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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 7:00 PM

You’ve been hearing about it all week. Now it’s time to play the game! Kyle Orton, the living definition of quarterback rustiness, will try to lead the Dallas Cowboys to victory Sunday Night on NBC against the surging Philadelphia Eagles in a game that will determine the NFC East champion.

Outside of a bad loss at Minnesota recently, Philadelphia has been one of the hottest teams in the NFL in recent weeks. Dallas hasn’t been hot…and their inconsistent play was coming with warrior-leader Tony Romo at the helm. Does Dallas have a chance given that scenario? Or, are there some hidden red flags in Philly’s numbers that might suggest an upset for Orton and the home dog?


Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)

Philadelphia: 9-6 (#29 schedule in USA Today)

Dallas: 8-7 (#23 schedule in USA today)

There’s your red flag right there. Philadelphia has played the fourth easiest schedule in the NFL according to Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. They’ve managed to dodge the scariest NFC teams. That 9-6 record would be 8-7 or 7-8 vs. an average schedule…worse vs. the kinds of schedules they’ve been playing over in the NFC West. Maybe that won’t matter in this game vs. Dallas…who has also played a soft schedule. In the playoffs? Be careful falling in love with the Eagles! You longtime readers of the NOTEBOOK know that strength of schedule has been a great playoff indicator on these pages for years.


Yards-Per Play

Philadelphia: 6.4 on offense, 5.4 on defense

Dallas: 5.6 on offense, 6.1 on defense

Wow…Dallas was -0.5 in per play yardage differential even with Romo facing a below average schedule. It’s amazing how much hype he and the team have been getting all season given that! He did have some clutch finishes…generally against bad teams. Orton certainly isn’t going to improve on those numbers. Philadelphia is in position to have a very good game because they’ll bring a 6.4 number on offense up against a 6.1 number on defense indoors on a fast track. Those numbers are suggesting a possible blowout.


Turnover Differential

Philadelphia: +10

Dallas: +10

This speaks well to the risk/reward understanding of both teams. One of the things Romo was doing right this year was avoiding turnovers (except in a couple of key places). Philadelphia’s college style spread attack generally finds a man in open space…which makes it tougher for opponents to force turnovers. We’ll have to see what happens when the Eagles finally run into some defenses that don’t give up so much open space. They’ve only faced one top 11 defense all season. That was a 24-21 home nailbiter over Arizona.


Market Performance

Philadelphia: 8-7 ATS

Dallas: 8-7 ATS

Both teams are pennies above breakeven after you account for the vigorish. It’s tougher for Dallas to cover spreads than other teams because America still loves to bet them. Somebody will fall to 50/50 with an ATS loss here unless the game lands right on the number.


Current Line: Philadelphia by 7, total 53


The line started to jump from Philly -6.5 to Philly -7 late Friday and early Saturday. Keep an eye on that number through the day Sunday. Also remember that Philadelphia will be a popular teaser bet for sharps if the game moves to -7.5, -8, or -8.5. Sources tell us that sharps preferring Philadelphia got -6.5, and are considering more bets at -7. Wise Guys preferring Dallas are waiting to see what they might be able to get if the public comes in on Philly during the day.

JIM HURLEY is planning a huge final Sunday of NFL regular season action. This one and Green Bay/Chicago are clear games of focus. But, there are great possibilities all over a schedule like this when you have access to INFORMATION! Sources around the league are reporting in regarding focus and intensity for the many teams who don’t have anything to play for…and for the teams who know they’re longshots to get lucky. Vegas has no idea where JIM HURLEY is going to strike!

You can purchase the final word for Sunday right here at the website with your credit card. If you prefer talking to a live human, call the office before the 1 p.m. ET kickoffs at 1-888-777-4155 to talk to a NETWORK representative.

We’ll be back with you in the NOTEBOOK tomorrow. Here’s the New Year’s Week preview schedule:


Monday: Texas Tech vs. Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl

Tuesday: Duke vs. Texas A&M in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl

Wednesday: Baylor vs. Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl

Thursday: Alabama vs. Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl

Friday: Ohio State vs. Clemson in the Orange Bowl

Next weekend brings the Wildcard games as the NFL playoffs get underway. WHAT A WEEK OF BIG TIME FOOTBALL! Make sure you’re with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK every step of the way.

For now….the focus is on “championship” games in the NFC East and NFC North. Will Philadelphia choke facing their toughest expectations of the season? Can Dallas find a way to win with Kyle Orton? Will the return of Aaron Rodgers for Green Bay break the hearts of Bears fans and shake the foundation of the NFC brackets? When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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