Saturday NFL and College Bowl Previews
GET READY FOR A MONSTER HOLIDAY WEEKEND! THERE'S NFL WEEK 16 BLOCKBUSTER GAMES ON TAP PLUS, A BATCH OF SATURDAY COLLEGE BOWLS TOO
Hey, hope you've gotten all your holiday shopping done ... 'cause there's a whole lotta football to check out this weekend-before-Christmas and it starts with a pair of big-time NFL Week 16 games on Saturday. Here goes ...
WASHINGTON (7-7) at TENNESSEE (8-6) - 4:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Good luck trying to figure out this year's Tennessee Titans: Right now, they roll into this national TV tilt riding a three-game SU (straight-up) winning streak and riding the broad shoulders of RB Derrick Henry (see 408 rushing yards in last two games). But if Henry gets mangled at the line of scrimmage here, then the 10-point underdog 'Skins have a shot even while playing with their fourth different quarterback this year (see uber-journeyman Josh Johnson)!
Spread Notes - Tennessee is a perfect 3-and-oh vig-wise against NFC East teams this year with outright upset wins against Philadelphia and Dallas and last week's 17-0 win at the 2.5-point home pup New York Giants; On the flip side, Washington has covered 7-of-11 games as underdogs this year.
BALTIMORE (8-6) at LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (11-3) - 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network
One team's already in the playoffs, the other's trying hard to nab a spot.
The Los Angeles Chargers - who last week clinched their first post-season berth since 2013 - still have big fish to fry in an attempt to win the AFC West and a numero uno conference playoff seed but can LA's defense get a grip on rookie QB Lamar Jackson who's won four of his five starts for the Ravens while contributing 8 total TDs? One X-factor at work here: Baltimore S Eric Weddle - a star on the Chargers for five years -- will be a fountain of inside information here while defending Bolts' slinger Philip Rivers (3,951 yards passing with 31 TDs and 8 INTs).
Spread Notes - Baltimore's just a dead-even and vig-losing 7-7 against the odds this year but note the Ravens are a solid 6-2-2 ATS (against the spread) as underdogs since the middle of the 2016 season; the LA Chargers are 16-12-2 spreadwise overall under second-year boss Anthony Lynn but did you know the Bolts have covered five of their last seven games following this year's Week 8 bye?
COLLEGE BOWL BONANZA
Here's the Four (4) College Bowls on tap for Saturday, Dec. 22nd:
BIRMINGHAM BOWL - at Birmingham, AL
WAKE FOREST (6-6) vs. MEMPHIS (8-5) -- 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
There's a pile of bowl games this year that pro-bound players are sitting out - and here's another as star Memphis RB Darrell Henderson (1,909 yards rushing / 2nd best in the FBS behind Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor) won't suit up but still check out Tigers' RB Patrick Taylor, Jr. (1,012 yards rushing) for the country's third-best ground game. Note that Memphis has failed to cover its last three consecutive bowl games including last year's 21-20 loss to 3.5-point dog Iowa State in the 2017 Liberty Bowl, so there is a something-to-prove feel for Mike Norvell's club here. Meanwhile, Wake Forest suffered through a rotten 4-8 spread season this year but did cop upset "must-win" games in November against 19-point fav N.C. State and 10-point favorite Duke and we'll be eyeballing soph WR Greg Dortch (89 catches for 1,078 yards and 8 TDs).
ARMED FORCES BOWL - at Fort Worth, TX
HOUSTON (8-4) vs. ARMY (10-2) - 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The major storyline here is who won't be playing for 5-point underdog Houston: No DL Ed Oliver (getting ready for the NFL after a sub-par season that included one sideline temper tantrum with head coach Major Applewhite) and no QB D'Eriq King who suffered a season-ending knee injury in mid-November. Now, you know two reasons why Army is a healthy betting favorite here - plus Houston recently axed DC Mark D'Onofrio too. Watch for Black Knights QB Kelvin Hopkins (847 yards rushing / 12 TDs) and RB Darnell Woolfolk (885 yards rushing / 14 TDs) as they keep the chains movin' for West Point. P.S., Army's shooting for a school-record 11th win but note the Cadets have not been a great betting favorite the past three years as evidenced by a 7-12-1 ATS mark since the start of 2016. The flip side says Houston is 0-2 ATS as a dog this year after having compiled a ridiculous 14-1-1 spread log as point-grabbers between the 2013-17 seasons.
DOLLAR GENERAL BOWL - at Mobile, AL
BUFFALO (10-3) vs. TROY (9-3) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Just a few weeks ago, the Buffalo Bulls were 9-1 SU and heading towards an historically great season ... but then came a 35-point loss to Ohio and then a Mid-American Conference Championship Game fourth-quarter collapse against Northern Illinois. So, now here's 1.5-point fav Buffalo looking to "salvage" this '18 season with 6-foot-7 QB Tyree Jackson (2,857 yards passing with 27 TDs and 11 INTs) hoping to avoid some red-zone brain cramps against a Troy bunch that has a true "neutral / home field" advantage here plus an underrated running back in B.J. Smith (1,093 yards rushing with 12 TDs). Note that Buffalo's 9-4 spread mark this season makes 'em a collective 17-7 ATS since the start of last year and the Bulls are a solid 9-5 ATS away these past two campaigns.
HAWAII BOWL - at Honolulu, HI
LOUISIANA TECH (7-5) at HAWAII (8-5) - 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
You'd be correct in calling the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs true "road warriors" when you consider that L-Tech's a delicious 10-3 away against the odds the past two seasons and that includes last year's smashing 51-10 Frisco Bowl win against 4-point fav SMU. In fact, sixth-year head coach Skip Holtz is 4-0 SU / 3-1 ATS in bowl games with these Dawgs and now the QB J'mar Smith (2,875 yards passing)-to-WR Adrian Hardy (1,052 yards receiving) pass/catch combo looks to expose a Hawaii defense that has surrendered 40-or-more points six times this year. Hey, the 50th state crew has its own pass/catch stars in QB Cole McDonald (35 TDs / 8 INTs) and WR John Ursua (89 catches, FBS-best 16 TDs) - but will the aerial game get disrupted by Tech pass rusher Jaylon Ferguson (43 career sacks)? Folks, the totals price has gone from 58.5 to 62 points, but is it still too low? This marks Hawaii's fourth "Hawaii Bowl" game since 2008 but the Warriors' only cover was the 52-35 upset win against 7.5-point fav Middle Tennessee State back in 2016 (failed to cover in 2010 versus Tulsa and 2008 against Notre Dame).