10-13 in bowl games, going 0-6 ATS in its last six bowl games. Houston is playing in its fifth bowl in a row (2-2 last four) and is 11-13 in bowls, all-time. FSU's defense has been terrific and Houston's is much better than most realize. The play is a 10*!
|12-24-17||Seahawks +5 v. Cowboys||Top||21-12||Win||100||122 h 57 m||Show|
The set-up: NBC's Week 16 Sunday Night Football features the 8-6 Seattle Seahawks visiting the 8-6 Dallas Cowboys in "Jerry's House." The playoff implications are massive for both teams. When Seattle beat the Eagles 24-10 back in Week 14, the 8-4 Seahawks were "right there" with the 9-3 Rams' for the NFC West crown and looked to have a decent chance of claiming a wild card playoff spot even if the division title didn't pan out. However, a tough 30-24 loss at Jacksonville was followed by a 42-7 humbling loss at home against the Rams. "It was just a couple of weeks ago that we played one of the best games we've ever played," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We've got to turn it and make sure that we get right and get back, ready to go to Dallas." Seattle would need to finish 2-0 and the Rams 0-2 for the Seahawks to win the NFC West and the team's path to a wild card spot is not any easier. As for Dallas, yes the Cowboys have won three straight and "Zeke" is back for this game but if Dallas loses here, a victory by Atlanta would seal the Cowboys' fate.
Seattle: The Seahawks' defense has allowed 72 points while losing its last two games, and the team's horrific showing against the Rams placed the team in a must-win situation and as noted above, winning only means something if other teams lose. QB Russell Wilson has been a "one-man" show on offense in 2017 but he was just 14 of 30 for for 142 yards (one TD / 0 INTs) against the Rams and one knows it's bad news when his 39 rushing yards represented a team high. Seattle's defense has been devastated by injuries for weeks now but the unit had held it together, before imploding these last two weeks.
Dallas The Cowboys not only missed Elliott for six game but LT Smith plus LB Lee missed key time while the Cowboys lost three in a row, scoring a total of just 22 points along the way. However, Smith and Lee have gotten back on the field, with Dallas winning three in a row over Washington (38-10), the NY Giants (30-10) and Oakland (20-17). Now, Elliott returns. Elliott had 26 or more carries in each of his final four games prior to the suspension and his presence should help second-year QB Dak Prescott (2,964 yards, 21 TDs), who has thrown 11 interceptions this season after being picked off just four times last year.
The pick: Yes, Elliott is back but LT Tyron Smith (knee) could sit out after being injured in last Sunday's victory over Oakland. Seattle's defense has been ravaged by injuries but the hope is that Pro Bowl middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (hamstring) and outside linebacker K.J. Wright (concussion) will be close to full strength. "The money" seems to be all on the Cowboys but I like Seattle in a desperate situation plus coming off that humiliating loss to the Rams (at home, no less). Dallas is just 3-4 ATS at home in 2017 and even last year's 13-3 division-winning team finished just 5-4 ATS at home after losing to the Packers in the postseason. Make Seattle a 10* play.
|12-24-17||Jaguars v. 49ers UNDER 42.5||Top||33-44||Loss||-110||122 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: The Jacksonville Jaguars have won three in a row and seven of their last eight. Last week's 45-7 rout of Houston moved the Jags to 10-4 and clinched the team's first playoff appearance since 2007. The Jags will visit Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Sunday afternoon to take on the suddenly rejuvenated San Francisco 49ers, who with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, have won three in a row to sit at 4-10. The Jaguars have made a remarkable turnaround from a three-win season to earn a postseason berth and can clinch their first division title since 1999 with a victory. Jacksonville owns a two-game lead over Tennessee and will secure the division crown with a win or tie against the 49ers, or if the Titans tie or lose to the Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers will be home for the postseason but optimism is running high in the Bay Area after wins over the Bears, Texans and Titans. Fans can see a light at the end of tunnel.
Jacksonville. QB Blake Bortles was almost run out of town during the preseason but the Jags didn't have a "Plan B," so Bortles was "their man." Bortles continued his torrid play last week, throwing for 326 yards and three touchdowns for a 143.8 passer rating. He is the now the first QB in franchise history to register a 100-plus passer rating, multiple TD passes and no interceptions in three consecutive games. He's completing 61.0% on the season with 19 TDs and just eight INTs. Rookie Leonard Fournette, who missed last week's game with a quadriceps injury, ranks third among NFL rookies with 1,136 scrimmage yards and is tied for second in TDs by a rookie with nine. He leads the team with 923 rushing yards and the Jags are the league's top rushing unit at 149.1 YPG. The there's that Jags' D which made great strides last year but gave up too many points because of all the Jags' TOs (see Bortles). However, Jacksonville comes into this game allowing a league-low 14.9 PPG on 284.1 YPG (3rd), while leading the NFL with 51 sacks.
San Francisco. From the start of the 2016 season through their 11th game of this season, the 49ers managed three wins. However, last Sunday’s 25-23 victory over the Titans means they’ve now won three games in the last three weeks and it isn’t hard to find the guy getting the credit for that change of fortunes. QB Jimmy Garoppolo has started all three of those wins and he’s leading an offense that’s gone over 400 yards in consecutive games for the first time since 2011. All three wins have come after the 49ers trailed in the second half and Sunday’s win saw Garoppolo complete three quick passes to move the team in position for Robbie Gould‘s field goal as time expired. “I knew he was a great player; we all did,” right guard Brandon Fusco said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “We didn’t know he was this special.”
The pick: Garoppolo's been great but the Bears, Texans and Titans (his three 'victims') are NOT the Jags. Then again, the 49ers do catch the Jags off last week's rout of Houston, which clinched the franchise's first playoff berth since 2007. Can you say "let down?".Garoppolo’s getting most (all?) of the credit but let me note that 49er defense has yielded only 19.6 PPG over its last six games. Make the Under an 8* play.
|12-24-17||Broncos v. Redskins -3.5||Top||11-27||Win||100||119 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Broncos opened the 2017 season 3-1 but then lost eight consecutive games, failing to cover each and every one. However, the Broncos "stopped the bleeding" with a 23-0 home shut out of the Jets in Week 14 and then won 25-13 at the Indianapolis Colts in the Week 15 edition of Thursday night football. The Broncos look to build on those back-to-back wins when they visit from FedEx Field.ton on Christmas Eve Day for a meeting with the 6-8 Washington Redskins. The Redskins were eliminated from postseason contention despite a 20-15 win over Arizona in their last outing but
Denver: Trevor Siemian passed for 67 yards and an interception before leaving due to injury (suffered a partially dislocated shoulder ) against Indianapolis and was placed on injured reserve..Brock Osweiler completed 12 of 17 passes for 194 yards and two TDs in the win. With Siemian on IR, head coach Vance Joseph will choose between Osweiler and Paxton Lynch as possible starters this week. Lynch has been considered the team's quarterback of the future but suffered an ankle injury at Oakland on Nov. 26 in his only start of the year and is trying to get back before the season ends. "My concern is making sure he's healthy enough to play at a high level," Joseph told the team's website. "He's a quarterback that can use his legs when he's in danger, so I want to make sure that he's right." C.J. Anderson rushed for 158 yards on 30 carries against theg Colts but he hasn't done much all season, coming in awith a 'quiet' 858 yards rushing. The Broncos are averaging a modest 113.1 YPG on the ground (14th). Denver still owns a playoff-caliber defense, as no team has allowed fewer yards per game (276.8) However, Denver's allowed 23.4 PPG (20th), which dosen't quite add up.
Washington: The Redskins beat the Cardinals 31-19 last Sunday with QB Kirk Cousins going 18 of 26 for 196 yards and two TDs. Cousins has put together another excellent season (66.1% for 3,636 yards with 24 TDs and 9 INTs / 98.9 QB rating) but his status for next season (free agent) is still up in the air. The Washintong D had four sacks, an interception and a recovered fumble while holding the Cardinals to 286 yards of total offense last week (also Arizona was just 4 of 19 on third down) but that kind of effort hasn't been typical. In fact, Washington ranks 29th (of 32 teams) in points allowed, giving up 25.6 per game.
The pick: A win here by Washington would mean the team would have recorded consecutive wins for just the second time this season. Still, the Denver QB situation is a mess (Osweiler or Lynch) and in what could be Cousns last home game for the Redskins, he just could be auditioning for the team in desperate need of a QB. Make Washington an 8* play.
|12-24-17||Rams -6.5 v. Titans||Top||27-23||Loss||-115||119 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The Los Angeles Rams finished in 2016 at just , as the NFL's overall No. 1 pick, Jared Goff of Cal, hardly looked like a franchise QB. However, the NFL's youngest head coach I(Sean McVay) has worked wonders with Goff in his sophomore season, while DC Wade Phillips has worked his magic with LA's defense. The result is a 10-4 record and with a win here, the Rams can clinch the NFC West (would also clinch if Seattle loses at Dallas on Sunday night). The 8-6 Tennessee Titans are off back-to-back losses and enter as one of three 8-6 teams tied for the final two wild cards in the AFC. Tennessee still has an outside shot at winning the AFC South but a wild card berth is easily the easiest path to the postseason. The Titans currently own the No. 5 seed (due to tie-breakers) and can actually clinch a playoff spot this week with a win over the Rams plus losses by the Ravens and Bills..
LA Rams: Goff was 0-7 as a starter last season, completing 54.6% with five TDs and seven INTs (QB rating of 63.6). He's been a "new man" in 2017, entering the final two weeks of the season completing 62.4% for 3,503 yards with 24 TDs and just seven INTs (98.9 QB rating). RB Todd Gurley has developed into one of the NFL's elite RBs, rushing fo 1,187 yards (4.6 YPC) with 13 TDs plus adding 54 catches for 630 yards with four more TDs. After averaging an NFL-low in points (14.0 PPG) and total offense (262.7 YPG) in 2016, the Rams are averaging a league-best 31.3 PPG on 366.5 YPG (10th). Wade Phillips' D checks in allowing 19.4 PPG (5th), ranking second in sacks (47) to only the Jags' 51.
Tennessee: The Titans have hurt themselves with consecutive losses, 12-7 at Arizona in Week 14 and 25-23 at San Francisco last Sunday. After being held to just one score against the Cardinals, the Titans did get their offense going against the 49ers, as QB Marcus Mariota threw for 241 yards and two TD passes with no interceptions, after having been held under 200 yards passing in three consecutive games.
The pick: The Rams haven’t had any success ATS against the Titans over the year but it's a "New Day" this season in LA. Sure, the Titans are 5-1 SU at home but the Rams are 6-1 SU (5-2 ATS) on the road. Goff and Gurley (1,817 yards from scrimmage with 17 TDs) rate a big edge over Mariota plus Tenessee RB duo of Henry and Murray. On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams' D rates the edge as well. Speaking about his team's playoff chances, Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said of his players. "They know we have a great opportunity sitting right in front of us that is very reachable if we come in here the way we've come in here, with the mindset of putting in a good week's worth of preparation. We need to put 60 minutes of good football together, one game at a time." However, one could argue (and I will)
|12-23-17||Vikings v. Packers +9||Top||16-0||Loss||-107||52 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers will meet at Lambeau Field.on Saturday night. The all-time series is tied 51-51-2, so this will be the 105th meeting. However, in the 104th meeting (back on Oct. 15. in Minneapolis on), the NFC landscape underwent a seismic shift. Vikings LB Anthony Barr took Rodgers to the turf after a e first quarter pass with Rodgers suffering a broken right collarbone. Minnesota would go on to win 23-10, its second victory in what would become an eight-game winning streak.Meanwhile, the Packers would go on to lose four of Brett Hundley's first five starts at QB. Aaron Rodgers returned at Carolina last Sunday and threw for 290 yards and three TDs but that was cancelled out by his three INTs in Green Bay's 31-24 loss.Minnesota: The Vikings dismantled Cincinnati 34-7 last Sunday, improving to 11-3. They are focused here on clinching a bye and possibly earning home field advantage for teh entire NFC postseason (would need more than just a little help from the 12-2 Eagles). Case Keenum continued his "career season" last Sunday by completing 20 of 23 for 236 yards and two TDs.Keenum (67.9% with 20 TDs and 7 INTs / QB rating of 98.9) has five games this season with a passer rating of at least 115 and a completion percentage of 70-plus, tying Brett Favre and Daunte Culpepper's franchise record. Now how is that possible? Keenum is 9-3 as a starter but he's had help, as RBs Latavius Murray (662 yards) and Jerick McKinnon (484 yards) have stepped up nicely after rookie RB Dalvin Cook went down for the season. Minnesota's ground game averages 121.3 YPG (9th), helping the offense average 24.5 PPG on the season (10th). That's been more than enough with Minnesota's defense ranking second in both points allowed (17.3 per) and total defense (283.9 YPG).Green Bay: Rodgers gave it his best at Carolina but the defense couldn''t stop the Panthers, as Newton threw four TD passes and the Carolina ground game ran for 151 yards. When the Falcons held on for a 24-21 win on Monday at Tampa, the Packers slim playoff hopes were dashed.I don't see the Packers risking Rodgers here and let's note that in the first meeting, when the Vikings KO'd Rodgers, Brett Hundley stepped in and threw three interceptions while being sacked four times int hat 23-10 loss. Green Bay's defense relies on big plays but they have been too infrequent. The Packers kept their season alive by scoring a defensive touchdown in the overtime win vs. Tampa Bay and forcing an interception in overtime to win at Cleveland. However, at Carolina, the Packers failed to force any turnovers and gave up four TD passes to Cam Newton and a season-worst 29 FDs. Bottom line is that the Packers are allowing an average of 23.8 PPG (21st) and have held only once team (Chicago, twice) under 20 points since Week 1.
The pick: At first blush, this looks like the Vikings are a 'lock.' However, this is still a bitter rivalry and the Packers won't forget that the Vikings KO'd Rodgers AND Green Bay's season in the first meeting. Assuming Hundley starts, he did get better after his "emergency appearance" on Oct. 15, going 3-4 as a starter. He took a seat on the bench last week but had completed 69.1% in his previous three starts, throwing six TD passes and just one INT. Sure, the Packers won't be part of the postseason for the first time since 2008 but doesn't that make them a 'dangerous dog.' We know it's expected to be "Green Bay weather," as the predicted low for Saturday night is 1!! Home dog barks here. Make Green Bay a 10* play.
|12-23-17||Appalachian State +7.5 v. Toledo||Top||34-0||Win||100||67 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The 8-4 Appalachian State Mountaineers (7-1 in SBC) and the 11-2 Toledo Rockets (7-1 in the MAC) will square off in the Dollar General Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Al. on Saturday. The Mountaineers finished their season with a share of the Sun Belt Title, while the Rockets defeated the Akron Zips 45-28 in the MAC championship game.This bowl game will feature two of the nation's most efficient QBs in Toledo's Logan Woodside and Appalachian State's Taylor Lamb but the "biggest news" is that Toledo and Appalachian State will meet in a bowl game for the second straight season. The Rockets and Mountaineers played right down to the wire last season in the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., as Appalachian State escaped with a 31-28 victory after the Rockets missed a potential game-tying FG with fewer than two minutes remaining.
Appalachian State: QB Taylor Lamb is completing 61.7% of his passes for 2,606 yards with 27 TDs and just six INTs.The team's offense is very balanced, passing for 223.3 YPG and 214.8 YPG on the ground to average 33.4 PPG (32nd). RB Jalin Moore leads in rushing (912 yards / 5.7 YPC / 9 TDs), while Lamb adds 539 yards on 7.7 YPC with five TDs. WRs Lewis and Hennigan combine for 91 catches and 15 TDs. Defensively, the Mountaineers are formidable, allowing 21.9 PPG (333rd) on 359.1 YPG (39th). Toledo: QB Logan Woodside has completed 64.9% of his passes for 3,758 yards with 28 TDs and just five INTs. He's got a trio of of talented receivers in Diontae Johnson (72 catches / 17.5 YPC / 13 TDs), Jon’Vea Johnson (41 cayches / 16.5 YPC / 5 TDs) and Cody Thompson (just 28 catches but 19.2 YPC). Terry Swanson is the featured back, running for 1,319 yards on 5.7 YPC and 14 TDs. The Rockets are averaging 39.2 PPG (11th) on 511.2 YPG (8th). The defense could use some help, allowing 25.6 PPG (55th) on 379.4 YPG (56th). The pick: Revenge is on Toledo's side but the Mountaineers have won 35 of their last 44 games, the best record of any Group of 5 team in that span. The Mountaineers' defense struggled for part of the year, including giving up 82 points in back-to-back losses to UMass and UL-Monroe but regained its form over the final three games by allowing just 30 total points. QB Taylor Lamb has started 48 consecutive games and he set a Sun Belt record with 90 career TD passes. I'm making Appalachian State a 10* play.
|12-23-17||Texas Tech v. South Florida -2.5||Top||34-38||Win||100||60 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Texas Tech Red Raiders finished the regular season by losing five of their last seven games but the team's 27-23 victory at Texas in the team's regular season finale got them a sixth win, earning them a bowl bid at 6-6. Texas Tech is off to the Birmingham Bowl to face South Florida, which followed last year's 11-2 record (which set a school-record for wins in a season) by going 9-2 in 2017. USF ended last season on a five-game winning streak and opened this season with seven straight wins. However, the team's 12-game winning streak ended with a last-second 28-24 loss at home to Houston on Oct 28. That contest also ended the team's run of 24 consecutive games in which the Bulls had scored 30 points or more. Then, with a chance to earn the AAC East title, the Bulls lost 49-42 on "Black Friday" at UCF (brutal loss, look it up!).Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are hoping to the end the season on a high note here in Birmingham. Tech always seems to have a QB who puts up impressive numbers. Nic Shimonek is the latest, completing 68.2 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards, 30 TDs and just eight INTs. WRs Keke Coutee and Dylan Cantrell have combined for 149 catches and 2,032 receiving yards with 15 TDs while a third WR, Cameron Batson, has 55 receptions. However, the ground game is averaging only a modest 141.6 YPG (96th). Tech averages 34.3 PPG () but also allows 31.8 PPG (95th) on 434.0 YPG (99th).USF: This contest will be QB Quinton Flowers' last game.He may have completed just 53.4% of his passes this season but he's thrown for 2,600 yards with 21 TDs and six Ints . He's also the team's leading rusher at 972 yards (5.3 YPC and 10 TDs). He teams with RBs Tice (878 YR / 5.4 YPC / 11 TDs) and Johnson (745 YR / 4.2 YPC / 7 TDs), as USF ranks 8th in the nation in rushing yards at 265.4 per game. USF's scoring is slightly down from last year (38.3 PPG from 43.8 in 2016). However, after the Bulls' defense allowed 31.6 PPG in 2016, the 2017 edition has allowed only 22.5 PPG (36th).
The pick: The Texas Tech Red Raiders have won six of their last eight bowl games but haven’t won a game since 2013 (lost their most recent bowl game 56-27 to LSU in 2015).. Meanwhile, this is Flowers' "last hurrah." He has the opportunity to end his collegiate career as one of the most prolific offensive players in American Athletic Conference and school history. Flowers already holds or shares many school records, including wins for a starting QB (30), career rushing yards TD passes. Already the school record holder with 11,385 career yards of offense, Flowers needs just 47 more to become the conference all-time leader. Flowers also needs just 44 yards to break Marlon Mack's school record for career rushing yards, one more touchdown pass for sole possession of first with 68, just 312 yards passing to break Matt Grothe's single-season mark of 2,911 and with four scoring strikes would break his own single-season mark of 24 set last season. A repeat trip to the Birmingham Bowl may not have been what USF had in mind going into the season but with losses to Houston and UCF knocking them out of contention for a New Year's Six appearance, the Bulls have had to reset their postseason goals. USF needed OT to beat South Carolina last year at Legion Field but it should be a much bigger of margin of victory this time around. Flowers accounted for 366 yards and five TDs in a thrilling 46-39 OT victory over South Carolina in LY’s Birmingham Bowl. Make USF an 8* play.
|12-22-17||Central Michigan v. Wyoming -3.5||Top||14-37||Win||100||51 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl from Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Id, home of the blue turf. The 8-4 Central Michigan Chippewas of the MAC (6-2) will take on the 7-5 Wyoming Cowboys of the MWC (5-3). Central Michigan will be making its fourth straight bowl appearance but has lost the last three years (1-2 ATS). As for Wyoming, the Cowboyswent 'bowling' last year (lost 24-21 to BYU) but this is just the school's fourth bowl appearance in the last 13 years (only win in that span was back in 2009).
Central Michigan: The Chippewas were just 3-4 on the season before ending the and the year with five consecutive victories both SU and ATS. Those wins came over Ball State, Western Michigan, Eastern Mchigan, Kent State and Northern Illinois. The only team with a winning record in that group was 8-4 Northern Illinois, while Ball State and Kent State were each 2-10! QB Shane Morris has thrown for 2,908 yards with 26 TDs and 13 INTs. Central Michigan’s top rusher is Jonathan Ward (988 yards / 5.9 YPC / and nine TDs), leading a ground game averaging a modest 143.8 YPG (92nd). CMU comes in averaging 29.7 PPG (53), whiel allowing 26.8 PPG (67th).
Wyoming: The Cowboys flopped out of the box (1-2 SU & 0-3 ATS) but then won six of seven (7-0 ATS) before QB Josh Allen hurt his shoulder and missed the last two games (Wyoming was 0-2 SU & ATS). Allen is said to be a potential first-round pick in the spring's draft but his shoulder injury leaves a big question mark. He’s been practicing with his teammates in preparation for this game but no one knows for sure what to expect. Allen threw for 3,203 yards last season with 28 TDs and 15 INTs but was a huge underachiever in 2017 (56.2% with 13 TDs and 6 INTs). I'm not convinced Wyoming is all that worse off without him. Whether it's Allen or backup Nick Smith, the Wyoming defense will show up and the team's stop unit has allowed just 17.8 PPG (12th) on 332.8 YPG (22nd).
The pick: This venue is "familiar territory" for Wyoming, as Boise State is a MWC rival. MAC teams have not done well in recent bowl seasons and you may have caught Akron's embarrassing effort Tuesday night (50-3 loss to FAU). In non-conference road games at Kansas, Syracuse and BC, CMU beat Kansas (as do all schools) but lost 41-17 at Syracuse and 28-8 at BC. You may remember CMU losing last year's Miami Beach Bowl 55-10 to Tulsa. Meanwhile, Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl is hardly a postseason newcomer, having won multiple FCS titles at North Dakota State. Despite going 0-2 ATS to end this year's regular season, Bohl's Wyoming team is 15-7 ATS since October of 2016. I'm making Wyoming a 10* play with or without Allen.
|12-21-17||Temple -7 v. Florida International||Top||28-3||Win||100||48 h 11 m||Show|
The set-up: After back-to-back 10-4 seasons, the Temple Owls lost head coach Matt Rhule to Baylor plus more than a few key players. Geoff Collins guided the team to a 3-1 finish down the stretch to secure a fourth straight bowl berth for the team's seniors, the winningest class in school history. Collins will see a familiar uniform on the opposing sideline Dec. 21 in St. Petersburg, Fl. when the Owls take on Florida International in the Gasparilla Bowl. Collins was the defensive coordinator for the Golden Panthers in 2010, as FIU captured a conference title and went on to win the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. As for FIU, Butch Davis took over a program which had five consecutive losing seasons and led the Panthers to an 8-4 record and the school's first bowl appearance since 2011.Temple: The Owls turned to Frank Nutile at QB for the season's final five weeks. With the exception of one bad game against undefeated UCF (four INTs), the junior finished with nine TDs and just two INTs down the stretch in the other four games. The Owls' running game is pretty sad (136.0 YPG ranks 100th) and the team comes in averaging only 24.8 PPG (93rd). Defensively, Temple ranks 73rd in allowing 27.7 PPGFIU: Butch Davis had head coaching stints at North Carolina and the Cleveland Browns in addition to his time at Miami, has a veteran at QB in senior Alex McGough, whom he calls "one of the best QBs that I've been around at all levels of coaching." McGough threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns against UMass in the regular-season finale, helping FIU set a school record for total yards (674) while matching the mark for wins in a season (eight). The Panthers racked up 379 rushing yards and six TDs on the ground, with Alex Gardner and Napoleon Maxwell each scoring twice and McGough adding 108 yards and a touchdown.
The pick: Davis may be a bit too effusive regarding McGough, who has passed for 2.791 yards with 17 TDs and eight TDs (hardly spectacular numbers). FIU averages 27.5 PPG (74th) and allows 28.5 PPG (79th) but is getting a TD here in a stadium located in Florida. The key for Temple may wind up being its ability to stop FIU inside the red zone. The Panthers led the nation in scoring percentage in the red zone with 39 scores in 40 trips while the Owls' red-zone defense was far from great, holding their opponent scoreless on just 13 percent of red-zone trips. The good news for Temple is that its offense started clicking towards the end of the season, averaging 32.8 PPG over the team's last four games. FIU should be pumped to be back in a bowl game but Temple is the better team and plays in a tougher conference. Make the Owls an 8* play.
|12-20-17||Louisiana Tech v. SMU OVER 71||Top||51-10||Loss||-105||24 h 10 m||Show|
|12-19-17||Akron v. Florida Atlantic UNDER 64.5||Top||3-50||Win||100||56 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: The Akron Zips were a surprise winner of the MAC East but lost 45-28 to Toledo in the MAC championship game, which brings them to the Boca Raton Bowl with a modest 7-6 record. Awaiting the Zips will be the Florida Atlantic Owls, who are looking to complete a remarkable season with a bowl victory and cap of the year with a 10-game win streak. The Owls opened teh 2017 season 1-3 (lost to Navy, Wisconsin and Buffalo), before winning a C-USA East division title at 8-0 record in league play. The Owls ten beat North Texas 41-17 at FIU Stadium (where the Boca Raton Bowl will be played) in the C-USA title game. An interesting storyline comes with this game, as Akron head coach Terry Bowden is the son of Bobby Bowden, the man who made Florida State a two-time national champion plus FAU's Lane Kiffin is the son of Monte Kiffin, recognized as one of football's most creative defensive minds in the game and the father of the "Tampa Cover 2" defense.
Akron: Bowden suspended QB Thomas Woodson and redshirt freshman Kato Nelson scratched out a couple of wins to allow Akron to become bowl-eligible and win its half of the MAC. Woodson returned for the conference title game vs. heavily-favored Toledo but was ineffective, completing only 5 of 14 for 35 yards. Nelson, who started the game and returned in the second half, and third-string Robbie Kelly led a few late TD drives that allowed the Zips to record a backdoor cover. Woodson completed 159 of his 278 pass attempts (57.2%) for 1,777 passing yards with 14 TDs and nine INTs, while Nelson tossed for 909 yards, eight TDs and only two INTs but completed just 48.8 percent of his passes. No RB even gained 400 yards on the season with Akron ranking 118th with 108.5 YPG on the ground. The team averaged only 23.6 PPG (103rd) on just 329.5 YPG (118th) and that hardly bodes well when its defense is allowing 26.3 PPG (60th) and a more troubling 432.3 YPG (98th)
Florida Atlantic: Offense is one aspect of the game everyone concedes Lane Kiffin knows quite a bit about. QB Jason Driskel has completed 65.6% for 1,977 yards with 13 TD passes and four INTs. He's run for 360 yards (5.1 TYPC) with six more TDs. the ground game ranks 6th with 283.1 YPG, leading an offens which averages 39.8 PPG (9th).RB Devin Singletary has had an outstandiung season (1,794 yards (6.5 YPC) and 29 rushing TDs) plus gets help from Howell, who added 690 rushing yards (6.7 YPC) and five TDs. The defense is plenty good enough with those kind of offensive numbers, allowing 24.2 PPG (44th).
The pick: Kiffin rarely "makes friends" in the coaching business, as he sure seemed to enjoy former employer Tennessee stumbling all over itself as it searched for a new head coach. However, he's authored a dramatic turnaround in Boca Raton and his Owls are one of the biggest bowl favorites in recent memory. Akron was able to fill one of the 78 available slots simply by competing in the watered-down MAC East and scoring a non-conference win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff. In the Zips’ other three non-conference games, they were limited to 31 total points in losses to bowl-bound Penn State, Iowa State, and Troy State. Expect this to be a somewhat boring game and the 10* play is on the Under.
|12-18-17||Falcons -6 v. Bucs||Top||24-21||Loss||-110||34 h 57 m||Show|
The set-up: The Falcons edged the Saints 20-17 a week ago Thursday night, giving them four wins in their last five to reach 8-5. The Saints (10-4) and Panthers (10-4) both won on Sunday, so the Falcons can ill afford a loss in Week 15's MNF matchup at Raymond James Stadium with the 4-9 Tampa Bay Bucs. The Bucs come in off three straight losses (to the Falcons, Packers and Lions).and are likely just looking for this highly disappointing season to come to an end. These teams met in Week 12 at Atlanta with the Falcons winning 34-20. Matt Ryan threw for 317 yards but had just one TD pass (zero INTs). WR Julio Jones had 253 receiving yards and caught a TD pas from Ryan and WR Sanu. Atlanta's running game rolled up 148 yards (5.3 YPC) with two rushing TDs. Tampa's Winston was out with an injury in that contest, with Fitzpatrick throwing for 283 yards but no scores.
Atlanta: Julio Jones was having a relatively quiet season by his lofty standards until torching Tampa Bay for 12 catches for 253 yards and a pair of TDs in that Week 12 meeting. It's also good news that Devonta Freeman has rushed for 165 yards in two games since returning from a concussion and could be in line for a heavy workload with backup Tevin Coleman in the concussion protocol. Atlanta's running game is solid, averaging 116.8 YPG (12th) but Ryan is way off his 2016 MVP numbers. The Falcons led the NFL by averaging 33.8 PPG last season but head into this Week 15 game averaging only 22.6 PPG (15th). The defense has played well though, allowing 20.1 PPG (9th) on 319.8 YPG (7th).
Tampa Bay: Winston's been back for the last two games (555 passing yards with 4 TDs and 2 INTs) but the Bucs have lost both. Tampa Bay's running game has struggled all season (91.5 YPG ranks 22nd) and is surely a good part of the reason the Bucs are averaging only 20.3 PPG (22nd). Winston enjoyed plenty of success last season against Atlanta, throwing for 542 yards with seven TDs against one interception. but one wonders how much 'fight' there still is in Tampa Bay. The defense is allowing 389.3 YPG (31st) and 24.0 PPG (23rd).
The pick: Atlanta entered the week one game behind the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers but both won, so a win is a must. The good news for the Falcons is that they still have to play the Saints and Panthers, giving them a chance to claim the division title by winning their final three games. “Focusing on the next team could be a little bit distracting,” Falcons linebacker De’Vondre Campbell said. “We have to focus on (Tampa Bay) because every game at this point is a must-win.” It's also good news that Atlanta is 5-0 ATS in its last five Monday games, while the Bucs are 13-28-1 ATS in their last 42 games in December, as well as 23-49-1 ATS in their last 73 home games. Raymond James is not exactly a tough place for visiting teams to play! After pulling out recent must-win games vs. the Seahawks and Saints, I doubt the Falcons (with the Saints and Panthers looming) will 'stub their toes' against that sad-sack Bucs. Make the Falcons a 10* play.
|12-17-17||Cowboys v. Raiders OVER 45.5||Top||20-17||Loss||-115||100 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: NBC's Sunday Night Football edition in Week 15 features the 7-6 Dallas Cowboys visiting the 6-7 Oakland Raiders. The Cowboys have rebounded from three straight loses to beat the Redskins and Giants in their last two, keeping the team's slim wild card hopes alive. The Raiders lost their Week 14 game at KC and at 6-7, sit one game back of the Chargers and Chiefs in the AFC West. Those two play Saturday night, so the Raiders can stay one game behind the winner of that contest and into a tie with the loser. Clearly, the loser of this game will be all but eliminated from postseason consideration.
Dallas: The Cowboys had scored a combined 22 points in losing three in a row, following the six-game suspension to RB Ezekiel Elliott. However, Dallas has scored 38 and 30 points in its back-to-back wins, with QB Dak Prescott breaking out for a career-high 332 yards against the Giants, along with three touchdown passes. RB Alfred Morris ran for 127 yards in the win over the 'Skins and RB Rod Smith had 160 yards from scrimmage with both a rushing and receiving touchdown vs. the Giants (47 rush yards / 113 receiving yards). That said, Dallas can't wait for Elliott to return, after this game.
Oakland: The Raiders' offense pretty much came up empty at KC last Sunday, with QB Derek Carr passing for a modest 211 yards (one TD and two INTs) and Marshawn Lynch gaining only 61 yards on the ground. Carr has 2,942 yards on the season with 18 TDs and 10 INTs (QB rating of 88.8), while Lynch has a disappointing 619 yards rushing on 4.2 YPC with seven TDs. The Raiders rank 15th in passing yards and only 26th in rushing, at 91.5 YPG. That all adds up to just 20.3 PPG, which ranks 21st.
The pick: "I think the two of us probably expected to have a few more wins at this point in the year," Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said of his team and the Cowboys. "We are where we are and we’re looking forward to playing.” The winning team will have a daunting challenge ahead of them. Dallas has the Seahawks and Eagles remaining on its schedule, while Oakland still has to play the Eagles and Chargers. Not interested in "picking a winner" but considering Prescott has a 114.4 QB rating with eight TDs and zero interceptions in his last five road games and Carr has 21 TD passes versus just five interceptions in his last 10 home games, an 8* on the Over makes sense.
|12-17-17||Titans +2 v. 49ers||Top||23-25||Push||0||95 h 28 m||Show|
Tennessee: The defense had eight sacks against Arizona and held the Cardinals to just 261 yards and 12 points (four FGs) but Tennessee's offense was awful. The Titans accumulated only 204 yards, as Marcus Mariota completed 16 of 31 for only 159 yards without a TD pass and one INT. The running game had only 65 yards on 22 attempts. The Titans rank 27th in passing (197.5 YPG) with Mariota throwing only 10 TD passes against 14 INTs (76.9 QB rating). The ground game was third-best in the NFL last year (136.7 YPG) but it's down to 117.7 YPG in 2017, ranking 10th. The defense ranks 9th in yards allowed (323.3 YPG) but in the more important category of points allowed, Tennessee is allowing 22.6 PPG (18th).
San Francisco: Have the 49ers found their answer at QB? C.J. Beathard got hurt at the end of the 49ers' Week 12 loss at Seattle, as San Francisco fell to 1-10. That opened the door for Jimmy Garoppolo's long-anticipated 'test drive.' He's led San Francisco to back-to-back wins, 15-14 at Chicago and 26-16 Houston. He threw for 334 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 20 of 33 passing against Houston and enters this contest completing 66.7 percent for 645 yards with two TDs and two INTs (92.6 QB rating). RB Carlos Hyde has 771 yards but the etam averaghes a modest 100.8 YPG (22nd).
The pick: I can see why some are leaning to San Francisco. The 49ers may nave been 1-10 but five of those losses had come by three points or less. Garoppolo is seen as a 'savior' and the fact that he has now won all four of his career starts, including his first two for San Francisco, makes San Fran a 'sexy' pick. That said, it's hard to see a 3-10 team being favored over a team fighting for a division title or wild card spot. The 49ers haven't won three in a row since the 2014 season and I say it won't happen here, either. Beating the sad-sack Bears and the Watson-less Texans is one thing, beating a playoff-contending team is another. Make Tennessee a 10* play.
|12-17-17||Bengals +11 v. Vikings||Top||7-34||Loss||-110||92 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: The Minnesota Vikings finally proved human last Sunday, as their eight-game winning streak came to an end in a 31-24 loss at the Carolina Panthers. Minnesota returns home off a three-game road trip and will be "dropping down in class" to face the 5-8 Cincinnati Bengals. Minnesota can clinch the NFC North Division title with a win, while Cincinnati will miss the playoffs for the second straight season, after making five straight (and six of seven) appearances.
Cincinnati: The Bengals come in off back-to-back losses, including an 'ugly' 33-7 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Bears in their last outing. Andy Dalton completed just 14 of 29 while throwing for only 141 yards with one TD and one INT. AJ McCarron threw for 47 yards in relief of Dalton. The Cincy running game has been a problem all season (79.4 RPG ranks 31st) but the Bengals could get back the services of rookie RB Joe Mixon (concussion). Mixon leads the team with 518 YR but averages only 3.3 YPC. Cincinnati averages only 197.8 YPG through the air, leaving them dead-last in total offense at 277.2 YPG and not much better in scoring, at 28th with 17.4 PPG. The defense has hung in there, considering, allowing a modest 20.8 PPG (13th).
Minnesota: Case Keenum has been a huge surprise at QB and enters 9-3 as a starter. However, he did show some vulnerability last week, committing three turnovers (two INTs / one fumble) in the 31-24 setback at Carolina. The Vikings only ran for 100 yards vs. Carolina but overall, RBs Murray (586 YR / 5 TDs) and McKinnon (460 YR / 3 TDs) have done a nice job since the loss of star rookie RB Cook. The Vikings come in averaging 121.8 YPG on the ground, which ranks 8th. Despite allowing 31 points at Carolina last Sunday, Minnesota's defense ranks third in points allowed on the season (18.1 per), as well as also ranking third in total defense at 293.4 YPG.
The pick: The Vikings are fighting for home field advantage in the NFC and can ill afford a slip here but this is a lot of points and the Bengals are 4-2 ATS on the road in 2017. Was Keenum's TO problem last week a sign of things to come? Also note that while Dalton played poorly last Sunday, he had thrown 11 TDs without an interception in his previous six games! Take those points and make Cincy an 8* play.
|12-17-17||Cardinals v. Redskins -4||Top||15-20||Win||100||92 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: This Week 15 matchup is between two playoff also-rans. It's true that the 6-7 Cardinals, who have two of their last three, have microscopic playoff chances but but they are 11th in the NFC, two games out of the second wild-card spot with only three games remaining. As for Washington, the Redskins have dropped four of their last five to fall to 5-8 and now realize even attaining a .500 record would take a three-game sweep of the team's final games. The Redskins' lone victory in that stretch came at home, a 20-10 triumph over the New York Giants (Week 12). However, Washington has allowed at least 30 points in each of its four defeats in that same span.
Arizona: The Cards enter off a 12-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans and hope to build off that excellent defensive effort. The Cardinals had three 3 sacks and a pair of interceptions, while holding the Titans to just 204 yards of total offense and just 26 minutes of possession in the win. However, while Arizona ranks 8th in total defense (320.6 YPG), it is allowing 24.4 PPG, which ranks 25th. The offense has to rely on backup QB Blaine Gabbert, who threw for only 189 yards against the Titans and wasn't able to get the Cardinals into the end zone (team settled for four FGs). The running game averages a woeful 81.2 YPG (30th) and on the season, Arizona ranks 26th in scoring at 17.8 PPG.
Washington: Kirk Cousins had a poor game last Sunday vs. the Chargers (a 30-13 loss), throwing for only 151 yards with one a touchdown and one interception. However, he is wrapping up another solid season (65.9% for an average of 240.7 YPG through the air with a 22-9 ratio and a QB rating of 97.7) but once again, the Redskins are headed 'nowhere!' I wonder where Cousins will be headed next season? Defensively, the ‘Skins had an interception that turned into a 96-yard pick-six from Beshaud Breeland but that was about all they could hang their hats on, as they allowed 488 yards of total offense and over 35 minutes of possession to the Chargers in the loss.
The pick: However, the Cardinals hardly resemble the red-hot Chargers. In fact, Arizona comes in 1-5 ATS on the road in 2017, winning onty at Indy in OT (Colts are 3-11) and at San Francisco, as part of the 49ers' 0-9 start to the season. I realize the Redskins have their fair share of injuries and are not exactly the most harmonious team in the NFL at the moment but Cousins over Gabbert (198 YPG passing with 6 TDs and 5 INTs for an 80.8 QB rating), is a bargain. Make Washington an 8* play.
|12-16-17||Chargers v. Chiefs OVER 46||Top||13-30||Loss||-105||76 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: The Los Angeles Chargers opened 0-4, before winning their Week 5 game against the winless Giants. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs began 5-0. Who could have possibly predicted back then that this Week 15 Saturday night game between the visiting Chargers and the homestanding Chiefs would be for sole possession of first-place in the AFC West. However, that's exactly the case, as both team's come in 7-6. KC's slide began with a 19-13 home loss to the Steelers in Week 6 and last Sunday;s 26-15 win over the Raiders ended a four-game slide, as well as a stretch in which the Chiefs had lost six of seven. The Chargers followed their win over the Giants with two more victories but back-to-back losses left them 3-6 entering Week 11. Eleven was a lucky number for the Chargers, as their 54-24 rout of the Bills has sparked a four-game winning streak.
LA Chargers: QB Philip Rivers is completing 62.8 percent of his passes for 3,611 yards, and is headed for another 4,000 yard passing season (that would make nine of 10!). He has 23 TDs and just seven interceptions for a QB rating of 97.2. WR Keenan Allen has stayed healthy and checks in with 83 catches for 1,143 yards and five TDs. TE Hunter has 42 catches (4 TDs), WR Williams 32 catches (3 TDs) and RB Gordon 43 catches (4 TDs). Gordon leads the team with 853 rushing yards (just 3.7 YPC) but also has six TDs. The Chargers' running game ranks just 24th (99.5 YPG) but Gordon has become a solid dual-purpose RB. The defense has been excellent, allowing just 17.3 YPG (2nd) .
Kansas City; The Chiefs finally saw the return of rookie RB Kareen Hunt in last Sunday's win over the Raiders. He rand for 116 yards, his first 100-yard games since Week 5 (had 100-plus yards four times in his first five games). QB Alex Smith was near-perfect through five games and while he's come back to earth, it's hard to argue with his 67.2% completions on the season (23-5 ratio) and his 104.4 QB rating. The Chiefs defense has been a weakness all season, ranking 30th against the run (124.8 YPG) and 28th versus the pass (248.5 YPG). However, they've been able to "limit the damage," allowing 22.2 PPG (15th). In last Sunday's win, they held the Raiders to 268 total yards and15 points, while forcing three turnovers .
The pick: KC dominated the first meeting, winning 24-10 in LA back in Week 3. However, both teams look very different now. Philip Rivers has led a resurgent offense, averaging 337.0 YPG through the air with eight TDs and not a single interception during the team's four-game winnings streak, LA is averaging 32.8 PPG in that span and I see little reason to expect the KC defense to "keep a lid" on this Rivers-led offense. As for KC, Smith continues his career season and Hunt, who ran for 172 yards against the Chargers in that first meeting, may just have "found his second wind" last Sunday. KC has won seven in this series, so don't expect them to "roll over." Make the Over is a 10* play.
|12-16-17||Marshall v. Colorado State -5.5||Top||31-28||Loss||-110||100 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: The Gildan New Mexico Bowl will be contested at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico and features the 7-5 Marshall Thundering Herd (4-4 in C-USA East) and the 7-5 Colorado State Rams (5-3 in the MWC-Mountain Division). Marshall had a great start to their season, opening with a 6-1 record (a favorable schedule helped). However, the Thundering Herd struggled down the stretch, losing four of their last five games. The Rams struggled down the stretch as well, losing three of their last four but this game marks the school's fifth consecutive bowl appearance (2-2).
Marshall: QB Chase Litton who completed 60.6% of his passes while averaging 237.8 YPG (58th). He has 23 TDs and 12 INTs. Litton has now started 33 contests for the Thundering Herd, throwing 70 TD passes against 29 interceptions, His top targets are a pair of first-team All-Conference USA selections in WR Tyre Brady (56 catches / 7 TDs), a transfer from Miami, and TE Ryan Yurachek (47 catches / 9 TDs). Overall, the offense averaged 26.3 YPG (81st) on 370.1 YPG (94th). The Marshall ground game averaged.a modest 132.3 YPG (104th), as RBs King (714 yards) and Davis (671 yards) combined for 11 TDs. The defense comes in allowing 19.2 PPG (17th) on 337.3 YPG (24th) but I'll have more on that later.
Colorado State: The Rams own a potent offense led by QB Nick Stevens, who completed 63.6% of his passes for 27 TDs and 10 INTs while averaging 289.9 YPG through the air (ranks 23rd). Michael Gallup has 94 catches for 1,350 yards with seven TDs, The running game (211.5 YPG ranks ) is led by the duo of Dalyn Dawkins(1,349 RY / 6.2 YPC / 8 TDs) and Izzy Matthews (588 RY / 4.8 YPC / 8 TDs). An excellent run/pass balance sees the offense averaging 33.8 PPG (29th) on 501.8 YPG (10th). The defense is allowing unimpressive figures of 27.5 PPG (73rd) on 427.8 YPG (93rd).
The pick: Marshall had success early in the season due to a light schedule and a defense which was holding opponents to an average of just 14.2 PPG. However, as the schedule toughened, the "D" had its troubles, allowing 26.2 PPG over the final five games of the season (Marshall went 1-4). I noted above the excellent balance CSU owns on offense and the last time the Rams played in the New Mexico Bowl (2013 against Washington St.), they scored 48 points! I realize that Marshall owns an FBS-best 10-2 record in NCAA-sanctioned bowl games (among teams with a minimum of four appearances), including going 5-0 since 2009. However, the Rams are just the better team in this matchup and expect Stevens and Co. to 'light up' an overrated Marshall defense. Make Colorado State an 8* play.
|12-16-17||Oregon -7.5 v. Boise State||Top||28-38||Loss||-105||99 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boise State Broncos edged the Fresno State Bulldogs 17-14 in the MWC conference championship game, avenging a 28-17 loss at Fresno on Nov. 25. That victory clinched a bid to the Las Vegas Bowl and in the process, replaced Fresno State with a ranking of No. 25 in the AP's final regular season poll with a 10-3 record (matching last year's record). Joining the Broncos at Sam Boyd Stadium for the 26th Las Vegas Bowl will be the 7-5 Oregon Ducks (4-5 in the Pac-12 North). The Ducks opened the 2017 season at 4-1 but then dropped their next three games by a combined 82 points. However, they finished by winning three of their last four, including a 69-10 romp over Oregon State in their season finale. The schools have met only two previous times (Broncos have won both), most recently in Boise back on Sep. 3, 2009, Chip Kelly's head-coaching debut. The Broncos won 19-8 but the contest is most remembered for what happened after the game. RB LeGarrette Blount punched Boise State's Byron Hunt as the teams converged on the field afterward and the ensuing melee received national attention.
Oregon: QB Justin Herbert threw for 1750 yards on 66.5% completions with 13 TDs and three INTs. Herbert was injured in Oregon's 45-24 victory over California back on Sept. 30 and was replaced by true freshman Braxton Burmeister. The Ducks went 1-4 over the course of Herbert's absence, so it's clear Oregon is a different team with him under center. RB Royce Freeman led the team with 1,475 rushing yards (6.0 YPC) and a team-high 16 TDs. Fellow RB Kani Benoit added 573 yards on the ground (7.2 YPC) with 10 TDs of his own. Oregon ranks 8th in rushing at 268.0 YPG and finished the season averaging 36.7 PPG (18th). The defense did a pretty good job in holding opponents to 359.8 YPG to rank 40th, than it did in the points allowed category, finishing 77th in allowing 28.2 PPG.
Boise State: The champions of the Mountain West Conference mixed and matched QBs throughout the season but currently, the team is back to its opening game starter, Brett Rypien. He completed 195 of his 308 pass attempts for 2,515 yards with 14 TDs and just four INTs. WR Cedrick Wilson led the BSU receiving corps with team-highs of 73 catches for 1290 yards (17.7 YPC with six TDs) but while TE Jake Roh caught a more modest 39 balls, he had a team-high nine TD receptions. The Broncos come in averaging 32.1 PPG (38th) and defensively, they've allowed 22.5 PPG (35th) on just 336.7 YPG (22nd).
The pick: Let's first note that Oregon is garnering as much attention for who won't be at the game, as it is for who will be. Head coach Willie Taggart, who turned the Ducks' fortunes around after doing the same in four years at South Florida, will forego his duties after accepting the head coaching job at Florida State. Co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Mario Cristobal will lead the Ducks in Las Vegas (he spent six years as head coach at Florida International). One must also note that Boise's leading rusher, Alexander Mattison, is considered questionable after he suffered an ankle injury in the title game victory over Fresno State (he was seen in a walking boot after that game). Despite winning 10 games, to Oregon's seven, the Broncos are the underdog in this game. Oregon gets the nod as a the favorite because it's clear that the Ducks with Herbert, are a different team than the Ducks without him. It's really rather simple. Oregon averaged 52.1 PPG in the seven games Herbert played this year (note the nation's top-scoring club is UCF at 49.4 PPG) and just 15 points in the five games he missed due to injury. Make Oregon a 10* play.
|12-16-17||North Texas +7 v. Troy||Top||30-50||Loss||-115||96 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The 10-2 Troy Trojans (7-1 in the Sun Belt) will take on the 9-4 North Texas Mean Green (7-1 in C-USA) in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Trojans enter this game on a six-game winning streak and have a chance to win 11 games for the first time in school history. The Mean Green have won eight of their last 10 games, although one of those two losses came 41-17 to FAU in the C-USA championship game (Dec. 2) and also have a shot at 10 victories for the first time in school history. The Troy Trojans are 3-3 all-time in bowl games, while the North Texas Mean Green are just 2-5 all-time in bowl appearances.
Troy: QB Brandon Silvers is completing 62.9 percent of his passes for 2,985 yards but has thrown only a modest 13 TDs (also just six INTs). WRs Deondre Douglas (48 catches) and Damion Willis (31) have combined for 1,113 receiving yards and five TDs, while Emanuel Thompson (another WR) has 38 receptions. Troy's ground game is averaging a modest 150.4 YPG (85th), as Jordan Chunn leads the way with 774 yards (5.0 YPC) and 10 TDs. The offense comes in scoring 30.0 PPG (50th). The Trojans have relied on their defense all season and come in allowing 17.5 PPG (11th) on 342.1 YPG (27th).
The pick: Troy has never won 11 games in a season and North Texas has never produced a double-digit winning season, so the winner will be in 'virgin' territory. Troy comes in having won 21 of its past 26 games under coach Neal Brown, after he started 3-8 in 2015. Troy owns that great upset win at LSU and the much better defense but North Texas owns an excellent offense, the much better QB and even assuming Wilson doesn't play, a running game that is capable of adding balance. I want the underdog. Make North Texas an 8* play.
|12-14-17||Broncos -2.5 v. Colts||Top||25-13||Win||100||28 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The NFL has seen TV ratings dip in 2017 and Thursday's matchup between the 4-9 Denver Broncos and the 3-10 Indianapolis Colts won't be able to help those ratings. The Broncos snapped their longest losing streak since joining the NFL in 1970 with a 23-0 shutout of the New York Jets last Sunday and the team was able to avoid tying its franchise futility record of nine consecutive losses set way back in 1967. As for the Colts, they have lost their last four games, including Sunday in that "very snowy" game in Buffalo13-7.
Denver: The Broncos have tried three QBs this season and the trio has combined for 15 TDs and 18 INTs, while sporting a QB rating of 71.1. Trevor Siemian is back as the team's starter and he didn't do much vs. the Jets, going 19 of 31 for 200 yards one TD and no INTs. The Broncos only had 273 yards and that's not new, as they enter this game averaging only 17.6 PPG (24th). However, the Denver defense was spectacular, holding the Jets to six FDs and a total of just 100 yards. Denver now leads the NFL in total defense, allowing only 280.5 YPG. However, despite shutting out the Jets, Denver ranks just 24th in points allowed, at 24.2 PPG. A big reason for that is that Denver's TO ratio of minus-14 ranks 31st in the league.
Indianapolis: QB Jacoby Brissett was only able to pass for 69 yards in the snow at Buffalo and enters with just 11 TDs and seven INTs on the season (2,611 passing yards with a QB rating of 82.5). Indy's offense is averaging only 16.3 PPG (30th) and its defense ranks 31st in points allowed (26.4 per) and 30th in yards allowed (375.3 YPG). Frank Gore had a career-high 36 rushing attempts vs. the Bills, while gaining 130 yards. Yes, the 34-year-old needs just 59 scrimmage yards to join Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith as the only players in NFL history with at least 12-plus consecutive seasons with 1,000 yards. However, the Colts' running game averages only 104.0 YPG (20th).
The pick: The Broncos not only broke an eight-game losing streak by beating the Jets last Sunday but they also snapped an 0-8 ATS run, as well. The Broncos are not as bad as their record but the Colts are. Make Denver an 8* play.
|12-11-17||Patriots v. Dolphins +11.5||Top||20-27||Win||100||35 h 0 m||Show|
The set-up: The Steelers won a 39-38 thriller Sunday night over the Ravens for the team's eighth straight win. Pittsburgh has now matched New England's eight-winning streak (longest-active in the NFL) and its 11-2 record ensures that the Steelers will be no worse than tied the with Pats when the teams meet next Sunday at Heinz Field. It's the showdown all NFL fans have been waiting for and the Pats need to "keep up their end'" by earning a ninth consecutive win in Week 14's MNF contest at Hard Rock Stadium againts the Miami Dolphins. A win will also give the Pats an 11-2 mark but while the Dolphins are just 5-7, winning in Miami has not come easy for the Pats in recent years. In fact, the Pats had lost three straight trips to Miami from 2013-2015 (the 2015 loss cost them the home-field playoff edge & the Pats would lose in Denver for the AFC title!), before routing the Dolphins 35-14 last season. The Dolphins halted a five-game losing skid with a 35-9 drubbing of the Denver Broncos last weekend and while it was the team's best effort of the season, it did come over a Broncos team which had lost eight in a row before yesterday's 23-0 shutout over the Jets.
New England: The ageless Tom Brady is completing 68.5 percent of his passes for 3,632 yards with 26 TDs and just four INTs, giving hima 109.7 QB rating. The Pats lead the NFL in passing (297.6 YPG) and three receivers have 50-plus catches. TE Rob Gronkowski has a team-high 55 with a team-high 7 TDs, WR Brandin Cooks has 53 with a team-high 16.7 YPC and RB James White has 51 catches (WR Danny Amendola just misses with 46 receptions). The New England Patriots ground game is averaging 120.6 YPG (9th), as Dion Lewis has run fro 204 yards (6.8 YPC) the least two weeks, with the Pats rushing for 191 and 196 yards, respectively. As good as the Pats' offense has been, it's defense is back to being one of the league's best. After getting ripped for 32.0 PPG during the team's 2-2 start, that same unit has not allowed more than 17 points in any of its eight straight wins, allowing an average of just 11.9 PPG. The defense now ranks 4th on the season at 18.6 PPG.
Miami: The Dolphins were gouged for a 177 points (35.4 per) during their five-game losing streak before sending the Broncos to their eighth straight defeat. Miami got a pair of safeties and a TD from its defense and special teams, which was a much-needed effort. QB Jay Cutler passed for 235 yards with two TDs and two INTs, giving him 15 TDs and 11 INTs on the season (QB rating of 82.1). Miami's passing offense averages only 207.9 YPG (20th), almost 100 YPG less than New England's and Miami is averaging just 17.4 PPG (27th), just shy of 12 PPG less than the Pats. With Ajayi traded away to Philly (you explain why?), the Dolphins now rank 29th in rushing, averaging only 84.7 YPG. The Miami defense had been getting gouged prior to last Sunday's win (see above) and was ripped for 35 points on 417 yards up in New England back in Week 12.
The pick: Hard to see the Pats losing here, with so much on the line next week in Pittsburgh. What's more, the Pats haven't lost a regular season road game since Week 17 of the 2015 season (1/3/16). Then again, that loss did come in Miami, the Dolphins' third straight home win over the Pats at the time (Dolphins did lose at home to the Pats last season, 35-14). The Pats are far from healthy coming into this game plus Gronk is suspended, Dion Lewis is sick, Chris Hogan is just coming off a shoulder injury and Tom Brady has missed practice due to a banged up Achilles. Brady always plays and Lewis is expected to go but this is a huge number to lay on the road. The following stat clinches things, as the home team is 10-1 ATS in the last 11 meetings between these two AFC East rivals. Make Miami a 10* play.
|12-10-17||Ravens v. Steelers OVER 43.5||Top||38-39||Win||100||121 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The AFC North rivalry between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers has quickly developed as one of the biggest, best and most-bitter in the entire NFL. The 7-5 Ravens will be hard-pressed to catch the Steelers for the division title but as Baltimore visits Heinz Field for Sunday Night Football, the Ravens currently own the AFC's No. 6 seed (final playoff spot). The 10-2 Steelers come into this matchup looking to build on their seven-game winning streak which currently has them tied with the Pats for the AFC's best record but as the owners of the tie-breaker (I'm sure the world knows the Pats and Steelers meet next Sunday in Pittsburgh).
Baltimore:The Ravens have a winning streak of their own but it's a modest three-gamer. Flacco has struggled all season at QB, as Baltimore ranks 31st in passing YPG at 171.0 per). He's completing 65.1% but has as many INTs as TD passes (11 each), giving him a QB rating of 77.1. WRs Mike Wallace (34) and Jeremy Maclin (36) have combined for 878 receiving yards and six TD reception (three each), while TE Benjamin Watson leads the team with 45 catches (just 7.7 YPC). RB Alex Collins leads the way with 705 yards rushing (4.9 YPC) but Baltimore ranks 12th overall on the ground, averaging 115.5 YPG. and four touchdowns. The defense is not comparable to the Ray Lewis-era units but the Ravens rank third in allowing 17.2 PPG (3rd) on 311.2 YPG (7th).
Pittsburgh: The Steelers fell behind the Bengals 17-0 last Monday but came back to win 23-20, keeping their No. 1 seed status intact. The "Killers Bs" are just that. Big Ben has thrown for 3,238 yards with 22 TDs and 13 INTs on the season but note that in the team's seven-game winning streak since losing 30-9 at home to the Jaguars (Roethlisberger threw five picks in that one!), he has a 16-6 TD-to-INT ratio. RB Le'Veon Bell got a slow start but now leads the NFL in rushing with 1,057 yards (also has 66 catches) plus WR Antonio Brown has 88 catches and an NFL-high 1,296 yards (nine TDs). Pittsburgh's D is comparable to Baltimore's, allowing 17.8 PPG (5th) on 294.7 YPG (4th).
The pick: When these teams met back in Week 4 (at Baltimore), it was not a typical Ba/Pit game, as the Steelers won handily, 26-9. This game figures to much more intense but note that the Ravens' OL is in much better health these days and Flacco has led the team to an average of 30.0 PPG in its three-game winning streak. Could the Steelers be caught looking ahead to their showdown in Week 15 with the Pats? I can't see that and Big Ben has thrived in his last five SNF home games, throwing 21 TDs and just three INTs with a 127.8 QB rating. How about an 8* on the Over.
|12-10-17||Jets v. Broncos||Top||0-23||Loss||-110||117 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: It's NFL Week 14 and the New York Jets are in Denver to take on the Broncos. There were many who thought that the Jets would be battling the Browns and maybe the 49ers for the overall No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft as the 2017 season opened and there were more than a few who thought that the Broncos could rebound from a record in 2016, to challenge the Chiefs and Raiders in the AFC West. The Jets opened 0-2 and the refrain, "Here we go again" was prominent in the New York area. However, the Jets rebounded to win three in a row after that and while the team comes into this contest a modest 5-7, the Jets have been way more competitive than almost anyone would have believed (Jets are 7-4-1 ATS). As for Denver, a 3-1 start to the 2017 season has quickly turned into a 'nightmare,' as the Broncos get set to host the Jets looking to break an eight-game losing streak in which the team has also gone 0-8 ATS (now that's bad football!).
|12-10-17||Vikings -2.5 v. Panthers||Top||24-31||Loss||-120||113 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The 10-2 Minnesota Vikings are riding an eight-game winning streak (tied with the Pats for the NFL's longest-active one) into Sunday's game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, where they will face the 8-4 Carolina Panthers. The Vikings have all but clinched the NFC North (four up with four to play) but are still battling the 10-2 Eagles for the NFC's top seed (Minnesota currently owns the tie-breaker). The Panthers have lost twice to the Saints in 2017 which is bad news but with New Orleans losing Thursday night in Atlanta, Carolina has a chance to move into a first-place tie with the Saints by beating the Vikings in this one. Also of importance is winning to stay ahead of the 8-5 Falcons, as the Panthers would fall back into a tie with Atlanta if they lose here.
Minnesota: Case Keenum was expected be a stop-gap measure at QB, hoping that either Bradford or even Bridgewater would be able to get back on the field. However, he's turned in one of 2017's most surprising performances, as he's 8-2 as Minnesota's starting QB this season. He's completing 67.5% for 2,703 yards with 16 TDs and just five INTs for a 98.6 QB rating. He's also gotten better than expected help from Minnesota's "no-name" RBs, as after rookie Dalvin Cook was lost for the season, Murray (572 yards) and McKinnon (414 yards) have filled in admirably. The Vikings rank 6th with 122.8 YPG on the ground. The offense averages 23.8 PPG (11th) but it's the defense which has made the bigger difference, ranking second in both points allowed (17.0 per) and total defense (289.1 YPG).
Carolina: The Panthers have been tough to figure in 2017. They have looked very good at times, like in their 33-30 win at New England but then just helpless like in a 17-3 loss in Chicago to the Bears. Cam Newton has to carry the team and sometimes he's just asked to do too much. He's nowhere near the numbers of his 2015 MVP season but his 515 yards rushing helps Carolina average 127.8 YPG on the ground (5th-best). The offense is scoring slightly less than Minnesota's at 22.4 PPG (16th) and while the Carolina D is solid (10th in allowing 19.8 PPG and 6th with 297.6 YPG), it's not quite in Minnesota's league.
The pick: Both teams have plenty to play for and at first blush, one could have to give the edge to the home-standing Panthers, as the Vikings are playing a third straight tough game on the road (at Detroit on Thanksgiving and at Atlanta last Sunday). However, Minnesota is just not 'backing off,' as the Vikings are looking for not only a ninth straight win but also an eighth straight cover. No way Newton is looking forward to facing that Minnesota D, as in last year's meeting, he was picked off three times and sacked eight times in a 22-10 home loss. Speaking of home, the Panthers are just 3-8 ATS in their last 11 home games. Make Minnesota an 8* play.
|12-10-17||Bears +6 v. Bengals||Top||33-7||Win||100||113 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The 3-9 Chicago Bears will visit Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday to take on the 5-7 Cincinnati Bengals. The Bears average 275.8 YPG on offense (ranking 32nd of 32 teams) and the Bengals average 280.8 YPG, ranking 31st. The Bears limp in on a five-game losing streak (well out of the playoff 'picture') while the Bengals had won two in a row before a 23-20 loss to the Steelers on Monday night (Cincy led 17-0 in the very late second quarter).
Chicago: The Bears have given up on Mike Glennon (66.4% completions but just 188.8 YPG with 4 TDs & 5 INTs for a 76.9 QB rating) but first round draft pick Mitch Trubisky hasn't been much better, completing only 54.9 percent for 138.6 YPG with 5 TDs & 4 INTs (QB rating of 74.6). Jordan Howard is the Bears’ top rusher with 885 yards (4.2 YPC & 5 TDs) but rookie RB Tarik Cohen (267 RY / 3.9 YPC) is the team's leading receiver with 39 catches and averages only 7.8 YPC. As for Da Bears' defense, it's middle-of-the-road ranking 14th in both points allowed (22.2 PPG) and yards allowed (333.2 YPG).
Cincinnati: QB Andy Dalton threw for 234 yards and two TDs (zero INTs) on 21-of-36 passing Monday night. He's now thrown 11 TD passes without an INT (over 171 attempts) over Cincy's last six games, although the Bengals are just 3-3 SU in that span. Giovani Bernard was the Bengals’ top rusher with 77 yards on 13 carries but he still doesn't have 200 yards rushing on the season, as the Bengals rank 30th in rushing, averaging only 80.2 YPG. The Cincy D has been fine, allowing 19.8 PPG (11th) on 334.1 YPG (16th).
The pick: Cincy is still alive in the AFC wild card race mostly because the Bengals have been able to beat DeShone Kizer (twice), Jacoby Brissett, and Brock Osweiler. Can Cincy best Mitch Trubisky, as well? That's fair but the Bengals not only dropped a brutal 23-20 decision to the Steelers on Monday but they but may have also lost RB Joe Mixon (leading rusher at 518 yards) and linebacker Vontaze Burfict to concussions in the hard-hitting affair. Both players missed practice during the week while in concussion protocol. Note that Chicago kept Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers out of the end zone the entire way last week, losing only when former Bear Robbie Gould booted five FGs in his return to the Windy City, including a game-winner with just four seconds to play. The Bears have been within one score (except at Philly) in all losses with Trubisky, while the Bengals have only covered 11 of their last 30 regular season games. Make Chicago a 10* play.
|12-09-17||Army v. Navy -3.5||Top||14-13||Loss||-104||113 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Army Black Knights are 8-3 and headed to the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl two days before Christmas to meet San Diego State, marking the school's first back-to-back bowl appearances since 1984-85. The Navy Midshipmen have gone a disappointing 6-5 but will host Virginia in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28 in Annapolis, Md, as Navy makes its bowl appearance 14th bowl appearance in the last 15 years (missed only in 2011 since 2003!). Also, after Navy defeated Air Force 48-45 on Oct. 7 and Army shut out the Falcons 21-0 on Nov. 4, this marks the first time since 2012 that the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy is on the line for both teams when the two service academies meet Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Army: QB Ahmad Bradshaw is completing just 30.8 percent of his passes for 259 yards with one TD and two INTs, as Army ranks dead-last with 30.5 YPG passing. However, Army ranks first in rushing (368.1 YPG), leading the way for an offense which ranks 43rd in scoring at 31.2 PPG. Bradshaw leads in rushing with 1,472 yards (7.8 YPC) with 11 TDs. A trio of RBs contribute 517 to 668 yards, while averaging from 5.4,-to-7.3 YPC and combining for 21 rushing TDs. Defensively, Army has done a very solid job, allowing a modest 21.6 PPG (30th) on 360.9 YPG (41st).
Navy: QB Zach Abey has led Navy to average three times as many passing YPG than Army but that means Navy checks in averaging only 91.2 YPG. Abey is also Navy's top rusher, having gained 1,322 yards (4.8 YPC) and 14 TDs. RB Malcom Perry adds 818 yards on 8.9 YPC with eight TDs. Navy is just behind Army in rushing YPG, checking in at 347.5 YPG (2nd-best) and not far behind in scoring at 30.4 PPG (50th). However, Navy doesn't match up as well defensively, as it is allowing 29.2 PPG (85th) on 399.8 YPG (72nd).
The pick: A win here for Army will mean its first Commander-in-Chief's Trophy since 1996 (now that's a BIG deal!). There is no argument that Army is playing better football than Navy right now, winning six of its last seven games and losing just once since the beginning of October. However, Navy is favored because the Midshipmen have dominated this series over the years, winning 16 of the last 18 meetings. Army won last year's contest but hasn't beaten Navy in back-to-back years since 1995-96. Army's win last season came after having lost 14 straight I can't help but make Navy a 10* play here in this revenge role.
|12-07-17||Saints v. Falcons OVER 53||Top||17-20||Loss||-110||49 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: The 9-3 New Orleans Saints lead the NFC South at 9-3 with the 8-4 Carolina Panthers sitting one game back. The Panthers are tied with the 8-4 Seahawks, with Seattle winning the tie-breaker to give them the NFC's No. 1 wild card spot. The Panthers on the No. 6 seed but a third member the the division is the 7-5 Atlanta Falcons (the defending NFC champs), who are lurking just one game back of the Seahawks and Panthers. Week 14's Thursday Night Football features the Saints and Falcons from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
New Orleans: The Saints saw their eight-game winning streak snapped in a Week 12 loss at the LA Rams but bounced back last Sunday with a 31-21 home win over the Panthers. Drew Brees is still a potent force (71.5% with 17 TDs and just 5 INTs / 104.2 QB rating) but the performances of RBs Mark Ingram Alvin Kamara have somewhat re-defined the Saints' offense. The New Orleans rushing game is averaging 142.6 YPG (3rd), with Ingram gaining 922 yards (5.1 YPC / 9 TDs) and Kamara adding 606 yards (7.0 YPC / 5 TDs). Kamara has four more TDs on 59 catches, while Ingram has 42 catches but no TDs. Then there is the New Orleans' D, which has been a (the?) major reason the Saints have missed the playoffs three straight seasons going 8-8, 8-8 and 7-9. Starting from that 7-9 season, New Orleans' had allowed 26.5 PPG on 384.0 YPG, then 29.8 PPG on 413.8 YPG and finally 28.4 PPG on 375.4 YPG. This year's unit is allowing 20.2 PPG on 330.1 YPG, with both figures ranking 12th-best!
Atlanta: The Falcons welcomed the Vikings to Atlanta last Sunday on a three-game winning streak. However, QB Matt Ryan passed for just 173 yards on 16-of-29 with 0 TDS and INTs, while Atlanta was not able to score a TD (had three 38 FGs in a 14-9 loss). Ryan (3,057 yards with 16 TDs and eight INTs / 95.4 QB rating) has not played like he did last year when he was league MVP (he threw for 4,944 yards with TDs, 7 INTs and had a QB rating of 117.1). Atlanta boasts a potent pair of RBs in its own right in Devonta Freeman (589 yards / 4.6 YPC / 3 TDs and Tevin Coleman (569 yards / 4.3 YPC / 6 TDs. Freeman returned from a concussion in a 14-9 loss to Minnesota on Sunday, gaining 74 yards on just 12 carries. However, the Atlanta rushing attack averages a more modest 115.6 YPG to rank 11th. WR Julio Jones owns an NFC-best 1,063 receiving yards (68 catches) but was limited to two catches for 24 yards versus the Vikings. Atlanta led the NFL in averaging 33.8 PPG last season but comes in averaging only 22.8 PPG in 2017, which ranks 14th. The defense has been solid, allowing 20.3 PPG (13th) on 321.0 YPG (8th).
The pick: The Saints have already beaten the Panthers twice in 2017 and now play the Falcons tonight and then again in Week 16 (two times in three weeks). A win here would put New Orleans in a great spot and put Atlanta's playoff chances on 'life support.' Matt Ryan and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian seemed to have finally gotten on the same page in Atlanta's three-game winnings (had averaged 31.7 PPG) but it all collapsed against the Minnesota D. Yes, New Orleans' D is greatly improved but shutting down Atlanta a second straight week will be tough, especially considering how badly Atlanta needs this game. These teams played a pair of shootouts in 2016, with Atlanta winning both by scores of 45-32 and 38-32. I'll stay away from calling for an Atlanta win but will say make the Over a 10* play.
|12-04-17||Steelers -4.5 v. Bengals||Top||23-20||Loss||-107||35 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Steelers and Bengals have developed a big rivalry over the years but in fairness, it's been pretty much one-sided (Pittsburgh leads the series 61-35). The Steelers will visit Paul Brown Stadium for MNF on a six-game winning streak and looking to match New England's 10-2 record (with a win) for the AFC';s top mark. The Bengals enter on a modest two-game winning streak, after wins over the sad-sack Broncos (eight straight losses) and Browns (0-12 on the season). Cincinnati checks in at 5-6 and an upset would keep them alive in what's becoming a very crowded AFC wild card field.
Pittsburgh: The latest version of the "Killer Bs" lead the Pittsburgh offense. QB Ben Roethlisberger is rounding into form after a shaky start to the year and has 2,948 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 INTs, "Big Ben" threw five iNTs in that Oct. 8 home loss to the Jags but in the team' six-game winning streak, has 14 TDs and just five total INTs. Le’Veon Bell held out in the preseason and started slowly but he's re-established himself as the NFL's most dominant RB with 981 rushing yards (5 TDs) plus 61 receptions for 396 yards. Only Atlanta's Julio Jones can make an argument against Antonio Brown being the NFL's best WR and I'm not buying Jones. Brown has 80 catches for 1,195 yards and eight TDs. The Pittsburgh defense (as always) is among the NFL's best units. The Steelers allow 289.4 YPG (3rd) and 17.5 PPG (4th).
Cincinnati: The Bengals are off a 30-16 win in Week 12 over the Browns but enter averaging just 18.1 PPG (25th) on an NFL-low 274.3 YPG (note; Cincy has scored 30 points just twice in 2017, both times against the still win-less Browns!). Good news last week was rookie RB Joe Mixon finally showing some sizzle by rushing for a season-high 114 yards and a TD and catching three passes for 51 yards. However, it did come against Cleveland and the Bengals' rushing attack averages only 75.6 YPG (ranks dead-last at 32nd). QB Andy Dalton has nine TDs and zero INTs since the team's Week 7 loss to the Steelers but he will likely remember that he was sacked four times, picked off twice and the Bengals managed a meager 19 total yards in the second half in that 29-14 loss. Wideout A.J. Green has a team-high 809 receiving yards (52 catches / 6 TDs), which is more than double any other Bengals player (2nd-best has 373 yards receiving). As noted. the offense ranks 32nd overall and in rushing, so Dalton's job is not an easy one. However, the Cincy D has been solid, allowing 19.5 PPG (10th) on 330.5 YPG (14th).
The pick: The Bengals have won two in a row to stay within striking distance of the final playoff berth in the AFC but they will be taking a major step up in class against this bitter rival. Cincinnati's last three wins have come over the Browns, Broncos and Colts! The Bengals were dominated by the Steelers 29-14 in Pittsburgh in Week 7 (see above) and will it change much here, even in Cincy? I can't see why it should. The Steelers have beaten the Bengals five straight and have not lost at Paul Brown Stadium since 2013. Make Pittsburgh a 10* play.
|12-03-17||Eagles v. Seahawks +6||Top||10-24||Win||100||123 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: NBC Sunday Night Football gets Week 13's marquee NFL matchup as the 10-1 Philadelphia Eagles, owners of a nine-game winning streak and the NFL's best record, visits CenturyLink Field to take on the the 7-4 Seattle Seahawks. This could be a battle of QBs. Philly's Carson Wentz leads the NFL's top-ranked scoring unit (31.9 PPG) per game). He tossed three TD passes in the Eagles' 31-3 Week 12 win over the Bears and has thrown 22 of his NFL-best 28 TD passes in the last seven games to put his name firmly in the mix for MVP honors. Wentz' counterpart is Seattle's Russell Wilson, who is third in the league in passing TDs (23), is tied for fourth in passing yards per game (275) and is responsible for nearly 86 percent of his team's scrimmage yards (talk about a "one-man gang!").
Philadelphia: Wentz has had a terrific sophomore season with 20 TDs and zero interceptions in the red zone. He's got a developing corps of receivers led by TE Ertz (55 catches / 7 TDs) plus WRs Jeffrey (43 catches / 7 TDs) and Agholor (33 catches / 6 TDs). The running game is strong, averaging 147.5 YPG (2nd). LeGarrette Blount led the team with 97 yards vs. the Bears and has 658 yards on the season (4.8 YPC). Philly traded for Miami' Ajayi and while he seems to be just a 'spot' player, let's note that in three games, he has 194 rushing yards while averaging 9.7 YPC! Let's not move on until mentioning the Philly D, which allows just 17.4 PPG (3rd) on 291.6 YPG (6th).
Seattle: The Seahawks are currently one game behind the 8-3 Rams in the NFC West plus find themselves losing a tie-breaker to the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC's final wild card spot. The Seahawks stayed one game back of the Rams with last Sunday's 24-13 win at San Francisco. Russell Wilson was 20 of 34 for 228 yards with two TDs and one INT. He has 23 TDs and just eight INTs on the season plus is Seattle's leading rusher with 401 yards (6.2 YPC / 3 TDs). WR Baldwin leads with 58 catches but TE Graham is coming on strong with 49 receptions and a team-high eight TD catches (all in the last seven games). Seattle's "Legion of Boom" defense has suffered key injuries but Seattle remains a solid defensive team, allowing 19.3 PPG (9th) on 311.7 YPG (8th)
The pick: The Eagles have been terrific but they have played just two teams which currently own a winning record, Kansas City (a Week 2 loss) and Carolina (a Week 6 win). A check of the record book reveals that Russell is an impressive 37-7 SU (.841) at home as a starting QB in the regular season. Seattle as a home dog? I can't pass on that! Make Seattle a 10* play.
|12-03-17||Browns v. Chargers OVER 41.5||Top||10-19||Loss||-108||119 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The 0-11 Cleveland Browns, the NFL's lone win-less team, travels to Los Angeles and StubHub Center to take on the rejuvenated LA Chargers. The Chargers opened 0-4, just like the Browns, but unlike Cleveland which has continued to lose, Los Angeles has won five of its last seven. LA will take the field just 5-6 on the season but thanks to the Kansas City Chiefs' collapse (KC has lost five of six after a 5-0 start), the Chargers are just one game out of first in the AFC West. Getting back to Cleveland, the Browns are desperately seeking their first win of 2017, as the team's two-year 'nightmare' continues (Browns are 1-26 under head coach Hue Jackson).
Cleveland: The Browns are still looking for their first victory since Christmas Eve of last year and Cleveland hasn't won a road game since October of 2015. Other than that, things are great! QB DeShone Kizer hardly looks ready for prime time, completing 53.0 percent with five TDs and 14 INTs (QB rating of 57.2). He gets little help from his running (107.4 YPG ranks 17th) and Cleveland 'brings up the rear" in averaging an NFL-low 15.1 PPG. However, the team has to be excited that WR Josh Gordon returning to action for the first time since Dec. 21, 2014 due to his substance-abuse issues. "I'm just excited," Gordon, the NFL's top receiver in 2013, said during a press conference. "I'm having the most fun that I have ever had doing this, just playing ball, the love of it. That is the only thing that is giving me any type of - not really pressure - but kind of just boost, more than anything." Gordon led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards in 2013, when he caught 87 passes (nine for TDs) in 14 games while earning Pro Bowl honors. The Cleveland defense has not played all that badly (318.0 YPG ranks 9th) but the NFL's worst TO margin (minus-17) has contributed to them allowing 26.3 PPG, which ranks 30th.
LA Chargers: The Chargers look for a third straight victory to get back to a .500 record, after a 54-24 home win over the Bills and a 28-6 win at Dallas on Thanksgiving. Rivers completed 72.3% in those two wins, throwing for 685 yards with five TDs and no INTs. He's completing 62.1 percent for 2,948 yards with 20 TDs and seven INTs (95.2 rating). The Chargers rank 4th in passing YPG, putting Rivers on pace for his ninth 4,000-yard season in his last 10 years. RB Gordon is only averaging 3.7 YPC but has been a good all-purpose back. He's run for 698 yards (5 TDs) and caught 38 passes for four more TDs. WR Keenan Allen has stayed healthy and has 67 catches (13.8 YPC) with four TDs. The Chargers' D has also played well, allowing just 18.4 PPG (6th).
The pick: I noted at the top that the Browns last won back on Christmas Eve 2016. The Chargers won't need to be reminded of that here, considering they were the team the Browns beat last Christmas Eve, 20-17. The charged-up Bolts are eager to not only avenge last year's loss to Cleveland but to keep the pressure on KC, which plays at the Jets earlier in the day. Philip Rivers will make his 188th consecutive start and that is now the longest active streak in the league after the New York Giants demoted Eli Manning (210). Rivers looks great and it's hard to imagine Cleveland slowing him and the Chargers down (the Browns have allowed 30 or more points on six occasions in 2017). As for Cleveland, the return of Gordon can be nothing but good news and as Hue Jackson commented, "I have big plans for him. I plan for him to play, and play as much as he can handle. I think he is a very talented player. He needs to play, needs to get out there and play, but we have to see where he is and make sure how much can he handle, how much can he do." Make the Over an 8* play
|12-03-17||Colts v. Jaguars OVER 40.5||Top||10-30||Loss||-110||115 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: For a long time, the Indianapolis Colts dominated the AFC South, first led by Peyton Manning and then Andrew Luck. However, the Colts entered the 2017 season off back-to-back seasons and with Andrew Luck never getting on the field, find themselves at 3-8 entering Week 13. The Colts would need to "win out" to reach 8-8 this season and we can be pretty sure that won't happen. Indy visits Jacksonville on Sunday and the 7-4 Jaguars are attempting to end a nine-season playoff drought. Jacksonville is tied with Tennessee for first place in the AFC South as it opens a three-game homestand on Sunday against the Colts.The Titans currently own the tie-breaker but the good news is the Jags currently own the AFC's No. 1 wild card spot.
Indianapolis: The Colts' season unraveled early as Luck has been unavailable due to a shoulder injury. The team's next loss will clinch its first losing campaign since 2011. "It's tough, but I know what type of guys we've got in this locker room - great group of guys who will come to work every day," veteran RB Frank Gore told reporters. "I know things haven't been going our way, and I think if we just handle the small things, I think that can change." Gore needs just 49 rushing yards against the Jaguars to pass Jerome Bettis (13,662) and LaDainian Tomlinson (13,684) and move into fifth place on the all-time list but "he's dreaming" about this team turning things around. Jacoby Brissett is limited at QB (9 TDs / 5 INTs / QB rating of 86.0), as the Colts rank 26th in averaging 201.3 YPG (26th). Gore and the team's rushing 'attack' ranks 24th, averaging 95.3 YPG. That adds up to the team averaging only 17.2 PPG (27th). On the defensive side of the ball, Indy is allowing an NFL-worst 27.3 PPG on 375.8 YPG (29th). Go back and re-visit Gore's quote and try NOT to laugh!
Jacksonville: The Jags considered replacing QB Blake Bortles in the preseason but they didn't have a "plan B." Bortles has made fewer mistakes this season but he's is a liability. He's completing a modest 58.3% with just 12 TDs (albeit, just 8 INTs). The Jags rank just 28th with 194.8 YPG passing but have been bailed out offensively by the NFL's No. 1-ranked running game. Rookie RB Leonard Fournette has been up-and-down this season but his 765 yards (4.1 YPC / 6 TDs) is a team-high for a Jacksonville team averaging 154.3 YPG! Jacksonville's D played hard last season but the turnover-plagued offense kept many people from noticing. However, the Jags enter this Week 13 game ranked first in points allowed (15.3 per game) and yards allowed (281.8 per game).
The pick: Jacksonville is 3-0 ATS following a SU loss in 2017, with those victories coming by 37, 21 & 27 points. Maybe I should just "lay it" but this low total has me more interested. The Colts are allowing 33.2 PPG on the road and after getting shut out at home by the Jags, I think the Colts are more than capable of at least putting up their season average on offense (just shy of 18 points). Make the Over an 8* play.
|12-03-17||Lions v. Ravens -2.5||Top||20-44||Win||100||115 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: Two 6-5 teams will meet at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Sunday and the loser's playoff hopes will clearly be damaged. The Lions took a three-game winning streak into their Thanksgiving Day showdown with the Vikings but the 30-23 loss all but ended Detroit's division hopes. A second straight loss here could be a 'killer' for the Lions' wild card chances. As for the Ravens, they come in having won three of their last four and currently the team's 6-5 record is good enough for the AFC's final playoff spot (No. 6 seed).
Detroit: QB Matthew Stafford signed a five-year, $135 million deal in the summer to become the highest-paid player in the NFL. He's NOT the league's best player or QB but he's completed 62.5 percent for 3,010 yards with 21 TDs and six INTs (QB rating of 97.3). He's had multiple TD passes in the four straight games and in eight of 11 this season. Detroit's much-maligned rushing game takes plenty of hits (78.3 YPG ranks 30th) but Ameer Abdullah (505 YR / 3.4 YPC / 3 TDs) had been a positive factor of late with three TDs (two rushing, one receiving) during the team's three-game winning streak, before being shut down by the Vikings. Golden Tate leads with 63 catches but Jones averages 16.6 YPC on his 44 catches with eight TDs. The defense has been below average all season and enters allowing 24.0 PPG (22nd) on 359.4 YPG (26th).
Baltimore: While Detroit has received excellent QB play, the Ravens' Flacco has struggled all season. He's thrown just nine TD passes with 11 INTs, giving him a QB rating of 74.2. Baltimore's average of 164.3 YPG passing ranks dead-last (32) in the NFL. The lack of explosiveness is reflected in the fact that veteran TE Ben Watson (42) and RB Javorius Allen (41) are 1-2 on the team in receptions. The running game is no better than average (116.8 YPG ranks 16th) and the Ravens' are fortunate to be averaging 21.5 PPG (18th). However, the team's D has forced a league-high 26 takeaways (18 INTs is also an NFL-high), giving Baltimore a turnover ratio of plus-11 (again, best in the NFL).
The pick: The Baltimore D has three shutouts this season but truthfully, it's not what it was in the Ray Lewis era. Then again, Baltimore's stop unit is doing just that. It allows 305.7 YPG (7th) but along with a league-best 26 takeaways, allows just 17.0 PPG, which ranks second. For all of Stafford's nice numbers, he's 0-3 in the playoffs and has never been known as a 'finisher.' Neither have the Lions, as they are just 7-18-1 ATS in their last 26 games in December. Make Baltimore an 8* play.
|12-02-17||Miami-FL v. Clemson -9.5||Top||3-38||Win||100||100 h 3 m||Show|
The set-up: Most believe that the ACC championship game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Saturday evening is a "play-in" for CFP's 'Final 4.' There can be no doubt that 11-1 Clemson, the defending chaps and current No. 1 team in both polls plus the CFP's latest rankings, is a lock with a win. As for 10-1 Miami, the 'Canes have that 24-14 loss at Pitt hanging around their necks, as well as those "Turnover Chains!" Still, it's difficult to see a win in this game over Clemson, not ensuring the 'Canes a spot in the 'Final 4.'
Miami: The Hurricanes were unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in the CFP rankings and both polls prior to their day after Thanksgiving loss to Pitt. Junior QB Malik Rosier has thrown for 2,807 yards with 25 TDs and nine INTs. More importantly, he has a number of "big-play moments" particularly in sparking late-game heroics in victories against Florida State, Georgia Tech, Syracuse and North Carolina. However, Rosier will be without two of his top-three receivers. Standout TE Chris Herndon (40 catches / 4 TDs) suffered a season-ending injury against Pittsburgh and WR Ahmmon Richards (24 catches / 18.3 YPC) tore the meniscus in his left knee during practice Wednesday and will need surgery. RB Travis Homer has been productive, rushing for 861 yards (6,3 YPC) since taking over for the injured Mark Walton, who is out for the season (Miami ranks 65th in RY at 166.0 per game). Everyone knows about the Miami D thanks to its gaudy “turnover chain,” but it's no mirage. The Hurricanes thrive on takeaways, having forced 29 turnovers while committing only 12, and the D checks in allowing 18.3 PPG (15th).
Clemson: The Tigers have just one blemish, a 27-24 Oct. loss at Syracuse, on Friday the 13th! QB Kelly Bryant left taht game with an injury but hasn't missed any more time
The pick: Miami’s loss at Pitt didn’t change much, as the 'Canes would have needed to beat Clemson to reach the 'Final 4,' anyway. However, it is disturbing that Miami came out so flat vs. the Panthers. Meanwhile, Clemson appears just fine after its mid-season 'hiccup,' which coincided with an ankle injury to QB Bryant. The Tigers have won a school-record 10 straight games against top-25 opponents, not to mention coming in on a 9-1 ATS run in their last 10 neutral-site games. In contrast, the 'Canes are 1-6 ATS in their last seven neutral-site games. Want more? How about Dabo Swinney has recorded an 8-1 ATS mark in ACC title or postseason games? Make Clemson a 10* play.
|12-02-17||Troy v. Arkansas State -1||Top||32-25||Loss||-110||99 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: The Sun Belt Conference has three teams tied atop the standing at 6-1. Appalachian State is one of the three teams and will host ULL on Saturday, a team which 5-6 overall, including 4-3 in league play. However, the other two 6-1 teams meet at Centennial Bank Stadium in Jonesboro, Al. on Saturday, as Troy (9-2 / 6-1) visits Arkansas St. (7-3 / 6-1). Arkansas St. has won four in a row over Troy, including a 35-3 win at Troy last year as an eight-point underdog when Troy was ranked 25th in the AP poll.Troy: The Trojans shocked LSU earlier this year, winning 24-21 at Baton Rogue on Sep 30th, as a three-TD underdog. However, Troy lost its next game. That said, the Trojans enter this contest on a five-game winning streak (all SBC games). QB Brandon Silvers has 2,739 passing yards with a modest total of 11 TDs (six INTs). Troy's offense is averaging 29.8 PPG (54th) but its defense is the key. Troy ranks 10th in points allowed (16.9 per) on 318.1 YPG (18th).Arkansas State: QNB Justin Hansen is completing 63.9% for 3,198 yards with 32 TDs and 12 INTs, leading an offense which averages 39.9 PPG (9th). Hansen threw for 520 yards with four TDs in ASU's last game, a 67-50 win at UL-Monroe. Defensively, the Red Wolves are allowing 24.2 PPG (45th).
The pick: Troy has had an excellent season and have not allowed more than 24 points in any game this year (have given up 17 or fewer in four of its last five). The winner gets at least a share of the Sun Belt regular season title (would win outright if Appalachian State loses). Sure, Troy is playing with "quadruple-revenge" but after losing 35-3 at home LY to ASU, there is still a huge gap to make up. ASU has some pretty gaudy ATS numbers,as the Red Wolves are 14-5 ATS in its their last 19 games overall and 37-15-1 ATS in their last 53 conference games. Want more? The Red Wolves are 8-1 ATS in their last nine home games. Make Arkansas St a 9* play.
|12-02-17||Idaho v. Georgia State -4||Top||24-10||Loss||-110||94 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: Ten of the Sun Belt's 12 teams will play on Saturday, including the Idaho Vandals (3-8 / 2-5) visiting the Georgia State Panthers (6-4 / 5-2). The Vandals are hoping to end a three-game slide and end their season on a high note. The Panthers were eliminated from the Sun Belt championship race following their 31-10 loss to Appalachian State in their last outing but could improve their bowl status with a win.
Idaho: The Vandals will likely have to play again without senior QB Lineham (2,056 YP with 16 TDs and 4 INTs). Freshman Colton Richardson threw for 167 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 18 of 33 passing in Idaho's last game, a 17-10 loss at New Mexico State. While Aaron Duckworth led the Vandals ground attack with just 39 yards, he has 912 yards on the season (5.2 YPC), However, Idaho's running game averages only 122.2 YPG (111th). The team comes in scoring just 20.6 PPG (117th), while allowing 27.2 PPG (72nd).
Georgia State: The Panthers are already bowl-eligible, so one could argue there's little motivation in this contest. Manning is a mediocre QB (2.599 YP / 13-7 ratio) and gets little help from a running game which averages 110.5 YPG (117th) and its top rusher has only 442 yards. Like Idaho, Georgia State does score much (20.7 PPG ranks 113th) and the defense allows 25.6 PPG (56th).
The pick: Idaho is playing its final game in the FBS, with a return to the FCS Big SkyConference scheduled for next season. The Vandals are 0-5 SU on the road in 2017 and I see no reason to expect them to win here, with the team's injuries at QB. Georgia State's motivation is ending the season on a high note and winning at home for its seniors (Panthers are just 1-3 SU at home in 2017). Manning threw four INTs at Idaho in a 37-12 loss last season. Turnabout is fair play. Make Georgia State an 8* play.
|12-02-17||Memphis v. Central Florida UNDER 82.5||Top||55-62||Loss||-117||92 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: This year's AAC Championship between the 10-1 Memphis Tigers and 11-0 UCF Knights at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando is quite special. Memphis has a chance to win 11 games for the first time in school history while earning its sixth conference title. UCF looks to continue its perfect season while winning the school's fifth conference title. This showdown features the top-two point-producers in college football. Memphis ranks 2nd at 47.0 PPG and UCF 1st at 48.7 PPG. Better yet, the winner will earn a New Year's Six Bowl berth.
Memphis: QB Riley Ferguson is completing 62.2 percent of his passes for 3,500 yards with 32 TDs and eight INTs. Ferguson has two quality RBs playing along with him in Henderson (1,052 YR / 9.1 YPC / 8 TDs) and Taylor (700 YR / 5.8 YPC / 12 TDs). Ferguson has 23 TD passes to go along with only three interceptions since the team's 40-13 loss at UCF in its fourth game of the season, one in which he had three INTs. WR Anthoy Miller (78 catches / 15.5 YPC / 14 TDs) holds almost every school receiving record. On the entire season, defense has been an issue for Memphis, which comes into this contest allowing 30.8 PPG on 453.5 YPG (112th).
UCF: QB McKenzie Milton can match Ferguson, completing 69.1% for 3,301 yards with 30 TDs and six INTs. Memphis has the best RBs on the field but UCF's backfield depth has allowed them to average 198.9 YPG rushing, just a few YPG less than Memphis (202.5). The real edge UCF owns in this game is on the defensive side of the ball. The Knights allow more than a TD less per game (22.5) and just over 50 YPG less, at 399.0 per. Then there is also the Knights' 27 takeaways (17 INTs / 10 fumble recoveries), which leaves then tied with Miami-Fl. for the national lead with a plus-17 turnover margin.
The pick: Memphis is seeking to avenge a 40-13 blowout loss at this same venue in Orlando back on Sep. 30 but note UCF leads this series 10-1 and is 5-0 ATS in its last five home meetings against Memphis. What changes here? Probably nothing but so much is at stake in this contest, that I believe that with this super-high over/under number, the under is the play. UCF owns a very good defense and Memphis has allowed fewer than 15 points in two of its last three game. Make the Under an 8* play.
|12-01-17||Stanford +4 v. USC||Top||28-31||Win||100||76 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The first of nine conference championship games will be the Pac-12 Championship Game from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara this Friday night as 9-3 Stanford (12th in the current CFP rankings) meets 10-2 USC, which is ranked 10th. The winners won't be making a 'Final 4' appearance this season and because the Rose Bowl is one of the CFP's two semifinal sites, the Pac-12 champion won't being in the Rose Bowl this season, either. However, the winner will play in a New Year's Six Bowl game and will have a chance to finish in the top-10 (likely higher than No. 10) with a bowl victory.
Stanford: The Cardinal fell behind 20-17 after the third quarter against Notre Dame but would end the game by scoring 21 unanswered points to get the Stanford the 38-20 come-from-behind victory. The Cardinal were out-gained by the Fighting Irish by a 415-328 margin but won the turnover battle by a 3-0 margin. K.J Costello completed 14 of 22 passes for 176 yards and a season-high four TD passes, while RB Bryce Love had 125 yards rushing, giving him 1,848 on the season (8.6 YPC / 16 TDs). He leads a running game averaging 210.2 YPG (31st). The Stanford passing game is suspect, averaging only 183.7 YPG, ranking 97th. However, Stanford is averaging 32.3 PPG, to rank 36th. Stanford's defense is typically a strength and 2017 is no different. The Cardinal allow 20.7 PPG (25th) andd have forced 24 turnovers, giving them a plus-14 TO ratio.
USC: The Trojans had already wrapped up the Pac-12 South before the season-finale vs. UCLA and despite allowing the Bruins to gain 501 yards, were able to secure their fourth straight victory with a 28-23 win. RB Ronald Jones II had 122 yards and two TDs and leads a rushing attack averaging 197.0 YPG (36th). Jones is not as famous as Love but has run for 1,346 yards (6.3 YPC & 16 TDs). QB Sam Darnold had visions of being the NFL's No. 1 overall pick prior to the start of the season but had all sorts of TO woes early on. He comes in completing 63.3% (down from 67.2% LY) with 24 TDs and 12 INTs, after throwing 31 TDs and just nine INTs in fewer games, last season. USC is averaging slightly more than Stanford (34.8 PPG ranks 36th) but defensively, the Trojans don't match up, allowing 26.2 PPG (60th) on 410.7 YPG (80th).
The pick: These schools met way back on Sep. 9th in LA, with USC dominating in a 42-24 win. Darnold threw for 316 yards and four TDs while USC also ran for 307 yards (two RBs topped 100 yards, including Jones), out-rushing the Cardinal who ran for 170 (Love had 160!). However, can these factoids be ignored? Stanford only needs to make a short 15-minute drive to nearby Levi’s Stadium and has won seven of its last 10 games against USC. Stanford is 7-1 SU its last eight games (only blemish is a three-point loss to Washington St.) and comes in 10-3-1 as an underdog since 2011. The South Division is 0-6 in the Pac-12 championship game and USC, which was outplayed by UCLA last Saturday, has gone 0-5 ATS in its last five neutral site games! Make Stanford a 10* play.
|11-30-17||Redskins +1.5 v. Cowboys||Top||14-38||Loss||-112||51 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The Dallas Cowboys welcome the Washington Redskins to AT&T Stadium for Thursday Night Football. This has traditionally been one of the league's great rivalries but this Week 13 meeting features two 5-6 teams with all but zero chance to win the NFC East plus neither team is really 'alive' in the wild card hunt, either. That said, the Redskins at least have a glimmer of hope, as none of their final five opponents currently own a winning record. That includes the Cowboys, who are now 0-3 SU & ATS since "Zeke" began serving his suspension, getting out-scored 92-to-22!
Washington: The Redskins only put up 20 points in their Week 12 win over the Giants but QB Kirk Cousins did throw for 242 yards with two TDs (one INT). He's having another strong season (66.2% for 3,038 yards with 19 TDs and six INTs, giving him a QB rating of 101.3) and it seems as only Washington management is not high on this guy." Rookie RB Samaje Perine has given the running game a huge lift with 217 rushing yards in his last two contests and with Elliott sidelined, he's the best RB on the field. Perine, second-year Redskins receiver Josh Doctson (21 catches / 15.6 YPC / 4 TDs) and kicker Nick Rose (10 if 11 on FG attempt) are likely looking forward to returning to their home state to face a Cowboys defense that has given up more than its share of points, yards and big plays of late. That Washington defense should also be looking forward to taking advantage of a struggling Dallas offense (see above & below).
Dallas: Many wondered who was more important to Dallas last year, "Zeke" or Dak. Right now, it's hard to argue against Elliott being the more important 'piece,' as Dallas has scored just one TD in three games without him (averaging 7.3 PPG), while Prescott has looked lost. His protection has been awful (14 sacks) and that has contributed to his woes but he's averaged just 166.7 YPG passing (high of 179) with five INTs and not a single TD pass (88 attempts) in the Cowboys' three-game slide. FYI...Zak threw just four INTs in his rookie season of 2016, in 459 pass attempts!
The pick: The Redskins lost 33-19 to the Cowboys in Week 8 at FedEx Field but in that one, Elliott rushed for a season-high 150 yards and two TDs, fueling the Dallas offense in the win over Washington the way he did for much of the 2016 season. That was then and this is now. Not only has the Dallas offense 'hit a brick wall' (the Cowboys have failed to score at least 10 points in three straight games for the first time in franchise history) but its defense has allowed an average of 30.7 PPG in the team's 0-3 SU & ATS slide. QBs Ryan, Wentz and Rivers have thrown for 817 yards (272.3 per) with seven TDs and just one INT (in 89 pass attempts). Past history means little right now. Cousins is next up to rip the Dallas D and the Zeke-less Dallas offense can't keep up. Make Washington an 8* play.
|11-27-17||Texans +7.5 v. Ravens||Top||16-23||Win||100||22 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: There weren't many bigger individually stories in NFL 2017 than the play of the Texans' DeShaun Watson. Just some of his highlights were his 4 TD passes and one rush TD in Week 4's 57–14 win over the Titans. He followed that performance on SNF vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. He had five TD passes in that 42-34 loss and in a Week 8 loss in Seattle (41-38), he posted his first career game with over 400 passing yards (also threw 4 TD passes). Watson threw 16 TDs in the month of October, setting the NFL record for most TD passes by a rookie in a calendar month. However, he suffered a torn ACL on a non-contact play during practice, which prematurely ended his rookie season on Nov. 2. The Texans are now 4-6 as they prepare to visit Baltimore to face the 5-5 Ravens with backup Tom Savage making his fifth start of the season. A win would give Baltimore a 6-5 record, tying them with the Bills and I'm pretty sure the Ravens would own the tie-breaker for the AFC's final wild card spot. A win would hardly be a surprise, as since head coach John Harbaugh took over the team in 2008, Baltimore has gone 11-1 in night games, the best mark in the NFL. The Ravens have also won nine consecutive prime-time matchups, also the longest streak in the NFL.
|11-26-17||Packers v. Steelers OVER 43.5||Top||28-31||Win||100||56 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The 5-5 Green Bay Packers' wild card hopes are quickly slipping away and they could sure use a win Sunday night at Heinz Field, after losing four of their last five games. The problem being, their opponents will be the 8-2 Pittsburgh Steelers, who have as won five straight games to tie the Patriots for the AFC's best record (Pittsburgh currently owns the tie-breaker for the No. 1 seed). This could have been a matchup of Super Bowl-winning QBs, Rodgers (one) vs. Roethlisberger (two) but instead Brett Hundley
Green Bay: The Packers are 1-3 with Hundley starting and he was awful in last Sunday's 23-0 home loss to the Ravens. He had four (three INTs and one fumble) of Green Bay's five TOs and comes into this game averaging 136.8 YPG passing with two TDs and seven INTs (QB rating of 63.3). The team's leading rusher (Aaron Jones) has just 370 yards and the Packers average only 102.4 rushing YPG (19th). Green Bay's depth at WR hasn't meant much with Hundley under center,,as the Packers are averaging 14.3 PPG in his four starts. The defense checks in averaging 18th in both points allowed (23.0 per) and yards allowed (340.1 per).
Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger is not having one of his better years but he's off an excellent game in Week 11 (Thursday night at home vs. Tenn.), as he threw for 299 yards and four TDs. In guiding Pittsburgh to five straight wins, Big Ben has thrown for 1,328 yards with 10 TDs and a 102.7 passer rating. WR Antonio Brown leads the league in catches (70) and receiving yards (1,026) after hauling in 10 receptions and three scoring passes in the romp over Tennessee (six TDs on the season). Le'Veon Bell has had an uneven year (after a holdout) but is still the NFL's leading rusher with 886 yards. He also has 49 catches for another 308 yards. The Pittsburgh defense has not permitted more than 17 points during its five-game winning streak and currently ranks 2nd in points allowed (16.9 per) and 4th in total D (287.6 YPG).
The pick: The Steelers are not just 8-2 but four of their final six games are at home. Except for that inexplicable home loss to the Jags (30-9), Pittsburgh has averaged 31.7 PPG in its other three games at Heinz Field (all wins). The total remains low because of Pittsburgh's strong defense and Hundley's struggles at QB but I'm calling for this game to go OVER and will make that an 8* play.
|11-26-17||Broncos v. Raiders -4||Top||14-21||Win||100||53 h 33 m||Show|
The setup: The KC Chiefs were initially on pace to "run away" with the AFC West title, opening 5-0. However, KC has brought teams like the Chargers and Raiders back into the division hunt by dropping four of its last five games. The Chargers, who opened 0-4, have won five of six after their Thanksgiving Day win in Dallas and are now 5-6. The 4-6 Oakland Raiders now have a chance to get to 5-6 themselves, when they host the 3-7 Denver Broncos in Week 12. Neither the Chargers nor the Raiders can control what KC does but the Chiefs sure look vulnerable these days.
Denver: The Broncos hardly look like a team ready to break their six-game slide, after dropping a 20-17 home decision to the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday. After giving up on Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler was handed the starting job and last week he was 23 of 42 for 254 yards with on TD and one INT. To no one's real surprise, he's been no better than Siemian, completing 53.0% of his 117 attempts for 164.8 YPG passing with three TDs and four INTs (65.5 QB rating). The job is now being handed to Paxton Lynch, the team's first round draft pick from 2016 (26th overall). He won't get much help from a running game that averages only 112.9 YPG (15th). Denver's "O' is now averaging a pathetic 18.3 PPG (24th) and while its once-feared defense is allowing an impressive 283.2 YPG (3rd) and the Broncos are allowing 25.9 PPG, which ranks 29th!
Oakland: The Raiders were a 'sexy' preseason pick to win the AFC but after 2-0 start, Oakland has won just two of eight games. Last Sunday's game in Mexico City against the Patriots was 'ugly,' as they fell 33-8. QB Derek Carr completed 28 of his 49 pass attempts for 237 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while Marshawn Lynch led Oakland’s ground attack with 67 yards. Carr has struggled with back issues (64.0% / 14-8 ratio / 88.2 QB rating) and Lynch has been a huge bust (390 YR), as Oakland ranks 27th with 89.7 YPG on the ground. The defense has sure not be an asset, allowing 24.7 PPG (22nd) on 367.1 YPG (21st).
The pick: Denver is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings between these two teams in Oakland. However, those were much different Bronco teams and the Raiders, although not as good as advertised in 2017, are still a team with some 'life!' Denver's last win came back on Oct. 1, 16-10 at home against these Raiders. However, the Broncos are 0-4 SU and ATS on the road in 2017, getting outscored 31.8-to-14.5 PPG! Make Oakland an 8* play.
|11-26-17||Browns +8 v. Bengals||Top||16-30||Loss||-105||60 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Browns remain the NFL's lone win-less team at 0-10 (lost last Sunday at home to the Jags 19-7) and will be on the road to face AFC North rival the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The Bengals are 4-6, after snapping a three-game skid last week by edging the Broncos last Sunday 20-17 in Denver. The Bengals crushed the Browns 31-7 at Cleveland back in Week 4 (Cincy's first win after an 0-3 start) and despite the team's 4-6 mark, a wild card berth is not yet "out of the question."
Cleveland. The Browns are now 1-25 under head coach Hue Jackson and while the team's problems go much deeper than its head coach, one still has to wonder just how much losing will it take for the team to make a head coaching change? The Browns held the Jags to 19 points last Sunday but gained only 184 yards themselves, as QB Kizer threw two INTs and coughed up two fumbles (team had five giveaways). Kizer is completing just 52.5% with five TDs, 14 INTs (QB rating of 54.0) and six lost fumbles. Kizer's 22 rushing yards was a team-high, as the Browns offer their passing game little 'cover,' averaging 101.2 YPG on the ground (23rd). The Browns enter as the NFL's lowest scoring team (15.0 PPG). Their defense allows 313.7 YPG (ranks 8th) but the team also allows 25.9 PPG, which ranks 27th. That's indicative of the team owning the worst TO margin (minus-17) of any NFL team.
Cincinnati: The Bengals only scored 20 points and won by just three points at Denver but QB Andy Dalton, despite throwing for a modest 154 yards, had three TD passes. Dalton has re-invigorated the deep passing game with four TD passes of 18 yards or more over the past two games, after having just three through the first eight outings. A.J. Green has scored in consecutive weeks and ranks eighth in the NFL with 743 yards receiving and is tied for third with six TDs The Bengals' running game averages only 68.0 YPG (32nd!) and is a big reason Cincy ranks 32nd in total yards (265.6 per game), as well as 29th in scoring at 16.9 PPG. The defense is pretty solid, allowing 19.9 PPG (10th) on 323.0 YPG (12th).
The pick; Cleveland is just the third team in NFL history to start consecutive seasons at 0-10 but just like last year, there figures to be one week in which the Browns "break through." Maybe I'm "spitting into the wind" or "pulling on Superman's cape" but I;m taking the points and making the Browns a 10* play.
|11-26-17||Dolphins v. Patriots OVER 47||Top||17-35||Win||100||49 h 8 m||Show|
The set-up: AFC foes (hardly rivals, anymore) meet Sunday afternoon in NFL Week 12 NFL play at Foxborough, as the 8-2 New England Patriots host the 4-6 Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins were once 4-2 but last Sunday's 30-20 home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaners was Miami's fourth in a row. The two AFC wild card teams are currently both 5-5, so the Dolphins only enter one game back but they are tied with four other teams plus the Chargers just moved to 5-6 with their Thanksgiving Day win at Dallas. The Pats raised some eyebrows with their 2-2 start, particularly with a defense which couldn't stop anyone, especially through the air. However, all is right in "New England Land" these days, as the Pats' 33-8 beatdown of the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City last Sunday was the team's sixth straight win. The Pats and Steelers are tied for the AFC's best record at 8-2 (Pittsburgh currently owns the tie-breaker).
Miami: Jay Cutler was back under center last Sunday for the Dolphins but he threw for just 83 yards, one TD touchdown and three INTs before leaving with a concussion. Matt Moore stepped in and completed 17 of 28 for 282 yards and a TD but to no avail (Miami lost by 10!). You tell me why Miami traded away Jay Ajayi, because he still owns 58 percent of Miami's current 804 rushing yards on the season? Moore will be under center for this one and surely won't get too much help from a running game averaging 80.4 YPG (28th) and is now without a quality RB. Miami's offense is averaging just 15.7 PPG (30th) on the season, while its defense is allowing 25.4 PPG (27th).
New England: Brady was just "being Brady" against the Raiders, completing 30 of 37 for 340 yards and three TDs touchdowns. He's completing 68.7 percent on the season with 22 TDs and just two INTs (in attempts), for a QB rating of 110.09. The Pats lead the NFL in passing yards (304.6 per game) and now rank fourth in scoring at 29.0 PPG. The defense has made huge strides in keeping teams out on the end zone, as after allowing 32.0 PPG through the team's first four contests, the Pats are down to allowing 20.3 PPG on the season, to rank 12th (12.5 PPG allowed during the six-game winning streak!).
The pick: The Dolphins come to Foxborough having lost eight in a row to the Pats in this venue (2-6 ATS) and there is no reason to believe Brady and Co. will have much trouble scoring here. However, while the Pats' D has cut down on its PPG, the team's defense is still giving up big chunks of yards and still ranks last in total yards allowed at 401.9 per. That can "catch up" to a defense and may just here, after Brady and Co. have established a 'cushion.' Make the Over an 8* play.
|11-25-17||Clemson v. South Carolina +14||Top||34-10||Loss||-110||95 h 34 m||Show|
Clemson: The Tigers lone loss came back on Oct. 13th at Syracuse, when QB Kelly Bryant had to leave with an injury. Clemson has won all four since then, after a 61-3 rout of The Citadel in its previous outing. Bryant completed 17 of 22 for 230 yards and three TDs. He's not exactly Deshaun Watson but he's pretty darn good. He's completing 66.2% for 2,154 yards with 10 TDs and five INTs. He's run for 613 yards and 10 TDs, joining RBs Etienne (679 YR / 7.7 YPC / 11 TDs) and Feaster (619 YR / 6.7 YPC / 5 TDs) to give Clemson a ground game which averages 218.6 YPG (24th). The offense averages 35.3 PPG (22nd) which works well when the team's D allows just 13.9 PPG (3rd) on 290.2 YPG (7th).
South Carolina: The Gamecocks would love to upset Clemson plus a win would sure enhance the team's bowl status. QB Jake Bentley threw for 194 yards and a TD on 22 of 28 passing against Wofford and enters the game completing 63.1 percent for 2,429 yards with 15 TDs and nine INTs. The running game averages a modest 132.5 YPG (89th), although A.J. Turner (507 YR) and Ty’Son Williams (407 YR) average 5.6 and 5.2 YPC, respectively. Overall, the team's 353.3 YPG ranks just 104th. The defense allows 19.6 PPG (20th) on 366.0 YPG (42nd).
The pick: The Tigers have not had much success when playing in the Gamecocks’ backyard as of late and South Carolina has covered seven straight as an underdog, going back to last year's bowl appearance). Taking away nothing away from Clemson's D (see above for a reminder) but the Gamecocks are one of just five FBS teams that have not allowed 30 or more points in a game this season, joining Alabama, Auburn, Troy and Wisconsin). South Carolina has held 10 of its 11 opponents below their season scoring average, including five who scored at least 10 points below their mark. Home dog 'barks' loudly in this one. Make South Carolina a 10* play.
|11-25-17||Northwestern -16.5 v. Illinois||Top||42-7||Win||100||91 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The Northwestern Wildcats look to win to cap their 2017 regular season with a seventh straight win (Northwestern is currently 8-3 and ranked 22nd in the CFP rankings) when visit the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium in Champaign-Urbana. The team's will be playing for the Land of Lincoln Trophy. Lovie's Smith second season (Illinois is just 2-9), has gone no better than his first (the Illini were 3-9 in 2016). Illinois comes in on a nine-game losing streak and has not scored more than 17 points or gained more than 294 yards in its last five games.
Northwestern: RB Justin Jackson has 1,010 yards rushing ( YPC) and eight TDs but the running game is averaging only 147.7 YPG (87th). You may not have heard too much about Jackson but he is just the second player in Big Ten history to rush for over 1,000 yards in four straight seasons! However, while QB Clayton Thorson owns a 14-11 ratio on 60.5%, his 2,669 passing yards have helped the Wildcats rank 46th in passing at 253.3 YPG. Defensively, Northwestern is allowing 21.0 PPG (30th) on 369.7 YPG (46th).
Illinois: The Fighting Illini opened 2-0 (beat Ball St. and Western Kentucky at home) but have not won since. Jeff George, Jr. has taken most of the snaps this season but has completed just 51.9 percent of his passes for 1,273 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Crouch (4 of 14 for 16 yards!) played last week against Ohio St. and George is questionable for this one with a concussion. Making any QB's job harder, is a ground game averaging only 106.1 YPG (122nd). Illinois averages only 16.2 PPG (125th). The defense is allowing 30.5 PPG (88th) on 415.9 YPG (86th).
The pick: A win will improve Northwestern's bowl status plus puts Pat Fitzgerald's team on track to win 10 games for the second time in three seasons. The Wildcats haven't just won six in row, they've covered all six as well, giving them an 8-1 ATS run their last nine. As for Illinois, here's the latest from head coach Lovie Smith. We're down to one more game left in our football season and we're playing our rival," Smith told reporters. "So hopefully we get a couple of guys back and play better than we did on Saturday." Anyone 'buying into' that? Not I. Let's make Northwestern an 8* play.
|11-25-17||Florida State -5 v. Florida||Top||38-22||Win||100||87 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The latest 'Sunshine Showdown" takes place at "The Swamp," although this year's game holds very little of the pizazz usually associated with a meeting between the Seminoles and Gators. Both teams' early-season schedules were affected by Hurricane Irma and both school's records have gone from bad to worse. However, Florida State got to 4-6 with a 77-6 destruction of Delaware State last Saturday, while Florida snapped its a five-game losing streak with a 36-7 win over UAB, also 'improving' to 4-6.
Florida State: QBs James Blackmon threw for 179 yards and two TDs (completed 11 of 15) while J.J. Cosentino added 51 yards and a TD, completing 6 of 7 attempts. RB Ryan Green led the team with 96 yards on the ground, while adding two TDs. Akers (779 YR / 5.3 YPC) and Patrick (465 YR / 5.5 YPC) are the team's top RBs, although FSU has averaged a modest 141.7 YPG on the ground (94th). It's been quite awhile since an FSU offense has averaged only 24.0 PPG (ranks 97th!). All things considered, the defense has done well, holding opponents to 346.4 YPG (30th) and 23.1 PPG (40th).
Florida: QB Feleipe Franks threw for 152 yards and a pair of TDs on 15 of 30 passing in last week's win. However, the highly-touted freshman has been a big disappointment with the QB position being stuck in a constant state of flux all season long. The running game is only slightly better than FSU's (averages 163.0 YPG to rank 69th) and the Gators are scoring even less than the Seminoles, averaging 22.1 PPG (109th). Defensively, Florida has allowed a modest 362.6 YPG (37th) but ranks 69th in scoring D, allowing 26.2 PPG.
The pick: This 62nd meeting of the "Sunshine Showdown' is anything but a showdown, as it marks the first time since 1959 and only the second time in series history, that both teams will enter the game with a losing record. Florida's Interim head coach Randy Shannon got first win since the school and former head coach Jim McElwain mutually parted ways on Oct. 29 last Saturday but two ina row may be too much to ask. FSU has won the last four meetings (six of the last seven, as well) plus actually has something to play for. The school has re-scheduled its game against UL-Monrore for next weekend, meaning if it wins here, a win next Saturday would extend the nation's longest active bowl streak to 41! Incredibly, Florida State is 0-9 ATS (or 0-72, at best!) against FBS squads in 2017. Really? Make FSU a 10* play!
|11-25-17||Georgia -11 v. Georgia Tech||Top||38-7||Win||100||87 h 55 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Rivalry Week and each has its own history. 10-1 Georgia (No. 7 in the current CFP rankings) will play in the SEC championship game next Saturday but first it's the school's annual showdown against Georgia Tech, which enters 5-5. Georgia's lone loss was at Auburn but the Bulldogs easily topped the SEC East. The Yellow Jackets welcome the hated-Bulldogs to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday for their season-finale. Ga. Tech had an earlier game vs. USF canceled due to circumstances surrounding Hurricane and because of that, will play only 11 games. That means Ga. Tech will have this one last chance to earn a sixth win to become bowl-eligible.
Georgia: The Bulldogs own an outstanding one-two RB tandem in Nick Chubb (1,045 YR / 6.3 YPC & 12 TDs) and Sony Michel (818 YR / 7.4 YPC & 12 TDs), with that duo leading the nation's 10th-best rushing attack (267.4 YPG). Freshman QB Jake Fromm remains a question mark (60.9% & 17-5 ratio), as Georgia ranks 113th with 164.0 YPG passing. The Georgia D allows 276.1 YPG (5th) and 14.4 PPG (4th). The Bulldogs' D 'laid an egg' against Auburn by allowing 40 points but that was only the second time Georgia has allowed more than 19 points in 2017.
Ga. Tech: The Yellow Jackets have lost three of their last four coming in, having fallen to Clemson, Virginia and Duke. QB TaQuon Marshall is completing only 38.0 percent with nine TDs and four INTs, with Tech averaging only 88.9 YPG through the air (129th of 130 teams!). However, Marshall has run for 1,074 yards (4.7 YPC) with 17 TDs plus RB Benson has 1,009 yards (5.3 YPC) with six TDs. The Yellow Jackets rank 4th in the nation, averaging 319.3 YPG on the ground. The defense allows only 342.6 YPG (29th) but 25.4 PPG, which ranks 55th.
The pick: Sure, the Bulldogs will play in the SEC championship game but a loss here would really make any 'Final 4' chances moot. Yes, Ga. Tech is playing for that all-important "sixth win" and in the nine years that Paul Johnson has been the head coach at Georgia Tech, only two games have been decided by more than eight points. Then again, anyone think that the Bulldogs won't remember blowing a double digit lead in last year’s 28-27 loss in Athens. This rivalry is described as “Clean, Old Fashioned Hate.” Need more? The visitor is on a 16-2-1 ATS run. Make Georgia an 8* play.
|11-24-17||Virginia Tech -6.5 v. Virginia||Top||10-0||Win||100||71 h 57 m||Show|
The set-up: It's "Rivalry Weekend' and at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville it will be the 8-3 Virginia Tech Hokies (4-3) taking on the 6-5 Virginia Cavaliers (3-4 ACC). The Hokies were riding high at 7-1 but lost at Miami and then at Ga. Tech, before bouncing back with a 20-14 win at home vs. Pitt. As for the Cavs, they've seen a promising season disappear, as after a 5-1 start, they have lost four of their last five games, falling to Boston College, Pitt, Louisville and Miami. These in-state rivals will meet for the 99th time (winner gets the Commonwealth Cup), with Va. Tech leading the series 56-37-5.
Virginia Tech: Senior WR Cam Phillips (2,981 yards) is the school's all-time leading receiver by yards, surpassing Isaiah Ford (2,967 from 2014-16) after recording eight receptions for 117 yards and a TD last week. Junior RB Travon McMillian (team-high 434 yards, two TDs) carried only once last week before leaving with a leg injury, with head caoch Justin Fuente telling reporters that "he didn't want to push it.'' Tech's running game has been no better than average in 2017, averaging 164.0 YPG (67th). However, QB Josh Jackson has had an very good season, passing for 2,600 yards with 18 TDs and just seven INTs. Then again, Va. Tech, especially under DC Bud Foster, is typically known for its defense. The Hokies come in allowing 14.7 PPG (6th) on 315.6 YPG (17th).
Virginia: QB Kurt Benkert put up 384 yards with four TDs and just one pick last Saturday against Miami's outstanding defense, which should give him plenty of confidence coming in to this game. Benkert has thrown for 2,876 yards (needs only 101 yards to set the school record for passing yards in a season) with 25 TDs and only eight INTs. He gets almost no help from a running game which limps in averaging 107.4 YPG (121st). The defense is not bad and in fact, senior linebacker Micah Kiser (115) and senior safety Quin Blanding (104) are the only teammates from a Power-5 conference team to each have 100 or more tackles. However, the Cavs are giving up 28,2 PPG (79th) on 359.9 YPG (33rd). Again, the Virginia defense is NOT in Va. Tech's class.
The pick: Virginia is bowl-eligible for the first time since 2011 but that pales next to the fact that Virginia Tech is headed to its 25th consecutive bowl game. Sure, this is a rivalry game but how much of a rivalry is it really? Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall's first taste of the rivalry was a sour one a year ago as the Cavaliers got crushed in Blacksburg 52-10, which closed out a 2-10 season. This year, Virginia is looking for its first win in the series since 2003. That's 13 straight Va. Tech wins and 17 in the last 18 meetings! A rivalry? Really? Make Va. Tech a 10* play.
|11-24-17||Miami-FL -13.5 v. Pittsburgh||Top||14-24||Loss||-110||63 h 57 m||Show|
The set-up: Miami's Sep. 9th home game with Arkansas St. was canceled due to Hurricane Irma, so the 'Canes enter this final contest of the regular season at 10-0, not 11-0. Miami is off a tougher-than-expected 44-28 home win over Virginia last Saturday but when the latest CFP rankings came out, Miami moved up to No. 2, as the committee cited its No. 1 SOS. Win, lose or draw, Miami and current No. 2 Clemson will meet Dec.2 in the ACC title game but the Hurricanes sure don't want/need a slip-up here. Friday, at 12 noon ET, the 'Canes will be at Heinz Field to take on the 4-7 Pittsburgh Panthers (2-5 ACC). The Panthers almost upset Va. Tech last Saturday (lost 20-14) when they up short on four attempts from the 1-yard line in the final seconds!
Miami: The Hurricanes almost blew it last Saturday, showing signs of a letdown against Virginia after the highs of back-to-back triumphs over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. However, the Hurricanes scored 30 unanswered points in the second half. The team's winning streak to 15 in a row. Manny Diaz's defense didn't show the same urgency last week as it had in the big victories over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame but the unit roared back from an uninspired first half. The Miami D slammed the door on Benkert and company with the "turnover chain" coming out three times for the game, giving Miami 19 takeaways in its last five contests, That D is allowing 17.7 PPG, 15th-best in the nation. QB Malik Rosier has passed for 2,319 yards with 23 TDs and nine INTs, with his most reliable target being Berrios (8 TDs). RB Homer leads the way with 849 YR (6.5 YPC) with 7 TDs for a ground game averaging 178.1 YPG on 5.3 YPC.Pittsburgh: RB Darrin Hall was completely shut down by Virginia Tech on Saturday,finishing with just four yards on 15 carries. However, he had topped 100 yards in his three previous games. He has 598 YR on the season (5.1 YPC & 9 TDs), leading a running game averaging 148.0 YPG (86th). Starting QB Ben DiNucci (4-for-8, 54 yards, one touchdown, one interception) was pulled last week (he had taken over for Browne) and replaced by freshman Kenny Pickett, who went 15-for-23 for 242 yards with one INT. Pittsburgh's offense (just 23.9 PPG to rank 98th) will surely have its hands full with the Miami D plus the Pitt D is allowing 27.7 PPG (73rd) on 415.1 YPG (85th).
The pick: The now No. 2 Hurricanes head on the road for the first time since Oct. 28 in this game at Pittsburgh. The Hurricanes will also have the additional challenges of cold weather, a short week and some exhaustion due to playing their 10th straight weekend thanks to schedule changes prompted by Hurricane Irma. However, is Pitt (especially if teh freshman plays QB) really ready for Miami's opportunistic defense which also leads the nation in sacks per game (3.8). That hardly bodes well, as Pittsburgh QBs have been sacked 30 times this year. At No. 2, Miami is the highest-ranked team Pitt has hosted at Heinz Field in 16 years (that opponent was also Miami, which was ranked No. 1 when the teams met on Sept. 27, 2001). What's more, Pitt is just 4-12 ATS at home since 2015! Make Miami an 8* play.
|11-23-17||Giants v. Redskins -7||Top||10-20||Win||100||56 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The Giants had seemingly hit "rock bottom" with their 31-21 Week 10 loss at San Francisco (49ers entered that game 0-9) but lo and behold, the Giants won last Sunday 12-9 over the Chiefs in OT, as a double-digit home dog! The 2-8 Giants and NFC East rival Washington will face off in the nightcap of Thanksgiving's three-game NFL card. The Redskins come into the game having blew a 15-point lead in the final six minutes of an eventual 34-31 overtime loss to New Orleans last Sunday. The defeat dropped them to 11th place in the NFC playoff standings, two games out of the final playoff spot.
NY Giants: Can New York build off its upset of the Chiefs? Eli and the offense did little but the defense was a revelation. The Giants allowed an NFC-best 17.6 PPG in 2016 but entered last week's game having allowed 26.4 PPG to rank 28th in the NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs came in averaging 28.1 PPG but the Giants held them to just three FGs and QB Alex Smith, who came in with 18 TD passes and just one INT (in 293 pass attempts), was picked off three times! Eli Manning completed just 19 of 35 passes (54.3 percent) and failed to throw a TD pass for the first time since the season opener.
Washington: The Redskins no longer have any margin for error plus will need to get some help to make the playoffs. Last Sunday's loss to the Saints was the second in a row but it would be hard to blame QB Kirk Cousins. He threw for 322 yards and three TDs against New Orleans. It was his second-straight 300-plus-yard effort through the air (the fourth in his last six games) and he has 17 TDs and just five INTs on the season witha 101.8 QB rating. RB Samaje Perine added 117 rushing yards and a TD on 23 carries. It was Washington's defense which has cost the Redskins the last two weeks, allowing 38 points to the Vikings and 34 to the Saints.
The pick: Congrats to the Giants for the upset of the Chiefs but that New York offense looks inept. Sure, the defense was great last Sunday but it has struggled almost all season. Cousins is playing great (see above for a reminder) and let's not forget that Washington's back-to-back loses have come against the Vikings and Saints, two 8-2 teams. This just in...the 2-8 Giants are NOT in that class. Beginning with the Giants, none of the teams left on Washington's remaining schedule currently own a winning record. Just maybe, the postseason is not a pipe dream? Lay it here and make Washington a 10* play.
|11-23-17||Ole Miss v. Mississippi State OVER 62.5||Top||31-28||Loss||-110||55 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The 114th edition of the Egg Bowl will be contested Thanksgiving night in Starkville when 5-6 Ole Miss (2-5 SEC) takes on 8-3 Mississippi State (4-3 SEC). The Rebels need a win to become eligible but in fact, will be playing their final game of the season as a result of a self-imposed postseason ban, which came in February after the NCAA found the program committed multiple violations under former coach Hugh Freeze. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were ranked 14th in the latest CFP rankings and are hoping to improve their bowl status with a victory. Ole Miss guaranteed itself its second straight non-winning season after losing at home to Texas A&M 31-24 the last time out, while Miss. St. reached eight wins for the fifth time in Mullen's nine seasons with that 28-21 win at Arkansas.
Ole Miss: The Rebels couldn't hold onto a 24-21 halftime lead against the Aggies and the seven-point loss snapped a two-game win streak. Junior QB Jordan Ta'amu moved into the starting role in mid-October after Shea Patterson (2,259 YP / 17-9 ratio) was lost to a season-ending injury. He compl eted 19 of 34 passes for 189 yards with two TDs (one interception) and enters completing 69.5% with nine TD and three INTs. A.J. Brown has 69 catches for 1,085 yards with 10TDs and RB Wilkins has 901 YR (6.4 YPC) and seven TDs. The offense averages 33.0 PPG (37th) but the defense ranks 114th in both points allowed (35.2 per game) and yards allowed (455.7 YPG).
Mississippi State: QB Fitzgerald extended his own SEC record for 100-yard rushing games by a QB to 14 after rushing for 101 against the Razorbacks and needs only 52 more yards to move past ex-Bulldog Dak Prescott (2,521) and into third place on the conference's all-time rushing list from a signal-caller. He has 1,770 passing yards (15-10 ratio) but is most dangerous running the ball, with a team-high 968 yards (6.1 YPC / 14 TDs). He and RB Williams 944 YR / 4.6 YPC) lead a rushing game averaging 245.5 YPG (17th), The Bulldogs average 32.5 PPG (39th), about the same as Ole Miss, but the huge difference comes on the defensive side of the ball. Miss. St. allows 19.5 PPG (20th) on 297.2 YPG (9th).
The pick: Tensions are always high when Mississippi and Mississippi State collide but this week's meeting seems even more intense than normal. In fact, the athletic directors from both schools sent out a request to fans, hoping to prevent emotions from boiling over on Thursday night. "In the spirit of sportsmanship, we ask that fans from both schools honor this storied rivalry with civility and respect for each other," Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork and Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen wrote in a joint statement. Fitzgerald accounted for 367 total yards, including a school-record 258 yards on the ground, and five total TDs (three passing / two rushing) in last year's 55-20 thrashing of Ole Miss, allowing Mississippi State to avenge a defeat in 2015 and take home the Golden Egg Trophy for the fifth time in eight tries under coach Dan Mullen. I also like the way QB Jordan Ta'amu has filled in for Patterson, so I expect a shootout. Make the Over a 10* play.
|11-23-17||Chargers v. Cowboys UNDER 48||Top||28-6||Win||100||52 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: The Los Angeles Chargers are off a 54-24 beatdown of the Buffalo Bills last Sunday but the win got them to just 4-6. The Dallas Cowboys are off a humiliating 37-9 loss to their division rival the Philadelphia Eagles, which came right after Dallas lost 27-7 in Atlanta. The Cowboys are now 5-5 and with star RB Ezekiel Elliott set to miss four more games, Dallas' playoff hopes are rapidly disappearing.The Chargers visit AT&T Stadium for the middle contest of the NFL's three-game Thanksgiving Thursday card. While this will be the Cowboys' 50th Thanksgiving contest, the Chargers will be participating in their first game on the holiday sinc) e 1969!
LA Chargers: The Chargers benefited from Buffalo's "ridiculous" (editorial comment) decision to give last Sunday's start to a QB so "unready for prime time" that Nathan Peterman threw five INTs in just 14 pass attempts, with the first of his five picks being returned for a TD. The Chargers' D later returned a fumble for a score, as the 54 points represented the Chargers' highest-scoring performance in Philip Rivers' 195 consecutive starts since 2006. Speaking of Rivers, he passed for 251 yards (on 20 of 32 passing) and two TDs, both to Keenan Allen who caught 12 passes for 159 yards. RB Melvin Gordon added 80 rushing yards and a TD. Los Angeles has recovered from its 0-4 start and views this contest as crucial as its deficit in the AFC West is just two games thanks to Kansas City dropping four of its last five games. "We're not way out of the division and not way out of the hunt," Rivers said. "That's exciting and encouraging. It shouldn't be hard to keep us focused on the task at hand. ... Just be fired up that we still have everything in front of us."
Dallas: The loss of "Zeke" is huge but the absence of LT Tyron Smith (Dak has been sacked 12 times the last two games!) plus LB Sean Lee sidelined have been no small factor in the in Cowboys getting outscored 64-16 in back-to-back losses. Prescott's solid start is beginning to unravel and the Cowboys are now tasked with scraping for a wild card spot with an injury-depleted team.
The pick: All of the above noted, remember the Cowboys were actually ahead 9-7 at the half vs. the Eagles, before succumbing 30-0 in the second half. The Chargers will not have the 'cake-walk' of last week and I expect to see the Dallas team we saw in the first half last Sunday vs. the Eagles, not the second half. The Cowboys have scored just 16 points without Elliott, scoring just one TD (on a 21-yard drive). The play here is an 8* on the Under.
|11-23-17||Vikings v. Lions +3||Top||30-23||Loss||-105||48 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: The Minnesota Vikings have won six in a row and now own a two-game lead in the NFC North as they head to Ford Field early Thursday afternoon to take on the Detroit Lions. The Lions have won three straight, beating the Packers, Browns and Bears to reach 6-4. That means the Lions need to win here or fall three games back of the Vikings, with just five games remaining. Detroit is tied with the Falcons and Seahawks (Atlanta would win the tie-breaker as of now, giving them the NFC's No. 6 seed) plus the Packers and Cowboys are lurking at 5-5..
Minnesota: The Vikings will sure remember the last time these teams met, as the Lions won 14-7 at Minnesota, with the Vikings losing three fumbles. However, the Vikes haven't lost since. Case Keenum has 'rescued' the offense, entering this contest completing 65.7% for 2,194 yards with 12 TDs and five INTs (he's 6-2 as a starter in 2017). The loss of rookie RB Dalvin Cook was supposed to all but 'kill' the running game but Murray (412 yards) and McKinnon (367 yards) have filled in well, with Minnesota entering this game averaging 123.3 YPG on the ground (8th). WR Adam Thielen has an NFC-best 916 receiving yards while his 16 catches of at least 20 yards has the 27-year-old tied with Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown for the league lead. However, the Vikings' defense has led the way in 2017, allowing 17.2 PPG (4th) on 290.5 YPG (5th).
Detroit: QB Matthew Stafford signed a five-year, $135 million deal in the summer to become the highest-paid player in the NFL. He's NOT the league's best player or QB but he's completed 63.1 percent for 2,760 yards with 19 TDs and five INTs (QB rating of 98.4). He's had multiple TD passes in the three straight wins and in seven of 10 this season. Detroit's much-maligned rushing game takes plenty of hits (80.8 YPG ranks 28th) but Ameer Abdullah (491 YR / 3.4 YPC / 3 TDs) has been a positive factor of late with three TDs (two rushing, one receiving) during the team's three-game winning streak. The Lions have averaged 31.7 points during their three-game winning streak and now rank 5th in the league, at 27.1 PPG.
The pick: Thi game is YUGE for the Lions (see above for implications) and as of late (like the team's 14-7 win at Minny in Week 4), the Lions have ground out numerous low-scoring wins over the Vikings these last four seasons. Detroit has won five of the last seven meetings, including three straight despite scoring a combined four TDs. The Lions have won four straight Thanksgiving Day games at Ford Field, helping them to make the playoffs in two of those seasons (had lost nine straight games on Thanksgiving prior to the streak). Stafford's been brilliant the past five Thanksgiving games, with 13 TD passes against just two interceptions. Make the Lions an 8* play.
|11-21-17||Bowling Green v. Eastern Michigan UNDER 59.5||Top||31-34||Loss||-110||12 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: A pair of 2-5 MAC schools will conclude their respective 2017 seasons Tuesday night at Rynearson Stadium when the Eastern Michigan Eagles host the Bowling Green Falcons. Bowling Green is hoping to end the year on a positive note after suffering a humiliating 66-37 defeat at the hands of the Toledo Rockets (a bitter rival) as a 17-point home dog in its last contest. The Falcons trailed just 24-21 at the half but were outscored 35-16 over the final two quarters. Meanwhile, Eastern Michigan is aiming for back-to-back wins following a 27-24 victory at the Miami (Ohio).
Bowling Green: Mike Jinks' second season at BG is coming to a close and it hasn't been pretty. After going 4-8 SU & ATS in his first season, the Falcons have been even worse in 2017, entering this final game 2-9 SU & ATS. Doing the math, that's 6-17 SU & ATS mark. The Falcons don't have much of an offense (24.8 PPG ranks 92nd) and the defense is dreadful, allowing 38.4 PPG (124th) on 519.5 YPG (127th).
Eastern Michigan: The Eagles, like the Falcons are just 2-5 in MAC play but they have two more wins (4-7, overall) and more importantly, are a money-making 8-3 ATS. EMU's offense is no better than BG's (averaging 25.4 PPG) but on the defensive side of the ball, Eastern Michigan has allowed 22.6 PPG (37th) on 355.7 YPG (32nd).
The pick: Eastern Michigan won 28-25 at Bowling Green in last year's matchup but that was just the Eagles' second win in 13 games since 1990 (both victories were by just three points). Meanwhile, Bowling Green's 11 wins in that span have come by an average margin of 19 PPG. However, the current Bowling Green team makes it impossible to back the Falcons here in 2017. Then again, the Falcons have played way better on offense since freshman Jarrett Doege has taken over. Doege has completed 59 of 91 (64.8%) in his three starts, throwing for 738 yards with nine TD passes and just one INT. BG has averaged 36.3 PPG in that span. However, as noted, EMU's defense is the reason the team is 8-3 ATS. Let me also note that the last six Bowling Green games have averaged 73.0 PPG, with all "going over." Enough already! I say play UNDER and make it a 10*.
|11-20-17||Falcons v. Seahawks OVER 45.5||Top||34-31||Win||100||13 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: The Atlanta Falcons an are defending NFC champions but at 5-4 while playing in the NFC South with the 8-2 Saints and 7-3 Panthers, this MNF game at CenturyLink Field. in Seattle against the Seahawks is starting to look like a "must-win" contest. The Seahawks come in 6-3 and with the Rams losing at Minnesota on Sunday to fall to 7-3, Seattle can move back into a tie with LA for first-place in the NFC West. A Seattle loss would leave them at 6-4, tied with the Falcons and Lions for the NFC's final wild card spot (tie-breakers would decide 'the winner!'). Boston line is, this is an important game for all involved.
Atlanta: The Falcons hope to build off their 27-7 Week 10 win over the Cowboys. Matt Ryan was the league's MVP in 2016 (69.9% / 4,944 yards / 38-7 ratio / 117.1 QB Rating) but has been nowhere-near that good in 2017. He's completing 66.5% with a 13-8 ratio and a QB rating of 93.9. WR Julio Jones is also off his production of the last few seasons (has one TD catch!) and is battling ankle injuries. RB Devonta Freeman (515 YR / 4.4 YPC / 5 TDs) sustained a concussion against the Cowboys and is expected to miss here. However, backup Tevin Coleman rushed for a season-high 83 yards after Freeman was injured early last week (399 YR / 4.8 YPC on the season). Atlanta (21.9 PPG ranks 16th) is averaging a dozen points fewer than last season's league-leading average of 33.8 and had failed to score more than 17 in its last four losses before posting its highest point total since Week 3. Rayn and the passing offense ranks 11th overall with 251.6 YPG through the air. the defense checks in allowing 19.9 PPG (11th) on 311.9 YPG (8th).
Seattle: The Seahawks come in winners of five of their last six and surely will be seeking some revenge for last year's. Russell Wilson is completing 62.7 percent of his passes for 2,543 yards with 19 TDs and just six INTs. Wilson has two or more TD passes in six of his last seven games and has carried the offense, which is averaging 23.4 PPG (12th. Doug Baldwin has a team-high 54 catches while TE Jimmy Graham (39 catches) has six TDs in the past five games. RB Eddie Lacy is expected to return after sitting out one week with a groin injury but the ground game has been ineffective since rookie Chris Carson was lost for the season. Seattle enters averaging 100.7 YPG (23rd). On defense, Seattle lost Richard Sherman for the rest of the 2017 season in the team's last game vs. Arizona. This is the second time in back-to-back seasons the Seahawks have lost a member of the Legion of Boom for the year with an injury. Last year, safety Earl Thomas was shelved after breaking a leg in December. The defense never recovered. The 2017 version of the Legion of Boom allows 18.3 PPG (6th) on 318.9 YPG (10th).
the pick: The Seahawks lost last year in Atlanta 36-20 in the Divisional Round and with the team's D less than 100%, will likely need to score to win this all-important game tonight. Ryan has become the fastest quarterback to 40,000 yards passing in league history and as noted above, Russell Wilson has been carrying the Seattle offense for most of the season. Expect a shoot-out between these two QBs. Make the Over a 10* play.
|11-19-17||Eagles v. Cowboys OVER 48||Top||37-9||Loss||-110||119 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: In the midst of Jerry Jones' feud with Roger Goodell, Week 11's SNF game will be played at AT&T Stadium ("Jerry's House") between the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles and the 5-4 Dallas Cowboys. Philly's lone loss came back in Week 2 (at KC), so coming off a bye week, the Eagles enter on a seven-game winning streak (6-1 ATS). The Eagles have essentially 'put away' all teams in the NFC East except the Cowboys but a win here in Dallas would all but eliminate any chance the Cowboys would have of challenging Philly for the division title.
Philadelphia: Second-year QB Carson Wentz has quickly developed into "the real deal" in his sophomore season. He's completing 60.5 percent for 2,262 yards with 23 TDs and just five INTs, giving him a 104.1 QB rating. LeGarrette Blount is the leading Eagles rusher with 504 yards but the Eagles made a trade deadline deal with the Dolphins to acquire Jay Ajayi. He ran for 77 yards (on just eight carries) in his first game with Philly and note that he ran for 1,272 yards on 4.9 YPC and eight TDs in 2016 for Miami. Philly's ground game is averaging 136.8 YPG (4th) but it will be better with the addition of Ajayi, if for no other reason than the Eagles now have two No. 1-quality RBs in case of injury. TE Zach Ertz aims to return from a two-game absence due to an ailing hamstring and pick up where he left off. Ertz leads all NFC tight ends in receptions (43), yards (528) and TDs (six) this season. Off-season acquisition WR Jeffrey is also coming into his own with 34 catches (14.7 YPC) and five TD grabs. Philly's offense ranks second in scoring (31.4 PPG) and the defense has more than held its own, allowing 19.9 PPG (11th) on 315.9 YPG (10th).
Dallas: The irreplaceable Ezekiel Elliott finally began serving his 6-game suspension (five games left) last week in Atlanta. However, Elliott's absence was not the reason Dak Prescott was sacked eight times by Atlanta's D, including an amazing six solo sacks by DE Adrian Clayborn. The Cowboys ran for 107 yards (5.1 YPC) but Dak threw for just 176 yards. Throw in the lost yardage from all the sacks, and the Cowboys had just 233 yards for the game, while scoring seven points. Prescott has thrown for 1,994 yards with 16 TDs and just four INTs (no "sophomore jinx" here) but the team can't replace Elliott's 783 rushing yards and seven scores. Dez Bryant is tops in receiving for the Cowboys with 478 yards and four TDs on 42 catches. However, he's been slowed by an ailing knee which has limited him to just 39 yards receiving in two of his last three games. The Dallas D is middle-of-the-pack, allowing 22.8 PPG (17th) on 325.9 YPG (15th).
The pick: I just don't see Dallas slowing Wentz and Co, as the Cowboys' pass D allows 66.6% completions and has only five INTs (on 323 pass attempts), while allowing 16 TD passes. Philly's running was among the best in the NFL and it's now added Ajayi. These are desperate times for Dallas' playoff hopes and the Cowboys won't go down without a fight. However, they'll have to score to win this one. Make the Over an 8* play.
|11-19-17||Patriots -6.5 v. Raiders||Top||33-8||Win||100||115 h 43 m||Show|
The set-up: The Raiders were 12-4 last season and after opening 2-0 in 2017, were being touted as "the real deal," a genuine AFC title contender. In contrast the defending champs stumbled to a 2-2 start and alarmingly, had allowed an average of 32.0 PPG. That's on the heels of New England allowing an NFL-low 15.6 PPG in 2016. However, as the two teams get set to meet in this Week 11 game at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, the Raiders check in at just 4-5, while the Pats are 7-2, having once-again reminded all just why the Brady and Belichick combo has won five Super Bowl titles together.
New England: Brady has been dominant ever since a poor Week 1 effort, entering this contest having completed 67.3 percent of his passes with 19 TDs, just two INTs (in 343 pass attempts) to earn a QB rating of 108.3 (the Pats rank first with 301.6 YPG through the air and 4th in scoring at 28.6 PPG). Brady would like more help from a running game that averages just 109.7 YPG (16th) but as always, he seems to "make do." However, what Brady really appreciates is the defense's return to form. The naysayers were out in full force saying that while Belichick may be a genius, he could not get the team's awful defense turned around with just a snap of his fingers. Well, I'm not sure what he did but numbers don't lie. During the Pats' five-game winning streak, the team's D has held opponents to 13.4 PPG!
Oakland: The Raiders promptly lost four in a row after that 2-0 start and while they enter this game having won two of three, the wins have come by one point over KC (winning TD on the game's final play) and by three points over a Miami team which is on a three-game slide getting outscored 112-to-45! Carr's injured back cost him one full game but after a three-game stretch in which he averaged 144 yards passing, he has aired it out over the past three games, throwing for 1,030 yards with five TDs and three INTs. Marshawn Lynch, whose last game against New England ended with a rush to the one-yard line in Super Bowl XLIX, returned from a one-game suspension to rush for 57 yards and two TDs in a 27-24 win at Miami. However, he's been a bust, with just 323 yards on the season (3.8 YPC), including three games in which he hasn't run for as much as 20 yards! Defensively, the Raiders are allowing 23.8 PPG (22nd) and not only are they tied for last in sacks (13), they have yet to record an interception in 288 pass attempts against them. Are you kidding?
The pick: Sometimes, we can over-think things. I will try NOT to make that mistake here. Brady is playing like he's 30-years-old and in 343 pass attempts, he's been picked off twice. He will face an Oakland pass D in this game which is allowing a league-high 71.2% completion, while allowing 14 TDs without a single INT in 288 pass attempts. Opposing QBs have a 110.5 rating against Oakland, the highest in the NFL. Add in that Oakland's pass rush has an NFL-low 13 sacks and just how does anyone expect the Raiders to stop Brady? Can they outscore him? Why? After all, New England is allowing 13.4 PPG during its five-game winning streak. One last thing. This is a neutral-site game but how does it hurt that the Pats went 8-0 SU on the road last season and are 4-0 this season, outscoring opponents 30.0-to-16.8 PPG! Lay the points and make the Pats a 10* play.
|11-19-17||Bucs +1.5 v. Dolphins||Top||30-20||Win||100||111 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Miami Dolphins were supposed to open the 2017 season in Week 1 but Hurricane Irma had other ideas. Ironically enough, both teams were scheduled for a Week 11 bye week, so here we are. The Bucs and Dolphins will meet Sunday in Miami Gardens at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, although both teams' seasons are just about 'toast.' The Bucs opened 2-1 but then lost five in a row, before finally ending their slide with 15-10 win over the Jets last Sunday (Bucs are currently just 3-6 in the 'tougher than nails' NFC South). As for the Dolphins, a 4-2 start now seems 'light-years' away after Miami has not just lost three straight (falling to 4-5 in a division with the 7-2 Pats), but the Dolphins have been dominated in all three losses, getting outscored 112-45!
Tampa Bay: QB Jameis Winston sat out last week's win with shoulder issues, replaced by veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, who passed for 187 yards with one TD and one interception. RB Martin is back from his suspension but has averaged only 50.8 YPG rushing in his six games. Tampa Bay averages only 82.8 YPG on the ground (28th) on the season. The Bucs are averaging only 19.2 PPG on the season, ranking 22nd. The defense is also worse than average, allowing 23.1 PPG (20th) on 376.3 YPG (27th).
Miami: The Dolphins' defense has been ripped for 112 points in the team's three-game slide (37.3 PPG) but through the team's nine games, Miami's offense ranks dead-last (32nd) in scoring at 15.2 PPG. Cutler has not been the answer at QB, as Miami ranks 29th in passing YPG at 194.9 YPG. With the trade of RB Ajayi at the end of October, 64 percent on Miami's rushing offense is now in Philadelphia. Kenyan Drake has run for 176 yards the last two weeks (taking over for Ajayi) but Miami enters averaging 80.1 YPG on the ground, which ranks 30th. Is it good or bad news that Drake accounted for Miami' first rushing TD of the 2017 season last Sunday? Hard to believe but true.
The pick: Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a full-time starter but "in relief," he's more than serviceable. Currently, he is not a drop-off from Winston, whose confidence had eroded even before his shoulder injury. Miami's defense is now as bad as it's defense. Make Tampa Bay an 8* play.
|11-19-17||Chiefs v. Giants UNDER 44||Top||9-12||Win||100||111 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants were both playoff teams in 2016 but when the Chiefs visit MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon, the Chiefs come in with an AFC West-leading record of 6-3, while the Giants take the field an abysmal 1-8. However, let's also note that the Chiefs come into this contest just 1-3 after opening 2017 at 5-0. Then again, most feel as if the Giants hit rock bottom last Sunday, falling to the then 0-9 Niners by the score of 31-21!
Kansas City: Alex Smith's "career season" continues, as he enters having completed 69.6 percent with 18 TDs and just one INT in 293 pass attempts (QB rating is 113.9). Rookie RB Hunt has cooled off but he comes into the team's 10th game with 800 yards rushing (5.2 YPC) and four TDs, along with 32 catches for another two TDs. TE Kelce (51 catches / 5 TDs) and WR Hill (40 catches / 4 TDs), are also quality contributors. Maybe KC would have a win or two more if the team's defense wasn't giving up 3903.YPG, which ranks 30th. That said, KC does rank better in points allowed, at 23.1 PPG which ranks 19th.
NY Giants: The Giants season began poorly and it's never gotten better. Eli may be making his 209th consecutive start at QB in this one but it sure feels like his time as the Giants' No. 1 QB is coming to end. Losing OBJ and Marshall to injury surely didn't help, nor has the fact that the Giants have almost no running game, averaging 89.8 YPG (25th). Eli's numbers aren't awful (64.6% with 14 TDs and 6 INTs), especially considering the circumstances but the bottom line is the bottom line. The Giants are scoring only 16.7 PPG, which ranks 29th. Defensively, after allowing an NFC-best 17.6 PPG, the Giants have allowed 26.4 PPG to rank 28th in the NFL.
The pick: The Chiefs should play well coming out of their bye week (Reid-coached teams are 16-2 in games following a week off!) but KC has looked like a different team since that 5-0 start. Smith is still not turning the ball over but Hunt seems to have "hit a wall,' averaging only 47.8 YPG rushing in the team's 1-3 run. The Giants have yet to score more than 24 points in any game in 2017 and after last week's loss to the 49ers, seem like a 'lost' team. Make the Under an 8* play.
|11-18-17||Utah v. Washington -17||Top||30-33||Loss||-110||98 h 39 m||Show|
The set-up: The Utah Utes lost to the Washington State Cougars 33-25 last Saturday, falling to 5-5, including 2-5 Pac-12 South. The Utes will travel to Husky Stadium in Seattle to take on the 8-2 Washington Huskies (5-2 Pac-12 North). Washington is No. 16 in the latest AP poll but 18th in the CFP rankings, behind No. 11 USC and No. 14 Washington State of the Pac-12. Washington lost a week ago Friday 30-22 at the Stanford Cardinal 30-22. Washington’s usually strong defense couldn't contain Bryce Love and the Stanford rushing attack, as Love rushed for 166 yards and three TDs.
Utah: The Utes had no answers for the Washington State QB Luke Falk, who passed for 311 yards and three TDs. Utah QB Tyler Huntley completed 21 of 39 passes for 305 yards and a TD but with three INTs. Huntley (13 TDs / 9 INTs) is streaky and as noted, was picked off three times in the loss to Washington State, one week after throwing four TD passes. Utah averages 29.0 PPG (65th) and allows 24.1 PPG (45th).
Washington: QB Jake Browning has completed 68.4% for 2,097 yards with 16 TDs and five INTs. He is far off his pace of 2016, when he threw for 3,430 yards with 47 TDs and nine INTs. In fact, Browning has failed to throw a TD pass in three of his past four games. RB Myles Gaskin has run for 1,038 yards (6.3 YPC) and 13 TDs. Washington averages 36.9 PPG (21st) but the team thrives on its defense, The Huskies are allowing just 13.0 PPG (2nd) on 258.5 YPG (4th).
The pick: Utah comes in having lost five of its last six games and Washington has won nine of the previous 10 meetings between the two schools. What's more, Washington is 11-1 SU at home since the start of 2016, including 5-0 SU & 4-1 ATS at home this season, outscoring opponents 46.2-to-11.2 PPG. Lay the points and make Washington an 8* play.
|11-18-17||Arizona University v. Oregon -2.5||Top||28-48||Win||100||45 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: The 7-3 Arizona Wildcats will travel to Autzen Stadium in Eugene to meet the 5-5 Oregon Ducks this Saturday in Pac-12 action. Arizona beat Oregon State 49-28 at home last Saturday, improving to 5-2 in the Pac-12 South. It's been quite a bounce-back season for Rich-Rod's Wildcats, who were just 3-9 in 2016, including 1-8 in league play. Oregon is coming off a bye last Saturday, having lost badly in its last outing, 38-3 at Washington on Nov. 4th. The 5-5 Ducks are coming off a 4-8 season last year but a win here would make the bowl-eligible.
Arizona: The Wildcats amassed an outstanding 534 yards rushing against the Beavers (a school recrod!), led QB Khalil Tate who rushed for 206 yards and 2 TD’s on just 16 carries. Tate has been an unstoppable force on the ground since taking over QB duties for the Wildcats. He has completed 61.9% of his passes with eight TDs and four INTs and averages just 124.8 YPG through the air. However, he's rushed for 1,293 yards on an incredible 11.6 YPC with 11 TDs. Arizona is now averaging (due to Tate) 348.2 YPG on the ground (3rd-best in the nation) and 44.4 PPG (also 3rd-best). Defensively, the Wildcats are allowing 31.9 PPG (99th).
Oregon: The Ducks also depend on their running game, especially with No. 1 QB Justin Herbert still sidelined with a collarbone injury. RB Royce Freeman is a stud who has 1,218 rushing yards (5.9 YPC) and 10 TDs. He leads a ground game averaging 255.2 YPG (11th). The Ducks average 32.3 PPG (40th) but also allow 30.1 PPG (89th). Here's the rub. The Ducks averaged 49.6 points in their first five games (4-1) but have been stuck in neutral without Herbert, averaging 15 points and going 1-4 with freshman Braxton Burmeister under center.
The pick: Obviously, I'm hoping Herbert will be cleared to play but either way, I'm backing the Ducks. Oregon's defense is allowing just 129.0 YPG on the ground, which is Arizona's strength with Tate. Oregon ranks 25th nationally in rushing yards allowed, which is 2nd-best in the Pac-12. Make Oregon an 8* play.
|11-18-17||Navy v. Notre Dame UNDER 62||Top||17-24||Win||100||91 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: Notre Dame's CFP hopes were likely dashed when the team lost last Saturday night in Miami, 41-8 to the Hurricanes. The 8-2 Fighting Irish (now No.9 in the CFP rankings) will try to pick up the pieces this Saturday afternoon, when they welcome the Navy Midshipmen to South Bend. Navy ended a two-game slide with last Saturday's 43-40 win over SMU, although once again the Midshipmen struggled with inconsistency. Against SMU, Navy coughed up a 34-11 halftime before winning on a FG on the game's final play. Navy payed in last year's AAC championship game but this year's team is a more modest 6-3 overall, including just 4-3 in the AAC West.
Navy: The Midshipmen won the yardage battle 559-426 with EVERY yard coming on the ground. QB Malcolm Perry threw just ONE pass and it was intercepted. However, Perry ran for 282 yards and four TDs. RB Anthony Gargiulo ran for 145 yards and a TD but Navy did little or nothing in the second half. Perry adds more speed than Abey and showed it off last Saturday. However, Perry injured his ankle toward the end of the win and could find himself back on the sidelines this weekend. Navy is still shuffling through its QB options. "Zach will definitely be back in the mix and I'll turn this back over to (quarterbacks coach Ivin Jasper)," Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo told reporters. "We'll have to discuss it as a staff and see where we're at. We have to find out Malcolm's health and Zach's health." Regardless of the QB, Navy ranks first in the nation at 369.8 YPG on the ground.
Notre Dame: The Irish rank 6th in rushing (303.2 YPG) bu had just 109 rushing yards vs. Miami. Josh Adams (1,231 YR / 8.0 YPC / 10 TDs) totaled 40 yards on 16 carries. QB Brandon Wimbush completed only 10-of-21 for 119 yards and a touchdown but threw a pair of interceptions, including a 65-yard "pick six." He was also was limited to 24 yards rushing and a lost fumble on 11 carries. Ian Book was no relief, as he connected on 3 of 6 for 33 yards and another interception. Both were overwhelmed by the situation. However, we know Navy's D in no way resembles Miami's. The offense comes in averaging 38.0 PPG (15th) but the defense allows just 20.7 PPG (30th).
The pick: Let's repeat: Navy leads all FBS teams in rushing yards per game (369.8) while Notre Dame ranks sixth (303.2). The clock will be running all game in this one. Navy's win last Saturday to become bowl eligible for the 14th time in the last 15 seasons. With that accomplished, Navy hopes to add a "signature win." Notre Dame can't help but be somewhat flat after the 'Canes 'killed' its Final 4 hopes and don't forget, "the clock will be running all game!" Make the Under an 8* play.
|11-18-17||Texas +3.5 v. West Virginia||Top||28-14||Win||100||87 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: Big-12 schools Wets Virginia (22nd) and Texas (23rd) both opened ranked in the AP's preseason poll. The two teams meet at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown on Saturday with the 5-5 (4-3 in Big 12) Texas Longhorns looking to avoid a fourth straight losing season (note: Texas football began back in 1893 and the only time the school has produced four straight losing season was back from 1935 through 1938), while the 7-3 West Virginia Mountaineers are one of three teams at 5-2 in the Big 12 (along with TCU and Oklahoma State), trailing the 6-1 first-place Sooners. Understandably, Texas is unranked, while the Mountainers are 24th in the AP and 25th in the Coaches poll but were left out the CFP rankings.
Texas: The Longhorns entered last Saturday’s home game against lowly Kansas with three losses in their previous four contests but were able to hold off Kansas 42-27, climbing back at .500. QBs Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger both threw TD passes in the game, as Tom Herman just can't decide which QB is his No. 1 guy. Sophomore Buechele is the more polished passer and freshman Ehlinger the bigger threat to run. The Texas offense is down slightly from last season (averaging 29.9 PPG after averaging 31 PPG in 2016) but the defense has made excellent strides. Texas allowed 31.5 PPG on almost 450 YPG last season but has cut that to 21.9 PPG (3rd) on 367.3 YPG (40th).
West Virginia: The Mountaineers have won four of their last five games to reach eight victories for a third straight year. There is no uncertainty at the QB position for West Va, as Will Grier is completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 3,440 yards with 34 TDs and only 12 INTs. Grier has a trio of outstanding WRs. Jennings (82 catches) and White (51 catches), who both will go over 1,000 yards in receiving yards by year's end plus Sills has 55 catches and an NCAA-high 18 TD receptions. Remember the great line about the NFL's Cris Carter? All he does is catch TDs! The West Va. offense averages 39.0 PPG (12th) but its defense allows 29.2 PPG (82nd) on 436.4 YPG (102nd).
The pick: West Va. head coach Dana Holgorsen has it right. “I’m putting everybody on high alert on this 5-5 thing (with Texas),” Holgorsen said at his weekly Tuesday news conference. “We’re sitting here at 7-3 (overall) with three losses to (top-20-ranked) teams, and they (the Longhorns) aren’t any different. Those guys have lost close games to the likes of Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU, and the last time I checked, those teams are in the top 15, right?” Texas, meanwhile, needs one more win to become bowl-eligible in coach Tom Herman’s first season in Austin, and the new coach also is looking for a signature victory. “We’ve got to win one that we’re not supposed to,” Herman said at his Monday news conference. “I think right now, save for the very first game, we’ve won the ones that we’re supposed to and we haven’t won the ones that people said we weren’t supposed to. So I think that’s got to be the next step.” Texas out-gained West Va. 536-383 in LY’s 24-20 home defeat and how does one overlook Tom Herman's 8-1 ATS mark as an underdog since 2015? Make Texas a 10* play.
|11-17-17||UNLV v. New Mexico -2||Top||38-35||Loss||-115||73 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The setting for this Friday night MWC contest will be University Stadium in Albuquerque, where the 3-7 New Mexico Lobos (1-5 in MWC play) will host the 4-6 UNLV Rebels (3-3 in league play). The Rebels still have an outside shot at earning bowl-eligibility but will need to win here and then at Nevada in their season-finale on Nov. 25th. As for New Mexico, the Lobos entered the 2017 season off back-to-back bowl appearances, including finishing 9-4 in 2016 after edging UTSA 23-20 in the New Mexico Bowl. Obviously, the team's record is a major disappointment. As for the Rebels, even an outside shot at a bowl berth is a "good sign, for a school that has made just one bowl appearance (2013) over the previous 16 years heading into the current season.
UNLV: The team's head coach is Tony Sanchez, of Bishop Gorman High School fame (Las Vegas). The transition from legendary HS head coach to UNLV has not gone smoothly, as the Rebels were 3-9 in his first season and 4-8 last year. The team averages 29.2 PPG (65th) led by a running game averaging 239.5 YPG (20th). RB Lexington Thomas leads the way, running for 1,146 yards (6.4 YPC) with 15 TDs. Senior QB Tony Stanton lost his job to freshman Armani Rogers but regained it when Rogers suffered a concussion. Rogers is cleared to play but Sanchez is sticking with Stanton, who threw for 325 yards and two TDs (also two INTs) in last week's 31-21 loss to BYU. UNLV's defense doesn't help much, allowing 32.3 PPG (103rd) on 461.1 YPG (116th).
New Mexico: Bob Davie's option attack has produced three seasons of 400-plus YPG rushing in five previous years at New Mexico (team averaged 370 & 388 in the two 'down' years!). However, while this year's team averages 226.3 YPG on the ground to rank 22nd in the nation, that's a significant drop-off from previous years. QBs Jordan and Tuioto have both struggled, completing around 50% with six TDs and nine INTs between them. New Mexico's D is better than UNLV's but not by much, allowing 30.9 PPG (ranks 93rd).
The pick: At this pointspread price, one must look at UNLV's straight-up road record, as "staying within a margin" doesn't really come into play. UNLV entered this season 8-51 SU on the road the last 10 years (2-10 under Sanchez) and the team's 2-2 road record in 2017 hardly builds confidence in a game the Rebels will almost have to win in order to cover. New Mexico was 11-4 at home the last two seasons and while the Lobos are just 2-3 SU at home in 2017, I'll back them in their final home game of what's been a very disappointing year. Make New Mexico a 10* play.
|11-16-17||Titans +7 v. Steelers||Top||17-40||Loss||-110||47 h 43 m||Show|
The set-up: Two first-place teams meet Thursday night at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field, as the 6-3 Tennessee Titans (tied atop the AFC South with the Jacksonville Jags) visit the 7-2 Pittsburgh Steelers (alone atop the NFC North and owners of a three-game lead). The Titans had high expectations entering 2017 but opened just 2-3. However, Tennessee enters Thursday's game on a four-game winning streak, beating the Colts, Browns, Ravens and Bengals (not exactly a "murderer's row"). The Steelers opened 3-1 but were then shocked at home by the Jags, losing 30-9. Big Ben was awful in that game (five INTs!) and prompted him to question "if he still had it?" Question answered, as the Steelers have won four in a row and currently hold down the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Tennessee: QB Marcus Mariota (1,783 passing yard with just seven TDs and six INTs /QB rating of 83.1) is battling ankle and shoulder injuries but expects to play through the pain. The team's two-pronged rushing attack features DeMarco Murray (433 yards, four TDs) and Derrick Henry (409 yards, three TDs), ranking 8th at 124.8 YPG. The offense comes in averaging only 22.8 PPG (13th) on the season and pretty much needs to find a way to get its offense on track on the road after scoring a combined 36 points in its last three games away from home. Defensively, Tennessee allows 23.7 PPG (22nd) on 328.3 YPG (16th).
Pittsburgh: Roethlisberger has thrown for 2,298 yards with 12 TDs and INTs (83.8 QB rating), hardly 'career' numbers. However, he has the best WR in the NFL on his side in Antonio Brown (60 catches / 882 yards / 3 TDs). He also may play with the NFL's best RB as well, in Le’Veon Bell (840 YR with 5 TDs / 40 catches). It will come as no surprise that Pittsburgh's D ranks second in points allowed (16.4) and total yards allowed (284.4).
The pick: I noted earlier that Big Ben is not exactly having a career season but that's actually an understatement. Truth is, his completion percentage of 61.1 and QB rating of 83.8 represent his lowest marks since 2008. That's led to three of Pittsburgh’s last four wins coming by six points or less, with the Steelers having scored 20 points or less in four of their last five. The Titans know a lot about "close games" as well (five of last seven have been decided by six points or less) and come in 3-0 against AFC North opponents in 2017. Take the points and make the Titans an 8* play.
|11-16-17||Tulsa v. South Florida -22||Top||20-27||Loss||-110||47 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The 2-8 Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-5 in the AAC) will visit Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Thursday night to face the 8-1 South Florida Bulls (5-1 in the AAC). Tulsa's fallen a long way from last year's 10-3 team which destroyed Central Michigan 55-10 in the Miami Beach Bowl. Tulsa limps in having lost seven of its last eight and checks is 0-5 on the road in 2017. USF owned a nation-best 12-game winning streak and had scored 30-plus points in 24 staright games but lost at home 28-24 to Houston on Oct. 28. However, the good news is, USF still controls its own destiny (more later).
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane rely on a rushing attack that averages 248.7 YPG to score 31.0 PPG (50th). However, that isn't quite enough when the team's D has allowed 38.0 PPG (12st) on 547.5 YPG (128th). All that said, let's give Tulsa some credit. Five of its last seven losses have been decided by 10 or less points, as Tulsa is just one of those teams that competes hard but just can't put together a complete 60 minutes.
South Florida: Senior QB Quinton Flowers registered a school-record 516 yards of total offense last time out against UConn and now needs just one rushing TD to become the sixth FBS player with 60 passing TDs and 40 rushing TDs in a career. Flowers threw for 385 yards while rushing for another 131 against UConn and needs 357 to pass Matt Grothe (10,875) for the school record in total offense. He's passed for 1,955 yards with 15 TDs and just 4 INTs on the season, while adding 751 RY (5.2 YPC) and 9 TDs. RBs Tice (780 YR / 9 TDDs) and Johnson (631 YR / 7 TDS) help make USF the 7th-best running team in the nation, averaging 276.7 YPG. The offense gets all the 'pub,' averaging 39.1 YPG (7th) but the defense has more than held its own, allowing 19.9 PPG (23rd) on 319.8 YPG (18th).
The pick: Tulsa comes in 8-3 ATS as a road dog since 2015 and USF does have a "Black Friday" showdown looming at UCF on Nov. 24th. Naturally, USF must beat UCF in that one and a win the following week in the AAC championship game would almost assuredly lead to a New Year's Six Bowl bid but first things first. USF has to "take care of business" here in its regular season home finale against Tulsa. Sure, it's a lot of points but despite that four-point home loss to Houston, USF has outscored opponents at home by 35.6-to-15.6 PPG. Note that Tulsa has allowed 46.6 PPG on the road. Lay it and make USF an 8* play.
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