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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 1:00 PM

The AFC South race is already down to two teams. Everyone knew entering the season that Jacksonville would have no chance to compete. The surprise there is that the Jaguars have been even worse than expected! Tennessee has been a disappointment, as a popular darkhorse pick (particularly after they upset Kansas City in Week One) has fallen apart. Those two teams are 1-9 straight up, and 1-8-1 against the Vegas spread.

That leaves only two other teams who could possibly win the division. And, both the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans are 3-2 entering their head-to-head battle Thursday Night in a game that will be nationally televised by CBS. The AFC South could already be on the line if visiting Indianapolis grabs an early tie-breaker edge knowing that the rematch will be on their home field later this season.

Let’s run the game through Jim Hurley’s key indicator stats. Note that we’ll run these numbers for the full weekend NFL slate in special expanded report that will go up Friday here at the website.


Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)

Indianapolis: 3-2 (ranked #30 in USA Today)

Houston: 3-2 (ranked #29 in USA Today)

Important to note that both teams have played soft schedules (the Colts have already played Jacksonville, while Houston played Oakland). Those soft schedules will continue given the nature of the division. Whoever ultimately wins the AFC South won’t be taken seriously in an AFC Championship race that includes potent Denver, recently awakened New England, the talented winner of the NFC North, and probably at least two good Wildcard teams once again. Though, because of the soft schedules, it’s possible that one of these two Thursday sides could steal a Wildcard.

A quick nutshell summary for both…

Indianapolis lost to Denver 31-24, but won yardage 408-361

Indianapolis lost to Philadelphia 30-27, losing yardage 458-341

Indianapolis beat Jacksonville 44-17, winning yardage 529-344

Indianapolis beat Tennessee 41-17, winning yardage 498-261

Indianapolis beat Baltimore 20-13, winning yardage 422-287

The Colts really ran up the score on Jacksonville and Tennessee…as well as the stats. But, beating Baltimore was surely impressive the way the Ravens have been playing lately. And, there’s no shame in losing close games to Denver and Philadelphia, even if the Colts were a slight favorite over the Eagles. Maybe Jeff Sagarin of the USA Today should be giving more credit to Indy’s schedule! Three playoff contenders and two patsies is probably better than #30.


Houston beat Washington 17-6, but lost yardage 372-316

Houston beat Oakland 30-14, but lost yardage 364-327 (!)

Houston lost at the NY Giants 30-17, losing yardage 419-411

Houston beat Buffalo 23-17, losing yardage 316-301

Houston lost to Dallas 20-17 in overtime, losing yardage 456-330

If wins were based on yardage, Houston would be 0-5! That’s a very bad sign considering that their schedule thus far has no playoff teams from last year, and could conceivably have no playoff teams from this year. The offense was only potent in extended garbage time against New York.



Indianapolis: 5.8 on offense, 5.8 on defense

Houston: 5.6 on offense, 5.7 on defense

This is a very serious strike against both teams because neither has managed a positive yards-per-play differential against their schedules. Pencil in league average schedules….and that means you’re looking at teams with negative YPP differentials and records of 2-3. Though, it’s fairly amazing that Houston is only -0.1 YPP when getting outgained in every game! Clearly time of possession is an issue because other teams are getting a lot more yardage on the same per-play production. Opponents must be running a lot more plays.

There’s definitely some talent on both of these teams. And, either is capable of scoring an upset over a league power if things go right. But…on a week-to-week basis, we’re looking at generic NFL production rather than anything special. In terms of handicapping this game, it’s a wash.


Turnover Differential

Indianapolis: +2

Houston: +4

Adequate numbers for both teams, but not necessarily impressive considering their schedules. Houston’s +4 is one bad Ryan Fitzpatrick game away from falling back to earth. Indianapolis still doesn’t do enough defensively to scare opponents into mistakes. You can’t complain about numbers like that…but they’re not influential either. Once again, no evidence that the Colts should be a favorite in the season-to-date statistical. This category is either a wash…or a slight edge to the hosts if those differentials do mean anything. Indy is apparently favored because of their perceived “roll” of the last three weeks.


Market Performance

Indianapolis: 4-1 ATS

Houston: 4-1 ATS

Both teams have caught the market by surprise. Many pundits thought Indianapolis would regress back toward .500 this year because of some personnel issues. Houston was widely expected to bounce back from last year’s debacle, but that was priced into early numbers. So far, 80% success against the price is suggesting that Houston should be getting more respect from sharps.


Current Line: Indianapolis by 3, total of 46


This number can’t be justified by the stats. So, what’s behind it? In our view, the following:

*Indianapolis is seen as a “hot” team because of what’s happened the past three weeks.

*Indianapolis is seen as a playoff team by the public, while Houston is seen as an outsider looking in. Projected playoff teams usually get respect in toss-ups even if they’re not hot.

*Andrew Luck has a widely publicized knack for winning close games, which means the public likes betting him in games that are projected to be close! The Colts are often “off” by a point or two from their stats because of Luck’s proven ability to score late when needed.

Who should YOU take in this game? Is Houston ready to surge back into relevance in the AFC South with a statement victory? Or, will Luck find a way to get the job done in the final minutes if his teammates can’t establish any scoreboard dominance before then? Maybe Indy’s stat dominance over Baltimore last week is telling you the line should be more like Colts -5 o -6!

JIM HURLEY has been working with the full NETWORK team to make sure he finds the right side (or total) so you can start off the new football week with a BIG, JUICY WINNER!

*His SCOUTS and SOURCES are reporting in on short-week preparation for both teams, with a particular emphasis on Houston’s “statement making” possibilities in a game that will have the local fans pumped up.

*His STATHEADS are studying Luck’s late game tendencies in depth to see if there’s any way Houston can avoid a last-second loss if the game plays out that way. Defenses do adjust in this league. Are they starting to figure out how to disrupt Luck in the two-minute drill?

*His COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS have been running simulations around the clock to account for every possibility. We always focus on the statistical element here in the NOTEBOOK. You can be sure that non-statistical factors are being included in the modeling.

*His WISE GUY CONNECTIONS in Las Vegas and offshore have been reporting in regarding smart money action for this game. That’s always important when a game is sitting on a key number like three because even a few cents in the moneyline price can tell you know how sharps are betting. It takes a lot of money to move off a three in the NFL. Sign up with NETWORK so you can be part of the momentum that triggers a move before kickoff!

You can purchase Thursday’s football (including BYU/Central Florida in the colleges) in the hours leading up to kickoff here at the website. Keep building your bankrolls Friday with more college football and Game One of the American League Championship Series matching the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles. If you have any questions about seasonal packages, or combination packages for football and baseball, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155.

Let’s hope for a Thursday Night NFL game worth watching this week! JIM HURLEY says it’s definitely a game worth betting in Las Vegas. Take care of business before kickoff to make sure you GET THE MONEY!

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