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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, September 9, 2015 at 1:00 PM

After months of what amounted to click-bait advertising from the “Deflate-gate” saga, Tom Brady is ready to return to the field as the defending World Champion New England Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday night to kick off the 2015 NFL season. Commissioner Roger Goodell won’t have to lick his legal wounds for long…this game is going to get HUGE ratings! And, of course, both Brady and Ben Roethlisberger will be popular “Fantasy” choices as both the league and TV networks continue to hype the latest fad.

Last week, Brady said there were “no winners” in the soap opera. There were no losers! New England wasn’t punished for playing the first half vs. the Colts with an under-inflated ball. They went on to lift the Lombardi Trophy. TV ratings will be huge Thursday and beyond. WHO LOST?!

Well, somebody’s going to lose Thursday night once real live regular season pro football is being played. Let’s run through the final stats of 2014 for the Steelers and Pats to help set the stage…


Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)

Pittsburgh: 11-5 (#30 schedule in USA Today)

New England: 12-4 (#9 schedule in USA Today)

Only one game separated these teams in the standings last year…but you can see that New England’s 12-4 was much more impressive than Pittsburgh’s 11-5 given their schedule context. The Steelers lost at home in their first playoff game to Baltimore. New England obviously finished 15-4 once the playoffs were in the book. Even with some very shaky early season results…the Patriots proved once again that they are extremely difficult to beat when both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are healthy (particularly if the balls are to Brady’s liking!)



Pittsburgh: 6.2 on offense, 6.0 on defense

New England: 5.5 on offense, 5.3 on defense

New England wasn’t nearly as explosive as people remember last year. They were much more of a grinder team that won with clock management and turnover prevention than in prior seasons. Pittsburgh was explosive on offense but shockingly soft on defense (particularly against an easy schedule). Bad defense doesn’t work in the playoffs! That +0.2 differential points to the Patriots once you adjust for schedule strength.


Turnover Differential

Pittsburgh: even

New England: +12

New England has always been the masters of this stat. The offense protects the ball (possibly because low inflation makes it easier to hold onto!). The defense forces turnovers because opponents are trying to keep up with Brady. The single biggest argument against turnovers being “random” is that the Patriots are almost always great in this stat! As we’ve documented often over the past few seasons…Pittsburgh went from being a team that was great at forcing turnovers to a mediocrity. And that happened just as the guy who does all the shampoo commercials started aging noticeably.


Market Performance

Pittsburgh: 9-7 ATS (0-1 ATS in playoffs)

New England: 9-7 ATS (2-1 ATS in playoffs)

As we mentioned above, Pittsburgh lost its playoff opener at home vs. Baltimore. New England survived those same Ravens the next week 35-31 in a non-cover before beating Indianapolis in the AFC Championship and Seattle in the Super Bowl. At 11-8 ATS, the Patriots were actually “underrated” a bit last season.


Current Line: New England by 7, total of 52

The line had been New England by 3 when it was thought that Jimmy Garappolo was going to be the quarterback. It shot up from one key number to the other when Brady got his suspension overturned. Clearly the market sees Brady as about 4 points better. Keep that in mind when reviewing all the pundits that were saying the difference was a touchdown or more!

JIM HURLEY has been studying this game for weeks. He already had all the angles covered before the suspension was lifted! He knew who he was going to take if it was Garappolo on the field. He knew who he would take if it was Brady. You can purchase BEST BETS in ALL SPORTS every night right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours between now and Thursday’s kickoff.

We’ll be back with you in the NOTEBOOK early Friday to discuss the biggest college football game of the weekdnc. Then, prime time previews for the NFL resume in very short order. Isn’t it great to have football back? And to have so many marquee matchups on TV?!

Coming up soon…

*College Football TV Preview…#7 Oregon at #5 Michigan State

*NFL Sunday Night TV Preview…NY Giants at Dallas Cowboys

*NFL Monday Night TV Preview…Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers

*NFL Thursday Night TV Preview…Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick have built a true dynasty in New England. JIM HURLEY has done the same thing in the world of sports handicapping…except JIM HURLEY has been winning championships for even longer! Kick off the NFL season with a BIG, JUICY WINNER from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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