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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 11:35 PM

One week into the 2012 season, both the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys had the look of serious Wildcard contenders at the very least…with the potential to have really big seasons. Jay Cutler starred for the Bears in a blowout Indianapolis…continuing trends we had seen the previous season before he got hurt. Dallas drilled defending the defending Super Bowl champion NY Giants to open the new campaign.

You couldn’t exactly pencil them into the playoffs. Both teams were aggressively in the discussion. Then:

Chicago looked horrible in a loss at Green Bay

Dallas looked horrible in a loss at Seattle

Chicago played badly but beat what’s probably a non-contending St. Louis team at home

Dallas played badly, but beat what’s probably a non-contending Tampa Bay team at home

Over the last two weeks at least, these aren’t playoff caliber teams. Chicago looks like 7-9 at best. You never know with Dallas…but 8-8 or a “not good enough” 9-7 seems like the most reasonable scenario if you’re focused on the key numbers from the last two weeks.

Tonight will hopefully help handicappers solve these national teams of mystery. Playoff bound or disappointed also-rans? Let’s see what some of our indicator stats have to say…

 

CHICAGO BEARS at DALLAS COWBOYS (8:35 p.m. on ESPN)

Las Vegas Spread: Dallas by 3.5, total of 42.5

The market sees Dallas as the superior team…in a way that matches our outline above. If the Bears are playing like a 7-9 team, and Dallas is playing like an 8-8 team, then the Cowboys should be just over a field goal at home. That’s a pretty low total for how 2012 is playing out, particularly with veteran quarterbacks. You’ll see in a moment that recent form justifies the offensive skepticism.

 

WON-LOST RECORDS

Chicago: 2-1 (vs. Indianapolis, at Green Bay, vs. St. Louis)

Dallas: 2-1 (at NYG, at Seattle, vs. Tampa Bay)

We’ve talked about this some already. Dallas has arguably played the tougher schedule if you assume that Seattle is going to be better than Indianapolis. It’s still early, but Chicago’s wins have been as home favorites vs. teams who aren’t likely to matter much this year. Dallas has played two of its three games on the road. Again, Dallas looks like the better team in a way the market has initially captured.

 

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL

Chicago: +3

Dallas: -3

Cutler can be turnover prone. That +3 may be a result of getting early home games vs. lesser teams. Whenever he shows signs of maturing, he goes out and lays a gigantic egg. You can say the same thing about Romo of course. It’s amazing how much Cutler and Romo have in common in terms of their relationships with expectations. We don’t think the differential of six you see above truly captures the risk-reward issues for these two guys. Over a larger sample size, it’s probably going to be a wash.

 

OFFENSIVE STATS

Chicago: 290.9 yards-per-game on 4.5 yards-per-play

Dallas: 342.0 yards-per-game on 5.7 yards-per-play

Chicago had such a horrible game at Green Bay that it’s dragged down their three-game sample numbers. They played poorly offensively vs. St. Louis too though. You have to be careful not letting the semi-explosion against the Colts in the season opener cloud your thinking too much longer. Dallas grades out well here, and probably does have the superior offense once you adjust for the defenses these teams have faced.

 

DEFENSIVE STATS

Chicago: 279.0 yards-per-game on 4.5 yards-per-play

Dallas: 250.0 yards-per-game on 4.4 yards-per-play

Wow, when did Dallas start playing such great defense? Yes, they got the shaky offenses of Seattle and Tampa Bay the last two weeks. They utterly shut down Tampa…and that what they did vs. the Giants is going to look very good as the season plays itself out. This may become one of the under-reported stories of the season. Dallas has a Ryan on the sideline, and it’s starting to show up in their defensive stats. Don’t let the “People” magazine tendencies of Romo’s media coverage blind you to what’s happening on defense here. Strong stuff here from both teams so far.

 

LAST WEEK’S BOXES

CHICAGO 23, ST. LOUIS 6

Total Yardage: St. Louis 160, Chicago 274

Rushing Yards: St. Louis 59, Chicago 103

Passing Stats: St. Louis 18-35-2-101, Chicago 17-31-1-171

Turnovers: St. Louis 2, Chicago 1

Third Downs: St. Louis 23%, Chicago 28%

Vegas Line: Chicago by 7, total of 44

Run your finger down Chicago’s numbers there. Don’t forget that they scored a defensive touchdown. So, it was really 16 offensive points in a game where they didn’t do much of anything well. You have to move the chains in this league. Chicago couldn’t do that vs. the Rams despite having extra preparation time and being in a bounce back spot off a loss. Disappointing in context. You’ve got to like what the defense did. Though, it came against Sam Bradford, whose leash has been way too long to this stage in his career. Talk about an under-reported story! “Number One Draft Pick Starts Career Badly and Shows No Development!” Remember that first “QB Camp” show with Jon Gruden? Bradford, Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen, and Tim Tebow. Bleak.

 

DALLAS 16, TAMPA BAY 10

Total Yardage: Tampa Bay 166, Dallas 297

Rushing Yards: Tampa Bay 75, Dallas 38

Passing Stats: Tampa Bay 10-28-1-91, Dallas 25-39-1-259

Turnovers: Tampa Bay 2, Dallas 3

Third Downs: Tampa Bay 20%, Dallas 31%

Vegas Line: Dallas by 7, total of 47

It’s a very bad sign whenever a favorite rushes for less than 50 yards. That means they don’t have the resources to protect a lead and control the flow of a game. We’ll give Tampa Bay some of the credit here because they are playing with intensity for their new head coach. Dallas should do better in basically every category but the passing stats up above as a home favorite of a touchdown. This was also a bounce-back spot. We didn’t see a home favorite playing with fire offensively. There were a few good drives, but nothing to write home about.

 

BEST EXPECTATION

With these quarterbacks, there’s always a lot of volatility. Either can explode for a good game. Either can implode with turnovers. Both have had high profile disasters with turnovers that have had fans questioning why management is so committed to these guys. Yet, when all seems lost, a big day in the air reminds everyone of the possibilities. There is no “best expectation” when Cutler or Romo take the field. If both play to their norms, the Vegas spread is probably right. If both struggle, or if both shine, then it’s right in either a 14-10 or 31-27 kind of game. If you’re trying to pick the ATS winner, you need to get a read on which signal caller is most likely to make the most ill-timed mistakes.

JIM HURLEY has been working with his statheads to figure that out all week long. He knows how important Monday Night games are to your bankroll. All performances from Cutler and Romo in prime time TV games over the past four seasons have been analyzed up-and-down. NETWORK has also been working through reports about team chemistry from our on-site sources…reading the printouts from our computer simulations (particularly helpful for the Over/Under here)…and talking things over with our Wise Guy connections in Las Vegas and offshore. Check in Monday at the website, and the very best option(s) will be available for credit card purchase!

If you have any questions, call our office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about the baseball playoffs and World Series when you call. You magnify your profits by magnifying your day-to-day edge!

Back with you Tuesday to talk more football. Whether you need a bailout from your own bad weekend, or a grand finale fireworks show to double up your profits, the man to call on Monday Night’s is JIM HURLEY!

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