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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, October 2, 2011 at 9:02 AM

Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets is a tough quarterback to figure out. Sometimes, he barely looks like he's developing at all. But, stick him in a playoff game…and he suddenly produces like a veteran leader. Sunday Night…on the road at Baltimore…the Jets are playing in what might be a virtual playoff game against the Ravens. Which Sanchez are we going to see?

The one that's been inaccurate, sack prone, and turnover prone is a fairly good guess. Here are Sanchez's numbers to this point in the season…

26-44-1-335, and sacked 4 times vs. Dallas
17-24-2-182, with just a 25% rate on third downs vs. Jacksonville
27-44-1-369, and sacked 4 times at Oakland

We've been warning you often this year to look beyond yardage volume for quarterbacks. Throwing for 300 yards doesn't mean what it used to. And, it never meant what the media was suggesting it meant way back when! How many Super Bowls did Dan Marino and Dan Fouts win? Throwing for a million yards is often a sign of weakness rather than strength. And, it's a style of play that wears out your own defense over the grind of a full season.

So…don't focus on the two games where Sanchez passed for more than 300 yards (one a lucky win, and another a double digit road loss). The following are the true storylines for Sanchez so far this season…

*Way too many incomplete passes
*Too many interceptions, with an alarming consistency about those
*Way too many sacks taken
*Not enough third downs converted, at least compared to the elite

The Jets are lucky to be 2-1 at the moment, after Tony Romo of Dallas gifted them a win in the season opener. The other vicory was over lowly Jacksonville. The loss in Oakland saw them outrushed 234-100, in a game where they lost the turnover category 2-0 and yards-per-play 6.4 to 6.1.

Should the Jets lose tonight in Baltimore, they'd fall to 2-2 in a division that's gotten a lot more interesting with the improvement of Buffalo. And, if it's a clean loss…they'd really be a 1-3 caliber team that was lucky to be at .500.

It would be something if a Jets team that was SUPPOSED to be getting better as Sanchez matured instead took a big step back this season and missed the playoffs. Sanchez is only 24 (he'll turn 25 in November), so he's still younger than is commonly realized. He became an NFL starter young, and has at least held his own in the deep end. It's not like he's as bad as Tavaris Jackson, Chad Henne, or that class of quarterback right now. To win championships, you need to rise up to the neighborhood of Tom Brady, Eli Manning, or Drew Brees as a general rule. Sanchez isn't showing that kind of potential yet.

In fact, he's showing that if you ask him to carry more of the load he just throws more incomplete passes and more interceptions, while taking more sacks. The Jets need to DE-emphasize him to play their best right now.

Sanchez certainly needs to bring his A-game in Baltimore. Look at what Ben Roethlisberger and Sam Bradford have done against this Ravens defense this year…

Roethlisberger: 22-41-3-280…with 4 sacks and a 33% conversion rate on third downs
Bradford: 16-32-1-166…with 5 sacks and a 28% conversion rate on third downs

Possibly the single biggest factor determining who's going to win and cover the NBC game this evening is this matchup of Sanchez vs. the Ravens defense. If he can find playoff mode…then a controlled Jets attack can win outright as a dog of +3.5 points. But…more of what we've been seeing so far…and that Vegas hook will be justified…and the Ravens will win by a lot more than a field goal.

We've been studying this issue very closely all week here at JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK because we know how important the Sunday Night game is to Vegas bettors. Many lose betting on their own, and need a bailout. Those who win (like NETWORK clients) want to let those winning ride on a solid play. Let's outline our attack:

*We've talked with our scouts and sources to find out what specifically the Jets will be trying to do to allow Sanchez to play at his best. Remember, our New York sources are the best in the land…which helps us year-round in all sports. The Jets, Giants, and Yankees are all in the spotlight at the moment.

*We've crunched the numbers with our statheads to get the best read on expectations. You see a lot of their work here in the NOTEBOOK on a regular basis. We save the best stuff for in-house analysis because we MUST find pointspread winners for our customers.

*We've been running simulations around the clock with our state-of-the-art software to account for every possibility. We've treated this as a regular season game…using regular season only numbers. Then, we switched over to 'playoff mode' and only used postseason number for both Sanchez, Joe Flacco of Baltimore, and the two defenses. If we get the word from our sources that both teams are in playoff mode…then we just might use the playoff projections instead. Note…that was the right way to go when these teams met in the regular season last year…playing a 10-9 slobberknocker that had a playoff feel to it.

*We've been checking with our trend historians to find out what affect travel may (or may not) have on the Jets. They're an East Coast team that had to play on the West Coast last week…and are once again on the road this week. Is that a hidden negative that will trigger an easy Baltimore cover? Or, is travel being overrated by oddsmakers here…meaning the dog of more than a field goal is the true value side?

*We've consulted closely with our Wise Guy connections in Las Vegas and offshore to see what the smart money thinks about this game…and how the dumb public money is likely to fall throughout Sunday afternoon. If Sanchez is going to play poorly, line value probably won't matter. But, if his indicators are looking up…then every half point becomes relevant.

This is the power of JIM HURLEY'S unique TEAM HANDICAPPING approach. Some guys out there love stats. Others hype their information (often inflating what they really know while hoping you never find out that they're blowing smoke). It seems like every season brings a new guy with his can't-miss computer model that…sure enough…misses really badly once everyone's paying attention.

NETWORK has been winning for almost 25 years because we bring the whole package to bear. You'll see the results yourself today with our NFL TRAP GAME OF THE MONTH and our Sunday Night Showdown play in Jets-Ravens. We may have something special for you too in games like Detroit-Dallas, Pittsburgh-Houston, and New England-Oakland. Check out the available options for credit card purchase here at the website…or call us in the office for more details at 1-800-323-4453.

(Oh, don't forget about baseball! Friday's rainout has created a Sunday Tripleheader with Detroit-NY Yankees, Arizona-Milwaukee, and St. Louis-Philadelphia).

Back with you in the NOTEBOOK on Monday to preview Indianapolis-Tampa Bay. We'll devote Tuesday to getting caught up statistically in the baseball playoffs. It's a very busy spot on the calendar, but we'll do our best to keep you abreast of developments you must be aware of to beat the line. Check in with us EVERY DAY so you know what's REALLY happening in the world of sports!

And, LINK UP with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK for affordably priced BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

 

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