Packers Overpowering!

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

PACKERS OVERPOWER FALCONS,
STEELERS SURVIVE RAVENS

Even fans and analysts who were most optimistic about the Green Bay Packers were surprised by the extreme ease with which the #6 seeds dispatched with the #1 seeds Saturday Night. Aaron Rodgers was an amazing 31-36-0-346 in the air. If not for an Atlanta kickoff return giving the Falcons temporary hope, it would have been a game you could turn off by halftime.

Earlier in the day, fans and analysts were equally amazed by the Pittsburgh/Baltimore game. Nobody was amazed that it was close. What was shocking was the LACK of offense from both teams in what turned out to be a very high scoring game!

Let's crunch the numbers from yesterday as you get ready to watch two more games on national TV today. Don't forget that JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK has very strong plays in Seattle/Chicago and NY Jets/New England right here at the website. Be sure you click over for those MONSTERS with your credit card handy before the early game goes. You've heard from the TV pundits this morning. Don't make a move until you here WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!

PITTSBURGH 31, BALTIMORE 24
Total Yardage: Baltimore 126, Pittsburgh 263
Rushing Yardage: Baltimore 35, Pittsburgh 71
Passing Stats: Baltimore 16-30-1-91, Pittsburgh 19-32-0-192
Points on Drives 60+ Yards: Baltimore 7, Pittsburgh 14
Turnovers: Baltimore 3, Pittsburgh 2
Third Downs: Baltimore 42%, Pittsburgh 50%
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh by 3, total of 38
Notebook:
Obviously this game wasn't really a high scoring shootout in the usual sense of the word. Both teams had trouble moving the ball. Pittsburgh handed away easy points in the first half to dig a big hole. Baltimore inexplicably failed to protect the ball with a lead and handed those points right back to the Steelers.

It helps to focus on the key fundamentals in a weird game like this. You regulars know we always emphasize rushing yardage, Drive Points, and third down conversions in the NFL. Pittsburgh gets a clean sweep there, with double the rushing yardage and Drive Points, and a 50% mark on third downs. So, you'd have to say the right team won and covered in terms of the factors that matter most. But, they were VERY lucky they were given all of those gift points back with a ribbon on top. It's hard to imagine Pittsburgh making it to 24 or more points in the game without the cheapies on this tough Baltimore defense.

Our condolences to anyone who had the Under! This was much more like a 16-13 or 20-10 type game rather than an easy Over. If the turnovers had come on the other side of the field, it might have been a 10-7 finish. Not a game either quarterback will want to put on their resume. And, for Joe Flacco, he's now building a career out of not doing much in playoff games...outside of milking Todd Heap over and over again versus a Kansas City team that just wouldn't cover him. As we suggested last week, Pittsburgh largely took Heap out of the equation. End result, 91 passing yards for Flacco, and 126 for the team.

Pittsburgh advances to face the winner of Jets/Patriots next week. They would host the Jets if there's an upset in Foxboro. They'll visit Foxboro if the Patriots win as 9-point favorites.

GREEN BAY 48, ATLANTA 21
Total Yardage: Green Bay 442, Atlanta 194
Rushing Yardage: Green Bay 96, Atlanta 45
Passing Stats: Green Bay 31-36-0-346, Atlanta 20-29-2-149
Points on Drives 60+ Yards: Green Bay 28, Atlanta 7
Turnovers: Green Bay 1, Atlanta 4
Third Downs: Green Bay 67%, Atlanta 30%
Vegas Line: Atlanta by 1.5, total of 44
Notebook
: Just a slaughter. That's almost 450 total yards to less than 200. That's 28-7 in Drive Points and an enormous edge in third down conversions. Rodgers passed for almost 350 yards with only five incomplete passes on the night. And the Packers did all of this ON THE ROAD, against THE #1 SEED, who was coming off a relaxing BYE WEEK!

Yes, Green Bay becomes the odds on favorite to win the NFC. Even if they have to travel to face #2 Chicago next week. Nobody's playing better than the Packers since they got healthy. Aaron Rodgers has more big game moxy than Jay Cutler. It's not like Green Bay's defense is a pushover. It's one of the strengths of the team (completely derailing and demoralizing Matt Ryan in an environment where he was supposed to be invincible).

Maybe Chicago will win big Sunday, then will be installed as a home favorite next week. That will give us a week to reconsider our statement about the Packers being the odds on favorite. For now, we're looking at these key stats:

*On the road against the NFC East Champion, Green Bay won Drive Points 14-9, rushing yardage 138-82, and third downs 61% to 38%

*On the road against the NFC South Champion, Green Bay won Drive Points 28-7, rushing yardage 96-45, and third downs 67% to 30%.

Chicago would line up well with the composite of Philly and Atlanta. Green Bay just outscored that composite 42-16 on Drive Points the last two weeks.

We have room for some quick basketball notes from Saturday. Let's run the numbers from the only two college games matching ranked teams...

#21 WISCONSIN 76, ILLINOIS 66
Shooting Percentage: Illinois 30%, Wisconsin 39%
Three-Pointers: Illinois 4/16, Wisconsin 6/20
Free Throws: Illinois 30/36, Wisconsin 34/41
Rebounds: Illinois 32, Wisconsin 32
Turnovers: Illinois 7, Wisconsin 7
Phantom Score: Illinois 56, Wisconsin 56
Vegas Line: Wisconsin by 6.5, total of 123
Notebook:
Both teams only had 12 two-pointers, so you can see how the whistle-happy officials influenced the scoring. Sometimes they swallow their whistles...and sometimes they want the TV time. We would expect a lower scoring rematch figuring a different set zebras will let everyone playl.

For you newcomers, Phantom Score is a secondary score we use as a backup to confirm or add context to what we see on the scoreboard. It's simply two-point scoring plus rebounding. Often, the Phantom Score matches the actual score. When it doesn't, there's a reason. The reason here on the total is the officiating (this was a 56-56 game masquerading as more of a sprint). In terms of the 10-point margin, Wisconsin picked up six points on treys, and four more on the extra FT attempts. We wouldn't say at all that Wisconsin was lucky to win and cover. They did win two-point shooting impressively in terms of percentages. But, Illinois will probably do better than 25% on treys next time.

Big win for the Badgers in the competitive Big Ten. These two, Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan State, and possibly Minnesota will make things very interesting this year. Penn State has home wins over Michigan State and Illinois, so they'll be a possibly spoiler. This won't be a season where you read us griping about this league getting too much TV coverage and hype.

#13 TEXAS A&M 91, #12 MISSOURI 89 (in OT)
Shooting Percentage: Missouri 52%, Texas A&M 48%
Three-Pointers: Missouri 10/25, Texas A&M 6/18
Free Throws: Missouri 9/19, Texas A&M 29/38
Rebounds: Missouri 33, Texas A&M 32
Turnovers: Missouri 12, Texas A&M 9
Phantom Score: Missouri 83, Texas A&M 74
Vegas Line: Texas A&M by 5, total of 140
Notebook:
Very entertaining game, with Missouri doing everything right but hitting free throws. The Aggies clearly enjoyed some home cooking here. The whole Big 12 North may join Nebraska in flight if officials are going to follow this trend. Remember all the penalties the Aggies benefitted from at home against the Huskers during football? Missouri was outshot by 19 at the line in a game that went overtime.

This will be the only meeting between these two during the regular season, so there won't be a chance to bet on revenge in Vegas. We wouldn't be surprised if Missouri has a chip on its shoulder the next time they take the floor given their results this week.

A nice tune-up for us here. A week from today we'll be talking about Texas-Kansas.

If you're reading this before Seattle/Chicago has started, make a few clicks NOW to get JIM HURLEY'S PLAYOFF PARLAY in Sunday pro football action. We also have some baskets for you today because hoop lines are always softest when Vegas oddsmakers are worrying about football. Be sure to check the latest rates on our long term packages. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back Monday to run the numbers from Sunday's playoff action...plus bonus summaries from the suddenly interesting Lakers/Clippers game in the NBA, and Purdue/West Virginia in the colleges. Make sure you're with us EVERY DAY so you know what's REALLY happening in the world of sports!

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