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Joe Nelson - Blogs

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BETWEEN THE LINES - NOV. 18

By Joe Nelson
Posted 11/20/2013 at 10:21 AM

Everyone is getting excited about Baylor being poised to move ahead of Ohio State into the #3 spot but the Bears have back-to-back tough road games this week and then they will get to host Texas. Ohio State will be on cruise control into the Big Ten championship game as the Bears are likely a greater risk to lose a game. Baylor is a very exciting team to watch but there is a lot of work to be done as a loss this week would not only end the slim championship hopes but it would knock the Bears out of the BCS picture completely in most scenarios. A team that seemingly lost everything last week is right back in the mix as Oregon is #5 in the BCS standings this week. The Ducks certainly need some help but plausible scenarios are out there as Baylor could certainly lose and Michigan State seems capable of beating Ohio State in the B1G title game. Alabama will face a credible opponent in the SEC title game as well, assuming they get by a charmed Auburn squad. Florida beating Florida State certainly feels like a stretch but the Gators will have the best defense a still young quarterback has faced all season long. Stranger things have certainly happened as the Ducks are sitting in great shape to be the top one loss contender and at worst should be headed to Pasadena a week early.
 
It continues to be a great challenge to make sense of the NFL from a handicapping perspective as heading into the Monday night only three of the 14 teams that won the yardage battle in week 11 matchups covered the spread. That’s right, predicting the team that would have less yardage would have netted you a 10-3-1 week on the closing numbers. Yardage statistics can be misleading as teams that fall behind early can often have an easier time moving the ball against less aggressive defensive schemes while teams with the lead are more conservative on offense but the ability to gain yards and prevent opponents from gaining yards is still a pretty central piece of the puzzle. The most bizarre example last week in the lack of congruence between yardage and points was the second quarter for the Cincinnati Bengals as they posted a grand total of 78 yards on offense in the quarter and yet wound up with an all-time franchise best 31 points in the quarter.
 
Turnovers can trump everything and in week 11 through Sunday, 11 games featured one side having a turnover margin of +2 or better. The teams with the +2 or better turnover edge covered in 10 of those 11 games with the Chicago Bears being the lone exception, pushing on the common spread and taking a narrow loss on the very early and very late closing numbers. Predicting turnovers remains a great challenge, some will look at the quarterbacks as the key to that equation but keep in mind rookie quarterbacks E.J. Manuel, Mike Glennon, and Matt McGloin, a group that had combined for three career wins heading into week 11, all wound up on the plus side of that +2 or better turnover ledger last week in wins. High turnover veterans Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton, and Ben Roethlisberger all also wound up winners in the +2 or better turnover margin last week as well despite those four all being in the top eight in the league in most interceptions thrown for the season. If you had blindly bet on the quarterback that had thrown more interceptions on the season heading into last week you would have had a winning record for the week. Best of Luck, on to this week’s slate…
 
UPDATE: Monday’s game between New England and Carolina also qualified on all fronts with the Panthers out-gained by 90 yards but featuring a 2-0 edge in turnovers, and Cam Newton featuring more interceptions on the season.

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