Each week our gambling gurus, Brooke Costello and Stefan Tornquist bet on the NFL. Here are their picks for the conference championships.
ST: Rarely have my gut and brain been so divided. In both of this weekend’s matchups, my brain likes the favorites, but my gut is drawn to destiny. Tennessee should have won that game (and would have if Johnson didn’t get knocked out) but Baltimore had the mojo. Same with Arizona, who must have pulled a Jedi mind trick on Carolina (“Larry Fitzgerald isn’t the receiver you want to double cover”).
B: I can’t remember a playoff season like this one — when the absolute deciding factor in every playoff game played has been luck — I mean turnovers. Does a sloppy quarterback’s pass or a careless running back or receiver make the beneficiaries of such sloppiness good? I say no, but bad play loses to not bad play every week, and so going into this championship round the main questions is who will play most badly? Who will make the most mistakes?
Philly at Cards (Opening line: Philly by 3 and 48, Thursday’s line: 4 and 47.5)
I know everybody is hot for Arizona, and lord knows I couldn’t have been more wrong about them last weekend, but consider this: thanks to the patron saint of Arizona football, Jake Delhomme, the average length of Arizona’s 7 scoring drives was 32 yards. You turn over the ball six times to one, and you’re going to lose, big. The Carolina defense was exhausted and demoralized before Fox Sports had a chance to play those talking head intros where the linemen invariably come across like Lenny from Of Mice and Men. Say what you will about Philly, they don’t give up the ball and their defense is smart and extremely motivated. They won’t forget to double-cover L. Fitz. And based on how the more talented Giants line/running combo fared, I’m not too worried about Edgerrin James. Under.
B: It is quite possible that the Fitzgerald-Boldin duo is better than the Bruce-Holt combo Warner had in St. Louis. These guys are big, fast and with great hands, and at some point in this game they will leave their mark. The Philly-D, good all season has been moving into the very good zone in recent weeks, but they are not great, and if they don’t put Warner on his back early and often D-McNabb and co. will have to contribute more than they have recently. I think they will. I think the team more likely to make errors are the Cards, and I think that will be the difference in a close game. I will take a tease of the Cards and the over and the over straight.
Ravens at Pitt (Opening line: Pitt by 5 and 33, Thursday’s line: 6 and 34)
ST: My friend John Finegan opined this week that Pitt was ‘defending the castle’ — hosting a team that they’ve already beaten twice this season. His feeling was that he’d rather be on the team doing the storming; they’ve got less to lose and the spirit of the raider. I don’t know if that spirit will get them a full blown win necessarily, but I like those points. At the same time, isn’t young Flacco about ready for a stinker? He’s in the AFC Championship for God’s sake – how does that not phase him? Baltimore ATS. Under.
B: It’s possible that the Ravens can pull off a performance worthy of Villanova’s win against G-Town in the NCAA championship all those years ago, but I don’t think they will. Pitt has to give this game away to lose. Pittsburgh looked dangerous in all phases of the game last week and they looked especially dangerous throwing the ball deep. Willie Parker ran the ball with real gusto and the O-Line kept Big Ben clean. Sometimes beating a team twice would lessen the victor’s motivation, but the Steelers and Ravens are another case. It is hard to overlook a team that wants to kill you and your family. The Ravens have to get early turnovers and not give any up. If they are forced to play from behind, an Indy-like 31-3 beatdown is likely. But the Ravens are way banged up and eventually that has to get to you. I like Pitt ATS, and you can call me crazy but I like the over as well, and if I can find somebody to take it, I like 3-plus turnovers for Baltimore as a hedge.
Stefan’s likes these teases:
Teases that include Baltimore and/or Pitt since they play close
Teases that include the Cards Under and/or Over (yep, this screams 27-24)
Teases that include Philly since they’re the team destined to lose the Superbowl
Balt/Pit Under w/ Cards/Philly over.
I know Philly killed the Cardinals on Thanksgiving, but I’m surprised with their recent form, Arizona is a four-point underdog at home. And the line moved? What does Vegas know that we don’t? They know the Eagles will win! go birds!
— doitfordawkins Jan 17, 12:16 PM #
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