How did last weekend go? Not great. In fact it was an amusement park for yours truly, an expensive lesson in getting greedy and betting the slate instead of a few favored picks.
- Chiefs at Colts – I liked Indy and less so, the under. Both came through.
- Cowboys at Seahawks – I liked Dallas, the Over and a tease of Dallas and the Over. Dallas and the tease came in, the Over didn’t.
- Jets at Pats – I liked the Jets to cover and a tease of the Jets and the Over. The Jets managed to give it away at the end so all bets lost.
- Giants at Philly – I predicted that Philly would cover in a high scoring game. It almost got there on both counts, but unless you teased Philly with the Over, it was a loser.
Out of nine total predictions I was 4 for 9. So, with wallet emptied, collar straightened, and dust brushed off, let’s look at the Divisional round.
Indy at Baltimore
Baltimore is a much more complete team than it’s been for years. I’m a big fan of Steve McNair and like Baltimore in this game. Indy won handily last week, but didn’t look like a great team. Kansas City was pathetic, with only 21 yards in the first half, and was still only down by 9 points at the half. Payton Manning threw 3 picks, and that against a mediocre secondary.
Even though Indy has historically owned the Ravens, I like Baltimore this time around. Steve McNair is a great big game quarterback, which doesn’t always apply to Payton Manning. As a Pats fan, I’ve seen many examples of how a good aggressive defense coupled with a reliable offense can beat the Colts. Indy has also lost its last four road games, including a 44-17 loss to Jacksonville, whose defense is similar to, but not as good as the Ravens.
Going the ‘safe’ bet strategy, the picks would be Baltimore and the over (currently 42, though it started at 40.5). If Baltimore dominates a low scoring game, you get the first of the two. If it’s a shoot out, you get the latter, and maybe both. Best pick may be the over.
Philly at NO
It’s a shame that one of these teams won’t proceed, since they’re both more interesting and compelling than the Bears or Seahawks. With an opening total of 48 which has moved up to 49, the expectation is for a high scoring game where Philly ultimately can’t keep up. If they play as tight as they did in the Giants game, that seems likely. The free and easy style that made the Eagles so successful over the last month wasn’t in evidence in their narrow (and personally costly) victory over the Giants. They’ve also lost Lito Sheppard for at least one week’s games, and that’s not good news in facing the #1 team for total offense in the NFL.
The question is how the Saints play. If the team that walloped the Cowboys shows up, it’ll be tough for the Eagles. The thing is that the Saints haven’t beaten many good teams, and have lost some stinkers (16-10 to the Skins on 12/17 springs to mind). Although I’ve said before that home field doesn’t always mean much in the playoffs, but it may in this case. New Orleans has a loud field, and this surprising team is going to have the crowd fired up.
Right now, the line is anywhere is floating around 6 overseas. My favorite pick here is a tease of the OVER with Philly, giving the Eagles a margin of around 12 to play with and bringing the OVER down to a more manageable 43. Neither defense pitches shutouts and we’ll see some points.
Seahawks at Bears
In theory, this is a better matchup than when these two NFC dogs met in October. That time, Seattle got stomped 37-6. In the interim, the Seahawks have gotten healthier, and the Bears less so. Their starting QB Rex Grossman has also begun to swing wildly between inept and simply mediocre.
The spread looks to be between 8.5 and 9.5 with a total around 37. Barring horrible Chicago weather I like the Over, since Chicago has been giving up points towards the end of the season. I don’t see Shaun Alexander getting much running room, which should make for either points, or quick 3 and outs, which are good for the clock. As for who wins, I couldn’t care less, but Chicago certainly should. Seattle just didn’t have much gas against Dallas, and were essentially outplayed until Romo bobbled the bauble. That said, 9.5 points is a lot for a team that will hunker down if they get the lead. If you were to play Seattle and the OVER separately, Seattle would only need to score 14 points to make the OVER safe.
New England Patriots at Bolts
I love the Patriots, but only a perfect game wins this one for New England, and they simply haven’t had that kind of execution all year. Everywhere you look on the San Diego team is another offensive player who deserves a double team, which is tough since you already had four guys on Tomlinson. When San Diego came to New England last year, they made the Pats look terrible, 41 to 17.
I’ve heard some betting experts talk about how Belichick is going to outwit Marty Shottenheimer, and look to take out LT, forcing Phillip Rivers to beat the Pats. The problem is that every defense tries to do that, and can’t.
As far as betting goes, anyone who’s followed football can imagine Marty Shottenheimer getting up by 14 in the 3rd quarter and playing it safe, drive after drive. That’s the kind of opportunity that Brady might take advantage of, at least enough to cover a spread that’s going to be around 4.5 or 5. Because they’re my team, I’m taking the Pats and the OVER, probably as a tease, giving NE 11 points to play with, and bringing the OVER down to 40.5.
Truth be told, the Chargers should kill them, easily covering.