Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 9:24 AM
When the San Diego Tribune reported over the weekend that San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner would likely be fired after the season...it cast Monday Night's game at Jacksonville in a very interesting light. Just days earlier, the Jaguars had fired their head coach effective immediately!
How do you handicap a game where an interim coach on one side of the field is facing a lame duck coach on the other?!
We generally run stat previews for Monday Night games in this spot...and we will crunch some numbers for you in a few seconds. But, we want to start today with the fairly obvious note that INFORMATION about each team's mindset is going to be the most important thing you need to pick the winner. That's why JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK is the place for you. We have scouts and sources who follow all 32 NFL teams very closely so we can make correct reads in the games where intangibles dwarf the tangibles. Our guys have been all over the Jacksonville story since last week. And, it's not like the rumblings about Turner's future started Saturday afternoon on the scrolls of ESPN college football telecasts. We have the information we need...and you'll be able to purchase our Monday Night winner right here at the website a few hours before kickoff.
Instead of running our indicator stats with an eye on tonight's personnel matchups, let's look at them in light of what's happened the past week. What role did THESE numbers have in getting two head coaches fired?
DRIVE POINTS PER GAME (scored and allowed on 60 yards or more)
San Diego: 14.7 on offense, 12.5 on defense
Jacksonville: 5.9 on offense, 9.7 on defense
Well, the worst number on the chart is that awful offensive number for Jacksonville. This was a high scoring year for the first half of the season. Yet, a conservative approach with overmatched rookie Blaine Gabbard calling signals has led to the worst offensive performance in the NFL this year in our favorite indicator stat. The Jags were bad last year with a 9.7 mark that put them in the bottom third of the league. Dumping David Garrard before the season started guaranteed a few steps backward instead of any steps forward.
A bad offensive mark is a good defensive mark...so the Jags registering at 9.7 on defense this year is good stuff. That's why the defensive coordinator was moved up to be interim head coach. Management generally rewards quality. The problem is...how's the defensive genius going to do anything that helps make the offense better in this last month?!
It's tougher to see the negatives with San Diego, because they're +2.2 in differential and that's normally something to be proud of. But, when you're expecting to win your division and compete for the AFC title...then the standards are higher. Note also that both of those marks represent big steps backward from last year.
Offense: 18.3 last year, 14.7 this year
Defense: 9.2 last year, 12.5 this year
We noted often throughout 2011 that San Diego had the Drive Point stats of a champion, but that they kept screwing things up with turnovers and poor special teams play. This year's team was 3.6 worse on offensive Drive Points, and 3.3 worse on defensive drive points...while still looking sluggish in other areas.
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
San Diego: 47% on offense, 45% on defense
Jacksonville: 32% on offense, 37% on defense
Same story here...with Philip Rivers showing that he's well aware of the importance of moving the chains...but a slight 2-point advantage in this stat not being enough to override other problems. Rivers needs to take that extra step that teaches him how to avoid turnovers.
Jacksonville's defense continues to look good in our numbers. That's been their strength all season. The offense is just abysmal. Given the long run Del Rio's had anyway, it surely seems time to make a change at the head coaching position...and possibly quarterback too. It's not like Gabbert is inspiring people about next season. Most other rookies have been more impressive.
San Diego: -10 (14 takeaways, 24 giveaways)
Jacksonville: +1 (15 takeaways, 14 giveaways)
This is where San Diego really falls apart...and why they're sitting at 4-7 in the standings even with the good Drive Point differential. And, given that they were -6 last year while facing one of the easiest schedules in the league...it's fairly solid evidence that the turnover problems aren't getting any better. Norv Turner knew what he had to fix, and he didn't do it. There's only so much patience ownership and a fan base should have about playing fundamental football.
So, the Jags have generally been a disappointment throughout the Del Rio years...and they definitely weren't doing anything of importance this year. Given ownerships plans to sell (hello Los Angeles Jaguars!), his firing was completely understandable.
The Chargers have underachieved expectations for YEARS under Turner...but the expectations were so high that he still had winning records as a general rule. It's hard to fire a guy who's winning just because he isn't winning enough. But, last year's 9-7 has now been followed by a 4-7...for a team that's picked to go about 11-5 every season. Tough to make a case that Turner should survive given how bad team fundamentals have been this year and last.
ENJOY THE GAME!
Well, we think you'll enjoy another BIG JUICY WINNER even if the game doesn't turn out to be so great. And, we'll be watching the coaching situations with several other teams in the coming days because what we're watching tonight could be repeated a few more times in terms of information trumping stats.
NFL TEAMS WITH COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT
Not exactly a short list! Some of those teams could close strong and carry their coaches into next season. But, we do expect some changes in a few more spots. And, how those teams react to rumors about those changes...or the eventual firings that seem inevitable...will create more big play opportunities for us.
As we said above, tonight's pick will go up a few hours before kickoff here at the website for credit card purchase. We also have BONUS BASKETBALL for you on the card tonight with the slate highlighted by St. John's at Detroit on ESPN2.
Today's a great day to call the office to get set up for the rest of football. The bowl schedule was announced Sunday Night. We still have a month of regular season NFL followed by all the playoffs and Super Bowl action. And, you've probably read here at the website that early season basketball is off to a red-hot start. The NBA will join the schedule beginning Christmas Day. Call us at 1-800-323-4453 for more information on long term packages.
Here's a quick look at the highlights coming up through the rest of this week:
TUESDAY: We'll be posting one of our biggest college basketball plays of the year...and we're looking at Villanova-Missouri on ESPN, George Mason-Virginia, Memphis-Miami of Florida on ESPN2, and Washington-Marquette on ESPN.
WILD WEDNESDAY: This college hoops schedule is LOADED! We're looking at Alabama-Dayton, Arizona-Florida on ESPN2, Xavier-Butler on ESPN2, and Vanderbilt-Davidson for serious play.
THURSDAY: A two-sport parlay includes Cleveland-Pittsburgh from the NFL and our best from Harvard-Connecticut and West Virginia-Kansas State in the ESPN2 doubleheader.
First things first...which means we focus on an interim coach facing a lame duck coach on ESPN's Monday Night Football.
Coaches come...and coaches go...but the biggest name in handicapping has always been...and will always be...JIM HURLEY