Each week this season, Chris Sprow will consult with Vegas experts such as Jay Kornegay of the Vegas Hilton and use projection systems to dive into the numbers to point out which teams the human voters are overselling or underselling.
Why watch the games when the box score tells us so much? Take "Monday Night Football," for example -- just a glance at the numbers says it all. You'll see that QB Jay Cutler was obviously able to sit back in the pocket, for the most part, and pick away at Detroit's secondary. He completed 28 throws at a near-75 percent completion rate, and we know that a career 61.4 percent passer needs a little protection to pull that off. Good for that O-line! And Cutler's play was balanced by a good night from RB Matt Forte, who carried 22 times for 116 yards (the Bears are 9-0 when he hits the century mark). The Bears also didn't turn the ball over once, ran 19 more plays than the Lions and had a 39:03 to 20:57 advantage in time of possession. A drubbing, right?
Sort of. Except that it was the opposite. The Lions staged this country's most effective current occupation -- Occupy Chicago's Backfield® -- and did it while blitzing on just 4 of 42 Cutler drop-backs. Cutler completed passes, but did so while looking like Gregory Hines in the pocket, constantly tap-dancing out of trouble. (Perhaps blinded by the sun.) Detroit didn't possess the ball at length, but cracked off a 73-yard TD pass and an 88-yard TD run, skewing the "time" totals. Detroit won 24-13 in a game that, save for Cutler's constant escape acts, could have been a blowout.
But the numbers told us that, right?
Hey, this isn't a pure knock on the basic numbers -- on the aggregate, they tell us a lot -- but there's a reason the tape, the deeper metrics, the wisdom of the sharps, the injury reports, the home/road splits and maybe a good hunch tell us a lot, too. So keep those all in mind as we look at who is too high and low in this week's NFL Power Rankings.
Power Rankings slot: 10
Win projection average: 7.9
Super Bowl odds: 25-1
Don't kill the messenger! Not after my "Believe in Rex!" barnstorming tour. I celebrate the man's entire catalogue. But suffice it to say squeaked-out wins over Arizona and St. Louis aren't blowing away the sharps or the computers. Their win projection average is a mere 15th.