NFL Dogs Back in Winner?s Circle
JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK
NFL DOGS 9-5 LAST WEEK, CONTINUE CASHING TICKETS
After a rare week for favorites two weeks ago, NFL underdogs went back to getting the money this past Sunday and Monday in fairly convincing fashion. In fact,
- One underdog won outright by 45 points and covered by 52!
- Another won outright by 17 as a 13-point underdog, beating expectations by more than four touchdowns.
- Still another just missed winning outright as a 13-point underdog, playing its best game in years.
Oakland, New Orleans, and Buffalo had fans and pundits scratching their heads on Sunday. It was fitting that the underdog New York Giants won Monday in Dallas, owning about a 300-yard edge in the stats until late garbage time.
Let's review the full card from the weekend with our traditional 'big three" stats. We'll mention what's ahead next for each team on a game-by-game basis. As always, we go in rotation order so you can make notes in your schedule or game logs.
PITTSBURGH 23, MIAMI 22
Rushing Yardage: Pittsburgh 58, Miami 64
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Pittsburgh 3, Miami 10
Third Down Conversions: Pittsburgh 40%, Miami 25%
NOTEBOOK: Very tight game, and the 'big three" stats basically cancel out. Pittsburgh could have won and covered with a better late play call in scoring position, but could have lost outright if referees had done a better job on a late critical play. A killer schedule for Miami has them at 3-3 heading into a road game at Cincinnati. Pittsburgh takes a 5-1 record to a Halloween night affair at New Orleans.
ATLANTA 39, CINCINNATI 32
Rushing Yardage: Cincinnati 84, Atlanta 153
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Cincinnati 20, Atlanta 29
Third Down Conversions: Cincinnati 58%, Atlanta 53%
NOTEBOOK: Not much defense here obviously. Though, Atlanta scored easily when it needed to, while Cincinnati only seemed to score easily after they had fallen behind by double digits. We're seeing a lot of that with Carson Palmer this year, which is giving him and the 2-4 Bengals better offensive stats than they really deserve. Miami's defense should give them a challenge Sunday. Atlanta is one of six teams with a bye this week. They'll resume with a 5-2 record and frontrunner status in the NFC.
KANSAS CITY 42, JACKSONVILLE 20
Rushing Yardage: Jacksonville 84, Kansas City 236
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Jacksonville 10, Kansas City 28
Third Down Conversions: Jacksonville 30%, Kansas City 54%
NOTEBOOK: It was a tight game at the half, but eventually the more physical Chiefs pulled away to a blowout victory. You see dominant stats across the board for Kansas City. They may not be as good as their 4-2 record...but they've taken some big strides forward from last year. They'll be heavy favorites to make it 5-2 at home against Buffalo. Jacksonville plays like an 0-7 team in their worst outings, but is still a respectable 3-4 heading into shorthanded and demoralized Dallas.
TENNESSEE 37, PHILADELPHIA 19
Rushing Yardage: Philadelphia 99, Tennessee 75
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Philadelphia 7, Tennessee 10
Third Down Conversions: Philadelphia 55%, Tennessee 30%
NOTEBOOK: The final score is very misleading here...with a tight game kind of blowing up late because of Philadelphia miscues. The Eagles actually won our key stats. But, you don't win outright on the road when you lose the ball four times. Kevin Kolb will be replaced again by Michael Vick when 4-3 Phillly returns from a bye week. Tennessee has a tough trip to San Diego this week, and the 5-2 Titans need to keep winning because the playoff race is going to be a tight squeeze in the quality divisions. We started our piece today with a note about all the dog covers. So far, it's 3-1 to the favorites. You're about to see FIVE STRAIGHT DOG covers and an 8-2 finish!
WASHINGTON 17, CHICAGO 14
Rushing Yardage: Washington 121, Chicago 66
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Washington 3, Chicago 6
Third Down Conversions: Washington 15%, Chicago 20%
NOTEBOOK: One of the worst executed games we've seen played in years, particularly for teams that didn't have a losing record! Neither does now either, as both sit at 4-3...while looking like 2-5 teams who can't walk and chew gum. Washington visits fresh and rested Detroit on Sunday. Chicago has a bye week to figure out why this offense has collapsed over the past month.
CLEVELAND 30, NEW ORLEANS 17
Rushing Yardage: Cleveland 125, New Orleans 58
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Cleveland 3, New Orleans 14
Third Down Conversions: Cleveland 18%, New Orleans 33%
NOTEBOOK: More than half of Cleveland's rushing yardage came on a fake punt. So, New Orleans actually won stats here. They lost the turnover category 4-0 though. Evidence again that even one of the best teams can lose big to one of the worst if they have a bad turnover day. New Orleans is a disappointing 4-3, and may be 4-4 if they can't beat Pittsburgh Sunday Night. Cleveland rises to 2-5, but didn't play nearly as well as the final score makes it look as they head into a bye week.
BALTIMORE 37, BUFFALO 34 (in overtime)
Rushing Yardage: Buffalo 132, Baltimore 115
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Buffalo 28, Baltimore 14
Third Down Conversions: Buffalo 64%, Baltimore 18%
NOTEBOOK: We've been studying boxscores a long time...and this has to be one of the biggest shockers we've ever seen in terms of a demonstrably horrible team posting great numbers on the road against a demonstrable Super Bowl contender. How in the world did Buffalo get 28 Drive Points and convert 64% of their third downs? Did a high school team steal Baltimore's uniforms and take the field? The Bills hope to continue their offensive flow next week at Kansas City (where you have to think about the Over given this past Sunday's scores). Baltimore has a bye week, which will be the second straight off week for their defense.
CAROLINA 23, SAN FRANCISCO 20
Rushing Yardage: San Francisco 99, Carolina 76
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: San Francisco 7, Carolina 14
Third Down Conversions: San Francisco 30%, Carolina 46%
NOTEBOOK: Matt Moore returned to Carolina, and led the Panthers to a stat win as well as a scoreboard win. The 49ers may have to fire the coaching staff and half the roster at this point. The alleged favorites to win the NFC West are now 1-6 against a weak schedule. Some vacation time in jolly old England (where they face Denver Sunday) may clear their heads. Carolina is 1-5, but at least now has a quarterback they have a little faith in (vs. other losing teams anyway). Carolina visits St. Louis, as the round-robin of bad teams playing each other all the time continues unabated.
TAMPA BAY 18, ST. LOUIS 17
Rushing Yardage: St. Louis 161, Tampa Bay 124
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: St. Louis 10, Tampa Bay 9
Third Down Conversions: St. Louis 50%, Tampa Bay 33%
NOTEBOOK: Turned out to be quite an exciting finish, with St. Louis managing to win stats across the board but lose the game anyway. It takes awhile for young teams to learn how to execute late in close games. Tampa Bay did a better job on this afternoon, and vultured a late victory. St. Louis falls to 3-4, still in decent shape in the bad NFC West. They host Carolina Sunday and are slight favorites. Tampa Bay visits Arizona, with a chance to take out another weak NFC West opponent. The Bucs are 4-2, and in surprising position in the NFC South standings.
SEATTLE 22, ARIZONA 10
Rushing Yardage: Arizona 113, Seattle 144
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Arizona 7, Seattle 6
Third Down Conversions: Arizona 16%, Seattle 33%
NOTEBOOK: Not quite the blowout many expected in terms of the stats, but you never felt that Seattle was going to lose the game. Arizona just can't play on the road, and doesn't have a quarterback that anyone believes in. They've managed to post a .500 record anyway at 3-3 heading into Sunday's game with Tampa Bay. Seattle leads the NFC West with a 4-2 mark as they head to Oakland for a non-conference affair. The goofy nature of the schedules this year is going to create some 6-10 caliber teams that end with 10-6 type records. Don't be deluded come playoff time.
NEW ENGLAND 23, SAN DIEGO 20
Rushing Yardage: New England 51, San Diego 38
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: New England 7, San Diego 17
Third Down Conversions: New England 25%, San Diego 46%
NOTEBOOK: Your fairly standard San Diego game, where they win our key stats but look horrible on either special teams or in the turnover category and lose anyway. Today, it was turnovers...with the Chargers losing the category 4-0. The Patriots are 5-1, but keep getting gifts from opponents. Maybe they got another gift when Brett Favre suffered ankle fractures because Minnesota visits Foxboro on Sunday. San Diego is 2-5. They've recovered from worse. A loss to Tennessee might be a death blow though.
OAKLAND 59, DENVER 14
Rushing Yardage: Oakland 328, Denver 75
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Oakland 21, Denver 14
Third Down Conversions: Oakland 46%, Denver 16%
NOTEBOOK: If Buffalo hadn't popped 500 yards on Baltimore earlier in the day, this would have been the most surprising boxscore of the year. It was definitely the most surprising final score, as Oakland used a mix of earned and cheap points to slaughter listless Denver. What a rout! Oakland is 3-4, and has a real shot to chase down Kansas City in the AFC West. Denver is 2-5, and 4-13 since that 6-0 start last season. The bloom has been off this rose for awhile. Oakland hosts Seattle Sunday. Denver will look for a defense in Buckingham Palace.
GREEN BAY 28, MINNESOTA 24
Rushing Yardage: Minnesota 196, Green Bay 84
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Minnesota 7, Green Bay 14
Third Down Conversions: Minnesota 42%, Green Bay 54%
NOTEBOOK: A close game on the scoreboard and in the stats. If Minnesota would have taken the ball out of Brett Favre's hands more, it probably would have been a victory based on that huge rushing differential. Minnesota is 2-4 against a tough schedule, and doesn't look right now like a team that's going to get its act together. Can a hobbling Favre win at New England? Green Bay visits the fresh and rested NY Jets with a load of backups in the lineup because of injuries. They have some margin for error at 4-3 in what's become a surprisingly weak division.
NY GIANTS 41, DALLAS 35
Rushing Yardage: NY Giants 200, Dallas 41
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: NY Giants 21, Dallas 7
Third Down Conversions: NY Giants 38%, Dallas 0%
NOTEBOOK: Dallas created early illusions thanks to Eli Manning interceptions. That and a punt return TD helped the Cowboys build a 20-7 lead. They got waxed the rest of the game until the Pokes scored a garbage time TD. Tony Romo was lost for the season with a broken clavicle. But, he wasn't moving the ball much before the injury. The Giants showed us a lot here, and will enter their bye week with a 5-2 record that looms large in the mediocre NFC. Dallas falls to 1-5, and is very unlikely to get off the ground with Jon Kitna at the helm. At least it's manageable Jacksonville that's next on the schedule.
That wraps up our look at this past Sunday's key stats, and this Sunday's coming challenges. Back tomorrow to preview Florida State/NC State in a great ACC matchup. Many big games await in the colleges and pro's over the weekend. So, be sure you're with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK.
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