Super Bowl Stat Preview

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

LET'S CHECK THE INDICATOR STATS
IN PITTSBURGH VS. GREEN BAY

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

Time may fly when you're having fun, but it sure drags when you're waiting for the Super Bowl to finally get here!

Two weeks of waiting is finally over. The national blizzard has passed. It's now time to sit down and crunch the numbers for the long awaited Pittsburgh Steelers/Green Bay Packers showdown.

And, what a great historic matchup that is! They're playing for the Lombardi Trophy, named after Green Bay coaching legend Vince Lombardi. The Packers won the first two Super Bowls ever played back in the mid 1960's. Pittsburgh is the team that's won more Lombardi Trophies than anyone else, with current quarterback Ben Roethlisberger going for his third...a few decades after Terry Bradshaw's dynasty won four (Dallas and San Francisco have both won five times).

Of course, it won't be Vince Lombardi vs. Chuck Noll, or Bart Starr vs. Terry Bradshaw today. Let's use our key indicator stats to see how the 2010 versions of Green Bay and Pittsburgh measure up.

For you newcomers, we focus on:

*DRIVE POINTS, which are points scored and allowed on drives of 60 yards or more. We believe this is the single best indicator stat IN ALL SPORTS because it tells you exactly what you need to know about which offenses can drive the field and score...and which defenses can keep opponents from doing the same thing.

*TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL, because the risk-reward ratio is so important in the modern game.

*STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE, because statistics can get warped against very difficult or very easy schedules. You've seen again this year that teams entering the playoffs after playing soft schedules have big troubles making any headway.

Those are the stats week look at throughout the regular season. If you are a newcomer, be sure you take advantage of this next season!

Throughout are playoff previews, we use the final regular season data as a starting point. We want an evenly matched sample size, and the 16-game schedule provides for that. We'll tweak if we need to based on playoff results if needed. Let's start with the final regular season numbers...

Pittsburgh: 9.0 offense, 7.2 defense (+17 TO's, 10th schedule)
Green Bay: 13.8 offense, 8.3 defense (+10 TO's, 9th schedule)
Vegas Line: Green Bay by 3, total of 44.5
Notebook:
Great news right off the bat for handicapping. Both teams played very even schedules. There's not a pretender here off a soft schedule. We can trust the numbers. You might be thinking we should adjust Pittsburgh's offense because Roethlisberger missed the first month of the season. We thought that back in October ourselves. But, then the offense didn't show any signs of increased volume under Big Ben through December!

Those differentials are meaningful in our view. Green Bay is +5.5 points in terms of long distance scoring. Pittsburgh is +1.8. That's +3.7 for the Packers.

Turnovers favor Pittsburgh, with a defense that does a great job of forcing them, and an offense who's conservatism helps them from avoiding implosions. If the Packers start at +3.7 with a numerical edge, then come back a bit because of a turnover disadvantage...you're pretty much sitting right on the Vegas line of Green Bay -3.

So, to this point in the discussion, Vegas is in line with regular season performance. Is Vegas in line with playoff performance? Let's review the postseason

WILDCARD WEEKEND
Pittsburgh had a bye week. Green Bay won on the road at Philadelphia, earning a 14-9 edge in DRIVE POINTS...but losing the turnover category 2-1. Your regulars know we place a lot of weight on rushing yardage and third down conversions in big time football. The Packers won those categories 138-82 and 61% to 38%. And, they did that ON THE ROAD against a #3 seed! Great showing for the Pack.

DIVISIONAL WEEKEND
Pittsburgh beat Baltimore 31-24, winning DRIVE POINTS 14-7, rushing yardage 71-35, and third downs 50-42%. You'll recall that was a misleading final score, as turnovers set up cheap points for both teams. Baltimore was gifted an early lead, but then gave it all away with their own miscues. In a way, Pittsburgh was lucky to win this game. But, once turnovers had time to equalize, the indicator stats did favor the Steelers.

Green Bay annihilated Atlanta 48-21, winning DRIVE POINTS 28-7, rushing yardage 96-45, and third downs 67-30%. It was arguably one of the most impressive playoff performances ever because it came ON THE ROAD against a RESTED #1 seed!

CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND
Pittsburgh beat the New York Jets 24-19, with very clear edges across the board. Pittsburgh won DRIVE POINTS 17-7, rushing yardage 166-70, and Third Downs 54-35%. They didn't do a great job of protecting a 24-3 halftime lead! But, they were obviously stronger in the stats that mattered most.

Green Bay beat Chicago 21-14. They lost DRIVE POINTS 14-7 though, and only converted on 18% of their third downs. That was enough to win the stat because Chicago was only at 7%! Rushing yardage went to Green Bay 120-83.

If you're only looking at the numbers, Green Bay continues to have a decisive edge. They were more impressive ON THE ROAD than Pittsburgh was at home!

But, and, this is potentially a big but, they may have played a much softer schedule anyway.

*Atlanta looked like a pretender as the #1 seed in the NFC, and they certainly weren't ready for the changes that come in postseason play.

*Chicago was also arguably a pretender as a #2 seed in the NFC. And, obviously, they're not second best in the conference with their backup quarterbacks. Jay Cutler couldn't go in the second half, and was apparently hobbled through some of the first half.

*Philadelphia's Michael Vick hadn't been in a playoff game in a few years.

Green Bay will be experiencing a dramatic step up in class today. They're laying points to a team that won a Super Bowl two years ago, and has established that they know what to do under the playoff spotlight. They're not facing a backup quarterback. They're not facing a quarterback who missed a few seasons because of legal problems. They're facing a team who just beat Baltimore and the NY Jets, rather than lowly Seattle.

In a nutshell, handicapping today's game from a stat perspective comes down to how much you trust the numbers (Green Bay has the better numbers), and how much you trust intangibles (Pittsburgh is a proven postseason commodity coming from a superior conference).

Maybe this is the day Green Bay becomes a proven postseason commodity under the next star quarterback. Maybe they're just the next team that loses to Pittsburgh.

We use stats very carefully at JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK. But, they're just part of the overall TEAM HANDICAPPING approach.

*Our SCOUTS AND SOURCES are on site feeding us vital information about team preparation and mindset. This is valuable every week of course. But, it's REALLY valuable at the biggest sporting event in the world!

*Our COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS have been running simulations around the clock since the gun sounded in the Jets/Steelers game. Well, actually, we started running them at halftime when it was already 24-3! We've accounted for all the possibilities. We know all the probabilities.

*Our WISE GUY CONNECTIONS are letting us know what the SMART MONEY is doing in Las Vegas and offshore. We're pretty sure we have all the bases covered. Those connections make CERTAIN that all the bases are covered!

So, when JIM HURLEY releases a side & total in the Super Bowl, you can be confident it's come from the best available resources. It's the only TEAM HANDICAPPING approach in the industry!

You can purchase NETWORK'S full Sunday card in the morning here at the website. Make a few clicks and have your credit cards handy. Or, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Our Super Bowl record is unmatched over the 20-plus years of NETWORK service. When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

Enjoy the game! We'll see you again Monday in the NOTEBOOK with key stats and a complete review.

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

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