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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, October 5, 2017 at 12:44 PM




Okay, so what exactly were the odds that a full month into this here-and-now NFL season the likes of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, the Oakland Raiders, the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks would not be sitting there in first place in their respective divisions?

Sure, we're only at the so-called quarter-pole of this 2017 season - there's a loooong way to go - but it's strange not seeing these above-mentioned teams on top of the heap in their divisions and now we're gonna get you a few reasons why:

NEW ENGLAND (2-2) - No doubt this Pats' defense has been horrible while allowing a whopping 32 points per game through its first four games but among the disturbing aspects of this "D" is the inability to tackle in space - New England ranks dead last in the league in total defense/pass defense and ranks a lowly 26th against the rush. Consider that the Patriots actually are a plus + 4 in the turnover department and the offense is averaging 32.3 ppg and still this team is playing only .500 ball.

OAKLAND (2-2) The back injury suffered by star QB Derek Carr is no excuse here 'cause the moneybags slinger just got hurt last weekend in that 16-10 loss at Denver. No, the Raiders - who were an absolute no-show in that 27-10 loss at Washington in a Week 3 Sunday Nighter - have not played with great passion and the air assault game has accounted for just a dozen plays of 20+ yards ... with Carr in there chucking it we would have expected five or five "chunk plays" per game, right?

DALLAS (2-2) - Hard to believe but four games into this current campaign and the Cowboys actually have been outscored 97-to-94 by the opposition.
It's no secret that Dallas has put most of its financial resources into the offense but this defense already has yielded 42 and 35 points in the losses to Denver and the Los Angeles Rams and the Cowboys' secondary is getting shredded on a weekly basis. Plus, note just one 100-plus yard rushing game from bad boy RB Ezekiel Elliott.

SEATTLE (2-2) - The long-time kings of the NFC West may have finally gotten its wake-up call after halftime of last Sunday Night's 46-18 win against 12.5-point pup Indianapolis but do not be fooled: This Seahawks' defense ranks 27th in the league against the rush (allowing 134 yards a game) and has forced only six enemy turnovers (though two of them were returned for TDs against the hapless Colts the other night).

Jim Hurley's Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are ready to bang out another big winning week on the gridiron and don't forget there's lots of Major-League Baseball Playoff winners too when you check in with us online or at 1-800-323-4453. Note that we cashed with "over" in the NL Wild Card Game last night in Arizona! There's loads of Football Winners straight ahead with NFL Week 5 getting started with New England at Tampa Bay this evening and the college kids kick it into overdrive with Thursday's Louisville at N.C. State tilt on ESPN. A reminder that we absolutely pounded the books last weekend with College Football winners such as Marshall, Wake Forest and South Carolina plus our NFL Week 4 winners included the Los Angeles Rams and the New York Giants ... va-va-va voom!

On Thursday Night Football, it's ...NEW ENGLAND (2-2) at TAMPA BAY (2-1) - 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS

One thing about this sluggish start for the NE Patriots: Don't blame it on QB Tom Brady. The 40-year-old gunner has completed nearly 66 percent of his forward passes with 10 TDs, 0 INTs and 1,399 passing yards and he'll take on a Tampa Bay defense still missing some key cogs (see LBs Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David) so those dink-and-dunk throws to New England running backs and the medium-range slings to TE Rob Gronkowski figure to be a very large part of the offensive game plan here. On the flip side, the Bucs roared back in their last game to trim the 2.5-point underdog New York Giants 25-23 on a 34-yard PK Nick Folk field goal but what was striking is that QB Jameis Winston completed all five of his passes to get TB into FG range ... will Winston be even more effective here with the addition of RB Doug Martin who's back from a season-starting four-game suspension for PED use?

Spread Stats - New England has failed to cover three of its first four games this year and overall the Patriots are 9-1 ATS (against the spread) away since the start of last season. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's 8-4 versus the vig as underdogs since the start of 2016.



It doesn't take a hard-core college football fan to tell you that Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Penn State are the true super-elite teams thus far in 2017 - but what about a few "sneaky-good" squads? Here's a few that have caught our eye:

MARYLAND (3-1, 1-0 Big 10) - Give the Terps a hand as they're now down to a third-string signal-caller and yet they already own road wins at 18.5-point fav Texas and at 13.5-point favorite Minnesota. Check out the fact that Maryland's daring second-year head coach DJ Durkin doesn't mind "trickery" and you better believe he's made football fun again in College Park.

GEORGIA TECH (3-1, 2-0 ACC) - Maybe that whole triple option offense is so 1970s but the fact of the matter is Paul Johnson's crew ranks second in the country with 396 rushing yards per game and - in large part thanks to the ball-control attack - the GT defense ranks 10th in the country. Hey, that Oct. 28th game at Clemson might be a whole lot closer than the "experts" think, eh?

UCF (4-0, 1-0 AAC) - There's plenty of chatter going around that says Knights' second-year head coach Scott Frost is Nebraska-bound following this 2017 season but first things first: UCF has won its first three games by a per-game average of 33 points (including a 28-point win at above-mentioned Maryland) and this team currently ranks seventh in the land in total offense while scoring 46.3 ppg.

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