NFL Week 8 Summaries

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

THE REAL SCOOP ON WHAT HAPPENED THIS PAST WEEKEND IN THE NFL

Time for our weekly look at our "big three" stats in the NFL...rushing yardage, Drive Point production (points scored and allowed on drives of 60 yards or more) and third down conversions. These three stats have a great correlation with MEANINGFUL production, and help you build a profile of every teams' strengths and weaknesses.

As always, games are presented in rotation order...

SAN FRANCISCO 24, DENVER 16
Rushing Yardage: Denver 59, San Francisco 143
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Denver 13, San Francisco 3
Third Down Conversions: Denver 20%, San Francisco 38%
NOTEBOOK: Denver is the latest team to show why a pass-heavy approach just won't work in pro football. Even if you can must through for some long distance scoring, you still can't run clock or protect a lead. Denver blew a lead here, and fell to 2-6 against a team that had been 1-6 coming in. A bye next week will give the defense a chance to rest up for a second half where they'll be playing to save their coach's job. San Francisco is in the same boat actually...hoping a bye week helps inspire a late surge back to respectability.

JACKSONVILLE 35, DALLAS 17
Rushing Yardage: Jacksonville 149, Dallas 50
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Jacksonville 21, Dallas 14
Third Down Conversions: Jacksonville 50%, Dallas 46%
NOTEBOOK: Owner Jerry Jones was embarrassed about this result, as he should have been. Jacksonville hasn't been very competitive on the road this year. You can see that the Jags won the key stats by meaningful margins. Dallas is 1-6 now, and staring 1-7 in the face with a road trip to Green Bay. We don't expect much fire from Dallas the rest of the way, though quarterback Jon Kitna will give them garbage time cover potential when they're underdogs of a certain size. The Jags are 4-4, but not really playing that well. They enjoy a bye week too this week. We're getting the bye teams out of the way quickly.

DETROIT 37, WASHINGTON 25
Rushing Yardage: Washington 80, Detroit 102
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Washington 3, Detroit 0
Third Down Conversions: Washington 14%, Detroit 23%
NOTEBOOK: A very misleading final score, as both offenses struggled badly. You can see that neither team drove the field for a TD. Neither team could convert a fourth of their third down tries. Benching Donovan McNabb seems more reasonable when you're looking at the key indicator numbers. How can you drive the field in a two-minute drill for a win when you're one of the worst Drive Point teams in the league? Washington also gets a by next week. Detroit hosts the fired up New York Jets in a bounce-back spot after a loss.

GREEN BAY 9, NY JETS 0
Rushing Yardage: Green Bay 81, NY Jets 119
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Green Bay 0, NY Jets 0
Third Down Conversions: Green Bay 14%, NY Jets 41%
NOTEBOOK: Windy conditions made life miserable for both quarterbacks. Hence, the double shutout in Drive Points. The Jets did a better job of moving the ball, but a worse job of protecting it (losing turnovers 3-0). Be careful getting too excited about Green Bay off this road upset. The offense is still struggling badly...and you don't normally win a game with nine points. Maybe this week's game with Dallas will be a virtual bye. The Jets have now fallen behind the Pats in the AFC East, and need to win at Detroit to get back on track.

ST. LOUIS 20, CAROLINA 10
Rushing Yardage: Carolina 25, St. Louis 62
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Carolina 7, St. Louis 0
Third Down Conversions: Carolina 50%, St. Louis 40%
NOTEBOOK: These offenses are bad that they made it look like lethal swirling winds were blowing inside of a dome! The Rams are a stunning 4-4, but have played a very weak schedule. They were fortunate to post such a one-sided victory here. A bye week awaits the Rams too. Carolina hosts New Orleans, and is probably looking at a 1-7 start to the season like Dallas. The Panthers did hang tough with the Saints in an earlier road meeting however.

MIAMI 22, CINCINNATI 14
Rushing Yardage: Miami 137, Cincinnati 106
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Miami 10, Cincinnati 7
Third Down Conversions: Miami 33%, Cincinnati 37%
NOTEBOOK: There wasn't much offense to show in many of the early games. Not a great week to have that "Red Zone" package on Dish Network! The fluke TD for TO in the first half here got replayed to death Sunday because there was little else to show! Miami did earn a legitimate victory...but there was little to get excited about with either team. Cincinnati falls to 2-5, and hosts Pittsburgh in a Monday Night game. You'd have to think a 2-6 start would lead to a demolition of the current coaching staff. Miami is 4-3, but still trails the Pats and Jets in what's become a killer division this year.

KANSAS CITY 13, BUFFALO 10 (in overtime)
Rushing Yardage: Buffalo 137, Kansas City 274
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Buffalo 7, Kansas City 7
Third Down Conversions: Buffalo 47%, Kansas City 26%
NOTEBOOK: Wow...Kansas City turned 274 rushing yards into only 13 points! You don't see that often. We have to remember this was a five quarter game, with the Chiefs kicking the game-winning field goal as time was expiring in OT. Still, you shouldn't have to sweat games where you rush for that much yardage. You can see that third downs proved to be the equalizer. An exhausted but game 0-7 Bills will play Chicago in Toronto this week. Kansas City takes its 5-2 record to Oakland, for what is now shaping up as a very entertaining battle with the Raiders.

SAN DIEGO 33, TENNESSEE 25
Rushing Yardage: Tennessee 65, San Diego 156
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Tennessee 23, San Diego 24
Third Down Conversions: Tennessee 30%, San Diego 67%
NOTEBOOK: Big game for the Chargers, in that they finally got a lot of production without self-destructing with turnovers and poor special teams play. This is what San Diego would be doing EVERY week if they could shore up some of their other problems. Good to see a big rushing game from the Bolts. Philip Rivers can't carry the whole load every week. San Diego will try to maintain it's annual second half surge on the road in Houston this week (early body time kickoff). Tennessee is the final of six bye teams, and has posted a 5-3 record for the first half of the season.

TAMPA BAY 38, ARIZONA 35
Rushing Yardage: Tampa Bay 154, Arizona 100
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Tampa Bay 24, Arizona 14
Third Down Conversions: Tampa Bay 33%, Arizona 53%
NOTEBOOK: What a wild game! This stadium seems to get more than its share of those. Tampa Bay couldn't drive the field consistently, but kept making big plays. Arizona did a better job of moving the chains, which kept them in the game. Note that Tampa Bay had two non-offensive TD's, while Arizona had one. That means ALL of Tampa Bay's offensive points came on long drives. The Bucs, now 5-2, visit Atlanta in what's become a big game in the NFC South. Arizona gets to see the Brett Favre soap opera up close and personal in Minnesota.

OAKLAND 33, SEATTLE 3
Rushing Yardage: Seattle 47, Oakland 239
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Seattle 0, Oakland 27
Third Down Conversions: Seattle 6%, Oakland 29%
NOTEBOOK: We're seeing it, but we don't believe it. Oakland has just CRUSHED Denver and Seattle in the stats that matter the last two weeks. Their blowouts weren't cheap point illusions (though they did get some padding vs. Denver). They're blowing people off the line of scrimmage and owning the point of attack. The great thing about our "big three" stats is that they show you who's a pretender and who's for real. It could turn out that Denver and Seattle are 4-12 type teams that are easy to squash. For now, Oakland is at least "for real" against that class of opponent. Great stuff. Kansas City comes to town this Sunday, and the 4-4 Raiders can scoot over .500 with a win. Seattle hosts the rested New York Giants, perhaps the best team in the NFC. Will this be a playoff preview? The game will probably be played in New York if so.

NEW ENGLAND 28, MINNESOTA 18
Rushing Yardage: Minnesota 125, New England 122
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Minnesota 18, New England 21
Third Down Conversions: Minnesota 36%, New England 54%
NOTEBOOK: New England's defense is still too soft for a true Super Bowl contender. It's tough to outscore people every week with your QB's arm. For now, Tom Brady is getting the job done consistently. Those kind of weekly Drive Point scores don't foreshadow happiness in the playoffs as a general rule though. The Pats are favored to move to 7-1 this week on the road against the Browns and Colt McCoy. Minnesota hosts Arizona, in a litmus test game against a poor road team for the ailing coaching regime.

NEW ORLEANS 20, PITTSBURGH 10
Rushing Yardage: Pittsburgh 108, New Orleans 30
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Pittsburgh 7, New Orleans 0
Third Down Conversions: Pittsburgh 30%, New Orleans 43%
NOTEBOOK: This was more of a toss-up than the final score makes it seem. You probably know that unless you were watching the baseball game instead. Strong outings for both defenses. New Orleans cashed in a fourth quarter turnover to expand its victory margin. The 5-3 Saints visit Carolina this week before finally getting their bye. Pittsburgh (5-2) plays its third straight road game. This time in Cincinnati.

INDIANAPOLIS 30, HOUSTON 17
Rushing Yardage: Houston 108, Indianapolis 107
Points Scored on Drives of 60+: Houston 7, Indianapolis 17
Third Down Conversions: Houston 27%, Indianapolis 46%
NOTEBOOK: Peyton Manning knows how to drive the field when it matters, particularly at home. Houston does a great job of abusing bad teams, but struggles in the spotlight. Basically the latest edition of those reality shows here. We talked about Houston's poor defense in our Monday preview. They took the field to show what we meant. Philip Rivers and San Diego is the last team you want to see when your defense is struggling. That's next up for the 4-3 Texans. Indianapolis visits rested Philadelphia in what could turn out to be a brutal letdown spot. NFL teams often have trouble getting up for non-conference opponents right after a big divisional game.

That wraps up our hump day transition from last week's key stats to this week's outlook. Note that Thursday Night NFL action starts NEXT week, and we'll start running more of our traditional preview numbers at that time.

There's some college football on the schedule this evening with Rutgers visiting South Florida on ESPN2. JIM HURLEY will post the winner a few hours before kickoff right here at the website. Look for BIG JUICY WINNERS from a busy NBA card as well. Then, come back Thursday for TV doubleheaders in both college football and pro hoops. If you have any questions about NETWORK service, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back tomorrow to preview Georgia Tech/Virginia Tech...and to show you once again that nobody knows football like JIM HURLEY!

 

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