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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Last year the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos were matched up in an epic playoff game that will go down in history as one of the best ever. Many details were lost in the shuffle because Baltimore went on to win the Super Bowl a few weeks later. Let’s not forget that:

*The game went DOUBLE overtime

*The game was tied at the end of every quarter, and the first overtime

*Denver, favored by 9.5 points, never led by more than seven

*Joe Flacco’s game-tying TD with 30 seconds to go went for 70 yards…with the ball travelling almost 60 yards in the air according to offseason measurements

People seem to remember Flacco’s Hail Mary. And, they remember that it was an upset. But, it’s amazing how many people have forgotten how close that game was throughout…and what a horrible line Denver -9.5 turned out to be. It was more than a 75-minute nailbiter…and Baltimore ultimately won total yardage 479-398.

Did oddsmakers learn from their mistake? NO! Denver was an 8.5-point favorite earlier this week…until smart money started hitting the Ravens on Tuesday. We’re now seeing Denver -7 as we write this up…though there’s plenty of time before kickoff for that line to move some more in either direction.

Here are a few key indicator stats from last year that handicappers should also be reviewing…

 

Standings/Turnovers/Schedule

Baltimore: 10-6, +9 turnovers, #13 ranked schedule

Denver: 13-3, -1 turnover, #24 ranked schedule

Denver had the better record, but played the easier schedule. You can also see that Denver had troubles in the risk/reward area at least compared to what playoff teams usually do. That was ultimately the difference-maker in the playoff game because Peyton Manning threw a horrible interception early in the sixth quarter that set up Baltimore’s game-winning field goal.

 

Yards-Per Play

Baltimore: 5.4 on offense, 5.2 on defense

Denver: 5.8 on offense, 4.6 on defense

This is what tricked many in the markets into thinking Denver was a significantly superior side. Their offense has the ability to run up the stats on bad defenses…which they did against a softer than average schedule. And, their defense shut a lot of people down…which is easy to do in a division with three lousy offenses! Baltimore really didn’t impress in this stat during the regular season. They surged and peaked at the right time in January…with a truly impressive run AWAY FROM HOME against Denver, New England, and San Francisco.

 

Third Down Conversions

Baltimore: 37% on offense, 36% on defense

Denver: 45% on offense, 31% on defense

Denver is a textbook team…which means they dominate the textbook stats. That differential was off-the-charts compared to most of the league. Peyton Manning knows the importance of moving the chains, and always emphasizes that in interviews. Joe Flacco tends to go for the big play rather than moving the chains…which can get the job done when your receivers are holding on to everything. Important to note that Denver becomes mortal quickly if you can neutralize this particular stat combo.

Of course, the 2013 versions of these teams aren’t the same as last year. Baltimore had a few high profile personnel adjustments. And, the intangibles are much different this time around. Last January, Baltimore had nothing to lose as the big road underdog, while Denver may have choked a bit in their first high pressure game of the Manning era. This year…Denver has revenge, while Baltimore is in the classic “Super Bowl letdown” spot.

Will the intangibles rule the day? Or, is this line still four points too high because oddsmakers just won’t accept that Baltimore is for real?

JIM HURLEY has some ideas about those questions. You can purchase the best Thursday options (which could be a side or total) right here at the website with your credit card. Be sure to check on Thursday’s college game too, matching Florida Atlantic and East Carolina (plus pennant race baseball!). If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

This week’s preview schedule here in the NOTEBOOK:

Friday: an early look at South Carolina/Georgia set for Saturday afternoon on CBS

Saturday: key stats for Notre Dame/Michigan in prime time on ABC

Sunday: the first Sunday Nighter of the year on NBC is NY Giants at Dallas

Monday: the first edition of Monday Night Football with Philadelphia visiting Washington

Be with us every day for great handicapping information in the NOTEBOOK, and hook up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

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