Soak it all in, this is as good as it gets in the world of NFL football. We’ve got one last glorious weekend of two games a day before we enter a sad world of three games left split between three weeks. And it’s a dark world my friends, full of made-up goofy storylines and “analysts” yelling at each other across a table. My favorite so far has been Peyton Manning in cold weather.
First weekend of the playoffs are in the books and everyone is who we thought they were. All four favorites covered. Not a huge surprise since the wild card teams were pretty weak this year. All four games went UNDER the total. This points more to the fact that the league’s best offenses had a bye and the teams that could score points were playing teams that didn’t need to pour it on to win.
Traditionally on this weekend, bettors tend to over-inflate the teams they saw play last week over the home teams on byes. Combine that with usually higher lines and you get a recipe ripe for everyone backing underdogs. That isn’t quite the case this season with only the Green Bay Packers being a popular underdog pick, followed by the Seahawks who are then followed by the Texans. Another interesting case is books usually take some measure to protect themselves against teases but this year the lines for Denver and New England have remained stable. I would think that numerous Denver/NE teases will be in play this weekend.
I am backing three favorites and three overs this weekend since I think the better competition will force more scoring. I personally can’t wait for the Denver game and forgot how exciting it can be to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. No, last year’s team didn’t feel that way.
One last note – I can’t recommend the FX series ARCHER enough. New season premiers next week so you still have time to watch it online or on Netflix on-demand. It has inappropriate humor, hot cartoons and spy-thriller storylines. I don’t know what more you could want in a 22 minute television show. Maybe other than puppies. Puppies make everything better.
On to the picks!
Playoff Record (5-3)
DENVER -9.5 vs. Ravens – I have plenty of Ravens hate. I dislike their players, scheme, coach and their colors. I’m not even going to pretend this is objective. What has changed since Denver went to Baltimore almost a month ago? Ravens got some D players healthy. I still fail to see how they will score consistently. When your only real option is Dennis Pita, it’s time to question backing them. God help Flacco if they get behind. Also, ESPN should try harder to find a story than Peyton Manning in cold weather. Also FYI, the temperature is now expected to be in the fifties and sunny for the game. #UnitedinOrange
DENVER/BALTIMORE OVER 46.5 – Denver defense averages giving up 18 ppg this year. I question if BAL even reaches that number Saturday but I have no doubts that Denver gets in the 30’s. The math makes this an OVER bet. The first game sailed over the total thanks to a big Denver early lead. Denver knows their best chance to win is be aggressive to get a lead and then let their pass rushers tee off on Flacco.
SAN FRANCISCO -3 vs. Packers – This was the toughest game of the weekend for me to cap. It all came down to strengths and weaknesses. After looking at the Niner’s losses this year, they all came to stud RBs that wore down their defense. This is not the Packers. When in doubt in the playoffs, I want the team that can run the ball and can stop the run. The fact that SF is at home puts it over the top. Everything I read is Packers and from a QB standpoint, it makes sense. However, I don’t think he can do it all alone. Don’t forget the kickers in this game.
SAN FRANCISCO/GREEN BAY OVER 44.5 – This matchup projects to be a great game that will come down to the fourth quarter. Of all my total plays this weekend, this one comes out as my strongest. San Francisco should score pretty easily against Green Bay and I have no doubt Rogers will guide Green Bay to points. I see a 27-21 type game. Much like the pick of SF above, this all is dependent on Kaepernick making solid decisions and playing well.
SEATTLE +3 vs. Falcons – In the last 14 games on Divisional weekend, 8 times the #1 seed has lost. This week that would be Denver and Atlanta so obviously my pick to fall is Atlanta. The only reason I would back Atlanta is if I truly believe that Matt Ryan will pick apart the Seahawks all day. I agree that Seattle will not have much of a pass rush however they are strong enough in pass coverage/run stopping to make up for it IMO. Like I said earlier, I’m backing the team that can run the ball and can stop the run. The liability known as Michael Turner will make the Falcons one-dimensional, thus allowing Seattle to force some punts.
SEATTLE/ATLANTA OVER 46 – Without a pass rush, Ryan will be able to do some things especially with Tony Gonzalez. I have no lack of faith in Seattle putting up points against an easily-moveable ATL front seven. Russell Wilson didn’t set the world on fire last week and missed some big plays. If he connects on one or two of those, that will open things up even more for Lynch.
NEW ENGLAND -9.5 vs. Texans – I think this game will be closer than the first game, which isn’t saying a whole lot. I don’t think that the Texans will be a threat to win. The Texans just aren’t that good and New England with Gronk is on a different level. Trust me, as a Bronco fan I wish the Texans would win this game but there is no way. The Pats will scheme to take away Foster and that is the only way Houston can win. They aren’t built to play from behind and their quarterback has shown nothing for putting a team on his shoulders for a half and will them to scores.
NEW ENGLAND/HOUSTON UNDER 47.5 – With the Texans trying to run the ball frequently, the Patriots actually will run the ball to kill the clock in the second half of games. This is the highest total on the board and one I like to stay low since it will be a comfortable margin most of the game. I think New England makes a concerted effort to be balanced.