NFL Week 10 Summaries

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK
 
BIG WINS FOR ATLANTA, NEW ENGLAND, AND PHILADELPHIA

 
The topsy turvy NFL season seems to have new teams bubbling to the surface every week. It wasn't too long ago that everyone figured Pittsburgh and the NY Jets were the best teams in the league. Heading into this past Sunday, the NY Giants had suddenly become the favorite of pundits. Perhaps the prime time TV games of this past weekend has helped pin things down a bit:

  • ATLANTA beat a good Baltimore team on Thursday Night to move to 7-2 on the season.
  • NEW ENGLAND dominated Pittsburgh on the road Sunday Night on NBC.
  • PHILADELPHIA looked like the best team in the NFC Monday Night in their road obliteration of Washington.

Sure, there are other teams still in the mix obviously. One bad game doesn't disqualify you, so the Giants can put themselves back in the headlines with a big TV performance this Sunday Night against the Eagles (look for NFL previews in our Thursday report here in the NOTEBOOK). There are no prizes for being the kings of mid-November. There's a lot of football left to be played.

Let's study what happened this past week for some more context on what separates the best from the rest. You regulars know we focus on Rushing Yardage, Drive Points (those scored and allowed on drives of 60 yards or more) and Third Down Percentages as the "big three" indicator stats that carry the most weight...

ATLANTA 26, BALTIMORE 21
Rushing Yardage: Baltimore 116, Atlanta 60
Drive Points (60+ Yds): Baltimore 21, Atlanta 20
Third Down Percentage: Baltimore 54%, Atlanta 60%
Notebook: The key indicator stats come out fairly even, which makes sense since the game was 21-20 with a few seconds to go. Both of these teams have a knack for playing their best ball at home. Will either be able to earn home field throughout the playoffs? Atlanta has a shot, which makes them a legitimate Super Bowl threat even if they seem to have about 10 minutes of game action each week where they fail to take probable wins by the throat.

INDIANAPOLIS 23, CINCINNATI 17
Rushing Yardage: Cincinnati 72, Indianapolis 76
Drive Points (60+ Yds): Cincinnati 14, Indianapolis 3
Third Down Percentage: Cincinnati 38%, Indianapolis 35%
Notebook: The Colts have a million injuries, and were just hoping to eke out a victory. An early pick-six helped them build a lead. They sat on that lead the rest of the day while the Bengals compiled more meaningless yardage in a loss. Cincinnati is 2-7...but often manages to make the stats and score seem closer than what the eyeball test is telling you. Might as well trust your eyeballs with this team. Until Peyton Manning gets some real weapons, his Drive Point and Third Down data are going to take some hits.

JACKSONVILLE 31, HOUSTON 24
Rushing Yardage: Houston 81, Jacksonville 165
Drive Points (60+ Yds): Houston 24, Jacksonville 14
Third Down Percentage: Houston 40%, Jacksonville 36%
Notebook: Fun game with a dramatic ending. Both offenses struggled more than you'd expect on third downs considering the caliber of defenses they were facing. But, both made many big plays and lit up the scoreboard anyway. The Jags had a more balanced attack. Didn't matter much. You know the winner was decided on a dramatic last second Hail Mary. Houston must be contractually obligated to lose heartbreakers several times a year.

MIAMI 29, TENNESSEE 17
Rushing Yardage: Tennessee 135, Miami 88
Drive Points (60+ Yds): Tennessee 14, Miami 12
Third Down Percentage: Tennessee 31%, Miami 52%
Notebook: Both teams had to shuttle around quarterbacks because of injuries. It's a credit to Miami that they were able to convert so many third downs in that context. We've said it a lot...but if Miami didn't have a killer schedule they'd be one of the big success stories of the year. Put them in the NFC West, and people would be talking Super Bowl. The Dolphins are 5-4, but just aren't going to catch any breaks in the schedule. Vince Young will have to step up for the Titans as Collins will be out of action for a few weeks.

CHICAGO 27, MINNESOTA 13
Rushing Yardage: Minnesota 70, Chicago 130
Drive Points (60+ Yds): Minnesota 3, Chicago 7
Third Down Percentage: Minnesota 11%, Chicago 57%
Notebook: Brett Favre was awful. It's convenient he had an excuse regarding his shoulder. But, if the shoulder was hurting so bad, he should have sat out and given his team a chance to win. Three Drive Points and 11% on third downs is abysmal. Tavaris Jackson would have done better needless to say. One great thing about indicator stats is that they show you when veterans are washed up.

BUFFALO 14, DETROIT 12
Rushing Yardage: Detroit 76, Buffalo 151
Drive Points (60+ Yds): Detroit 9, Buffalo 7
Third Down Percentage: Detroit 26%, Buffalo 33%
Notebook: Buffalo had better numbers...but almost found a way to blow the game anyway. That's the problem with bad teams. They don't know how to protect a lead because they lead so rarely! If you saw highlights, you know weather was an issue. Look for that to reduce scoring in more and more games as the season progresses.

NY JETS 26, CLEVELAND 20 (in OT)
Rushing Yardage: NY Jets 172, Cleveland 107
Drive Points (60+ Yds): NY Jets 14, Cleveland 13
Third Down Percentage: NY Jets 52%, Cleveland 33%
Notebook: The stats say that the right team ultimately got the win. Let's give the Jets some credit for the edge in rushing yardage and third downs, even if they don't currently look like championship material any more. Given what Cleveland did to New England on this field, maybe that IS what championship level looks like against the improving Browns. Colt McCoy continues to develop. Be sure to chart his third down percentages for signs of growth.

TAMPA BAY 31, CAROLINA 16
Rushing Yardage: Carolina 118, Tampa Bay 186
Drive Points (60+ Yds): Carolina 3, Tampa Bay 24
Third Down Percentage: Carolina 40%, Tampa Bay 50%
Notebook: The stats suggest an even bigger blowout than the final score shows. Tampa Bay may not be a true contender in terms of matching up with the league's elite. They're clearly better than most of the bad teams though. That's further along than many had expected for this head coach and quarterback. Carolina may consider tanking out now so they can get a #1 draft pick.

DENVER 49, KANSAS CITY 29
Rushing Yardage: Kansas City 51, Denver 153
Drive Points (60+ Yds): Kansas City 19, Denver 28
Third Down Percentage: Kansas City 38%, Denver 60%
Notebook: Denver scores a stat blowout even though garbage time helped bring things closer together. The stats were as one-sided as the score most of the afternoon. Looks like Kansas City ran out of gas after some overtime thrillers drained their tanks. Denver had a bye, and a chip on their shoulder. We won't expect this every week from the Broncos though. At least the team showed some pride after some recent very poor outings.

SAN FRANCISCO 23, ST. LOUIS 20 (in OT)
Rushing Yardage: St. Louis 104, San Francisco 98
Drive Points (60+ Yds): St. Louis 17, San Francisco 17
Third Down Percentage: St. Louis 14%, San Francisco 0%
Notebook: Rare to win an NFL game without converting a third down. San Francisco pulled it off thanks to some big plays, and a questionable pass interference call in overtime. The teams entered with very similar personnel and team quality...and the stats show a virtual dead heat. Two of 14 on third downs for the Rams isn't that much better than 0 for 11 for the Niners. One of these two may win the division, but neither is anything better than 6-10 right now vs. a real schedule.

SEATTLE 36, ARIZONA 18
Rushing Yardage: Seattle 110, Arizona 41
Drive Points (60+ Yds): Seattle 20, Arizona 11
Third Down Percentage: Seattle 40%, Arizona 18%
Notebook: Seattle snapped out of its coma at just the right time. You see across the board advantages here, on the road, in a game that the Seahawks had to have if they were going to right the ship and close out the division. Would Arizona be any better than 3-6 had they kept Matt Leinart? Leinart's not getting playing time anywhere, so it's hard to know. Our indicator stats in the head-to-head meetings suggest Seattle has earned its spot atop the NFC West to this point.

DALLAS 33, NY GIANTS 20
Rushing Yardage: Dallas 103, NY Giants 107
Drive Points (60+ Yds): Dallas 23, NY Giants 10
Third Down Percentage: Dallas 27%, NY Giants 40%
Notebook: Well, the Cowboys started trying again! And, they caught the Giants flat and overconfident. Those factors are present in most big NFL upsets. The dog brings an effort while the favorite thought they could go half-speed and win. The Cowboys aren't "for real" just yet though with the poor third down rate and the rushing yardage barely cracking 100. They're better than they're record...but it's still Jon Kitna behind a mediocre offensive line. Don't lose sight of that in the coming weeks. Eli Manning's interceptions would go down if he'd stop firing the ball too hard over his receiver's heads. Pundits keep blaming the receivers for those because they're deflected interceptions. Eli's more at fault than he's getting blamed for. 

NEW ENGLAND 39, PITTSBURGH 26
Rushing Yardage: New England 103, Pittsburgh 76
Drive Points (60+ Yds): New England 20, Pittsburgh 18
Third Down Percentage: New England 30%, Pittsburgh 41%
Notebook: New England was MUCH more dominant than these stats make it look. Pittsburgh enjoyed a lengthy garbage time where they piled up Drive Points. New England's short passing game was basically a running game....as they threw for 350 yards without committing any turnovers. If garbage time continues to mess up some of these summaries, we'll throw in some additional numbers. Pats in control the whole way.

PHILADELPHIA 59, WASHINGTON 28
Rushing Yardage: Philadelphia 260, Washington 105
Drive Points (60+ Yds): Philadelphia 28, Washington 21
Third Down Percentage: Philadelphia 61%, Washington 0%
Notebook: What a slaughter. Philadelphia was better in every facet of play. Washington's Drive Points are a result of garbage time. The Skins are heading quickly in the wrong direction. Philadelphia is a true force to be reckoned with when Michael Vick is healthy. Can he avoid running himself into another injury? We're skeptical just because of his history. He loves to run...and that eventually leads to an ankle problem, an Achilles problem, a hamstring problem, or a shoulder injury on a tackle. This Sunday's Philly/NY Giants game is going to tell us a lot about the NFC East race, and possible the NFC half of the playoff brackets too.

Back tomorrow with this week's NFL Previews, looking at updated Drive Point averages for all 32 teams, as well as turnover differential and strengths of schedule. We hope those numbers helped you pick winners last week. We're confident they'll help you again this week, beginning with Chicago/Miami on Thursday Night on the NFL Network.

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See you Thursday with more key numbers from the NFL...

 

20
Aug

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