NFL Week 3 Stat Summaries

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

DON'T MAKE PICKS FOR NEXT WEEK UNTIL YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK

Back by popular demand, our review of the previous week's NFL action...focusing on the three key stats that have had such strong predictive value for us over the years here in the NOTEBOOK...

RUSHING YARDAGE: because strength on the ground helps you get leads, and keep them.

DRIVE POINTS: the single best indicator stat in all of sports in our view. Good offenses can drive the field for points. Good defenses can prevent opponents from doing that.

THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS: because moving the chains is the true secret to success in the modern game. Defenses who can stop opponents on third down consistently move to the top of the standings.

Results are presented in rotation order...

TENNESSEE 29, NY GIANTS 10
Rushing Yardage: Tennessee 161, NY Giants 107
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Tennessee 7, NY Giants 7
Third Down Conversions: Tennessee 46%, NY Giants 52%

Notebook:
Tennessee's great running game will always help them sit on a big lead. It was turnovers though that helped them get the lead in the first place in this one. Drive Points and Third Downs didn't show an edge to the Titans. A 3-0 turnover advantage pushed them over the top. We currently consider Tennessee to be slightly better than the Giants, but not by as much as the final score might suggest. Tennessee will have a chance to go 3-1 for the year this Sunday at home against Denver. The Giants will face the undefeated Chicago Bears and Jay Cutler. Big night for Eli Manning, who will be dealing with intense local heat if the Giants fall to 1-3 out of the gate.


NEW ENGLAND 38, BUFFALO 30

Rushing Yardage: Buffalo 134, New England 200
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Buffalo 7, New England 28
Third Down Conversions: Buffalo 50%, New England 58%

Notebook:
You can see that the New England offense is still of a championship caliber. Tom Brady can drive the field with the best of them...posting very big numbers here against a decent defense. Plus, the running game was terrific too. New England's defense was worse than the Drive Points suggest because Buffalo had some scoring drives that didn't quite register in length but weren't true cheapies. Looks like the Pats will be playing a lot of shootouts this year. Great offense but no defense. Brady and company will get an extra day of rest before playing Monday Night at Miami. Buffalo is staring 0- in the face with a home date against the punishing NY Jets.


BALTIMORE 24, CLEVELAND 17
Rushing Yardage: Cleveland 173, Baltimore 109
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Cleveland 14, Baltimore 21
Third Down Conversions: Cleveland 36%, Baltimore 50%

Notebook:
What's happened to Baltimore's defense? They shouldn't allow 14 Drive Points and 173 rushing yards to a team like Cleveland...particularly while playing with a lead all day. Joe Flacco, who was great last year vs. bad teams, had another strong outing here. He's not going to cover double digit spreads though if his defense can't do any better than his. Big game this week for Baltimore at Pittsburgh, though they only have to face Charlie Batch instead of Ben Roethlisberger. Cleveland has another divisional game on tap, this time at home against Cincinnati. To this point, in the rundown, you need to be thinking about what's going on defensively with New England and Baltimore.


PITTSBURGH 38, TAMPA BAY 13
Rushing Yardage: Pittsburgh 201, Tampa Bay 75
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Pittsburgh 14, Tampa Bay 10
Third Down Conversions: Pittsburgh 44%, Tampa Bay 42%

Notebook: It's amazing how solid Pittsburgh has looked without Big Ben. The defense is approaching its best form of recent years. The running game has been effective enough to counteract the soap opera at quarterback. This game had letdown all over it with the Steelers playing on the road immediately after a big road win. Some letdown. The Steelers CRUSHED Tampa Bay at the point of attack...and put up offensive numbers that a Charlie Batch offense shouldn't be able to achieve. We already mentioned that Pittsburgh faces Baltimore this week in an attempt to run the table without Ben. Tampa Bay is still a respectable 2-1, and gets to enjoy a bye.


CINCINNATI 20, CAROLINA 7
Rushing Yardage: Cincinnati 120, Carolina 87
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Cincinnati 0, Carolina 7
Third Down Conversions: Cincinnati 29%, Carolina 18%

Notebook: We know that Carolina is a disaster. Cincinnati got the win, but really didn't' play much better than disaster level themselves. Carson Palmer is still having trouble completing passes and moving the chains except in garbage time (Week One vs. New England's soft defense). These numbers are red flag warnings for Bengals fans. You'll have to lift your game significantly to reach the playoffs again in 2010. A manageable game awaits this week in Cleveland. Carolina draws defending league champion New Orleans on the road, and has the look right now of a 1-15 type debacle. Jimmy Clausen was thrown in the deep end and will do what he can.


ATLANTA 27, NEW ORLEANS 24 (in overtime)
Rushing Yardage: Atlanta 202, New Orleans 43
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Atlanta 24, New Orleans 7
Third Down Conversions: Atlanta 58%, New Orleans 54%

Notebook: Somehow, the Falcons managed to turn dominant numbers into a game they had to sweat. Actually, it would have been a loss if the Saints hadn't missed an easy field goal in overtime. New Orleans is another defense that should have its fans concerned. They made San Francisco look good last week! If they don't force turnovers, they become mortal very quickly. Atlanta won that category here. Let's note that the Saints did have some drives just under the threshold. So, 24-7 overstates the Falcons edge. It was real enough though. Atlanta is a legitimate NFC contender right now, and the Saints do seem to be suffering from a Super Bowl hangover. Easy game for NO this week with the Panthers visiting. Atlanta hosts San Francisco and has to avoid a let down against a visitor in a must-win situation.


KANSAS CITY 31, SAN FRANCISCO 10
Rushing Yardage: San Francisco 43, Kansas City 207
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: San Francisco 7, Kansas City 7
Third Down Conversions: San Francisco 23%, Kansas City 50%

Notebook: Just a squash for the hosts, which isn't something you usually see from a home underdog. The Niners are in real trouble. Firing their offensive coordinator is a start. But, it's not like the quarterback is going to turn anyone into a genius. The defense lost it's fire dramatically this week. If a Mike Singletary coached team is going to get bowled over like this, there's no point in having him around either. Make or break game this week in Atlanta for the Niners. Kansas City takes a stunning 3-0 record into a bye week. When they start losing, everyone will blame the bye for killing their momentum! More a case of catching breaks in an early schedule that had no way of continuing. The Western teams do have a weak schedule this year though.


MINNESOTA 24, DETROIT 10
Rushing Yardage: Detroit 63, Minnesota 183
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Detroit 0, Minnesota 14
Third Down Conversions: Detroit 25%, Minnesota 27%

Notebook: Bad day for Brett Favre, but a good day for most everyone else on the team. The defense was STIFLING, and the running game did enough to get points on the board. The Vikings are still a cut above the bad teams because of those edges. Maybe two cuts. But, Favre is struggling so badly now that the team still isn't in the class of anyone who has a good quarterback. The Lions barely have a quarterback at all until Matthew Stafford comes back. A bye this week for the Vikings. Detroit visits Green Bay for its third divisional road game in four weeks. At least the rematches will all be at home, and could all come when Stafford is back in the lineup.


DALLAS 27, HOUSTON 13
Rushing Yardage: Dallas 101, Houston 124
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Dallas 21, Houston 13
Third Down Conversions: Dallas 36%, Houston 44%

Notebook: Mixed bag here, in a game that wasn't as one-sided as the score makes it sound. Houston was tired off the overtime game at Washington, and had issues at the point of attack. But, even then, they weren't killed on the ground, and the Texans won the battle of third downs. Cowboys fans have to be happy to get a win, but they can't assume that all the problems have been fixed. They faced a soft, tired defense just in the nick of time. A bye is up this week for Dallas, who should spend that time figuring out how to develop a more coherent, less risky attack. Houston visits schizophrenic Oakland in an interesting late kick.


ST. LOUIS 30, WASHINGTON 16
Rushing Yardage: Washington 116, St. Louis 133
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Washington 6, St. Louis 14
Third Down Conversions: Washington 10%, St. Louis 43%

Notebook: Wow...how can you convert just 10% of your third downs in great scoring conditions against somebody like the St. Louis Rams. Maybe Donovan McNabb was looking ahead to that much hyped game at Philadelphia this Sunday. Redskins fans better HOPE that was it! This is awful. St. Louis may be better than last year, but is still playing at about a 4-12 caliber. Washington was clearly outclassed by a cellar dweller type team in our key stats. The Rams host Seattle, in what could be a confidence building divisional encounter. The NFC West is truly up for grabs...and Sam Bradford could suddenly find himself in a playoff chase with a victory!


PHILADELPHIA 28, JACKSONVILLE 3
Rushing Yardage: Philadelphia 106, Jacksonville 130
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Philadelphia 14, Jacksonville 0
Third Down Conversions: Philadelphia 38%, Jacksonville 29%

Notebook: Michael Vick got a lot of positive press this week because he won another game. Wins are nice...but 14 drive points and 38% on third downs against a team that has been invisible the last two weeks may not be anything worth getting excited about. San Diego had 21 drive points, 50% conversions, and 151 rushing yards last week. Philadelphia didn't match that...and San Diego's off to a disappointing 1-2 start. The battle vs. Donovan McNabb and the Skins will be something special this week, that's for sure. Jacksonville hosts Indianapolis, which may explain the relative now show this week. If you know you're going to be bad, you save your energy for the teams you hate. Jacksonville hates Indianapolis. 


INDIANAPOLIS 27, DENVER 13
Rushing Yardage: Indianapolis 40, Denver 47
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Indianapolis 14, Denver 10
Third Down Conversions: Indianapolis 42%, Denver 33%

Notebook: Poor rushing stats for both teams. Each uses short passes like extended handoffs. But, still, you should do better than 50 yards! And, the Colts were trying to sit on a lead through the second half. Still some issues for the Colts...just different types of issues than what we're seeing with some of the other AFC powers. They're still smarter than most everyone else. And, who can complain about a road win at altitude? A championship contender playing well would have topped 14 drive points and 42% on third downs in a game like this. Be aware of that. We already mentioned Indianapolis is at Jacksonville this week, and that Denver is at Tennessee. Kyle Orton probably won't pass for 472 yards this week.


SEATTLE 27, SAN DIEGO 20
Rushing Yardage: San Diego 89, Seattle 68
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: San Diego 15, Seattle 10
Third Down Conversions: San Diego 42%, Seattle 46%

Notebook: San Diego's special teams killed them in this game, as they allowed two kickoff return TD's. Take those out, and a safety that helped the Chargers, and the final score of offenses vs. defense in the classic sense is 28-13 for the Chargers. That's in line with the stats you see above. San Diego had a manageable early schedule that put them in position to start the year 3-0. Instead, they're 0-3 as they get ready for Arizona. Seattle's 2-1 start is a stunner...and they hope to make it 3-1 in St. Louis this week.


ARIZONA 24, OAKLAND 23

Rushing Yardage: Oakland 133, Arizona 119
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Oakland 7, Arizona 14
Third Down Conversions: Oakland 26%, Arizona 38%

Notebook: It's true that Oakland missed a field goal that would have won them the game. The key stats suggest justice was served. Arizona did better at moving the chains and finishing off drives. Though, with only 227 total yards for the game, they had to finish off their rare opportunities! Neither of these teams is very good. Each will be capable of pulling off home upsets vs. better teams, but may be overmatched on the road vs. quality (as both have been already). Arizona will be dealing with angry quality when they visit San Diego Sunday. Oakland will try to regroup from this loss against Houston.


NY JETS 31, MIAMI 23

Rushing Yardage: NY Jets 146, Miami 84
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: NY Jets 28, Miami 17
Third Down Conversions: NY Jets 54%, Miami 46%

Notebook: Look out world...if the Jets can maintain anything resembling last year's defense, while posting offensive numbers like THIS, then Rex Ryan might be able to back up his big talk about the Super Bowl. This was a very strong effort in a big divisional game. And, it came on the heels of another strong effort vs. New England. The Jets are the best in the AFC East right now, and it may not be close if you stuck everybody on neutral fields. Miami showed a lot of spunk. Chad Henne has to figure out how to produce every week instead of just once in awhile. The Jets will hope to avoid a letdown at Buffalo, while Miami hosts ANOTHER big prime time TV game Monday Night with the Patriots. 


CHICAGO 20, GREEN BAY 17
Rushing Yardage: Green Bay 63, Chicago 77
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Green Bay 17, Chicago 3
Third Down Conversions: Green Bay 40%, Chicago 33%

Notebook: Chicago made up for a failed drive dying at the goal line with a punt return touchdown. So, it's not as much of a stolen victory as it seems in those numbers. Though, if not for a late Green Bay fumble the Packers were probably in about an 80% win scenario that would have pushed the Vegas line. Jay Cutler is showing improvement under Mike Martz...as the Bears take a 3-0 record on the road to face the Giants this Sunday Night.  Aaron Rodgers is starting to get a Peyton Manning/Tom Brady look to his presence in the pocket and his productivity. Green Bay is heavily favored to move their 2-1 record to 3-1 at home against Detroit.

That wraps up this week's NFL stat summary. Back in the NOTEBOOK tomorrow to preview Thursday Night's Texas A&M/Oklahoma State game. Then it will be on to previews of Texas/Oklahoma and Florida/Alabama the next two days. What a week in football!

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It's a great week to be a football fan. DON'T SIT ON THE SIDELINES, GET IN THE GAME!

 

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