Looking for expert picks or help handicapping? Jim Hurley has been a sports handicapper for 26 years and in that time has built a huge network of insiders. Jim uses a team-approach to picking winners. First, there's his number-crunchers in his home office who work in tandem with computer programmers to create the sharpest simulations in the industry. Add to this his huge network of on-the-scene insider sources around the country, providing him with vital intangible information that may not be reflected in the statistical probabilities, things like who's got a nagging injury, what teams have chemistry problems, what horses are set to be turned loose. Jim's got access to the sharpest minds in the Strip. It's the kind of comprehensive approach any sports handicapper would dream of, and Jim Hurley has been doing it since 1985.
It's Wednesday, which means it's time to crunch some numbers from last week's NFL action here in the NOTEBOOK so we're all prepared to pick more winners this Thursday Night, Sunday, and Monday Night. Our first preview of the week will run Thursday when we dissect the very important game between the New York Jets (5-4) and the Denver Broncos (4-5). Could Tim Tebow's team be tied in the AFC standings with Mark Sanchez's team by the time you go to bed Thursday Night?
Games are presented in rotation order...
Oakland was much more dominant statistically in San Diego than the 24-17 final score made it look last Thursday Night. The Raiders won total yardage 489-314, yards-per-play 7.8 to 4.6, rushing yardage 191-75, and Drive Points 17-7 (points scored on drives of 60 yards or more). If this team figures out how to take full advantage of their statistical edges...they may be the class of this division now that Carson Palmer looks to be up to speed. Palmer was 14-21-1-298 passing, with the interception coming on a play where his arm was hit at release by a defender. San Diego's really fallen apart in recent weeks...suggesting that something IS wrong with Philip Rivers...and that the defense is tired of trying to bail him out time and time again.
Pittsburgh was the superior side at Cincinnati...but the Bengals were far from exposed as a pretender in their first really big game of the Dalton era. Pittsburgh won yardage 328-279, and turnovers 1-2. Drive Point scoring was close though, with a 17-14 edge for the Steelers. Yards-per-play actually favored the Bengals at 5.0 to 4.8. Maybe the Bengals aren't quite playoff caliber yet given their inexperience. But...they are a .500 caliber team at least based on recent math, which means they'll have a shot to get to the postseason. Pittsburgh moves to 7-3 with the win. Cincinnati is 6-3, but still has three more games left with Pittsburgh (1) and Baltimore (2).
Denver only threw two passes in the first half, and eight for the game. Something like that can work when you catch an opponent by surprise...or it can work against a bad opponent (and Kansas City may be much worse than it seemed a few weeks ago now that they're not getting turnover breaks). Tebow's clinching touchdown pass gave Denver an across-the-board stat edge that wouldn't have been there otherwise. Best to call this a dead heat where one big play clinched the win late. We're skeptical that Denver can be a real team with this approach. But, they can at least compete well versus other bad teams. Denver, Kansas City, and San Diego are all 4-5 in this division, with Oakland now leading at 5-4.
Let's be the first to tell you that Indianapolis now has the freedom to try and win a game in their race to earn the #1 draft pick. St. Louis and Miami are up to two wins...which allows the Colts to win a game and still have the worst record. Should that pair plus Carolina and Minnesota score some more wins...Indy may be able to play normal football and aim for a 3-13 or even 4-12 finish. Keep that in mind as you handicap going forward. They're trying to tank for the #1 pick...but not for an 0-16 record. Jacksonville didn't impress in raw stats vs. the Colts this past Sunday...winning yardage 251-212 and yards-per-play 3.9 to 3.7. The big difference was in the turnover category, which the Jags won 1-3. Indy can stop giving the ball away now. The late game switch to Dan Orlovsky may be a sign that have gotten what they needed out of Curtis Painter in terms of NOT winning.
A monster game for the Cowboys over Buffalo....as Dallas won everything that mattered by a good bit. No reason to run the details because that 44-7 final score paints the picture well. It's amazing how great teams like Dallas and Philadelphia look when they're not making turnovers. The Cowboys won that category 4-0, which helped them keep the Bills off the board even though Buffalo gained 5.5 yards-per-play. Are the Bills done? The Bills are drifting back to mediocrity. But, so are the Jets! Somebody's got to win the Wildcards in the AFC.
Houston's 37-9 win over Tampa Bay was basically a clone of the Dallas win over Buffalo. Things were looking up this year for NFL fans in the state of Texas until it was announced that Matt Schaub will likely miss the rest of the season with an injury. Horrible news for Texans fans. Though, backup Matt Leinart will have some time to get his sea legs because a 7-3 record and a manageable remaining schedule gives the team a decent shot at 10 victories. Can Houston's defense and running game still thrive without a proven veteran keeping opposing defenses honest? We're about to find out.
Tennessee had a blowout win over Carolina that was similar on the scoreboard to the prior two games...but not quite the same in the stats. The Titans were helped by a punt return touchdown, and made the most of a 2-1 turnover edge. This was more of a 24-14 type game in the big picture, which is still impressive for a road underdog...but not quite as dominant as 30-3 makes it sound. Carolina's lost their mojo a bit, as defenses have adjusted to Cam Newton just as he's worn down from playing so hard at a very high level of physicality.
Washington announced Sunday morning that they were switching back to Rex Grossman at quarterback. It didn't do any good. Having Grossman on the field usually just turns a couple of punts into turnovers. This team still doesn't have an offense, as injuries have taken away some of what had been a limited arsenal to begin with. Washington gained just 246 yards, lost the ball twice, converted 35% on third downs, and rushed for only 61 yards. Miami didn't take candy from a baby in quite the fashion some had hoped. It was still a 13-9 game late. But, the Dolphins ultimately tacked on an extra score and won by double digits. Reggie Bush has become a playmaker for the Dolphins. The offense isn't exploding. But, the defense is playing well enough that a few Bush plays can put them over the top.
Atlanta was a lot more dominant in the stats than you would have expected from an overtime game. The Falcons won total yardage 481-363, rushing yardage 138-41, and Drive Points 20-10...which is why they thought they could convert a fourth an inches in overtime. They couldn't...because ALL pro football defenses can form a brick wall when they have to. New Orleans formed that brick wall, and stole a game they may not have been destined to win.
Chicago scored three non-offensive touchdowns, which warped the game stats significantly. They weren't exactly hitting on all cylinders in the second half because they didn't need to. Detroit threw 63 passes trying to play catch up. So, Detroit wins yardage handily 393-216, and yards-per-play 4.7 to 3.8. Let's note that NEITHER team had any Drive Points (0-0) and neither team could convert third downs (23% for both). This was basically a 16-13 slobberknocker where cheap points led the more aggressive side to a slightly misleading blowout.
It's funny that ESPN decided to catch up with the quarterbacks Jon Gruden mentored in his TV specials. But, instead of looking at the disappointments from year one (Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen, and Tim Tebow), they started with Cam Newton...who went out and played a horrible game. The St. Louis/Cleveland game matched Bradford and McCoy for the fourth time in their careers. They still look like great college quarterbacks who are in over their heads at this level. The final score was 13-12, and the game was that ugly. There's certainly some blame to go with these offensive lines and poor receiving corps. But...these guys have less composure and confidence in the pocket than rookie Andy Dalton does. Both teams are capable of winning defensive struggles the rest of the way. Both seem a few years away from playoff consideration.
Michael Vick played the latter stages of this game with broken ribs according to a Monday report. That would explain his poor accuracy...and the general malaise of the Eagles down the stretch. But, it doesn't explain what happened in the first third of the game when the team was sleepwalking. There seemed to be bad chemistry on this team anyway...blaming each other at the first sign of trouble. Injuries are the last thing they needed. Arizona had a surprisingly big day against the Philly defense, as John Skelton led the Cards to 370 total yards, 21 Drive Points, and a game winning TD when all the Eagles had to do was protect a lead against a 2-6 visitor starting an inexperienced quarterback.
Odd stats in Baltimore/Seattle...as the Seahawks built a lead thanks to some turnover breaks...then Baltimore stormed back against a prevent defense. You really shouldn't trust the stats of any NFL game where a quarterback throws more than 50 times. Seattle passed 53 times. Seattle wins total yardage and rushing yardage...Baltimore wins Drive Points and yards-per-play. It's a wash with the 3-0 turnover edge for the Seahawks ruling the day. John Flacco sure didn't follow up his great performance at Pittsburgh with anything special. The Ravens could have owned the AFC, but now sit at 6-3, a half game behind idle Pittsburgh heading into this weekend.
Nice game out West with the Giants and 49ers. An extra Eli Manning interception ended up being the difference-maker. New York won total yardage 395-305, and Drive Points 20-6, which is astounding for a cross-country trip in an obvious letdown spot. San Francisco's conservative style ultimately prevailed. Alex Smith's only interception came on an accurate pass that bounced off Ted Ginn's hands. San Francisco won yards-per-play 5.9 to 5.6 and turnovers 2-1. That's how they roll. It will give them a chance in the playoffs...but it's hard to run the table with that style. Can San Francisco win the game where a playoff caliber opponent doesn't lose the ball at least twice?
New England didn't want to lose three games in a row...and played their best game in weeks. It's worth noting though that they didn't win stats impressively. Total yardage was 389-378 for New England, while yards-per-play was 5.8 to 5.5. This was a turnover blowout thanks to a 3-0 edge for the Pats...with one of their takeaways being returned for a touchdown. The Jets fall to 5-4...and the city MUST be running out of patience with Mark Sanchez's turnover tendencies. Wait until the weather gets bad!
Green Bay has a knack for winning easily while not posting blowout stats. You saw that vs. the Vikings when they easily coasted to a 45-7 blowout win while only winning total yardage 356-266 and yards-per-play 5.4 to 4.5. How does that happen? Green Bay does a GREAT job of closing out drives with touchdowns rather than field goals. And, their defense tends to play a bend-but-don't-break style in the best of times. In earlier games...the Packers defense was breaking too often in a way that hurt their scoreboard margins. Here, they shut the door when necessary and kept the Vikings off the board. Great stuff from Green Bay, who is off to a 9-0 start while barely breaking a sweat.
Back with you tomorrow in the NOTEBOOK to preview the NY Jets/Denver game on Thursday Night in the NFL. Friday will feature a Big 12 breakdown to get you ready for Friday Night's Oklahoma State-Iowa State game featuring a road favorite that will be playing for the BCS championship if they win out. Saturday we'll break down the Big 10 on a day that has a few very interesting matchups like Nebraska-Michigan and Penn State-Ohio State. Sunday and Monday will feature expanded previews of the prime time games in the NFL.
Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what's REALLY happening in the world of sports. For BIG, JUICY WINNERS, call JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK at 1-800-323-4453.
Get the best NBA Playoff picks and top selections from Major League Baseball from the industry's top sports handicapping team... Jim Hurley's Network. NFL and College Football or basketball picks will keep you winning throughout the rest of the sports year. Horse Racing selections are available year round providing the best in horse racing picks from every major race track and for major racing event from the Derby Preps & Kentucky Derby and the rest of the Triple Crown to the Breeders' Cup and the Sunshine Millions. Get NFL, NBA, College Football, College Basketball, Major League Baseball and Horse Racing picks from the teams that's been picking winners for over 25 years... Jim Hurley's Network.