SEC Sleeper-Creeper + Thursday NFL Preview
The highest scoring team in the SEC might surprise you. It’s not Alabama, but Ole Miss under first-year coach Lane Kiffin. They have a losing record because the defense can’t stop anybody, but the next two highest scoring teams are ‘Bama and Texas A&M, both ranked in the Top 10. So what about the Aggies squeezing into the January playoff picture? They are fifth in the nation despite one loss, a 52-24 rout by Alabama, so they would have to sweep their remaining games. With a win over Florida (41-38) already under their belts, they have a December showdown with No. 23 Auburn looming.
They have a senior QB in Kellen Mond (16 TDs, 2 INTs) and great balance on offense (189 yards rushing, 254.5 passing per game). The defense is also solid, #28 in the nation in yards allowed, #13 against the rush. And they have a coach in Jimbo Fisher who already has a national title under his cap (2014, Florida State).
Last season, A&M had five games against Top 10 teams…and lost them all, though three were close, a 19-13 loss to Georgia, a 28-20 defeat to Auburn, and 24-10 to Clemson. This season, they are 1-1 against the Top 10, so we’ll see soon whether they are taking that next step. Good coaches can squeeze extra points out of games and note that A&M has covered three of its last four…and Fisher is 15-5 ATS after covering the spread in three out of four contests.
And speaking of covering numbers, my clients just cashed with a Big 10 Parlay of the Week (Indiana & Purdue), along with Sunday Blue Ribbon winners on the Rams and Giants. If you want to join the winning, get on board Jim Hurley’s Network online at VegasSportsMaster.pro, or a free phone call to 1-646-526-2559. Let’s preview the football weekend, starting with a Thursday night NFC showdown….
Cardinals at Seahawks (Thursday): What a great TV matchup with two talented QBs leading their teams to 6-3 starts, tied for first in the NFC West. Arizona couldn’t be flying higher after a miracle heave by QB Kyle Murray (17 TDs, 8 INTS) stunned the Bills, 32-30. Arizona has won four of five and has topped 30 points in every one of those games. The offense is No. 1 in yards (425.4 per game) and rushing (168.9 pg), seventh in points (29.6 pg). The defense? (Cough, cough), still retooling, ranked #18 in yards allowed, though ninth in points (23.3 pg).
Heading to Seattle is never an easy task, where the Seahawks are one of only two teams undefeated at home (4-0, the Rams are the other). They are averaging 34.25 points at home. QB Russell Wilsons (28 TDs, 10 INTS) leads the top scoring offense in the NFL averaging 32.2 points, plus third in total offense with 405.9 yards per contest. But Seattle is stumbling, off back-to-back losses because of a defense that is last in yards surrendered (448.3 pg) and passing yards (353.3 pg). The Seahawks are 51-32 ATS after losing two straight or more, plus 20-10 ATS as a home favorite of 7 points or less.
Indiana at Ohio State: Indiana went 0-3 against Top 25 teams a year ago, including a 51-10 shellacking to Ohio State. Well 2020 is shaping us something special for the Hoosiers, 2-0 versus Top 25 teams after stunning Penn State (36-35) and Michigan (38-21). QB Michael Penix Jr. is getting much of the headlines but the defense is #17 in the country in points allowed (19.3 pg). Now David truly takes on Goliath….as a 3-TD underdog.
Ohio State is stocked with NFL talent and hasn’t lost a Big 10 game since October 20, 2018, a 49-20 loss at unranked Purdue. That defeat is still mind-numbing, as Purdue ended 2018 with a losing record while the Buckeyes went 13-1 in each of the last two seasons. The Ohio State ground game will be the key here as they averaged 266.8 rushing yards in 2019, 208.7 this season. Last year’s meeting was ugly, as Ohio State had the edge in yards 520-257, including a 306-42 advantage on the ground. The dog is 7-2 ATS when these teams clash and Indiana has covered 5 straight in Columbus. The Hoosiers are also 43-20-1 OVER the total versus winning teams.
Wisconsin at Northwestern: Another Big 10 battle of unbeaten Top 20 teams. Northwestern has home field and a win at Iowa (21-20) on its resume. They are off a forgettable 3-9 season in which coach Pat Fitzgerald told his players “this will never happen again,” so the team and the fans will be sky-high. Former NFL play-caller Mike Bajakian was added to improve the offense and has, though it’s not an explosive one with QB Peyton Ramsey (6 TDs, 4 INTS) directing a passing attack that averages just 180.8 yards. It’s the ground game (174 yards pg) that leads the way along with a terrific defense that is seventh in the country in points allowed (14 ppg).
It will be a challenge to slow down this Wisconsin ground attack that is eighth in rushing (261.5 yards per game), though they’ve only played two games, with two games cancelled. Wiscy went 10-4 last year with half of their losses to Ohio State. The Badgers took down Northwestern, 24-15, in a plodding, defensive game in 2019, leading 14-3 in the fourth quarter. Northwestern outgained Wiscy 255-243, but turned it over 3 times and was 5-of-20 on third down. Wisconsin is on a 17-7 ATS run on the road. Another defensive fuel? The UNDER is 6-1 when these rivals clash.
NFL Packers at Colts: A terrific non-conference tilt between a pair of first-place teams. The Packers have a two-game lead in the NFC North, so there’s no pressure, though they are tied with the Saints and Bucs for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. QB Aaron Rodgers (26 TDs, 3 INTs) is having a brilliant season for second-year coach Matt LaFleur as the offense is sixth in total yards and passing, third in points (30.8 pg). Throw in a Top 10 defense in yards allowed and this team looks primed for a strong postseason run.
The Colts have postseason goals, as well, on a 6-2 SU/5-3 ATS run since losing the opener at Jacksonville. They’ve had a few extra days to prepare after an impressive 34-17 win at Tennessee to tie the Titans for first place. 38-year old QB Philip Rivers (11 TDs, 6 INTs) leads a passing attack that is #10 in the league, while the defense leads the way, tops in the NFL in yards allowed, fourth in points (19.7 pg). Likely a little more important for the Colts, but Aaron Rodgers is 76-50 ATS against winning teams in the second half of the season.
Chiefs at Raiders: Who can stop the Chiefs? For that matter, who can stop the Raiders? Defending champion Kansas City (20-8 ATS run) is outscoring opponents by +103 points, best in the NFL. Andy Reid has built a group that is capable of winning multiple championships. The speedy 21st century offense is second in yards and points (31.8 pg), tops in passing (294.7 yards pg). Even the defense is good , #14 in yards allowed, sixth in points (20.3 pg). If there’s any weak spot it would be a run defense that is fourth-worst in the league allowing 138.4 yards.
So that’s how the surprising Raiders will approach this, ranked seventh in rushing behind RBs Josh Jacobs (700 yards) and Devote Booker 6.2 ypc). Las Vegas is the only team to have beaten the Chiefs, a 40-32 thriller in Week 5 with 144 yards rushing while QB Derek Carr threw for 347 yards. The Raiders (6-3 ATS) were a +10 dog that day and have won three times as an underdog. The defense, however, is still rebuilding (26.8 ppg allowed), on 6-2-1 OVER the total. K.C. is 37-16 ATS against teams that allow over 24 points per game, while the Raiders are 36-55 ATS as a home dog. Sit back with a barrelful of popcorn for this one, it should be fun — again.