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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 at 7:00 AM

There’s basically nothing at stake Thursday night when the Tampa Bay Bucs visit the St. Louis Rams in this week’s NFL showcase. Quite a big letdown from last Thursday’s Minnesota/Arizona game! Unless you’re a Bucs hopeful praying for a miracle Wildcard (chasing down 8-5 Seattle or Minnesota from 6-7 with three games left), then the ONLY real points of interest here are Las Vegas betting, and quarterback evaluation.

Is Jameis Winston destined to be the next big thing in pro football? That depends on the week! He’s had some great performances, but is battling inconsistency. Frankly…if he was ready NOW for the big time…and if the Bucs were ready NOW to make a run at a Wildcard…they wouldn’t have looked so bad last week at home against the poor defense of New Orleans. The early report card for the learning curve is promising. He’s not there yet.

For Case Keenum and Nick Foles of St. Louis, this year has been a disaster. The Rams have the worst passing offense in the NFL by a mile. Neither guy is showing promise within this system. It’s clear now that what Foles accomplished in Philadelphia was based on that quarterback friendly system. It’s possible that “journeyman emergency QB” is the best that either can hope for moving forward.

You probably won’t watch as a fan. You probably will watch as a Las Vegas sports bettor! Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats say about Bucs/Rams…


Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)

Tampa Bay: 6-7 (#30 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)

St. Louis: 5-6 (#5 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)

Important to remember when you evaluate Winston that he’s faced one of the easiest schedules in the league. Tampa Bay would probably be more like 4-9 vs. a league average schedule. He’d be promising but inconsistent and more mistake-prone vs. a more realistic test. We still like a lot of what we see. But…he’s had it pretty easy. This isn’t really a 6-7 caliber team. St. Louis, on the other hand, has played a brutal schedule. Could they be as good as 7-4 against a league average schedule? Possibly! The defense and running game are that good. They did earn a road win at Arizona.



Tampa Bay: 5.8 on offense, 5.1 on defense

St. Louis: 5.2 on offense, 5.3 on defense

Big edge to Tampa Bay until you make the mental adjustment for the extreme differences in schedule strength. Then…maybe they’re even…maybe the Rams are better. Very important to note that St. Louis would have a positive YPP differential if they had played a league average schedule. May not matter this year…but it might going forward.


Turnover Differential

Tampa Bay: +1

St. Louis: -1

Again, Tampa Bay falls to negative if they play a real schedule…while St. Louis surges to the right side of zero in the risk/reward challenge if they hadn’t been so unlucky with this year’s draw. The Rams are conservative…which tends to lead to low point totals in losses vs. tough teams. Avoiding turnovers works better when you’re facing weaker opponents who are more likely to give you the ball at least a couple of times to set up cheap points.  


Market Performance

Tampa Bay: 7-6 ATS

St. Louis: 5-7-1 ATS (3-10 to the Under)

Tampa Bay was 7-5 ATS until last week’s disappointment vs. New Orleans. The Rams were a very overrated 4-7-1 ATS before the win over Detroit. Note that they needed a defensive score to win that one. We included the Under trend for the Rams to point out that oddsmakers and sharps have been very slow to realize how horrible this offense is. That’s 8-17-1 for “opponent and Under” in Rams games…a glaring reflection on this team’s scoring issues.


Current Line: Tampa Bay by 1, total of 41
We have to say that our numbers aren’t consistent with the Vegas price. It’s like oddsmakers and a few too many sharps don’t pay attention to strength of schedule! That line only makes sense if you’re looking at raw stats and not adjusted stats. But…Winston has showed composure often enough late in close games that he could find a way to win a late coin flip. That’s your challenge here…trying to determine if this really is a coin flip…or if the Rams showed last week that they can compete and win when not matched up against league powers. Sharps took a bath on the Lions last week.

JIM HURLEY will do whatever it takes to find the right way to play this one. With the college football bowls starting Saturday, he knows his clients want to start off this huge football weekend with A BIG JUICY WINNER! You can purchase the final word on game day right here at the website with your credit card. Between now and then…keep building your bankrolls with college and pro basketball. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours.

The next time we’re together, we’ll start off our bowl coverage. Here’s what’s coming up in the NOTEBOOK…

*College Bowl Preview for Saturday: BYU vs. Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl

*NFL Sunday Night TV Preview…Arizona at Philadelphia

*NFL Monday Night TV Preview…Detroit at New Orleans

A lot to pay attention to in the NFL playoff chase and the college postseason. Keep looking for helpful handicapping tips here in the NOTEBOOK. Then get the best bets on the board from WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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