Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 at 12:00 PM
TV networks are thrilled that the top four teams in the NFL made it to this weekend’s conference championship games. That guarantees huge ratings and a bunch of hype about offensive superstars. Sports books are thrilled because all four finalists have strong betting constituencies. The Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans and New England at Kansas City will be bet almost like Super Bowls themselves.
The problem for handicappers is that all four teams aren’t quite following their media storylines. Some unique circumstances last week helped create one-sided results that may not have predictive value moving forward. A quick summary in the order games were played.
*Kansas City crushed Indianapolis…but that was more about Indy’s poor preparation as a dome team having to play outside in cold weather. Receivers kept dropping passes. Defenders kept trying to arm tackle ball carriers. The motivated Chiefs knew what they were doing. The Colts shrunk in the moment. Kansas City may not luck into that for the second week in a row. (The Chiefs will need to score more than seven points in the second half too!)
*The Los Angeles Rams kept giving the ball to a Mack truck in the backfield that Dallas obviously hadn’t prepared for. New Orleans will be prepared! Quarterback Jared Goff didn’t have a very good game. LAR’s passing line was just 15-28-0-186. This is a team that peaked several weeks ago. Give the Rams credit for coming up with a wrinkle that would carry them to victory. It’s been awhile since they were really a multi-faced juggernaut. Will they find a new wrinkle with only one week to prepare?
*New England took full advantage of the Los Angeles Chargers’ horrible decision to stick with a zone defense against Tom Brady. Surely, the Chargers’ bad body clock start for the second week in a row didn’t hurt. Like Indy, Chargers’ receivers also had issues holding onto passes in very cold weather. The Patriots are still the vulnerable team bettors watched down the stretch. It’s a big strike against the Chargers that they couldn’t compete until garbage time. Can New England keep that chip on its shoulder about media disrespect for another week?
*New Orleans failed to cover against a tired Philadelphia team playing its third road game in a row. The Eagles might have won the game outright if not for a turnover at the two-minute warning. Drew Brees and company were a lot better at driving the field to run clock than they were at finding the end zone and putting points on the board.
Don’t forget the following point spread trends that closed out the regular season…
*The Los Angeles Rams were 4-8-1 ATS their last 13 games, with two of the covers coming against the outmanned San Francisco 49ers, and one coming against helpless Arizona.
*New Orleans was 1-4 ATS their last five games (now 1-5 ATS their last six), and the streak would have drifted further back if Atlanta hadn’t committed so many turnovers Thanksgiving night.
*New England was 1-3 ATS in the final month of the season, with the only cover being a season finale home blowout of the lame-duck New York Jets.
*Kansas City was 1-5-1 ATS in its last seven games, with the only cover being a season finale home blowout of the lame-duck Oakland Raiders.
JIM HURLEY isn’t saying that the final four stink! Just that they’ve all been overrated by the market recently…particularly against lame-duck teams or while enjoying rest and weather advantages. Can you confidently ask any of them to play at a peak level this week? Their peaks were several weeks back.
There’s no way NETWORK can tip its hand here in the weekly NOTEBOOK about what this weekend’s side or total selections might be. We can tell you these will be the points of emphasis.
*Which defense of the Rams and Saints is best suited to perform well Sunday? New Orleans has been inconsistent…but the “good” part of inconsistent has really sparkled. The Rams are more prone to play in shootouts. You don’t want to challenge Drew Brees in a shootout.
*Who will be best served by the frigid conditions in Kansas City? The Chiefs thrived in now last week. Now it will be even colder, but dry. Can a relatively inexperienced quarterback who played his college ball in Texas outperform Brady in “New England conditions?” Or, will a Patriots team that floundered often on the road this season go back to that disappointing form?
Our SOURCES, our SCOUTS, our STATHEADS, our COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS, and our WISE GUY CONNECTIONS will be shedding light on those issues and providing the man in the middle of the information hurricane everything he needs to pick BIG, JUICY WINNERS.
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JIM HURLEY’S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK will be back next Wednesday with our first basketball report of the new year. Then, the following week, we’ll preview the Super Bowl. Best of luck to all of you do-it-yourselfers this weekend. If you’d like access to THE BEST INFORMATION from THE BEST HANDICAPPER IN HISTORY, position yourself to get all the money with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!