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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 9:14 AM

It's Wednesday, which means it's time to crunch some numbers from last week's NFL action here in the NOTEBOOK. Our first preview of the new football week will run tomorrow when we crunch the numbers in Houston/Indianapolis while updating the playoff picture in both conferences. Friday we'll spend a day looking through early bowl results to see how they might foreshadow what's ahead in the colleges. Most of the NFL games are SATURDAY this week because Christmas Day falls on a Sunday this year. Here's our preview schedule for the weekend:

SATURDAY: Philadelphia at Dallas (plus Southern Miss-Nevada in Hawaii Bowl)
SUNDAY: Chicago at Green Bay
MONDAY: Atlanta at New Orleans

Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what's REALLY going on in the world of sports!

Here are some stat keys you might have missed this past week in pro football. Games are presented in rotation order...

  • Not much relevant in Jacksonville/Atlanta, the first game of the week. The final score of 41-14 told the story pretty well. Atlanta isn't as good as they looked while jumping to a 41-0 lead. It's possible for playoff teams to run away and hide from non-playoff teams when the big dog doesn't bring much early fire.

  • Dallas/Tampa Bay was largely a replay of Jacksonville/Atlanta in terms of the superior team taking care of business early. In fact, Dallas was actually more dominant than Atlanta was...but a fumble return TD for the Bucs kept the margin from blowing up. Dallas led 28-0 at the half, while Atlanta was up 27-0 at the half a day earlier. No reason to run the stats from garbage games like this.

  • Turnovers were again killer for the NY Giants. They lost the ball three times, and never could get any offensive rhythm going until the game was out of reach. Washington moved the ball well in the first half on the way to a 17-3 lead. For the game, the Skins won third downs 53% to 33%, and rushing yardage 123-91. Playing from behind help the Giants win some of the other volume stats because Washington was basically running out the clock with its defense through the second half. The NFC East has been amazingly inconsistent this year.

  • Kansas City's win over Green Bay was clean. The Chiefs won total yardage 438-315, Drive Points 13-7 (points scored on drives of 60 yards or more), and yards-per-play 6.3 to 5.5 Kyle Orton was very sharp for the Chiefs against the passive Packers defense. Even if he's not a world-beater, he's a HUGE upgrade over Tyler Palko. Kansas City is probably a 7-9 type team with Orton playing all the time. Green Bay was dealing with so many injuries they were more like an 11-5 or 10-6 team in this spot. The better team came in flat...and the rest prevented history!

  • Huge day for New Orleans. Drew Brews was 32-41-0-412 in the air...which is like playing catch. Only nine balls hit the ground! The Saints as a team won total yardage 573-207, third downs 72% to 28%, Drive Points 28-14, and yards-per-play 7.3 to 3.8. Just in terms of pure numbers, it was one of the biggest routs in recent memory. The Saints were more dominant than the 42-20 score makes it sound, believe it or not.

  • Seattle's 38-14 victory margin over Chicago was misleading. Seattle kept cashing in cheap points off of miscues. The Seahawks only won total yardage 286-221, third downs 37% to 30%, Drive Points 7-0, and yards-per-play 4.4 to 3.7. A turnover edge of 1-5 helped them blow the game open. Seattle scored two non-offensive TD's to one for Chicago. So, this was more like a 16-10 kind of game in the big picture. The right team won and covered...and Seattle clearly earned the outright win. They were the better team. But, be careful getting to enthused about that 38-14 scoreboard tally.

  • Sometimes you see weird numbers in lame duck games. That's the case in Miami/Buffalo. Buffalo managed 404 yards and 5.9 yards-per-play even though they were 0-11 on third downs! Miami rushed for 254 yards and passed for almost 200 more in their best offensive game in a long time. Miami is the better team, and has been playing MUCH better ball over the last six weeks. Chan Gailey's days appear to be numbered in Buffalo.

  • Carolina's win at Houston was similar to Washington's win at the NY Giants in a few ways. Carolina won the key categories...but lost some of the volume stats because Houston was playing from far behind. Carolina won third downs 64% to 22%, Drive Points 14-10, and rushing yardage 166-150 (and it's tough to beat Houston in rushing yardage!). They also won turnovers 3-0. Houston would win total yardage and yards-per-play as they moved between the 20's in a futile attempt to catch up. C. J. Yates can't be this mistake-prone if the Texans hope to win a playoff game.

  • Indianapolis got its first win of the season at home against Tennessee. But, you couldn't call it a clean win. The Colts only gained 287 yards on the day, and converted just 3 of 12 third downs. Drive Points were knotted at 7-all. Quarterback Dan Orlovsky was just 11-17-0-82 in the air! The Colts did win turnovers 3-1, and scored on a pick six. There was some garbage time yards in the box here too. Just be aware that the Colts played the worst among the "upset group" of Washington, Kansas City, Seattle, and Carolina.

  • Cincinnati continues to fade badly, even if they managed to beat the St. Louis Rams 20-13. The Bengals could only manage 27% on third downs, 10 Drive Points, and 4.6 yards-per-play. Seattle beat up the Rams earlier in the week...but the Bengals COULDN'T beat them up even in a must-win situation. The AFC playoff brackets may have a few teams that don't have any real shot to impress. Houston's going with a third-team QB. Cincinnati's fading, and may not ultimately make it anyway. Whoever wins the AFC West won't wow you. We'll get to the Jets in a minute.

  • Oakland managed to lose a game to Detroit...in which they won total yardage 477-432, yards-per-play 7.3 to 5.9, and rushing yardage 132-57. They only lost the ball once, so this wasn't a turnover loss. What killed them was third down conversions (1 of 9 for 11%), and a defense that defense that disappeared late in the fourth quarter. Late drives for Detroit allowed the Lions to win Drive Points 28-14, and third donws 47% to 11%. Do you see why we emphasize third downs so much here in the NOTEBOOK?!

  • New England/Denver drew huge TV ratings, and the teams did put on quite a show. Tom Brady exposed the Denver defense, going 23-34-0-310 in the air. Denver's defense had been shutting down poor or inconsistent offenses during their win streak. They were really no match for an elite offense. Tim Tebow didn't embarrass himself, though a monster on a late sack took a bite out of his numbers. Even if Denver wins the West, this is what's going to happen to them in the playoffs.

  • Did you realize Philadelphia committed FOUR turnovers in their blowout win over the New York Jets?! We were going to talk about how great this team looks when it's playing sharp football. They actually won huge even though they weren't all that sharp. Philadelphia won total yardage 420-241, yards-per-play 7.2 to 4.0, third downs 50%to 23%, and rushing yardage 160-94. The four turnovers were a reminder of why you can't trust this team to get results every week. When they DON'T explode offensively, the turnovers prevent them from winning.

  • Cleveland and Arizona were basically a wash statistically. Cleveland is better at the moment with Seneca Wallace than they are with Colt McCoy. But, it's clear that Wallace isn't a Grade-A starter in terms of the longterm. There were hopes that McCoy might be. We have a rare case here where the backup represents a clear improvement (though that's becoming less rare with so many kid quarterbacks learning how to swim in the deep end). The put the Browns in position to win when Arizona came in flat off their huge divisional upset of San Francisco.

  • Baltimore played another bad road game, and San Diego played another great December game. It all added up to Chargers edges of 415-290 in total yardage, 145-89 in rushing yardage, 24-7 in Drive Points, and 6.9 to 5.2 in yards-per-play. We talked about turnover differential in our game preview last Sunday. San Diego won that category 0-2. They'd be 12-4 every year if they could figure out how to play clean in the first two-thirds of the season. Baltimore is better than this. But it's hard to see Joe Flacco playing three weeks in a row of quality football vs. playoff caliber opponents in January.

  • San Francisco kept building on their fantastic turnover margin Monday Night against Pittsburgh. The defense forced miscues. Alex Smith an the offense played it safe. Another grinder win for the best grinders in the league. Ben Roethlisberger was moving so poorly, and throwing so erratically without a plant foot that he probably should have sat the game out. They could have floundered all night on the scoreboard and in the turnover category just as easily without him.

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. 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. If you want to test the waters, game day releases go up a few hours before the first kick. The basketball schedule has picked up this week...so try out our hoops too!

THERE'S STILL TIME TO STOCK YOUR STUFFINGS WITH COLD, HARD, CASH THANKS TO JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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