Each week our gambling gurus Stefan Tornquist and Brooke Costello bet on the NFL. Here are their picks for the divisional playoffs.
ST: At long last our bets in reality fared better than my picks in theory (a paltry 3 – 4, but thank you Chad Pennington). Meanwhile, Brooke came out swinging and went 6-3. This week isn’t likely to be much better since we’ve got three very tough games, and one that appears too easy.
B: Bettors always look for an edge. Some study data, some ask advice of gypsies, some take peyote and wait for the desert gods to speak to them, and others flip coins. With that in mind I have come up with a new method for the 2008-2009 playoffs.
The MVP Curse Method:
Below is a list of the 8 players who received at least one vote for the AP 2008 NFL MVP Award. Of the six who played last weekend, only the two lowest vote-getters (Rivers and Warner) won, and they both confronted teams with players who had received more votes. If you let this fact guide this you in this weekend’s picks: SD Beats Pitt, Balt beats Tenn, Car beats Zona, and Giants and Philly is a pick’em.
Congratulations to the MVP vote-getters of 08-09:
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis 32 Votes (Lost), Chad Pennington, Miami 4 (Lost), Michael Turner, Atlanta 4 (Lost), Adrian Peterson, Minnesota 3 (Lost), James Harrison, Pittsburgh 3 (DNP), Philip Rivers, San Diego 2 (Won), Chris Johnson, Tennessee 1(DNP), Kurt Warner, Arizona 1(Won)
Ravens at Tennessee (-3,34.5)
ST: Vegas and its followers aren’t showing the Titans much love; 3 points at home says that these two teams are dead even. The Ravens looked good (against a more flawed Miami team than we knew) but the offense wasn’t anything more than pedestrian. They should have beaten the Fins by the half, and it wasn’t until the preternatural pick by Ed Reed that the thing was sealed. Tease Baltimore & Under or Tennessee straight up. Maybe both.
B: These are the two ultimate ATS superstars on the year, and it will be a pity to see one of them go. The hardest thing to determine is whether a week off is good for a team. In the case of Tennessee one would have to think that it is. Haynesworth and Vanden Bosch should suit up and Mawea is looking more likely. Those are three Pro Bowlers that needed the rest. It is always possible Baltimore dominates early, but early domination didn’t lead to an early blowout against the much less formidable Fish. Kerry Collins is a much better player right now than Mr. Flacco, and Jeff Fischer is as good as they get. Tenn ATS and Under.
Cards at Panthers (-10,48.5)
ST: Everyone and their brother knows that the Cards play in a weak division, get creamed on the East Coast and were basically an underdog to a road team with a rookie quarterback. To their credit, they ran effectively and stuffed the run against Atlanta last week, showing that they can change game plans. But I don’t think it’s going to work twice. The fact that they dumped the Gatorade in Phoenix last weekend shows that even their own players don’t expect another chance this year. Tease Carolina and the Tennessee Under and take the Over for half as a hedge if Arizona finds its rhythm.
B: Arizona has gone as far as they will go, but the question is will they lose by 10 or will a junk TD at the end take it below that number. Carolina’s offensive line and their running tandem battered away at Tampa’s run D until it folded. It was such a beating that the Tampa D pretty much collapsed for the year. (Kiffin leaving didn’t help matters.) But even on a bad day the Tampa’s D has a lot more firepower than Zona’s. Boldin is looking like he may not play, and that means double teams for only one receiver and the rest of the Cat’s D can bring pressure and go about their business as usual, and in the words of Dick Jauron “This is not an idea situation.” Car ATS and the Over.
Eagles at Giants (-4,40)
ST: Here’s why the Giants win this game, in descending order. Last time these teams played, the Giants’ D line was banged up, not so this Sunday. Last time, Brandon Jacobs didn’t play healthy. Last time, Plaxico Burress had just shot himself. I think that Philly has done a great job of setting up their long suffering fans, and will let the hammer fall Sunday. Giants ATS and possibly Philly & the Over as a tease, especially if the wind isn’t howling.
B: The Giant D-Line has not played inspired ball in over a month, and without them getting a rush out of the front four the rest of the D becomes very average. Offensively, Jacobs, Ward, and Bradshaw are tough to stop and the passing game always seems to come through when they most need it, but not having Plax means the Eagles can stack the box and blitz runs as well as passes. The Eagles are not really special on either side of the ball, but Brian Westbrook is and even in losses he always seems to get his against the Gints. Tease Philly and the Over, and then sit back and be glad you aren’t on the field.
Chargers at Pitt (-6,38)
ST: Last time these guys played it was a hard-fought trench battle – the only 11-10 game in NFL history. Pitt seems like the natural call here, but I like 6 points, don’t like concussions and believe that every year the NFL gets its story – and what story would be more compelling than an 8-8 team going to the Superbowl? Give me San Diego teased with the Under.
B: Because Phillip Rivers is on the West Coast and because there are hundred of millions of dollars behind the LT ad machine, few people realize what a stud Rivers is. This guy played solid ball against the Pats in the playoff with a torn ACL. He is tough, and he is only getting better. Antonio Gates looked pretty healthy against the Colts and if he can neutralize Polamalu SD has a real chance. On the other side of the ball and often overlooked in the 11-10 regular season Pitt victory is Big Ben threw for over 300 yards against SD. What does all this mean? A close game. Give me SD ATS and the Over as a hedge.
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