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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 10:09 AM

During the Fall, we devoted Wednesdays to statistical game rundowns from the NFL. We're going back to that schedule this week since it allows us to include the grand finale of the college football season from this past Monday Night. So, without further ado, here are the key stats and notes from Wildcard Weekend in the NFL and the BCS Championship game...

HOUSTON 31, CINCINNATI 10
Total Yardage: Cincinnati 300, Houston 340
Rushing Yardage: Cincinnati 76, Houston 188
Passing Stats: Cincinnati 27-42-3-224, Houston 11-20-0-152
Drive Points: Cincinnati 10, Houston 14
Turnovers: Cincinnati 3, Houston 0
Third Downs: Cincinnati 46%, Houston 50%
Yards-Per Play: Cincinnati 4.6, Houston 6.0
Vegas Line: Houston by 3, total of 38.5

We always emphasize rushing yardage, Drive Points, and Third Down conversions in our NFL coverage. You can see Houston swept all three...with an extremely dominant edge on the ground. But, this wasn't a blowout because of those stats. It was a blowout because they ALSO won turnovers by a whopping 3-0 margin. It was a clean win...and probably a clean cover too. But, it was a rout because of those extra opportunities...particularly the seven points that came on a pick six. You can't really call those "cheap" points because it was a great individual play. But, it was a TD the offense didn't score...and one the team probably won't get again next week in Baltimore because plays like that are so rare.

Does Houston have what it takes to win in Baltimore? The numbers you see above certainly suggest they can be competitive. We'll run in depth stat previews once again for you this weekend, following the same format we had last weekend. So, more on that in a few days. For now, the lesson here is that Houston can win with a rookie quarterback as long as he avoids mistakes and the other team makes them. If the mistakes cancel out...then the best Houston can probably hope for is a coin flip in Baltimore. A strong representative outing here...fitting of a divisional champion. But, not a set of numbers that would terrify one of the top seeds given Cincinnati's late-season slump. Houston took care of business against a team that ran out of gas a month ago.


NEW ORLEANS 45, DETROIT 28
Total Yardage: Detroit 412, New Orleans 626
Rushing Yardage: Detroit 32, New Orleans 167
Passing Stats: Detroit 28-43-2-380, New Orleans 33-43-0-459
Drive Points: Detroit 28, New Orleans 38
Turnovers: Detroit 2, New Orleans 2
Third Downs: Detroit 70%, New Orleans 63%
Yards-Per Play: Detroit 7.8, New Orleans 7.7
Vegas Line: New Orleans by 10.5, total of 60

Wow...over 600 yards in a playoff game! We talked in our preview about how there was potential for this kind of explosion. The Detroit pass defense had faded from view in recent weeks (remember what Joe Webb did against them even before Matt Flynn embarrassed them?). Drew Brees was on fire. He's still on fire. Fantastic effort from a team playing at a championship level. Now the question is...can New Orleans do this on the road? You get the sense that the Saints would win the Super Bowl, or lose a coin flip shootout to somebody with a great quarterback if they had earned the #1 seed. They didn't, so they have to win at San Francisco, and probably at Green Bay just to get a chance to face the AFC's best. The numbers above make it very clear that great things are possible. No matter how tired the opposing defense is, numbers like 626 yards, 38 Drive Points, 63% on third downs, and 7.7 yards-per-play are signs of greatness.

The problem is...Detroit had some great numbers too! The New Orleans defense better shore up some lose ends...because allowing 7.8 yards-per-play, and 70% on third downs to Detroit could signal huge troubles against Green Bay or an AFC champion. San Francisco? We'll talk more about that this weekend. Recent numbers are smiling much more affectionately at New Orleans than San Francisco.


NY GIANTS 24, ATLANTA 2
Total Yardage: Atlanta 247, NY Giants 442
Rushing Yardage: Atlanta 64, NY Giants 172
Passing Stats: Atlanta 13-24-0-183, NY Giants 23-32-0-270
Drive Points: Atlanta 0, NY Giants 24
Turnovers: Atlanta 0, NY Giants 0
Third Downs: Atlanta 28%, NY Giants 53%
Yards-Per Play: Atlanta 3.9, NY Giants 6.9
Vegas Line: NY Giants by 3, total of 47

Even the most ardent Giants fans were surprised by the level of dominance here. The defense threw a shutout! This was a defense that had looked like the soft units of New England and Green Bay much of the season. They sure found their mojo at the right time. Those are just squash numbers for the Giants stop unit...no Drive Points, 28% on third downs, and 3.9 yards-per-play against a potent offense in weather that really wasn't that discouraging. It was a little breezy. But, for a January day in New York, it was a virtual paradise.

Eli Manning's yo-yo was going up instead of going down. You can't really say that's a good sign though, because he alternates great days with turnover disasters often enough to keep everyone on the edge of their seats. This is what he's capable of during the best of times. And, given the challenges at stake in that game...he deserves a lot of credit for a 23-32-0-270 passing line. He'll never be his brother...but he's somebody who matters now. Great stuff from the G-men...and certainly the kind of stuff that can spring an upset on the road against a Green Bay team that has shown a tendency to play with overconfidence down the stretch.


DENVER 29, PITTSBURGH 23 (in overtime)
Total Yardage: Pittsburgh 400, Denver 447
Rushing Yardage: Pittsburgh 156, Denver 131
Passing Stats: Pittsburgh 22-40-1-244, Denver 10-21-0-316
Drive Points: Pittsburgh 10, Denver 23
Turnovers: Pittsburgh 1, Denver 1
Third Downs: Pittsburgh 43%, Denver 30%
Yards-Per Play: Pittsburgh 5.9, Denver 8/1
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh by 7.5, total of 34

The passing stats for Tebow are incredible. We all know he's a terrible passer. But, when he DOES connect, it's often for big plays because defenses have so little respect for his arm. That was the story of the early stages of the game...and then it was the only story of overtime that ended on the first play. He probably won't ever figure out how to do that on command given his horrible form. For now, he's undefeated in the NFL playoffs and deserves some respect for that.

Does Denver win this game if it's in Pittsburgh? Does Denver win this game if Ben Roethlisberger had both legs working properly? Does Denver win the game if other key injuries hadn't nailed the Steelers recently. Probably not to all of those questions. Yet...you play with the cards you're dealt...and Pittsburgh was dealt a very tough hand in the final stages of the season. Denver was dealt a gamer quarterback who finds a way to matter when it matters most.

Again, we'll talk more specifically about the second round this coming weekend, and we'll review the indicator stats in the areas of Drive Points, Third Down Conversions, and Turnover Differential at that time. Let's wrap up today with the grand finale of college football...


ALABAMA 21, LSU 0
Total Yardage: Alabama 384, LSU 92
Rushing Yardage: Alabama 150, LSU 39
Passing Stats: Alabama 23-34-0-234, LSU 11-17-1-53
Turnovers: Alabama 0, LSU 2
Third Downs: Alabama 3 of 14, LSU 2 of 12
Vegas Line: Alabama by 2, total of 41.5

Just an absolute squash from start to finish. If you watched the game, you don't really need to see the numbers to add any context. And, if you stop at total yardage above, that pretty much tells the story! We were prepared to write a few paragraphs to help explain what happened. No reason to now. Alabama has one of the greatest defenses in history. LSU is fantastic too. But, Alabama's offense was able to convert early field goals this time in what was basically a replay of the first meeting. We talked about that in the game preview Monday here in the NOTEBOOK. Alabama lost the opener, but had more scoring opportunities. That continued. They converted. Easy win for the small favorite, and easy Under for totals players who expected a replay of a defensive war.

That wraps up this Wednesday run-through of recent football boxscore stats. We'll be talking basketball Thursday and Friday, then we'll provide in-depth stat previews on Saturday and Sunday for the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs. Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY so you know what's really happening in the world of sports!

And, link up daily with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS! Game day releases go up a few hours before the first start of the day. You can purchase those with your credit card right here at this website. If you prefer talking to a human, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about full season basketball rates when you call. The road to MARCH MADNESS has already begun!

Congrats to you Alabama fans, and everyone who won in the NFL last weekend. We hope today's numbers will help you make smart choices from now through the Super Bowl.

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