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Time once again to crunch some numbers from the previous weekend of NFL action. We're confident this will help you pick a lot of winners this weekend when pro football resumes. Were you one of the many public bettors that got absolutely SPANKED this past Sunday because popular betting teams like New Orleans, Baltimore, the NY Giants, New England, and Dallas failed to cover? Get to work!
The guys who thought they'd "outsmarted" the system by playing moneyline parlays on big favorites to win straight up were horrified when New Orleans lost to St. Louis as a two-touchdown favorite this past Sunday. The guys who think using teasers makes high priced teams more affordable saw all of those teams we listed fail to get within six points of the Vegas number. Anyone trying to win a bailout on San Diego Monday Night because "the Chargers won't play two bad games in a row" saw the Chargers play their second bad game in a row.
It was a great week for Vegas, and a bad week for the general public. Let's run some numbers to see if we can help YOU turn that around this weekend. As always, we'll take the games in rotation order so you can make notes in your schedule.
Tennessee didn't play as well as the final score in their 27-10 win over Indianapolis might have suggested. The Titans only put up 4.8 yards-per-play on the defense that was ravaged by New Orleans. They only drove the field once for more than 60 yards for a a TD. If not for a 2-0 turnover edge, this would have been a closer game that the dog may have covered. The Titans are still performing well below earlier standards. Keep that in mind moving forward. And, that big early win over Baltimore doesn't look so good now that the Ravens lost at Jacksonville and barely survived Arizona.
Houston was more dominant than the score made it look in the other AFC South battle. They outgained Jacksonville 358-174 overall, and 5.0 to 3.0 on a per-play basis. The Jags were just 10-32-2-90 in the air a few days after their upset of Baltimore. This Jacksonville passing offense is horrible. If their star running back ever gets hurt, they'll literally have no offense. Good "grinder" win for Houston the week after the big blowout of Tennessee. This is still the Texans' division to lose.
Carolina won stats (closely) over Minnesota in a game that could have gone either way. You probably know that Carolina missed a short field goal at the end of regulation that would have forced overtime. These teams have a lot in common right now. Both are 2-6 straight up, but are playing better than those records would suggest. Neither can be trusted to win a game on command, but both can mostly be trusted to be there battling at the end. Key edges for Carolina were 405-361 in yardage, 6.2 to 5.6 in ypp, and 14-10 in scoring on drives of 60 yards or more.
What's amazing about the St. Louis upset of New Orleans was that it was a true "clean" win rather than just a fluke caused by turnovers or special teams' points. The Rams won total yardage 323-283, ypp 4.5 to 4.0, and rushing yardage 183-56. Both teams had non-offensive scores, so this was more like a 24-14 victory. A truly FANTASTIC job for this Rams defense against the New Orleans offense. A.J. Feeley was just 20-37-0-140 in the air though...meaning there won't be a quarterback war when Sam Bradford is ready to go. Though things are looking up for St. Louis, they're still a whopping five games behind San Francisco at the top of the NFC West.
Baltimore's near upset loss to Arizona WAS a game polluted by turnovers and special teams points. Arizona had a punt return TD, and other cheap points set up by turnovers. Baltimore won total yardage 405-207, ypp 5.1 to 3.6, and long distance scoring 17-3. The Ravens would have won and covered this with a normal distribution of scoring off production and the road-home turnover split. Don't give Arizona too much credit here in your handicapping. They may not be as bad as their 1-6 record suggests...but they're basically playing like a 4-12 team that needs breaks to compete with the elite.
The NY Giants rushing game is still a work in progress. Eli Manning probably likes having big stat numbers next to his name. But, if you can only turn 344 yards (with no picks) into 20 points, then your offense isn't moving as efficiently as it should. This is going to matter imminently because the Giants schedule is brutal the rest of the way. Only beating Miami by a field goal as a very bad sign for that impending gauntlet. Giants won ypp 5.8 to 4.6, and turnovers 1-0...which should normally lead to a very comfortable victory.
Buffalo crushed Washington in Toronto by more than the 23-0 final score made it sound. The Bills won total yardage 390-178, rushing yardage 138-26 (yup, just 26!), and ypp 6.3 to 3.3. This was more of a 34-6 type victory for the Bills, who may have started looking ahead to the Jets once this game was in hand. Washington has played like a 4-12 caliber team or worse since making a change at quarterback.
Denver gained a bunch of garbage time yards after they had fallen way behind Detroit. The stats to pay attention to are long distance scoring (21-0 before garbage time) and third down conversions (2 of 14 for Denver even with garbage time). Tim Tebow's passing line was 18-39-1-117, which includes the impact of his seven sacks. He was helpless. The Denver defense threw in the towel early. Basically a bye week for Detroit where they get credit for a win.
Pittsburgh was dominant in many areas over New England, but had to keep setting for field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. Yardage was 427-213. Third down conversions were 62-30% for Pittsburgh (too many failures once they got close!). Rushing yardage was a squash at 98-43. Yet...the Patriots had the ball down by just six points in the final half minute. New England clearly shouldn't have been favored, and they're going to have issues in playoff style football once again. They almost vultured a win anyway thanks to the savvy of their head coach and quarterback. Pittsburgh's 6-2, and will have a chance to take control of the AFC North this Sunday Night at home against Baltimore.
If you didn't watch the game, be aware that San Francisco did a lot of cute things like throwing passes to offensive lineman and nose tackles. This will give opponents something to think about down the road...and maybe for the next dozen years. Jim Harbaugh likes to have fun...and he's just getting started. The Niners were in complete control most of the day, but may have taken their foot off the gas too early. They needed a late field goal to barely cover a 9-point spread despite being up 17-3 at the half. Colt McCoy is just treading water at this point...and it looks like he's wearing floaties.
Be careful celebrating Cincinnati off their 34-12 win at Seattle. They had two non-offensive scores...and really didn't impress outside of a drive or two. That being said, they were sitting on a double digit lead through much of the second half and were kind of running out the clock with their defense. Think of it as more of a 17-13 type grinder win. The Bengals gained just 252 yards on the day, with 4.4 ypc. The Red Rifle Andy Dalton was 18-29-2-160 in the air...which isn't a great way to protect a lead. Seattle needs garbage time or soft opposing defenses to get yardage in the books.
You probably watched Dallas-Philadelphia on TV...or at least the first half. Philadelphia was as dominant as that 24-0 halftime score and 34-7 full game score made it sound. Dallas picked up some garbage time yards that didn't lead anywhere after the break. For the game, Philly won total yardage 495-267, ypp 7.1 to 5.4, rushing yardage 239-85, and long distance scoring 24-7. Yes, THIS was the Philadelphia team pundits were expecting when the season started. If they keep this up, then Green Bay will have something to worry about down the road. Keep in mind though that the Eagles had zero turnovers on the night. They've had trouble playing clean football over long stretches of time.
San Diego and Kansas City both committed four turnovers in a high priority game that should have brought peak focus on offense. You just can't get that from Philip Rivers apparently. At least, when it matters. Passing for 345 yards is great...but four giveaways (it could have been more!), three sacks, and a 35% conversion rate on third downs erased the impact of that passing volume. Kansas City has won four in a row, but still doesn't look like a playoff caliber team. Somebody's got to win the AFC West. Will Norv Turner finally get fired if he fails again this year?
We hope this trek through the numbers will help you find handicapping Nirvana this Sunday and Monday in the NFL. If you'd like some help in pro or college football, sign up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK online or at 1-800-323-4453. This is a great week to climb on board because we have football every single night. And, of course, the SEC SHOWDOWN OF THE YEAR is coming up Saturday when LSU visits Alabama.
Back tomorrow to talk about Florida State's return to form as they prepare for a Thursday Night game on ESPN. Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY so you know what's really happening in the world of sports!
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