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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 9:44 AM

To pick winners this week in the NFL wars, you need to fully understand what happened last week in pro football. Here's a quick look at some of the keys from this past Sunday and Monday Night. Games are presented in rotation order for your convenience.

  • Mostly bad offensive news in the San Francisco/Cincinnati game. The 49ers may be 2-1 in the standings, but they have no idea how to drive the field for points. The cheap points disappeared this week, and they had to score very late just to reach 13 for the day. That turned out to be enough because Andy Dalton was struggling so badly for the Bengals. Concerns that he wouldn't be ready for the big time seem to be justified to this point. He did put up number against what's been a very soft pass unit of Denver. This week, he was 17-32-2-149 against the remnants of Mike Singletary's bunch of 49ers. Don't ask either of these teams to score vs. good defenses. (Yards-per-play: Cincinnati 4.3, San Francisco 3.5)

  • You've heard a lot about the Bills upset of New England already. Coverage there has largely been accurate. Both quarterbacks had huge yardage days...but they combined for six interceptions. The Patriots are in real trouble when Brady has a game like that...which isn't too often. Note that he has been turnover prone against the Bills and Jets in the division within his last four games. That's probably a key...the more you see what New England does on offense, the easier it is to get some bodies in the way every so often. Think about that when handicapping the Pats from this point forward. The Bills are better than we thought they'd be...but not as good as their numbers given the soft defenses they've been facing. Interesting letdown potential this week in Cincinnati for Chan Gailey's group. New England may be in store for a wild one out west in Oakland. (YPP: Buffalo 7.5, New England 7.0)

  • An unsurprising shootout in New Orleans too, with Texans-Saints making it to 73 points on the day without any defensive or special teams points. Houston's defense had looked to be improved before this debacle. But, a lot of teams have debacles indoors against the Saints. Big test this week at home against Pittsburgh on both sides of the ball. New Orleans stubbed its toe too often on the road last year. Let's see if they can get the job done at Jacksonville this week. There just weren't any hidden stat keys in New England-Buffalo or Houston-New Orleans because the projected shootouts played themselves out. (YPP: Houston 7.2, New Orleans 6.7---but New Orleans converts 61% of third downs to 42% for Houston)

  • Keys here were probably that Philadelphia's defense doesn't look anywhere near as good as the preseason hype because they're linebackers have been so week. Atlanta exposed that in Week Two on national TV, and the Giants attacked right away here. Also worth noting...Michael Vick is losing his patience and trying to force things. He becomes very mistake prone when that's the case. He also waits to long to release many of his passes...inviting hits that just frustrate him more when nothing's called. Well, Michael, the defense is allowed to hit you if they've already launched! Stop waiting so long to throw the ball! The Eagles at their best are still an NFC power. We're not seeing that so far, and 1-2 is what you get when you're not playing your best after bragging to the world about how great you were going to be. Vick may be frustrated again this week by the physical San Francisco defense. We've lifted the Giants a bit in our Power Ratings...but we're not sure how much of last week's good showing was exploiting a clear weakness that generally won't be so present. At least Eli Manning gets to face a soft pass defense this week in Arizona. (YPP: NY Giants 6.5, Philadelphia 5.2)

  • Miami-Cleveland was much like San Francisco-Cincinnati in that you spent the day marveling at how little the offenses could do. Colt McCoy looks like "Rudy" out an undersized guy scrambling around trying to make things happen. That's not the prototype NFL quarterback by any means...and his lack of strength is being exposed. McCoy was 19-39-1-210 passing (ridiculously sloppy for this style of offense). But, he won anyway because Chad Henne can't drive the field. Miami is 0-3, and a coaching change may be imminent. Having Buffalo look GREAT so far just kills any excuses Miami might have about its start. Horrible luck to have to visit San Diego now. Cleveland hosts Tennessee in what will probably be another grinder. (YPP: Miami 5.1, Cleveland 4.8, Browns win thanks to one fewer turnover)

  • Speaking of Tennessee, they fell back a bit after the big win over Baltimore...but still had impressive stats in their 17-14 win over Denver. The final score makes it seem like a flat effort. Tennessee won total yardage 333-231. Solid stuff in a letdown spot. The Tennessee defense looks to be for real given what Baltimore did when not playing the Titans. Maybe Houston won't coast to the AFC South crown after all. We already told you that Tennessee visits Cleveland next week. Disappointing Denver, who's a bit lucky not to be 0-3 at this point, has a killer trip to Green Bay. If Matt Hasselbeck goes 27-36-0-295 against them...and Andy Dalton goes 27-41-0-310...what's Aaron Rodgers going to do? (YPP: Tennessee 5.5, Denver 3.7)

  • Once again Minnesota was obliterated in the second half. They were outscord 26-3 after the break this week (23-3 in regulation)...after getting stomped when it counted by San Diego and Tampa Bay. Donovan McNabb can't drive the field when it matters. Defenses step up their intensity in the second half...taking away Adrian Peterson and putting everything on McNabb's shoulders. He's not up to the task. And, it should be said that the defense has faded badly too. The Vikings pro-rate to around 40 points allowed per game if you only look at second halves. A visit to Kansas City will get somebody a win. Both the Vikings and Chiefs are 0-3. Detroit didn't really impress this week until late in the game. That's a step back from what we had seen the first two games. Can't argue with 3-0 though. Interesting game at Dallas in an early kick this Sunday. (YPP: Minnesota 5.2, Detroit 5.1 in an OT coin flip)

  • Heavy rains hurt the stats in Jacksonville-Carolina. Though, it has to be said that neither quarterback was doing anything before it started raining. Cam Newton may find it tougher going now that the league believes he can hit open receivers. Great test for his this week in Chicago, against a fired up Bears team that just lost two in a row. Jacksonville hosts New Orleans, in one of the biggest quarterback mismatches we'll see this season. The Jaguars will try to control what they can on the ground. (YPP: Jacksonville 4.5, Carolina 4.3 with a fourth of the game played in a monsoon, and a half or so played in a swamp)

  • Kansas City was at least competitive in its 20-17 loss at San Diego. But, they were outgained 375-252, and outscored on long drives 17-7. Ridiculous Chargers turnovers kept it close. It's amazing what a poor learner Philip Rivers is regarding the percentage game. They're not going to break through in the AFC until that gets fixed. Perhaps a soft touch for the Chargers this week when demoralized Miami comes to town. Kansas City tries to get off the schneid vs. Minnesota. Hope you have Len Dawson and Otis Taylor in your fantasy leagues. (YPP: San Diego 5.4, Kansas City 4.8)

  • The Jets are prone to blow off certain games in terms of defensive intensity. They won't admit that...but divisional rivals always get peak attention. A long road trip, like this one to Oakland, will sometimes yield a soft performance. That best explains how the Raiders rushed for 234 yards, and gained 6.4 yards-per-play against an elite defense. The Jets didn't bring their elite defense on the cross-country flight. We expect to see them Sunday Night on NBC against a Baltimore team they might see in the playoffs. That game should have a playoff intensity to it. Oakland/New England will too for that matter...but an up-tempo intensity given how the Patriots prefer to play. (YPP: Oakland 6.4, NY Jets 6.1)

  • Important things to remember from Baltimore-St. Louis...Joe Flacco has always been great at running up his stats against losing teams. He threw 48 passes this week in a blowout! Don't drink the kool-aid until he strings together good games vs. quality. And, Sam Bradford has yet to impress against anyone who matters. Last year's schedule was ridiculously soft. He was a disaster here against Baltimore, with a 16-32-1-132 passing line despite playing from way behind all day. The media's finally stopped driving his bandwagon for awhile...which we've been asking for since Day One. Throwing dinks and dunks vs. crap defenses doesn't make you an NFL quarterback. You think Baltimore got mad about all the pundits picking them to fall behind Cleveland in the NFC North race this year? The Ravens won total yardage here 553-244 when they could have coasted. (YPP: Baltimore 7.3, St. Louis 3.9)

  • Atlanta ended up making this very close...but that wasn't because Matt Ryan figured anything out. He basically had a replay of his poor Chicago game...

Ryan vs. Chicago: 3 turnovers...30% on third downs...12 total points
Ryan vs. Tampa Bay: 3 turnovers, 38% on third downs...13 total points

The yardage isn't as impressive as it looks because it took almost 50 passes to get there both times. Too many turnovers...not enough third down conversions...and an invisible offense away from home on grass vs. teams who look to finish in the 8-8 to 10-6 range. The Falcons may have been 13-3 last year thanks to some good fortune in close games. They're just another team in the mix right now.

Oh, Josh Freeman didn't exactly knock our socks off here either. He threw two interceptions, and converted just 35% of third downs. It could turn out that "winning the coin flips" plays a big role in filling out the NFC playoff brackets once you get past the elite quarterbacks. (YPP: Atlanta 4.9, Tampa Bay 4.3, Bucs helped by a turnover edge)

  • The buzz around Kevin Kolb subsided to an extreme degree with a 25-39-2-234 performance that included just 21% on third down conversions. And, that came against a Seattle defense that probably won't be particularly respected once the year is in the books. Somebody has to win the woeful West, and Kolb could still be a difference-maker considering the other QB's in the division are Tavaris Jackson, Alex Smith, and Sam Bradford. That may just separate 7-9 from 6-10 though. Seattle was lucky to avoid an 0-3 start considering their awful offensive numbers here. (YPP: Arizona 4.6, Seattle 4.0)

  • Not much of note in Green they game largely played to expectations. Jay Cutler still holds onto the ball too long and makes too many poor decisions. Aaron Rodgers is still very efficient. The Packers are the best team in the NFC...while Chicago is going to be one of the many teams in the Wildcard hunt. Nice indicator stat...Green Bay won rushing yardage 100-13. With all the talk about Rodgers, it's important to remember how well the Packers control the point of attack. (YPP: Green Bay 5.7, Chicago 5.6...but Packers +100 yards with more possession)

  • Sunday Night's game was much more one-sided in the stats than it was on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh won yardage 408-241. A turnover debacle (3-1 in favor of the Colts) turned what would have been a double digit win into a nailbiter. We wonder how much Bill Polian was biting his nails...the Colts almost fell way behind in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes with an unexpected win! Poor turnover performances for the Steelers in their road games thus far. They'll need to treasure their possessions this week in Houston. The Colts play Monday Night at Tampa the networks have to swallow all the spots there were going to give Peyton Manning. (YPP: Pittsburgh 6.0, Indianapolis 3.9)

  • Monday Night's defensive struggle was a nice Under winner for JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK. Only one touchdown was scored in the double digit cover. Both teams were miserable on third downs, converting just 6 of 25 combined attempts. At least the Cowboys had some injury excuses. They may be a Wildcard type team when healthy. Can they keep their offensive weapons healthy given their documented fragility? (YPP: Dallas 6.0, Washington 4.8...but Dallas can only turn that into six field goals because they couldn't convert third downs).

That wraps up our lengthy review. JIM HURLEY has great rates for the rest of the football season here at the website. If you have any questions, call the NETWORK office at 1-800-323-4453. Back with you tomorrow to preview South Florida-Pittsburgh on ESPN in the colleges. See you then!

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