Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 11:03 PM
The waiting is over. We’re now just a few hours away from the Super Bowl kickoff. The New England Patriots are hoping to avenge a regular season loss and a recent Super Bowl loss against the New York Giants. The Patriots can solidify their dynasty status by scoring championship wins 10 years apart with the same coach and quarterback. Eli Manning of the Giants can confirm his status among the game’s elite quarterbacks with another upset victory.
You know the Patriots are favored by about a field goal, though the line could move during the course of Sunday based on heavy betting action. You know that the Over/Under has been bet down from an opener of 56 to around 54…pending game-day betting. Let’s see what our favorite indicator stats say about the matchup. They’ve served us very well throughout the postseason so far. Do they hold the key to uncovering Sunday’s pointspread winners?
Let’s take a look. Remember that we use regular season data only in our playoff projections to keep everyone at the same number of games played.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
NY Giants: 6th
New England: 28th
The Giants were the only real contender that played a tough schedule this year. Being battle-tested sure helped them through the month of January. This has been a great indicator in past seasons. We didn’t know if it would be here or not because the Giants were looking at such a tough gauntlet, while everyone else had played weak schedules. New York survived its gauntlet, and appears to be fresh, rested, and playing its best football of the year. New England wasn’t as good as their regular season stats made it look because they faced one of the easiest schedules in the league.
DRIVE POINTS SCORED AND ALLOWED
New England: 22.6 on offense, 17.4 on defense (+5.2 differential)
NY Giants: 17.3 on offense, 14.8 on defense (+2.5 differential)
New England shows a full season edge of +2.7 points. That’s close to the Vegas expectation right now given the fact that New York money has continued to come in at +3. But, the Drive Point data doesn’t account for strength of schedule. That would move the line closer to pick-em once you made the adjustments. And, don’t forget that the Giants beat the Patriots on the road during the regular season. To this point in our analysis, there’s no justification for New England being favored by anything near a field goal.
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS FOR AND AGAINST
New England: 46% on offense, 43% on defense (+3 differential)
NY Giants: 37% on offense, 38% on defense (-1 differential)
This could help. The Patriots hold an edge here that wouldn’t disappear completely even after you adjust for schedule strength. But, it’s probably not an edge that justifies a line as high as a field goal. It’s interesting that we have extremes in play. New York’s offense was a disappointment in this stat all year even with a veteran quarterback…but now they face a very soft defense. New England did a great job of moving the chains, but now they into a Giants defense that’s closed very strong (you’ll see in a moment they held San Francisco to 1 of 13 in this stat in the NFC title tilt). We do expect the winner of this stat to cover the game. Tom Brady may indeed have a meaningful advantage over Eli Manning in a very relevant stat.
New England: +17 (34 takeaways, 17 giveaways)
NY Giants: +7 (31 takeaways, 24 giveaways)
We talked about how the porridge was just right for the Giants in this category (clear advantage, but not overly lucky). That certainly held up through the playoffs, as they played the percentages well. New England and the other big turnover teams saw those edges disappear once they faced quality. New England was able to sneak by Baltimore anyway after a gift opening game draw against Denver. Turnover differentials are often an inverse indicator for the playoffs…because the high regular season differentials were a sign of luck rather than skill…or at least benefitting from desperation picks when sitting on a lead. This is not an edge for the Pats even though it looks like one. They actually LOST the turnover category 3-1 in the Baltimore game.
Speaking of that…let’s run the numbers from the two conference championship games. We haven’t had a chance to do that yet in the NOTEBOOK because of all the recent basketball. To this point, the indicator stats are painting the picture of a toss-up game. Unless you believe that third downs will be everything…and that Tom Brady’s experience at moving the chains will give him a big edge over Eli Manning in that regard…then the Giants represent the value side to this point in the analysis.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
NEW ENGLAND 23, BALTIMORE 20
Total Yardage: Baltimore 398, New England 330
Rushing Yardage: Baltimore 116, New England 96
Passing Stats: Baltimore 22-36-1-282, New England 22-36-2-234
Drive Points: Baltimore 17, New England 20
Turnovers: Baltimore 1, New England 3
Third Downs: Baltimore 52%, New England 45%
Yards-Per Play: Baltimore 5.7, New England 4.9
Vegas Line: New England by 7, total of 49
Well, nothing to change anyone’s minds here. New England was clearly outplayed by the Ravens last week in almost every category. Baltimore won total yardage, rushing yardage, third downs, yards-per-play, and turnovers. Typically…that stat combination would represent a victory of at least a touchdown. Usually a turnover differential of +2 is worth eight points on the scoreboard by itself!
What happened? New England made the most of their yards, turning 330 yards into 20 Drive Points. Brady does know how to finish! And, that can’t be forgotten if you’re thinking about betting the Giants in the Super Bowl. The Patriots were outplayed in multiple ways in the AFC Championship game, yet still won by three points. What if Brady plays better this week? He called last week one of the low points of his career. What if the defense picks off a couple of passes and the turnover category goes the way of the Pats? It’s odd to say that a winning team is in a “bounce back” spot. But, the Pats did play well below par last time out, and will typically play better than those stats show.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
NY GIANTS 20, SAN FRANCISCO 17 (in overtime)
Total Yardage: NY Giants 352, San Francisco 328
Rushing Yardage: NY Giants 85, San Francisco 150
Passing Stats: NY Giants 32-58-0-352, San Francisco 12-26-0-178
Drive Points: NY Giants 7, San Francisco 7
Turnovers: NY Giants 0, San Francisco 2
Third Downs: NY Giants 33%, San Francisco 7%
Yards-Per Play: NY Giants 3.9, San Francisco 5.8
Vegas Line: San Francisco by 2, total of 40.5
An odd mix of stats because San Francisco is so run-heavy, yet unable to move the chains. It’s very odd to see somebody win a virtual blowout in rushing yardage and yards-per-play, but lose a virtual blowout in third down conversions! It all added up to a dead heat. The score was 17-17 after regulation, with a 7-7 deadlock in Drive Points. You watched the game, you know a fumbled punt by San Francisco led to the Giants win. That turnover category proved to be the difference-maker.
In essence, BOTH teams are lucky to be here! The Giants won a coin flip game at San Francisco. New England was outplayed by Baltimore and caught a few breaks. Whoever you like, that should provide some doubt for you. Can you love a Giants team that averaged just 3.9 yards-per-play with a championship on the line? Can you love a Patriots team that was playing on its heels through the whole second half?
This is a tough game for do-it-yourselfers to be sure. Obviously Patriots fans are going to bet their team, and they may see a line as low as -2.5 or less before kickoff. Giants fans jumped in earlier at +3.5 or +3, and may still have a chance for +3 as you’re reading this. If you’re not a fan of either team, who do you bet? If you’re looking to make the best value decisions on the side and total, what would those be?
JIM HURLEY has the answer to those questions. We can’t post the official NETWORK selections here in the NOTEBOOK. But, they’re just a few clicks away here at the website. Have your credit card handy so you can win big in the biggest betting game of the year!
There’s also bonus basketball available for you Sunday if you want to magnify your parlay potential. If you have any questions, or if you just prefer talking to live humans to internet commerce, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.
WHEN CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE ON THE LINE, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!