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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 7:00 PM

We finally get a big game on Monday Night! And, it’s fitting that it’s coming on the heels of very important matchups late Sunday afternoon and evening. The stretch run toward the playoffs feels like it’s arrived…and with it, great entertaining for football fans and great Las Vegas betting opportunities for handicappers.

The New England Patriots are in the driver’s seat in the AFC East, and will have a shot once again this season to earn a top two seed and a first round bye. They will be fighting with Indianapolis and Cincinnati for that honor, because you assume the AFC West champion is already locked into one of the two spots. Can the Patriots still make a championship run despite their disappointing play of the first several weeks. If their most recent blowout win over Pittsburgh is any indication, the answer is YES!

Carolina was seen as a darkhorse at best before the 2013 season began. The buzz that had been around quarterback Cam Newton as a rookie had long fizzled out. The coach didn’t get much respect. Maybe they might make a run at a Wildcard behind New Orleans and Atlanta (remember when people thought Atlanta would be good?!). But, more pundits expected a sad season leading to a coaching change rather than a run at greatness. Well…the past five games have been pretty great!

Let’s see what our indicator stats say about a game that could conceivably be a Super Bowl preview if these teams catch a break or two in January…


Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)

N. England: 7-2 (#30 schedule in USA Today)

Carolina: 6-3 (#24 schedule in USA Today)

Before you get too excited, note that both teams have played below average schedules. New England looked much more like a Wildcard type team most of the season even against an easy schedule. And, blowing out Pittsburgh this year is much easier than it used to be. Carolina’s played a tougher slate…but not really a difficult slate. The first four games of their current 5-game winning streak came against non-contenders. And, even the win at San Francisco was just matching what other good teams had done vs. the Niners. Is somebody about to be exposed as a pretender?


Yards-Per Play

N. England: 5.1 on offense, 5.1 on defense

Carolina: 5.0 on offense, 4.8 on defense

Those are disappointing differentials given schedule quality. Well, let’s say it this way. Those are FANTASTIC defensive numbers even after accounting for schedule strength. But, both offenses have struggled on a per-play basis even against manageable opposition. New England can blame injuries and a transition period between Tom Brady and new receivers. Carolina only scored 10 points at San Francisco last week, and might get bullied out of the playoffs if they can’t add about half a yard per play to that average.


Turnover Differential

N. England: +9

Carolina: +8

Strong job by both teams in the risk/reward area. New England is seemingly ALWAYS strong in this category with Brady on the field. He’s a very smart decision-maker and the team emphasizes short safe throws. A good sign for Cam Newton’s development that he’s not making high impact miscues as he matures.


Market Performance

N. England: 5-4 ATS

Carolina: 6-3 ATS

New England has been a slight moneymaker for backers even though they’re a team the public loves to bet…and even though they’ve endured a sluggish transition period. Carolina really caught oddsmakers by surprise when they got hot. Some would argue the market still hasn’t captured the level the team is currently playing at. They covered every game in their current five-game winning streak by at least a touchdown.


Current Line: Carolina by 2.5, total 46


Home field advantage is worth a field goal in the NFL. So, the market sees these teams as virtually even. New England is getting respect in the number because the public loves betting them, because they looked so good in their last win, and because they enjoyed a bye last week while Carolina was playing on the other coast.

It’s easy to see this game blowing up in either direction. If Carolina stays in form, this could be their sixth straight cover by at least a TD. If New England really is peaking at the right time, then the wrong team is favored and Tom Brady is going to remind Cam Newton about the league’s pecking order at the quarterback position.

JIM HURLEY knows how important Monday Nights are to your bankroll. He’s worked with his complete TEAM of handicapping analysts to make sure YOU get the right side. You can purchase Patriots/Panthers along with Monday basketball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, talk to the NETWORK representative in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155 during regular business hours Monday.

Back with you in the NOTEBOOK Tuesday and Wednesday to talk basketball. Football previews resume Thursday, as we gear up for a big weekend that includes Baylor/Oklahoma State and Texas A&M/LSU in college football, and Denver at New England next Sunday Night.

Patriots/Panthers is the biggest Monday Night game so far this season…be sure you get the BIG MONEY WINNER from the biggest name in football handicapping, JIM HURLEY!

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