ANDREW LUCK AND PEYTON MANNING LINKED AGAIN SUNDAY IN AFC DIVISIONAL ROUND
These guys can't stop running into each other! The current (but fading) Peyton Manning has played a few games already against "the next" Peyton Manning. But, none of those matchups has been as important as Sunday afternoon's NFL Divisional Round playoff game matching the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos.
Andrew Luck still hasn't had the breakthrough game that's announced to the world he's going to be a champion. A high volume passer? Definitely. There are more than a few of those in the record books who ran up big numbers in the regular season before floundering in the playoffs. Last week's win over Cincinnati may have been a sign that Luck is ready to take the next step. He'd better be ready QUICK because winning on the road at Denver is much tougher than winning at home vs. Cincinnati.
Is this the week two careers pass in the night (or late afternoon)? Or, is Peyton Manning still capable of winning big games even as his body starts to fail him. Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats have to say about the grand finale of this weekend's playoff slate.
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Indianapolis: 11-5 (#24 schedule in USA Today)
Denver: 12-4 (#4 schedule in USA Today)
This could prove to be hugely important. Everyone knows that Denver had a good year. But, it hasn't been widely reported that it came against one of the toughest schedules in the league...and the toughest 16-game challenge of anyone who qualified for the playoffs. Indianapolis was only a game worse in the AFC standings...but once again exploited the AFC South. If you pencil in league average schedules for both...Denver might move to 13-4 or 14-2, while Indianapolis falls back to 10 wins...maybe just nine.
Indianapolis: 5.9 on offense, 5.4 on defense
Denver: 6.0 on offense, 4.7 on defense
Now, +1.3 is already significantly better than +0.5. And, THEN you have to factor in strength of schedule. That would suggest Denver is more than a full yard better than the Colts in overall differential. To this point, it's not looking promising for Andrew Luck to have that breakthrough playoff performance. He's on the road facing a stellar 4.7 YPP defense, while Manning looks to have the easier task. Of course, if Peyton isn't at 100% healthwise, that muddies the waters a bit.
Here's a nice hidden kicker also favoring the hosts. Luck is still too interception prone...and he throws for a team that doesn't force a lot of turnovers when the defense is on the field. That -5 differential is the worst of any playoff team...and WAY below what's normal for a January qualifier. Frankly, Denver is a disappointment at only +5. Manning has become more mortal with age (and a loss of arm strength). Maybe that won't be a problem this week if Luck is giving points away.
Indianapolis: 10-5-1 ATS
Denver: 8-8 ATS
As we discussed last week, it's kind of amazing that Indianapolis covered 67% of its pointspread decisions with relatively mediocre stats coming against a soft schedule. Luck does have a way of overachieving his stats through the grind of a season. He will have to do that here to score a road victory. Denver only managed 8-8 ATS...but they were priced at perfection every week. It's very tough for Hall-of-Fame bound quarterbacks to consistently beat the price late in their careers.
Current Line: Denver by 7, total of 54
The numbers we've looked at today suggest the line is too low. Denver was much more impressive against the much tougher schedule. Yet, if Manning hasn't fully recovered from his late season health issues (when the Broncos turned into a run-heavy team in the blink of an eye), then the full season stats don't matter. The younger, healthier quarterback will be in position to score a signature road win.
Jim Hurley Dominates The Divisionals!
Wins with Baltimore (+7) vs. New England 31-35, and Seattle over Carolina on Saturday. Now Win Dallas at Green Bay & Indianapolis at Denver on Sunday
16-8 In Divisional Playoffs Last 5 Years- 67% Click here
JIM HURLEY has been working closely with his sources all week to get up-to-the-minute reports on both of Saturday's "hobbled" favorite quarterbacks. We could have one of NETWORK'S biggest releases ever based on what he learns! You'll be able to purchase the final word for Sunday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us before the action starts at 1-800-323-4453
Still more football ahead as Oregon and Ohio State will be taking the field Monday Night to determine college football's National Champion. That's up next in a busy week in the NOTEBOOK...
Monday: College Football Championship Preview...Oregon vs. Ohio State
Tuesday: College Basketball Preview...Oklahoma at West Virginia
Wednesday: College Basketball Preview...Iowa State at Baylor
Thursday: NBA Preview...Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets
Friday: NFL Early Look...Conference Championship Preview
Saturday: NFL Early Look...Conference Championship Preview
It's great to be a sports fan and a sports bettor in January. Make the most of this big Divisional Weekend as we work our way through the tail end of football and a thrilling time in the baskets.
Your next NFL champion is on the field this weekend...and your next college champion will be determined Monday Night. WHEN CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE ON THE LINE, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!
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