Big Three NFL Indicator Stats From Week One

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

A REVIEW OF NFL WEEK ONE ACTION WITH OUR"BIG THREE" NFL STATS

You longtime readers know we've traditionally emphasized the following three stats in our NFL boxscore summaries:

  • RUSHING yardage, because there's still a very strong correlation between success on the ground and success on the scoreboard. Even if you don't take a lead with your running game, you PROTECT it that way.
  • DRIVE POINTS, which are those scored and allowed on drives of 60 yards or more. This may be the single best indicator for quality in ALL OF SPORTS because it really focuses on what matters for offenses and defenses.
  • THIRD DOWN CONVERSION RATE, because you have to move the chains on offense in the modern game to have any chance of winning consistently. And, on defense, you have to keep opponents from doing that. It's arguably the"coin of the realm" in modern pro football.

This year we'll devote Wednesdays in the NOTEBOOK to reviewing the Big Three stat performances from the prior week as a way to help you prepare for the coming weekend. It's hump day on the calendar...and this will be the transition piece that takes you from last week into this week.

Games from the past week are presented in rotation order...

NEW ORLEANS 14, MINNESOTA 9
Rushing Yardage: Minnesota 91, New Orleans 79
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Minnesota 9, New Orleans 14
Third Down Conversions: Minnesota 38%, New Orleans 27%
Comments: This was a very tight game that could have gone either way. Minnesota won two of the three categories, but couldn't sustain the extra TD drive it would have taken to win the game. Note that all scoring came on long drives...as the teams avoided turnovers or special teams issues that would have created cheap points. We expect both offenses to move substantially forward from this very rusty season opening effort in the coming weeks.

NY GIANTS 31, CAROLINA 18
Rushing Yardage: Carolina 89, Giants 118
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Carolina 0, Giants 17
Third Down Conversions: Carolina 47%, Giants 35%
Comments: Drive Points really told the story here, as Carolina could only score off cheap points from multiple Giants turnovers. Blame the receivers for that rather than Eli Manning, as he kept hitting his teammates in the hands with passes that somehow ended up in Panther claws. Good start for the Giants outside of the turnovers. They could use some improvement on third downs though.

MIAMI 15, BUFFALO 10
Rushing Yardage: Miami 132, Buffalo 50
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Miami 7, Buffalo 7
Third Down Conversions: Miami 44%, Buffalo 21%
Comments: Miami tends to grind out victories when things are going well. You can see that here in the rushing yardage and third down rates. Drive Points were a wash. Miami did more with what they had on other drives though to forge a victory. Look to back the Dolphins against opponents who struggle vs. the run. Very poor offensive numbers for the Bills.

PITTSBURGH 15, ATLANTA 9 (in overtime)
Rushing Yardage: Atlanta 58, Pittsburgh 143
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Atlanta 3, Pittsburgh 6
Third Down Conversions: Atlanta 37%, Pittsburgh 28%
Comments: A defensive struggle, with Pittsburgh getting a large hunk of their rushing yardage on that TD in overtime. Credit to both defenses. Both offenses have a lot of work to do to get up to regular season speed. We expect more from Matt Ryan soon, or this isn't going to be a storybook season for the Falcons. Pittsburgh is biding time until Ben Roethlisberger is back.

CHICAGO 19, DETROIT 14
Rushing Yardage: Detroit 20, Chicago 101
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Detroit 7, Chicago 10
Third Down Conversions: Detroit 28%, Chicago 42%
Comments: If you didn't watch the game, you may have thought that Detroit outplayed Chicago and was robbed of a victory. Chicago was actually dominant statistically, but screwed up their edge with turnovers. Pay attention to the Bears defense from this point forward. They kind of fell off the radar there for awhile. That's a very strong defensive composite no matter who the opposing quarterbacks were.

NEW ENGLAND 38, CINCINNATI 24
Rushing Yardage: Cincinnati 87, New England 118
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Cincinnati 21, New England 21
Third Down Conversions: Cincinnati 53%, New England 69%
Comments: Cincinnati wasn't as competitive offensively as this makes it look. They didn't move the ball until they had fallen way behind. So, they"garbage-timed" their way to 21 Drive Points and 53% on third downs. New England had the best offensive performance of the day by a mile in terms of performing when it mattered. Great performance by Tom Brady just days after a very scary car wreck.

TAMPA BAY 17, CLEVELAND 14
Rushing Yardage: Cleveland 104, Tampa Bay 119
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Cleveland 14, Tampa Bay 0
Third Down Conversions: Cleveland 38%, Tampa Bay 41%
Comments: Jake Delhomme knows how to drive the field. Can he do it without making turnovers? He couldn't today, which kept the Browns from winning despite an edge in Drive Points. A very evenly played game between two teams who look to be 4-12 or 5-11 caliber barring surprises.

JACKSONVILLE 24, DENVER 17
Rushing Yardage: Denver 89, Jacksonville 134
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Denver 7, Jacksonville 14
Third Down Conversions: Denver 30%, Jacksonville 30%
Comments: The right team won and covered. Kyle Orton impressed the Fantasy geeks with his 274 passing yards. You can see above that they didn't matter. You win by converting first downs and finishing off drives for touchdowns. Our"big three" approach helps you avoid looking at hot air so you can see what really matters.

HOUSTON 34, INDIANAPOLIS 24
Rushing Yardage: Indianapolis 44, Houston 257
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Indianapolis 17, Houston 21
Third Down Conversions: Indianapolis 33%, Houston 55%
Comments: What a rout for the Texans! They absolutely crushed Indy at the point of attack. The Colts picked up some Drive Point volume in garbage time. When the game was on the line, it was a Houston whitewash. Rushing yardage and third downs help make that point very clearly. The Texans are much more for real than many in the media realized based on this performance. And, Indianapolis may be doomed to dealing with injuries based on what's happened already in the short season.

TENNESSEE 38, OAKLAND 13
Rushing Yardage: Oakland 135, Tennessee 205
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Oakland 10, Tennessee 21
Third Down Conversions: Oakland 21%, Tennessee 53%
Comments: A lot of similarities to Houston/Indy...except the Raiders don't have somebody like Peyton Manning to put up points in garbage time. In fact, these games are so similar in our key numbers that you could basically say Indy was as bad as Oakland this week. Talk about a Super Bowl letdown!

GREEN BAY 27, PHILADELPHIA 20
Rushing Yardage: Green Bay 132, Philadelphia 150
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Green Bay 14, Philadelphia 14
Third Down Conversions: Green Bay 42%, Philadelphia 38%
Comments: The loss of Ryan Grant hurt Green Bay's ability to move the ball on the ground. The loss of Kevin Kolb helped Philly do that because Michael Vick knows how to scramble. Green Bay relaxed a bit too early with a big lead, and almost gave this one away.

SEATTLE 31, SAN FRANCISCO 6
Rushing Yardage: San Francisco 49, Seattle 77
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: San Francisco 0, Seattle 14
Third Down Conversions: San Francisco 6%, Seattle 45%
Comments: An inexplicably bad performance for the San Francisco offense considering how much work they had supposedly done on that side of the ball. Seattle didn't exactly set the world on fire...but an edge in production and 17 cheap points helped create a blowout. San Francisco was a woeful 1 of 15 on third downs. Everyone on that side of the ball should hold their head in shame. You can see why Coach Singletary called a special meeting and went Ditka on them.

ARIZONA 17, ST. LOUIS 13
Rushing Yardage: Arizona 112, St. Louis 85
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Arizona 14, St. Louis 7
Third Down Conversions: Arizona 38%, St. Louis 40%
Comments: Not a lot to get excited about here. Derek Anderson engineered an extra TD drive, which proved to be the difference in the game. San Bradford may be a turnover machine this year. He had three picks even though the emphasis was on short, safe passes.

WASHINGTON 13, DALLAS 7
Rushing Yardage: Dallas 103, Washington 89
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Dallas 0, Washington 3
Third Down Conversions: Dallas 38%, Washington 23%
Comments: Washington's only TD came on that much publicized fumble return on the final play of the first half. Dallas did earn an edge in our key stats, but couldn't take the game straight up because of that gaffe.

BALTIMORE 10, NY JETS 9
Rushing Yardage: Baltimore 49, Jets 116
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Baltimore 10, Jets 0
Third Down Conversions: Baltimore 57%, Jets 9%
Comments: The Jets rivaled San Francisco for offensive ineptitude. Though, struggling vs. Baltimore isn't nearly as bad as struggling vs. Seattle. Still, you can see that the team isn't likely to take the AFC by storm this year. Mark Sanchez isn't ready. Baltimore's third down performance was helped by multiple Jets penalties. Another ugly grinder of a game.

KANSAS CITY 21, SAN DIEGO 14
Rushing Yardage: San Diego 109, Kansas City 135
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: San Diego 14, Kansas City 7
Third Down Conversions: San Diego 26%, Kansas City 9%
Comments: Rain was certainly a big issue here, as San Diego struggled to match their normal level of productivity. Special teams play was actually the difference, as Kansas City won with a punt return TD and other field position advantages. Note that the Chiefs were 1 of 11 on third downs just like the Jets were. You can't really be optimistic about the Chiefs in the AFC West this year until they show more in that key stat.

Week One is in the books. We're particularly looking forward to these matchups in Week Two:

New England at the NY Jets
NY Giants at Indianapolis
Baltimore at Cincinnati
Pittsburgh at Tennessee
Chicago at Dallas
Houston at Washington
New Orleans at San Francisco (Monday Night)

We think the stats we ran for you today will help you make very sound decisions when everyone takes the field again. If you'd like some help in the pro's and/or the colleges, link up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK online. Game day releases are always available a few hours before kickoff. You can sign up for the full season of BLUE RIBBON or CLOSED CIRCUIT service right now. For more information on what's available, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

See you tomorrow with a preview of the Cincinnati/NC State game on ESPN Thursday Night. Make sure you're with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what's REALLY happening in the world of sports!
 

21
Aug

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