NFL Stat Previews

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK
 
FROM THANKSGIVING THRU MONDAY... KEY STATS FOR NFL MATCHUPS

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

There are THREE games instead of the usual one set for Thursday action because of the holiday. You may have made up your minds already in the Thanksgiving action. The numbers you're about to read may change your outlook, so keep an open mind!

As always, we'll run through the full schedule in this preliminary report so you can have access to all you need for the weekend. We'll come back Sunday for expanded coverage of San Diego/Indianapolis...then again the next day to wrap up the holiday weekend with the Monday Nighter. 

You've got someplace to be, or some food to eat...so let's jump right in! The numbers you'll are per-game Drive Point averages, which reflect points scored and allowed on drives of 60 yards or more. We consider that the single best indicator stat in all of sports. We've added turnover differential and strength of schedule for additional context. The strength of schedule rankings are those from the computer ratings at USA Today's website.

THANKSGIVING DAY AND NIGHT

New England: 17.6 offense, 18.6 defense (+9 TO's, 8th schedule)
Detroit: 9.3 offense, 11.6 defense (+2 TO's, 9th schedule)
Vegas Line: New England by 6.5, total of 50.5
Notebook: The teams have played comparable schedules even though they're in different conferences. So, the numbers are meaningful as you see them. New England is -1 in Drive Point differential, but has made up for that with turnovers. Detroit is -2.5 in Drive Point differential, and is maturing their way to improved turnover performance. You may be surprised the math makes it so close. The key is that New England's defense has been so porous with big leads that they're allowing opponents to stay within striking distance. That could definitely be an issue today...particularly with the Pats in a sandwich spot off the Pittsburgh and Indianapolis games...coming up right before next week's HUGE Monday Nighter at the NY Jets. We won't lay the points unless we're sure the Pats are coming with both barrels. The math is suggesting Dog and Over...but we go beyond the math here at NETWORK as you know.

New Orleans: 12.3 offense, 10.1 defense (-4 TO's, 32nd schedule)
Dallas: 13.5 offense, 13.4 defense (-6 TO's, 14th schedule)
Vegas Line: New Orleans by 4, total of 49.5
Notebook: One of the most overlooked stories of the year right now is the easy schedule New Orleans has played. USA Today says it's the easiest in the league. Yet, the Saints AREN'T running roughshod over their slate. You see a differential of just +2.2 in Drive Points, and a poor turnover ratio. Versus a tougher schedule, we may be looking at a .500 team or worse. Much of the Dallas stats came with Tony Romo at QB, so you have to mentally make an adjustment for that. The Drive Point data along with strength of schedule makes a compelling case to at least look at the underdog here. We'll see what our on site sources have to say. There's potential brewing for a very big release for us in this matchup on either the side or the total.

Cincinnati: 9.9 offense, 11.9 defense (-2 TO's, 6th schedule)
NY Jets: 14.6 offense, 12.3 defense (+5 TO's, 17th schedule)
Vegas Line: NY Jets by 9, total of 43
Notebook: The Vegas spread can't be justified based on the numbers above. But, you saw highlights of Cincinnati losing the second half to Buffalo last week 35-0. If the Bengals have thrown in the towel on their 2-8 season, then the stats don't matter. This could be a no-show that's just as ugly as Arizona at Philadelphia was two years ago on this night. Road teams who don't want to play on a holiday can put up some real stinkers. What our sources tell us about Cincinnati will mean everything in this game. Oh, you Jets fans...our indicator stats are currently NOT suggesting that your team is Super Bowl material. Don't get your hopes up too high. Champions are more like +5 to +7 or more in Drive Points vs. a league average schedule.

Three strong plays start the winning on Thursday! Click here to get on board and either play by the day or win all weekend long!

 

SUNDAY

Minnesota: 8.0 offense, 10.8 defense (-13 TO's, 4th schedule)
Washington: 10.5 offense, 11.2 defense (+6 TO's, 7th schedule)
Vegas Line: Washington by 1.5, total of 43
Notebook: Minnesota made a coaching change this week. That could inspire a turnaround like we saw with Dallas. But, if the players hate Brett Favre as much as they hated their head coach, the poor efforts of recent weeks could continue. Washington is a steal if the Vikes are still just going through the motions. But, Donovan McNabb may have trouble getting points on the board vs. a rejuvenated Vikings defense. We may step in on the Under here if our sources are suggesting renewed defensive vigor from the men in purple.

Pittsburgh: 8.6 offense, 7.2 defense (+10 TO's, 5th schedule)
Buffalo: 10.7 offense, 13.8 defense (-6 TO's, 3rd schedule)
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh by 6.5, total of 43
Notebook: Look at Buffalo climbing back to respectability...with a differential now of just -3.1 against a brutal schedule. Can the Bills hang with the Steelers? Cincinnati hung with the Steelers. Miami hung with the Steelers. There's no reason that Buffalo can't continue their recent cover success with at least a competitive outing. We'll be looking at the Under with three of the four Drive Point numbers below 11. We used to use 10.0 as a threshold for that kind of strategy...but scoring is up this year on long drives. We'll check the weather forecast too to see if it's going to help us. Certainly some Dog and Under inklings in the mathematical portion of our exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach.

Tennessee: 12.7 offense, 10.4 defense (+3 TO's, 13th schedule)
Houston: 15.5 offense, 21.0 defense (-2 TO's, 11th schedule)
Vegas Line: Houston by 6.5, total of 45.5
Notebook: Tennessee will be starting Rusty Smith at quarterback because of injuries to Vince Young and Kerry Collins. So, the numbers above are kind of meaningless for the Titans offense. There's no easier way to break into the league though then throwing passes against the horrible Houston defense in good scoring conditions. We'll only make a move here if our sources can tell us something important about Smith. Likely a pass on a busy Sunday.

Jacksonville: 8.7 offense, 15.3 defense (-11 TO's, 22nd schedule)
NY Giants: 13.0 offense, 8.3 defense (-8 TO's, 23rd schedule)
Vegas Line: NY Giants by 7, total of 44.5
Notebook: This line has come way down the last couple of days because of injury news for the Giants, and the general lack of recognition from oddsmakers about how bad Jacksonville can play. Our indicator stats suggest they're one of the worst teams in the league! How can that be possible with a 6-4 record? A lot of luck, a lot of smoke and mirrors, and taking advantage as best you can against a softer than normal schedule. It should be impossible to win with either a bad Drive Point differential, or a bad turnover differential. Jacksonville's deal with the devil has them doing that temporarily. Note the even strengths of schedule here...meaning the +4.7 in Drive Points for New York should matter against the -6.6 for the Jags. If the Giants aren't too beat up from big divisional games, we'll give them some thought on game day. But, if they're too banged up to play at a high level...the Jags might sneak in as a value underdog based on recent form rather than full season indicator stats.

Carolina: 5.9 offense, 8.8 defense (-10 TO's, 21st schedule)
Cleveland: 11.0 offense, 13.0 defense (+6 TO's, 1st schedule)
Vegas Line: Cleveland by 10, total of 37.5
Notebook: The Browns are a 10-point favorite over somebody?! Perceptions of this franchise sure have changed dramatically since Mike Holmgren showed up. Our stats aren't quite that optimistic. But, the stats can't fully adjust for the disaster at quarterback for the Panthers either. We're not the type to lay double digits with unproven quantities in that role...and we're not the type to ask horrible quarterbacks to cash tickets. Probably a pass. Though, the right weather forecast could have us on the Under.

Tampa Bay: 10.8 offense, 9.9 defense (+7 TO's, 31st schedule)
Baltimore: 14.1 offense, 12.3 defense (-1 TO's, 12th schedule)
Vegas Line: Baltimore by 7.5, total of 41
Notebook: Tampa Bay hasn't had many actual tests this year vs. quality opposition. You can see they've played the second easiest schedule in the whole league. They didn't impress early in the season vs. Pittsburgh of the AFC North...and that was during Big Ben's suspension. We're very interested to see how the Bucs handle this road test, coming on the heels of a big road win for them at San Francisco. There are folks amidst the team who have a strong opinion here, so we're not going to say much more. This game has been circled for possible big play status.

Philadelphia: 15.6 offense, 12.4 defense (+15 TO's, 10th schedule)
Chicago: 8.2 offense, 7.8 defense (+3 TO's, 28th schedule)
Vegas Line: Philadelphia by 3, total of 42
Notebook: The Vegas line kind of splits the difference between "Philadelphia's the new NFC power"and "Philadelphia's going to be flat off two huge divisional wins."If the Eagles are still sharp, then they'll win this game by at least a TD. If the Eagles are flat, the Bears may get ANOTHER gift on a schedule that's been ridiculously easy so far. They get "credit"for playing Miami, but Miami didn't have a quarterback the week they played them! We'll be working closely with our sources here because intangibles could unlock a very strong pointspread advantage.

Green Bay: 13.8 offense, 7.2 defense (+8 TO's, 19th schedule)
Atlanta: 16.4 offense, 8.9 defense (+19 TO's, 18th schedule)
Vegas Line: Atlanta by 2, total of 47.5
Notebook: This one is going to sneak up on people...as it's a potential NFC Championship preview. When the Eagles host the Giants in a game like that, it's Sunday Night in front of a huge audience. With the Packers and Falcons...it's an early game where your part of the country may be getting something else. Math edge to the Falcons, with a +7.5 mark in Drive Points compared to +5.4 for the Packers. Throw in turnovers...home field...and you can make a statistical case for the Falcons. That was true at home against Baltimore and they still almost blew the game anyway! We like Atlanta's superior balance. We think both defenses should be getting more credit than they have been. We'll talk with our Wise Guy sources before making a final decision on the host or the Under.

Miami: 9.4 offense, 11.3 defense (-5 TO's, 2nd schedule)
Oakland: 12.8 offense, 12.1 defense (-1 TO's, 26th schedule)
Vegas Line: No line
Notebook: There was no midweek line in this one because of the injury situation with Miami. We'll wait for a number to come up before trying to peg the value side. Both teams have reasons to show up with peak intensity...so a pass is the most likely option for us anyway.

Kansas City: 11.9 offense, 14.1 defense (+5 TO's, 29th schedule)
Seattle: 9.4 offense, 16.2 defense (+1 TO's, 27th schedule)
Vegas Line: Kansas City by 1.5, total of 44.5
Notebook: It's a shame that BOTH of these teams may end up in the playoffs because they currently lead poor divisions. You can see they've played horrible schedules. Kansas City is -2.2 in Drive Points vs. it's easy slate. Seattle is a disastrous -6.8 vs. a bad schedule. Tough to be confident with either side. These teams only seem to impress vs. somebody like Arizona of late. Probably a pass.

St. Louis: 8.9 offense, 10.0 defense (+2 TO's, 30th schedule)
Denver: 13.7 offense, 14.8 defense (-3 TO's, 16th schedule)
Vegas Line: Denver by 4, total of 44.5
Notebook: St. Louis has been bringing an effort every week, so getting them at more than a field goal is tempting against a 3-7 favorite. But, that strength of schedule issue could throw up a roadblock. Once you adjust for that...the Rams don't look any better than the Broncos. Both are at -1.1 in Drive Point differential before the adjustment. Turnovers would flip flop. This might be a better line than it seemed at first glance. We'll try to get a read on Denver's reaction to their Monday Night blowout loss before making a final decision. If the team is down in the dumps from that virtual season ender, the Rams could be a steal here regardless of the math.

San Diego: 19.9 offense, 9.1 defense (-9 TO's, 25th schedule)
Indianapolis: 16.2 offense, 11.8 defense (+3 TO's, 15th schedule)
Vegas Line: Indianapolis by 3, total of 51.5
Notebook: We'll talk more about this game in expanded form on Sunday. Right now, it's worth noting that San Diego has been DOMINANT in the Drive Point area...and has cut down on its turnover issues. This is the time of year they play their best football too. Given the Colts continual wear down from playing shorthanded while Peyton Manning tries to pull games out of the fire...this could be the week Indy hits a wall with a really ugly performance. We have a few days to think some more about it.

San Francisco: 8.7 offense, 11.0 defense (-6 TO's, 24th schedule)
Arizona: 9.0 offense, 15.4 defense (-8 TO's, 20th schedule)
Vegas Line: San Francisco by 1, total of 40
Notebook: This is a game you WANT to put off because it's too ugly to look at! Too bad this is the grand finale to a great holiday weekend. JIM HURLEY will do what it takes to find you the winner. Arizona's home/road split may be the difference-maker, as the Cards have been more competitive in the host role this season.

That wraps up our Thanksgiving Day edition of the NOTEBOOK. We hope you have a great day with your family and friends. Don't forget that BIG JUICY TURKEY DAY WINNERS are available right here at the website. Even if you're travelling, you can take care of business with your credit card on your laptop.

Back tomorrow to talk Oregon, Boise State, and college football. Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY so you know what's really happening throughout this BLOCKBUSTER HOLIDAY WEEKEND!

And, if you haven't signed up forJIM HURLEY'S TURKEY SHOOT yet...do so quick before New England/Detroit starts to make sure you get FULL VALUE!

 

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