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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, December 28, 2011 at 9:05 AM

It's Wednesday, which means it's time to crunch some numbers from last week's NFL action here in the NOTEBOOK. We hope these keys will help you make good decisions this Sunday when the NFL regular season comes to an end. Games are presented in rotation order...

  • Even though Indianapolis trailed most of last Thursday's game versus Houston, they did earn a clean win in terms of many indicator stats. Indy won third downs 41% to 10%, Drive Points 10-6 (points scored on drives of 60 yards or more), and total yardage 320-283. Houston had a edge in rushing yards (171-95) and yards-per-play (5.5 to 4.2), but couldn't turn those numbers into many points. Considering that Houston should have been trying at peak intensity with a possible playoff bye in play, this is a VERY bad sign for the Texans regarding January. They were lucky to barely beat a Cincinnati team that's closing the season with a limp....then they lost at home to Carolina...now this. With C.J. Yates, Houston is basically a 5-11 type team. Good luck with that in the playoffs.

  • Kansas City won stats in their overtime game with Oakland, but couldn't win on the scoreboard. You'd have to say Oakland stole one given KC's edges in total yardage (435-308), rushing yardage (135-71), Drive Points (10-7), and yards-per-play (6.6 to 6.0). Turnovers were even, so it's not like the Chiefs blew the game in that category. Third downs were a virtual wash at 27% to 25% for the Raiders. Oakland still has a chance to make the playoffs...but they won't be a playoff caliber team if they get there.

  • Tim Tebow's negatives are most visible when the team falls behind. Then he has to do what he CAN'T do, and everything falls apart. The Denver offense gained just 4.3 yards-per-play while turning the ball over FOUR times. Tebow and company could only convert 2 of 13 third down tries. A truly horrendous offensive day when you realize how badly Buffalo's defense has been playing in recent weeks. Denver is far from a sure thing to win at home this week vs. Kansas City to formally clinch the AFC West.

  • Tennessee was able to win a game straight up where they lost turnovers 3-1. That's because of a 6.2 to 4.2 edge on yards-per-play. The Titans still have a chance to make the playoffs. We'll put them on the list of teams who aren't really playoff caliber. Whoever gets the last Wildcard spot is borderline at best. Whoever wins the AFC West isn't. Houston doesn't look to be. That's half the AFC brackets. And, it's not like Baltimore's setting the world on fire either. More on them in a bit.

  • Cincinnati jumped to a big early lead thanks to field position points vs. Arizona. They didn't have any long distance points for the whole day. Arizona would ultimately win Drive Points 10-0 and yards-per-play 4.7 to 4.5. Cincinnati won rushing yardage by an impressive 165-59. But, since they didn't use that to protect their lead...it wasn't worth much. Arizona had the ball with a chance to win very late. Think about this for a second...Cincy's second half defense has looked shaky recently vs. C.J. Yates and John Skelton. What's going to happen if they face a real quarterback in January?

  • It's a tribute to Tom Brady that he can find a way to win a game even after a horrible first half. New England trailed Miami 17-0 at the break...and would ultimately be outscored 21-3 on Drive Points, and outgained on yards-per-play 5.9 to 4.9. Yet, when the final gun went off, the Pats were still in the driver's seat for the #1 seed in the AFC thanks to a 27-24 win. We've said a lot of negatives about the AFC playoff picture already. New England's far from a sure thing to dominate even with the soft field given this performance.

  • Baltimore had to sweat the ending of their 20-14 win over Cleveland thanks to a punt return TD from the Browns. So, it was more like a 20-7 decision. That being said, Baltimore didn't look very good in a few key numbers. They only won yards-per-play 4.6 to 4.3, third downs 41% to 38%, and total yardage 284-256. Remember that Cleveland was starting Seneca Wallace at quarterback too. Maybe the AFC powers are pacing themselves for the conference's Final four a few weeks down the road.

  • One play warped the numbers in the Giants/Jets game...that was the 99-yard touchdown pass that may have saved the Giants season while ending the Jets season. Eli Manning was 9-27-1-217 even with that play. That means he was 8-26-1-118 the rest of the day. Just abysmal. But, Mark Sanchez was having problems of his own with turnovers (3 for the team) and third downs (19% on 4 of 21). Neither team won any glamour awards. The Giants can win their way into the playoffs with a Sunday Night victory over Dallas in the final game of the whole NFL regular season.

  • Once again, Joe Webb came in and played great for Minnesota after Christian Ponder was benched. Minnesota apparently doesn't believe in Webb's future. He sure is a great backup though! The Vikings earned a clean upset with edges in Drive Points (27-10 in a slaughter), yards-per-play (6.7 to 5.8), and rushing yardage 241-141. Of course, the big news here was the knee injury to Adrian Peterson. Winning with Ponder will be even tougher next year if Peterson isn't ready to go at the outset.

  • It's widely assumed that Tampa Bay will fire its head coach at the end of the season. The horrible defense Raheem Morris's team played vs. Carolina may have sealed the deal. Carolina gained 8.8 yards-per-play, rushed for 270 yards, and scored 24 points on drives of 60 yards or more. The Panthers only faced six third downs all day! Carolina's future is very bright with Cam Newton. Tampa Bay is now re-thinking its coach and quarterback situation.

  • Pittsburgh's 27-0 win over St. Louis was as dominant as it sounded. Even with Charlie Batch at quarterback, the Steelers won yards-per-play 7.5 to 3.7, and drive points 17-0. Kellen Clemens could only manage a passing line of 9-24-0-68 for the Rams...another team that may be making a coaching move once the season ends Sunday. This team is STILL a doormat, and they may need to give up on Sam Bradford and pick another quarterback in the summer's draft.

  • Wow...monster day for the Detroit Lions offense against San Diego. Detroit gained 7.1 yards-per-play, scored a whopping 31 points on drives of 60 yards or more, and saw quarterback Grant Stafford go 29-36-0-353 in the air. That's over 350 passing yards with only 7 incompletions and no picks! Norv Turner goes on the lengthening list of coaches who will be looking for work as early as next Monday. Happy New Year!

  • San Francisco is a grinder team...so grinder edges like 178-126 in rushing yardage and 5.1 to 4.6 in yards-per-play are important to them...particularly on the road. They were the more poised side down the stretch in a close game at Seattle. And, that can be a very tough place to play. Nothing new really in assessing San Francisco's playoff chances. They're going to have to play keep-away from Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in consecutive weeks to reach the Super Bowl most likely.

  • Should we run the stats from Philadelphia/Dallas. The game didn't matter...and Dallas had the stats of a team that was saving itself for next week. Pass.

  • Green Bay did so much so quickly that they didn't gain 400 total yards on the night. Yet, they had four different TD drives of more than 60 yards...and averaged 7.1 yards-per-play in their win over Chicago. The bend-and-break-a-few-times-per-game defense of the Packers allowed 21 points to a lineup with a lot of backups. The Patriots got burned by their own defense last year in the playoffs. Is Green Bay going down that same path? \\\\

  • Drew Brees of New Orleans capped off the week with a history-making night vs. Atlanta. He passed Dan Marino's prior record for most passing yards in a season. That's what most everyone will remember about the Saints' 45-16 victory. In terms of handicapping Saints games in the playoffs...be aware that they were facing a playoff caliber opponent here, yet still managed a stunning 76% conversion rate on third downs, 28 Drive Points, 7.3 yards-per-play, and they won by 29 points despite losing the turnover category. Had the Saints earned a #1 seed, they would be very tough to beat on their home field in the postseason by anybody, including Green Bay. Barring a huge upset by St. Louis over San Francisco this weekend...the Saints will instead be looking at a home game rematch against either Atlanta or Detroit, followed by road trips to San Francisco and Green Bay if they want to earn a return trip to the Super Bowl.

That wraps up this week's look at key stats in the NFL. We hope today's numbers will help you make better choices this weekend when the games resume this Sunday. If you'd like some help through the rest of the NFL and the college bowl slate, call JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about basketball when you call. Now that the NBA is back in action, the nightly cards are jam-packed!

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