Both #1 Seeds are OUT!



by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

It really wasn't all that big a surprise when the #1 seed in the NFC was knocked out Saturday by the Green Bay Packers. But, when the #1 seeds in the AFC...and the odds on favorite to go the distance this year according to Vegas oddsmakers bit the dust on Sunday, it was truly a shocker!

Sure New York is a dangerous team. But...their 45-3 loss on this field a few weeks ago left only Jets loyalists hopeful for a straight up victory here. A lot of smart people liked the dog +9. The dog leading by 14 outright with less than two minutes to go in the game? That was a short list!

Let's crunch the numbers from that upset, and the early kick Sunday out in Chicago...

Total Yardage: NY Jets 314, New England 372
Rushing Yardage: NY Jets 120, New England 113
Passing Stats: NY Jets 16-25-0-194, New England 29-45-1-259
Points on Drives 60+ Yards: NY Jets 7, New England 11
Turnovers: NY Jets 0, New England 1
Third Downs: NY Jets 46%, New England 35%
Vegas Line: New England by 9, total of 45
The yardage stats are a little misleading because New England padded their yardage with that last minute TD drive against a prevent defense that turned a 28-14 deficit into a 28-21 loss. Before that drive, we were looking at a virtual dead heat statistically. Total yardage was about even. Rushing yardage was about even. Drive Points favored the Pats, but they gave that edge back with a turnover loss and poor third down performance. The Jets had turned what was expected to be a one-sided loss into a coin flip game...then turned field position advantages into a lead that they would not give up.

Football can be a game of extremes like this. If you find something that works, nobody can stop you! Nobody could stop New England's offense for the past several weeks. Many top teams were embarrassed when they tried. But, once the Jets solved the riddle, New England could only dink and dunk their way down the field, running the clock out on themselves. They looked like one of the best teams we've seen in years in the second half of the season. Sunday, they were just Baltimore, or Philadelphia, or any other playoff loser that didn't seem to have many workable options when the game was on the line.

The Jets visit Pittsburgh next week as a small underdog. Will they let down off this dramatic upset? Or, will Rex Ryan's promise of a Super Bowl trip come through? More on that in our previews next weekend. Let's look at the early game...

Total Yardage: Seattle 276, Chicago 437
Rushing Yardage: Seattle 34, Chicago 176
Passing Stats: Baltimore Seattle 26-46-0-242, Chicago 15-29-1-261
Points on Drives 60+ Yards: Seattle 7, Chicago 21
Turnovers: Seattle 0, Chicago 1
Third Downs: Seattle 21%, Chicago 56%
Vegas Line: Chicago by 10, total of 42
The final score is a bit misleading, as you know if you watched the game. Chicago led 28-0 in the third quarter, before the Seahawks won garbage time 24-7. Our key NFL stats of rushing yardage, Drive Points, and third down conversions show you the real dominance. The Bears owned the ground game to an extreme degree, with better than a 5-1 edge. Drive Points were a squash until garbage time. Third downs were about as one-sided as it gets this deep in the postseason. This was a blowout, plain and simple.

Did we see enough to suggest the Bears can beat the Packers next week? Vegas opened Green Bay as a 3-point favorite as soon as this game ended. You have to be concerned about what the Bears pass defense has done in recent weeks. They let Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez have big days on this field. They let Matt Hasselbeck move the ball at will in the second half here. Yes, they slowed down Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay a couple of weeks ago. Was that the calm before the storm, or a sign that they know how to stop him? We'll talk more about that in our preview next week.

For now, let's celebrate the NFC North. Chicago and Green Bay are playing for a spot in the Super Bowl. The NFC South with Atlanta and New Orleans was exposed as a pretender to a pretty extreme degree. Keep this in mind when you're thinking about Tampa Bay next year too. Philadelphia's exit was another strike against an NFC East division that's been underachieving in the postseason the past few seasons. The North was better than the world realized, which is also a good sign for a respectable Minnesota team, and a Detroit squad that was covering spreads all year as they continued to improve.

There were two basketball games played Sunday afternoon we wanted to spend some time with. The LA Clippers have become a developing story with recent victories over both the Miami Heat and the LA Lakers. And, Purdue visited West Virginia in a made-for-TV matchup that gave handicappers a sense of how the Big 10 stacks up right now with the Big East. Let's run the numbers from those games before calling it a day...

Shooting Percentage: Lakers 41%, Clippers 44%
Three-Pointers: Lakers 3/20, Clippers 9/21
Free Throws: Lakers 27/33, Clippers 14/23
Rebounds: Lakers 45, Clippers 50
Turnovers: Lakers 10, Clippers 11
Vegas Line: Lakers by 5, total of 196
Blake Griffin is the real deal. He's not a player who can carry a team to greatness all by himself. But, he can certainly bring them up from horribleness to respectability in a finger snap. Baron Davis is a top flight player when he wants to be. The dramatic arrival of Griffin has inspired Davis to get in shape and get back in form on the court. That combination is wreaking havoc out West as the Clippers enjoy a very long and restful stretch in their home state. Their only recent road games were in Sacramento and Golden State. We're seeing the Clippers at their peak...and that peak deserves your respect!

You can see that the Clips are emphasizing the right things. Yes, Griffin has amazing dunks. You win in this league with defense and rebounding. The Clippers held the Lakers to just 41% shooting, while also winning the battle of the boards against a group that knows how to rebound. The officials favored the Lakers as they usually do (tenure matters in this league!). The Clippers made up for -13 from the free throw line with +18 from three-point land.

For the time being, the Clippers should continue to be a value team. They'll eventually have to start travelling again, which will create some fatigue. And, just one injury to a key player knocks them back down the ladder very quickly. Fresh and healthy, they can play with anybody. They just showed in the past week they can BEAT anybody, on their home floor at least.

Note that today features an enormous NBA schedule featuring 10 DAY GAMES and then three more at night. Be sure you check in with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK early so you make money over two sessions and maximize your profit potential.

Shooting Percentage: Purdue 48%, W. Virginia 46%
Three-Pointers: Purdue 3/11, W. Virginia 5/13
Free Throws: Purdue 5/7, W. Virginia 17/26
Rebounds: Purdue 28, W. Virginia 34
Turnovers: Purdue 12, W. Virginia 17
Phantom Score: Purdue 78, W. Virginia 70
Vegas Line: West Virginia by 3, total of 138
A few things to remember here...

*Purdue is a top notch Big Ten team, one that many believe will play to their current poll ranking and rat least reach the Elite Eight in the Big Dance come March.

*West Virginia is NOT an elite Big East team. They're good, but they're not Pittsburgh, or Syracuse, or Villanova. You see above that the Mountaineers aren't currently in the AP Top 25. So, this isn't 'best vs. best' in a true measuring stick. But, it at least gives us a sense of where the leagues stand.

*Purdue obviously wasn't getting much help from the officials. They were outshot 26-7 from the line, and outscored 17-5. Some of that is the face that Purdue is often content to toss the ball around for awhile and shoot a jumper. But, on a neutral floor in a tournament, those categories would be much closer to even. If we pencil in even here, Purdue wins.

*Phantom Score is a secondary score we like to use because it focuses on the most important fundamentals in a game. It's simply two-point scoring plus rebounding. Purdue wins that pet stat of ours handily. So, again, in a future meeting on a neutral floor, Purdue is probably the winner.

*West Virginia has to be concerned about the turnover department. They didn't force many, and they committed 17 on their home floor. That means big troubles on the road vs. better Big East teams.

It may seem odd that we're finding so many negatives about a team that WON! Hey, we give the Mountaineers credit for keeping their heads late in a close game and sealing the deal. As handicappers, we have to recognize weakness when it shows up in a boxscore. If you NEED helpful officiating to win a game like this, it's a sign of weakness. If you NEED your opponent to only make three treys, it's just not something you can count on repeating itself down the road.

Who wins the battle of the conferences? To us, the Big East still gets the nod. West Virginia isn't a top five team in the Big East, and Purdue is considered by most to be a top two team in the Big Ten. Yes, your March Madness handicapping should already have begun!

Note that the Big East will be very prominent on the Monday basketball card. Villanova visits Connecticut this afternoon, followed by the much anticipated Syracuse-Pittsburgh game tonight. ESPN will televise both games. Be sure you take care of business EARLY Monday. How many times do we have to say it! Our Private Line and Hotline services combined to go 6-1 over the weekend, including St. John's win over Notre Dame yesterday, our top play on the Sunday card. We've got a terrific package of games lined up for Monday's card, in both college and the NBA.

Enjoy a true basketball bonanza on this important holiday. It should all start with a call to JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by and For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.


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