Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at 7:00 AM
The Kansas City Chiefs may be the hottest team in the NFL after winning their eleventh straight this past Saturday in Houston. But, they’re still not seen as a serious threat to win the AFC Championship or the Super Bowl. They’re currently a 5-point underdog in the Divisional Round this Saturday in New England. They’d probably be a slightly smaller underdog on the road in Denver the following week should the Chiefs score an upset before the Broncos hold serve vs. Pittsburgh. Futures prices show New England the current AFC favorite at +400 to win the Super Bowl even if they’re the #2 seed and Denver is #1.
How can a team as hot as Kansas City still be a longshot? Well, they’ve mostly been hot against BAD teams! Or, at least against non-playoff teams. Even their win in Houston looks like it came against an opponent that wasn’t anywhere near “playoff caliber.” Houston was badly outclassed, as would any entry from the woeful AFC South have been.
Are the Chiefs capable of stepping up? Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the Game One of Divisional Round weekend…
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Kansas City: 11-5 (#14 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)
New England: 12-4 (#22 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)
Not bad…as the Chiefs at least grade out as a legitimate 11-5 team. They played something close to a league average schedule. New England had it easier. The problem here is that Miami lost some gams late in the season after injuries ravaged their offense. A “healthy” New England may have gone 15-1 vs. that #22 ranked schedule (as ranked by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today). Let’s say it this way…Kansas City can DEFINITELY beat the shorthanded version of the Patriots that just lost to the Jets and Dolphins.
Kansas City: 5.5 on offense, 5.1 on defense
New England: 5.7 on offense, 5.2 on defense
Again…you have to make mental adjustments for New England’s late slide. Healthy New England is looking at 6.0 or 6.1 on offense most likely…which would establish a YPP advantage in line with the market pricing. But…a rusty or banged up offense could be in real trouble against that 5.2 defense of Kansas City. The Chiefs may well have a championship caliber defense this year. And, it’s up to Andy Reid and Alex Smith not to blow it with offensive miscues or questionable play calling. Thus far in the process, knowing New England’s health looks like it’s going to be the most important task for handicappers and bettors.
2015 Turnover Differential
Kansas City: +14
New England: +7
Good news there for the Chiefs. Though, as we’ve said in the past…any team that gets rich in this category by abusing bad teams will likely underachieve against elite competition. Great opponents don’t make too many mistakes! Houston turned out to be a poor opponent that turned the ball over FIVE times (while also doing a bad job of sealing holes on the opening kickoff). Versus a sloppy team, this category represents a big edge for KC. Versus an efficient one, the cheap points just won’t come.
2015 Market Performance
Kansas City: 8-8 ATS
New England: 7-7-2 ATS
That’s 50/50 for both teams, meaning they juiced out and cost backers some vigorish. No big misses for the market…though you could make the case that the market was slow to react to New England’s late season injuries. Kansas City did blow the doors off expectations last week in Houston. Even without the turnover help, they won yards-per-play 5.1 to 3.6…suggesting the line of -3 was too low.
Current Line: New England by 5, total of 42.5
New England is supposed to be approaching full health this weekend. Oddsmakers have priced them accordingly. If they’re NOT going to be up to full speed…then that line is too high. Kansas City’s defense can at least keep the game (and an upset) within reach if the Patriots are only hitting on a few cylinders. But, if the Pats are ready to roll after a week off…then this could be a blowout because KC isn’t well-suited to play from behind. Alex Smith becomes a turnover-maker when he HAS to perform.
JIM HURLEY’S exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach is perfectly suited to “information” games like this. The numbers set the stage…but knowing how healthy New England’s truly going to be is the must-have edge that will determine who gets the money. Our sources in the Northeast will come through…just like they always do!
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More big-game previews coming up here in the NOTEBOOK through the week…
Thursday: NFC Divisional Round Preview…Green Bay at Arizona
Weekend: AFL Divisional Round Preview…Pittsburgh at Denver
Monday: College Basketball Conference Summary…the ACC to prepare for Syracuse at Duke
Tuesday-Wednesday: NBA TV Preview…Golden State at Chicago Wednesday night on ESPN
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