Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 8:28 PM
There’s not much mystery for sports fans and sports bettors about who’s going to win this week’s edition of Monday Night football. The Pittsburgh Steelers are double digit favorites in a game they HAVE to win to stay in the thick of the AFC playoff chase. The Kansas City Chiefs have been playing so badly lately that many are suggesting they’ve already gone into the tank to ensure getting the #1 draft pick in the offseason.
Has the Much Better Team
Needs to Win
Is Playing GREAT Recently
Has One of the Worst Teams in the League
Needs to Lose
Has Been a Turnover Machine Recently
This is the NFL…and anything can truly happen on any given day if a favorite comes in flat and a few guys on the inferior side decide they don’t care about the future of their millionaire owner’s franchise. But, with that backdrop…it’s easy to see why Pittsburgh is laying so many points. Handicappers and bettors must determine if the number is too high or too low in a game that may see both teams ready to get out of Dodge in the fourth quarter.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS at PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8:35 p.m. on ESPN)
Las Vegas Spread: Pittsburgh by 12.5, total of 41
Not much worth reporting in this category beyond what you already know. Sharps did show some interest in the Under over the weekend. In games like this, the Wise Guys often prefer attacking the total to the team side.
WON-LOST RECORDS (schedule strength according to USA Today)
Kansas City: 1-7 (19th ranked schedule)
Pittsburgh: 5-3 (25th ranked schedule)
Pittsburgh is on pace for another playoff appearance with that record. They’ve played an easy schedule this year. But, the AFC is so bad that most top teams will have played easy schedules by the time the full season is in the books. The Super Bowl contenders are spread out amongst the four divisions. Everyone has a lot of easy games. Note that Pittsburgh has been playing better of late than that stat combo might suggest. Some early season eggs were laid on the road. The Steelers were solid as a rock last week on the road against the NY Giants even with some officials calls going against them.
Kansas City: -20
Depending on the way you look at the world…that’s either evidence that Kansas City is supremely incompetent, or evidence that they’re trying to protect their inside track for the top draft pick. Possibly a little of both. Whichever direction you choose might be libelous! A team has to be truly incompetent and poorly coached to post a -20 turnover differential in half a season. Pittsburgh still hasn’t regained the magic for forcing turnovers that they used to have. No harm no foul to this point.
Kansas City: 357.5 yards-per-game on 5.2 yards-per-play
Pittsburgh: 367.2 yards-per-game on 5.5 yards-per-play
Kansas City gets to play a lot of catch up, so their offensive yardage isn’t as bad as you might think. That yards-per-play is low…but they get to run a lot of plays in desperation mode every week. Pittsburgh’s doing a good job of grinding. They will probably need to pick up the pace on yards-per-play if they want to survive the playoff brackets.
Kansas City: 347.5 yards-per-game on 6.3 yards-per-play
Pittsburgh: 262.6 yards-per-game on 4.8 yards-per-play
This is where Pittsburgh is showing its dominance this year. The mainstream media has been focused on a lot of other teams thus far. And, if Pittsburgh wins, everyone assumes its Ben Roethlisberger being a hero. He is a great team leader…but it’s the DEFENSE in Pittsburgh that’s behind this recent surge. You can ask Eli Manning about that.
LAST WEEK’S BOXES
SAN DIEGO 31, KANSAS CITY 13
Total Yardage: Kansas City 289, San Diego 339
Rushing Yards: Kansas City 113, San Diego 123
Passing Stats: Kansas City 19-29-1-176, San Diego 18-20-1-216
Turnovers: Kansas City 4, San Diego 2
Third Downs: Kansas City 58%, San Diego 44%
Vegas Line: San Diego by 7, total of 41
You may have watched this Thursday Nighter. Kansas City would move the chains for awhile without getting much on the scoreboard. When it was clear San Diego was too bad to pull away on their own volition, Kansas City started handing away free touchdowns! Or, maybe that was just great San Diego defense making plays to turn the game around. Either way. Kansas City couldn’t get much on the board, and had their latest series of turnover debacles.
PITTSBURGH 24, NY GIANTS 20
Total Yardage: Pittsburgh 349, NY Giants 182
Rushing Yards: Pittsburgh 158, NY Giants 68
Passing Stats: Pittsburgh 21-30-1-191, NY Giants 10-24-1-114
Turnovers: Pittsburgh 2, NY Giants 1
Third Downs: Pittsburgh 46%, NY Giants 20%
Vegas Line: NY Giants by 3, total of 48
Since there’s not much to talk about in the way of real matchups for KC-Pittsburgh, let’s dwell for a moment on how dominant Pittsburgh was as a road underdog in Gotham. They owned the point of attack on both sides of the ball. Their turnover issues were referee-influenced to a degree. Great numbers on the ground and at moving the chains. And, if you look over Eli Manning’s passing lines this year…then 10-24-1-114 jumps out as virtually unbelievable. Manning is now an elite quarterback, and Pittsburgh made him look like a rookie. To this point, the Steelers had been top notch at home, but questionable on the road. This was the performance that truly established their bona fides for this season’s Super Bowl.
As you saw with the Indianapolis last year, it’s not automatic that teams with an eye on the draft fail to cover every week. They just need to lose straight up…and it’s okay if that’s by 6-10 points rather than 21-30. The deeper you get into the season…and the worse that the overall won-loss record looks in the newspaper…the more that’s an issue for handicappers. Yes, the Chiefs are 1-4 ATS their last five…with the only cover coming in a 6-3 loss to Baltimore where they had to do quite the limbo to stay off the scoreboard. They might well go 3-4 ATS or 4-3 ATS the rest of the way while losing against very high Vegas spreads.
JIM HURLEY has been in contact with his trusted sources in both cities. He’s been studying very closely the boxscores from Indianapolis last year and other famous “fadeouts” over the past 10-15 seasons to get the best possible read on the real dynamics in play tonight. He’s also emphasizing the Over/Under with his computer simulations to see if that’s where the best opportunity lies Monday Night.
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Back with you Tuesday to talk about the blockbuster college basketball game that everyone will be talking about…Duke vs. Kentucky! That’s set for an ESPN telecast from Atlanta at 9:30 p.m. ET. That’s going to have a Final Four feel to it…and it comes on the heels of Michigan State/Kansas in the first game of a TV doubleheader at that site. We’ll pick up with the NBA on Wednesday to get you ready for LeBron James and the Miami Heat visiting Chris Paul and the LA Clippers in another big TV showdown.
Boy…BCS Chaos…NFL knockdown dragouts…big games in the NBA…and DUKE-KENTUCKY all on the upcoming schedules. You’re going to bet the games in Las Vegas. Don’t make a move until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say!