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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, August 18, 2017 at 4:00 PM

With starters beginning to see more and more action in NFL exhibition games, this is a good time for JIM HURLEY’S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK to review the most important boxscore stats to study in the Preseason.

Some pundits will tell you that stats are meaningless in the Preseason. Then they’ll use stats to tell you how great their favorite player is, or how horrible the latest embattled quarterback is. Pundits have no attention span! You’re not a pundit. You’re a Las Vegas sports bettor. You need to be smart about which stats you prioritize, and which you ignore.

*PASSING STATS: It’s much easier to accumulate impressive completion percentages in August because most defenses sit back to safely keep things in front of them. So, if you see a backup with sharp-looking numbers like 8-9-0-84…it could be that he was just throwing short safe passes that only led to a field goal attempt, or a couple of punts on two drives combined. Look for big yardage volume, and TD passes when evaluating quarterbacks. History has shown that very few QB’s truly impress in August. Those who do are leading drives that FIND THE END ZONE rather than just dinking and dunking in the middle of the field.

*THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS: The essence of offense in the modern game is to move the chains. This helps you control the flow of the game while hopefully putting points on the board. It also helps you run out the clock if you have a lead. Head coaches want their starters and backups moving the chains. Take note of which teams are able to do this for all four quarters, or which teams aren’t able to do that at all in August. The danger of watching too many highlight compilations is that you don’t find out which teams were best executing key fundamentals. Everything isn’t Fantasy Football! Pay close attention here. It’s also a good habit to develop for the regular season. This stat ALWAYS matters!

*TURNOVERS: Well coached teams don’t make a lot of turnovers in the Preseason, particularly against soft, vanilla defenses that aren’t forcing the issue. Smart, accurate quarterbacks don’t throw interceptions either when it’s easy to patiently find an open man. So, if you’re seeing high team turnover counts, or ANY interceptions from quarterbacks challenging for a starting job…you need to be very wary of backing those teams in dress rehearsal games next week or early in the regular season. If teams or quarterbacks can’t avoid miscues now, what’s going to happen when opposing defenses start blitzing?!

What NOT to look at? Most everything else. Rushing yardage doesn’t matter much in August, because those totals are more based on play-calling with backups on the field than anything else. It’s not the end of the world if a team has poor total yardage stats. That could be a quality team just biding its time until September. Yards-per-play is a great stat for the regular season, but can be very polluted in August by occasional big plays. We’ve already seen a few teams post 97-yard TD passes, or 70-yard runs from scrimmage. Those are basically flukes that pollute the stats rather than something that can be counted on to happen against more intense starter-rich defenses next month.

JIM HURLEY revolutionized stat handicapping long before the analytics craze took hold in sports. His STATHEADS and computer programmers were logging, analyzing, and projecting future boxscores long before it became fashionable. Frankly, NETWORK is still way ahead of the curve because we never stop improving our models. That’s why JIM HURLEY has led the field for so many years.

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Back with you Monday to review key developments from the second full week of the 2017 NFL Preseason. JIM HURLEY already has his eye on a few special dress rehearsal spots. What we learn this weekend will unlock a few more BIG, JUICY WINNERS! GET THE MONEY today, tomorrow, every week, and every month with A PROVEN WINNER who’s dominated the field for 30 years!

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