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Tough day for home favorites (especially ones who played in last Super Bowl)

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

October 1, 2017 11:10 PM

Bookended by blowouts, the fourth Sunday of the NFL season still saw shockers galore, as both of last season’s Super Bowl teams were stunned at home amidst a 9-3 underdog run in the main TV windows.

NFL: Patriots, Falcons, Cowboys, Vikings all lose outright as home favorites

A lot of key stats to run through. Let’s jump right in. Games are listed in official Nevada Rotation order.

New Orleans (- 3) 20, Miami 0 (in London)

  • Yards-per-Play: New Orleans 5.0, Miami 4.0
  • Third Down Conversions: New Orleans 46%, Miami 13%
  • Turnovers: New Orleans 0, Miami 1
  • Rushing Yards: New Orleans 86, Miami 58
  • Passing Stats: New Orleans 29-41-0-261, Miami 20-28-1-128
  • TD Drive Lengths: New Orleans 77-87, Miami no TDs

Easy victory for the Saints, who were only up 3-0 at the half…but recognized the opportunity to accept a win the Dolphins were handing to them. Basically a replay of Miami/NYJ from the prior week, which was a 20-6 loss where the Dolphins only gained 3.6 YPP and went 1 of 12 on third downs (2 of 20 the past two weeks). How did the Floridians win their first game at the LA Chargers?! Dolphins drop to 1-2, but at least have a slew of home games ahead. New Orleans is 2-2 after an 0-2 start. We’re still not exporting our best football to London. 

Carolina (plus 9) 33, New England 30

  • Yards-per-Play: Carolina 7.4, New England 5.6
  • Third Down Conversions: Carolina 67%, New England 50%
  • Turnovers: Carolina 2, New England 0
  • Rushing Yards: Carolina 140, New England 80
  • Passing Stats: Carolina 22-29-1-304, New England 32-45-0-293
  • TD Drive Lengths: Carolina 75-84-68-64, New England 74-75-49

A shocker from all sorts of directions. Even though New England’s defense has been struggling…they weren’t supposed to have troubles with a Carolina offense that could barely move the ball entering this matchup. Cam Newton looked like an MVP again. Wouldn’t have been a nailbiter without the two Carolina turnovers. New England falls to 2-2, and is one play away from a 1-3 start (Northeast media thought they’d go 16-0!). Carolina is 3-1 despite early sluggishness thanks to an easy opening draw at SF and a low scoring survival of Buffalo. Sharps kept fading the Pats all last season, and regretting it. This time around, it may be the public that regrets throwing NE in moneyline parlays and teasers every week. In the Pats ATS losses, they’ve missed the market by 24, 11, and 12 points. Don’t tease a team like that!

LA Rams (plus 6) 35, Dallas 30 

  • Yards-per-Play: LA Rams 6.1, Dallas 6.8
  • Third Down Conversions: LA Rams 38%, Dallas 50%
  • Turnovers: LA Rams 0, Dallas 2
  • Rushing Yards: LA Rams 168, Dallas 189
  • Passing Stats: LA Rams 21-36-0-244, Dallas 20-36-1-251
  • TD Drive Lengths: LA Rams 18-90, Dallas 81-75-75-75

Dallas had a huge first half offensively (on pace for well over 500 yards). But the Rams settled down, and found out the Cowboys were less able to execute when it was time to win the game. The Rams (and later the Niners) continued expressing a market edge for the Thursday night teams. Six teams have played on Thursday nights so far…and they’re 6-0 ATS the following week. Only KC (-) vs. Philadelphia in W2 had to even sweat the cover. We’ve talked at some point about the Rams becoming “the new Saints” in terms of playing high scoring shootouts. More evidence for that here, with the game going Over by 15 points even though the Rams only scored two touchdowns! (21 points on 7 field goals with the 2 TDs.) Be very careful asking for first half, second half, or full game Unders with this group. Full games have landed on 55, 47, 80, and 65. Their eight halves have landed on 30, 25, 30, 17, 37, 43, 40, 25. Jared Goff continues to improve, while the Rams defense continues to allow long TD drives. 

Detroit (plus 2.5) 14, Minnesota 7

  • Yards-per-Play: Detroit 3.7, Minnesota 5.3
  • Third Down Conversions: Detroit 23%, Minnesota 30%
  • Turnovers: Detroit 0, Minnesota 3
  • Rushing Yards: Detroit 97, Minnesota 87
  • Passing Stats: Detroit 19-31-0-154, Minnesota 16-30-0-197
  • TD Drive Lengths: Detroit 29, Minnesota 81

Important to read the boxscore here. About the only thing Detroit did right on offense was avoid turnovers. Minnesota did a better job of moving the ball. Detroit was handed a cheap TD. Best to think of this as a low-scoring defensive struggle where Case Keenum fell back to earth for the Vikes. Detroit is now 3-1 (almost 4-0) despite yards-per-play production of 5.3, 4.6, 4.9, and 3.7 on a per-game basis. Give the defense some credit for an 11-2 edge in the turnover department. Something that extreme rarely holds up through a full season. Minnesota is 2-2, and is hoping Sam Bradford will return soon. 

Houston (plus 2.5) 57, Tennessee 14

  • Yards-per-Play: Tennessee 4.8, Houston 5.7
  • Third Down Conversions: Tennessee 25%, Houston 50%
  • Turnovers: Tennessee 5, Houston 1
  • Rushing Yards: Tennessee 86, Houston 173
  • Passing Stats: Tennessee 10-20-4-109, Houston 25-34-1-272
  • TD Drive Lengths: Tennessee 75-75, Houston 43-76-76-58-75-73

Normally, when you see a team score 50-plus points in the NFL, it was because of a zillion cheap points from non-offensive or defensive TDs and easy scores after turnovers. Houston did win the TO category 5-1. But the length of those scoring drives shows that this was a fairly incredible offensive performance. That’s four TD drives of 73 yards or more, while only gaining 5.7 yards-per-play. Just…marching…down…the…field…at will much of the afternoon. Deshaun Watson threw one dumb interception near the end zone, but otherwise made it look like he’s going to be the next big thing. Well, he IS the next big thing right now with that performance against a divisional rival and serious playoff contender. Houston is 2-2, and one play away from being 3-1 with a road win at New England. Expect some newfound respect for the Texans in the marketplace. Tennessee is also 2-2, having played a tough early schedule (Oakland, Seattle, and now a legitimate Houston team). 

NY Jets (plus 3.5) 23, Jacksonville 20 (in overtime)

  • Yards-per-Play: Jacksonville 4.1, NY Jets 6.8
  • Third Down Conversions: Jacksonville 27%, NY Jets 35%
  • Turnovers: Jacksonville 1, NY Jets 2
  • Rushing Yards: Jacksonville 175, NY Jets 256
  • Passing Stats: Jacksonville 15-35-1-136, NY Jets 22-32-1-215
  • TD Drive Lengths: Jacksonville 61, NY Jets 75-82

Another boxscore to pay close attention to. The Jets largely CRUSHED the Jags. But a defensive TD for the road favorite helped hide that from scoreboard watchers. This wasn’t really a “coin flip” in terms of game flow. The Jets won total yardage 471-311. This after outgaining Miami 5.7 to 3.6 and 336-225 last week. Stats were still ugly in NYJ’s two road losses. This level of performance in back-to-back weeks wasn’t supposed to happen to a team that would “struggle” to find any wins on its schedule. The raw stats of a double-digit victory. Be sure you note the horrible passing line for Blake Bortles. He just can’t keep things going more than one game in a row. Both teams are 2-2 after this result. 

Cincinnati (-3) 31, Cleveland 7

  • Yards-per-Play: Cincinnati 5.6, Cleveland 3.5
  • Third Down Conversions: Cincinnati 54%, Cleveland 31%
  • Turnovers: Cincinnati 1, Cleveland 1
  • Rushing Yards: Cincinnati 86, Cleveland 45
  • Passing Stats: Cincinnati 25-30-0-264, Cleveland 21-42-1-170
  • TD Drive Lengths: Cincinnati 35-88-83-83, Cleveland 63

This wouldn’t have been a surprise in past seasons. But the Bengals had been awful so far in 2017, and Cleveland had at least hinted they could hang with awful. True squash here. The Deshone Kizer experiment is now looking like a bad idea. He was 16-34-1-118 before leaving the game, and has very poor numbers in the three outings since Pittsburgh sleep-walked through his opener. With all the jokes in recent weeks about the Jets tanking for a quarterback, it’s now the 0-4 Browns who are in position to do that again. Let’s note that the Browns defense has run into Baltimore/Indy/Cincinnati the past three game, struggling offenses all. They’ve allowed 24, 31, and 31 points. They’re going to be in real trouble vs. any good offenses they face. Cincinnati is 1-3. 

Pittsburgh (-3) 26, Baltimore 9

  • Yards-per-Play: Pittsburgh 5.2, Baltimore 4.2
  • Third Down Conversions: Pittsburgh 47%, Baltimore 38%
  • Turnovers: Pittsburgh 1, Baltimore 3
  • Rushing Yards: Pittsburgh 173, Baltimore 82
  • Passing Stats: Pittsburgh 18-30-1-208, Baltimore 31-49-2-206 
  • TD Drive Lengths: Pittsburgh 28-70-49, Baltimore 66

Best game Pittsburgh has played all season. First time they looked like summer projections. But, it was still a grinder where two of their TD drives started on the other half of the field. Great to see the running game finally show up…as their four per-game rush totals are 35, 102, 70, and 173. Pittsburgh moves to 3-1, and now has a tie-breaker edge (for the time being) over the only team that’s a real threat to beat them out in the AFC North. Baltimore’s offense continues to be a disaster. Per-game YPP is 4.5, 5.0, 3.4, and 4.2. The 5.0 came against Cleveland. The Ravens had a 10-2 turnover advantage after two games. It’s 6-1 the other way since. Fickle category (Lions fans!). 

Buffalo (plus 9) 23, Atlanta 17

  • Yards-per-Play: Buffalo 4.8, Atlanta 5.4
  • Third Down Conversions: Buffalo 46%, Atlanta 38%
  • Turnovers: Buffalo 0, Atlanta 3
  • Rushing Yards: Buffalo 117, Atlanta 149
  • Passing Stats: Buffalo 12-20-0-164, Atlanta 24-42-2-242
  • TD Drive Lengths: Buffalo 77, Atlanta 78-75

This early shocker was paired with Carolina/New England in everyone’s minds because last year’s Super Bowls teams were about the same-sized favorites. But Buffalo was getting a little too much hype afterward for being “legit.” Carolina outgained New England 444-373. Buffalo was outgained here 391-281, and only scored one offensive TD (the other was on a fumble return). Atlanta’s stats would normally equate to a win of about 24-18 (2 times rushing yards, plus passing yards, times 0.67, divided by 15) without turnover pollution. So, the Bills definitely deserved to cover…and “holding” Atlanta to 5.4 YPP and 38% on third downs is very solid indoors on a fast track. Last week Buffalo was outgained 5.5 to 4.3 in the win over Denver. If you’re only scoreboard watching…beating Denver and Atlanta in consecutive weeks seems fantastic. The 5-0 turnover edge (tough to keep that going) plus the 5.5/4.3 and 5.4/4.8 losses in YPP throw some cold water on proceedings. Better than first realized? YES! A real threat at 3-1 to the Patriots in the AFC East? Less likely than the scoreboard is suggesting. 

Tampa Bay (-2.5) 25, NY Giants 23

  • Yards-per-Play: NY Giants 4.9, Tampa Bay 7.0
  • Third Down Conversions: NY Giants 47%, Tampa Bay 27%
  • Turnovers: NY Giants 0, Tampa Bay 0
  • Rushing Yards: NY Giants 91, Tampa Bay 111
  • Passing Stats: NY Giants 30-49-0-288, Tampa Bay 22-38-0-323
  • TD Drive Lengths: NY Giants 62-61-75, Tampa Bay 56-70-57

Weird one. The Giants marched fairly well on a mediocre YPP count, while Tampa Bay sputtered on third downs but made enough HUGE plays to average out at 7.0 YPP. Neither team turned the ball over. Felt like a coin flip game between two 7-9 or 8-8 caliber teams (in line with the market pricing). The Giants fell to 0-4 because two coin flips have gone against them after the awful efforts vs. Dallas and Detroit. Tampa Bay is 2-1, but needs to do better than its 4 of 17 mark on third downs from the past two weeks. 

Philadelphia (plus 2.5) 26, LA Chargers 24

  • Yards-per-Play: Philadelphia 6.1, LA Chargers 7.5
  • Third Down Conversions: Philadelphia 56%, LA Chargers 50%
  • Turnovers: Philadelphia 0, LA Chargers 1
  • Rushing Yards: Philadelphia 214, LA Chargers 58
  • Passing Stats: Philadelphia 17-31-0-240, LA Chargers 22-38-0-342
  • TD Drive Lengths: Philadelphia 68-75, LA Chargers 75-75-75

Similar situation here, as a coin flip barely goes toward the visitor this time with a score similar to NYG/TB. Looks like that one LAC turnover was the tie-breaker. Philadelphia’s big edge on the ground came with less risk…though that only resulted in a plus 1 TO differential rather than something more dramatic. Still…if you win third down conversions and rushing yards, you’ve probably got the better team. Philadelphia moves to 3-1 thanks to fate smiling on them in consecutive nailbiters. The Chargers are 0-4.

Arizona (-6.5) 18, San Francisco 15 (in overtime)

  • Yards-per-Play: San Francisco 3.9, Arizona 4.7
  • Third Down Conversions: San Francisco 26%, Arizona 31%
  • Turnovers: San Francisco 1, Arizona 1
  • Rushing Yards: San Francisco 95, Arizona 51
  • Passing Stats: San Francisco 24-49-1-210, Arizona 33-51-1-317
  • TD Drive Lengths: San Francisco no TDs, Arizona 75 (in OT)

The game went to overtime deadlocked at 12-12 on eight field goals. San Francisco does continue the Thursday night “extra rest and preparation” trend…but does so in very ugly fashion. At least the defense was well-rested! The kind of game where both teams come out looking horrible. The Niners only managed 210 throwing yards on almost 50 passes. Arizona didn’t finish a good drive until late in the extra period. The Niners are feisty, but 0-4. Arizona is 0-2-2 in regulation, but 2-2 straight up thanks to overtime wins over Indianapolis and San Francisco teams that might combined to go 6-26 if Andrew Luck doesn’t come back. Cards have the statistical look of a 5-11 caliber team (outgained 5.3 to 4.6 by Detroit, and 6.1 to 4.4 by Dallas). 

Denver (-3.5) 16, Oakland 10

  • Yards-per-Play: Oakland 4.8, Denver 4.8
  • Third Down Conversions: Oakland 17%, Denver 31%
  • Turnovers: Oakland 1, Denver 0
  • Rushing Yards: Oakland 24, Denver 143
  • Passing Stats: Oakland 21-35-1-230, Denver 16-26-0-155 
  • TD Drive Lengths: Oakland 99, Denver 88

Mostly a defensive struggle, though each team managed one very long TD drive. Derek Carr continues to have trouble moving the chains (Raiders 2 of 23 the past two weeks), and he’s getting stubborn about letting defenders make contact with him in the pocket. He had to leave in the second half with a lower back injury (hopefully just a bad bruise). Being the next Tony Romo will just frustrate Raiders fans. Denver had trouble shaking both the Chargers and Raiders on this field, and gave away their margin for error with two turnovers in Buffalo. They are 3-1 straight up…but may soon get priced in a range where they won’t produce enough to cover. Oakland is 2-2, and the 10-point season opening win at Tennessee is starting to look like a bit of a red herring. Oakland has been outrushed the past two weeks 116-32 and 143-24. 

Seattle (-13) 46, Indianapolis 18

  • Yards-per-Play: Indianapolis 4.2, Seattle 7.7
  • Third Down Conversions: Indianapolis 43%, Seattle 67%
  • Turnovers: Indianapolis 2, Seattle 2
  • Rushing Yards: Indianapolis 98, Seattle 194
  • Passing Stats: Indianapolis 16-29-1-139, Seattle 21-26-2-283
  • TD Drive Lengths: Indianapolis 80-55, Seattle 84-75-74-84

Two extremely different 30-minute "games." Indianapolis pulled off a huge shocker with a 15-10 first half win, followed by the rout many expected when Seattle won the second half 36-3. It all added up to a blowout cover, with blowout stats for the heavily favored host. But, if you didn’t watch the game…that first half was something. Seattle’s only TD was an interception return (one of two defensive TDs on the night). The Colts fall to 1-3. Seattle is 2-2, a game behind the surprising Rams in a disappointing division. 

Back Tuesday with a recap of Monday night’s Washington/Kansas City game, updated NFL Power Ratings, plus college football numbers and notes and a stat preview of the Twins/Yankees AL Wildcard showdown.

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