Weekend NFL Stats

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

INTERESTING STORYLINES START
IN WEEK ONE OF NFL PRESEASON

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

We all know that you can't place too much weight on the boxscore stats of NFL Preseason games. But, ignoring them isn't a great idea either.

*Total Yardage stats give you a good idea of who cares and who doesn't.

*Third Down Conversion stats reflect very accurately to coaching quality, because anyone who executes this early in the season is a well coached team.

*Feast or famine performances from rookie quarterbacks or first year starters often signal good times or troubles ahead. Not always. But, enough that this stuff needs to be on your radar!

Let's briefly run through the yardage and third down stats from most of this past weekend's action. Games are presented in rotation order, starting with this past Thursday Night's games...

THURSDAY

NEW ENGLAND 27, NEW ORLEANS 24
Total Yardage: New Orleans 305, New England 329
Third Downs: New Orleans 4 of 12, New England 6 of 13
NOTEBOOK: These potent offenses put on a show in the first half, with 24 points scored in the first 30 minutes. The total yardage suggests things calmed down after that. Not much relevant here, but we had to start with the first game in the rotation rather than the most interesting one! We expect both teams to be potent again in 2010 barring injuries. We're looking forward to handicapping games involving these teams once the stars will be on the field for four full quarters.

BALTIMORE 17, CAROLINA 12
Total Yardage: Carolina 273, Baltimore 225
Third Downs: Carolina 3 of 16, Baltimore 3 of 13
NOTEBOOK: An ugly game, with sluggish offenses and a bunch of sloppiness. You can see that neither team did well converting third downs. Carolina had more production, but couldn't make that show up on the scoreboard. Both teams sparkled last year in 'Drive Point Defense,' one of our favorite indicator stats. Not a surprise this one stayed Under given that. This was one of the quietest games of the opening weekend in terms of total yardage.

OAKLAND 17, DALLAS 9
Total Yardage: Oakland 317, Dallas 263
Third Downs: Oakland 2 of 12, Dallas 3 of 16
NOTEBOOK: Dallas led at the half, and the first half was very similar to the Dallas-Cincinnati game of the prior Sunday. The Cowboys offense moved the ball, but couldn't find the end zone. The Dallas defense shut people down. Once the scrubs were on the field in the second half, Oakland was able to sneak ahead. A very late interception return for a TD for the Raiders made the final score misleading. More like a 10-9 win for the Raiders where Dallas was coasting during their second game in five days.

FRIDAY

PHILADELPHIA 28, JACKSONVILLE 27
Total Yardage: Jacksonville 316, Philadelphia 496
Third Downs: Jacksonville 0 for 9, Philadelphia 5 of 15
NOTEBOOK: Much more of a statistical rout than the final score would have suggested. Philadelphia is really trying to get their QB's up to speed so they don't have to hear that they shouldn't have traded Donovan McNabb. Jacksonville struck with some big plays, but didn't convert a single third down all night. We don't want to suggest that Philly is light years ahead of the Jags because of that stat differential. In terms of regular season potential though, the Eagles do look to be the better side by much more than the final score would have suggested.

WASHINGTON 42, BUFFALO 17
Total Yardage: Buffalo 293, Washington 352
Third Downs: Buffalo 1 of 10, Washington 12 of 19
NOTEBOOK: This was truly a statement game. Washington came out playing with fire, and worked its way to a 35-3 lead before garbage time. It's certainly not going to be this easy for Mike Shanahan every week. You could see that he's put his stamp on the team though...and it's a stamp this team badly needed! Buffalo has to be disappointed with their debut under Chan Gailey. Look at the execution differential in third down tries. Maybe Washington is going to be a playoff contender in Year One of the Shanahan/McNabb era. Buffalo still has a long way to go to become relevant again.

ATLANTA 20, KANSAS CITY 10
Total Yardage: Kansas City 273, Atlanta 244
Third Downs: Kansas City 8 of 16, Atlanta 7 of 16
NOTEBOOK: Interesting stat mix there. Both teams did well on third downs, but didn't post much volume. That suggests they were working on fundamentals within a vanilla offense. Not many conclusions you can draw about a boxscore like this. We're still optimistic about Atlanta's chances to get back to the playoffs this year.

Hurley's off to a flying start with a 6-0 run through Week 1! We're set to make it a Perfect 7 tonight with the Giants-Jets battle in the Big Apple! Click here to get on board!

SATURDAY

MIAMI 10, TAMPA BAY 7
Total Yardage: Tampa Bay 309, Miami 206
Third Downs: Tampa Bay 7 of 15, Miami 3 of 13
NOTEBOOK: The early stages of the game were played in a driving rainstorm. Tampa Bay was fairly dominant during that stretch. A sloppy/muddy field (with the baseball infield of the Florida Marlins mucking things up), helped create some turnovers that reduced scoring. We'll say this. Tampa Bay had the look of a team that was going to play with enthusiasm this year. Miami seemed to be saving themselves for the games that matter.

PITTSBURGH 23, DETROIT 7
Total Yardage: Detroit 287, Pittsburgh 286
Third Downs: Detroit 2 of 9, Pittsburgh 7 of 14
NOTEBOOK: Ben Roethlisberger sat out, and the guys in position of holding for during his absence did a pretty good job. That shows up more in the final score and on third down conversions. The Steelers knew how to finish things off. Detroit still hasn't figured that out, and may be another year away from taking that step.

ARIZONA 19, HOUSTON 16
Total Yardage: Houston 356, Arizona 272
Third Downs: Houston 5 of 14, Arizona 3 of 10
NOTEBOOK: Houston led most of the game, and you should probably respect the yardage and third down stats more than the final score. The Arizona scrubs rallied to steal a win, at a time when guys who won't see much regular season action were on the field for both teams. Houston led 16-0 at one point, with corresponding stats that confirmed their dominance. Matt Leinart was 6 for 7 passing with safe stuff. You can tell the team still doesn't trust him!

MINNESOTA 28, ST. LOUIS 7
Total Yardage: Minnesota 414, St. Louis 150
Third Downs: Minnesota 9 of 18, St. Louis 3 of 14
NOTEBOOK: This was the most one-sided game of the week, with the only St. Louis touchdown coming on a punt return. That means it was 28-0 in terms of offenses and defenses...and the stats back that up. Even with Brett Favre sitting out, and the starters seeing limited action, Minnesota had the second best offensive performance of the weekend thanks to Sage Rosenfels. St. Louis looked as bad as ever. They were certainly hoping for more from Sam Bradford. It's like the whole team barely showed up!

CLEVELAND 27, GREEN BAY 24
Total Yardage: Cleveland 296, Green Bay 340
Third Downs: Cleveland 5 of 14, Green Bay 3 of 11
NOTEBOOK: Colt McCoy was disappointed that he wasn't as highly regarded coming out of college as Bradford of St. Louis was. He sure didn't help his cause here...with two interceptions and an overall shaky debut. The rest of the Browns played so well that they came back to win anyway! Look for more wide open play from the Browns on offense this year now that Mike Holmgren is upstairs and the team has some guys that can throw the ball. Rude awakening for Colt McCoy...but a lot of things for Browns fans to be happy about otherwise.

SAN DIEGO 25, CHICAGO 10
Total Yardage: Chicago 216, San Diego 335
Third Downs: Chicago 4 of 13, San Diego 5 of 14
NOTEBOOK: Well, the long awaited debut of Jay Cutler throwing like crazy in a Mike Martz offense is going to have to wait a little longer. Not much here offensively from the Bears...but it looked like they wanted it that way. Very quiet game that saw the superior team grind out a win. We're interested to see what Cutler and Martz can do this year. We've been skeptical of both for a long time...but we're aware that surprises are always just around the corner in this sport.

SEATTLE 20, TENNESSEE 18
Total Yardage: Tennessee 260, Seattle 321
Third Downs: Tennessee 5 of 15, Seattle 9 of 19
NOTEBOOK: Vince Young led a sharp drive to start the game for Tennessee. Seattle won the rest of the game 20-11. Young had a key turnover before leaving. Chris Simms backed him up, and reminded the whole world why he can't keep a job in this league. It's become a tragic story for Simms. He learned too late that he wasn't as good as he thought. The horrible injury took away his chance to atone. Note that Charlie Whitehurst looked sharp here as a Seattle backup. That could matter again this month.

SUNDAY

SAN FRANCISCO 37, INDIANAPOLIS 17
Total Yardage: San Francisco 335, Indianapolis 235
Third Downs: San Francisco 3 of 9, Indianapolis 4 of 14
NOTEBOOK: Peyton Manning was as sharp as ever in his limited time. The Colts led 10-0 after a quarter, but lost the rest of the game 37-7. It's not a team that cares much about the preseason. That's why San Francisco was a road favorite! Poor outing for Alex Smith of the Niners. The NFC West is their division to win this year...but it's going to be tough to pull off if Smith doesn't kick his game up a notch.

That wraps up our look at some key weekend stats in the NFL Preseason. Our Divisional Previews will resume on Tuesday. Please check the archives for any you may have missed.

Don't forget that JIM HURLEY'S Preseason service can be purchased online. You can sign up for the full package here at the website, or pick your spots for major game day releases. Pennant race baseball can be purchased in the same manner. If you'd like more information, or guidance in setting up a package that fits your specific legal wagering needs, call NETWORK in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

See you tomorrow for more NFL coverage!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.

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