After a week of rather lackluster Wildcard games, the NFL playoffs are back at it today with a slate of games that at least appears to be a lot more appealing. In our new pick format last week, Andy kicked my butt, going only 7-5 with his picks, but getting two best bets for 11 total points. I went 5-7, and finished with 7 points.
|Baltimore at Denver|
|spread||Baltimore +8.5||Denver -8.5|
|over/under||over 45||over 45|
|Green Bay at San Francisco|
|straight up||San Francisco||San Francisco|
|spread||San Francisco – 3||San Francisco -3|
|over/under||under 45||under 45|
|Seattle at Atlanta|
|spread||Seattle +2||Atlanta -2|
|over/under||under 44.5||over 44.5|
|Houston at New England|
|straight up||New England||New England|
|spread||New England -9.5||Houston +9.5|
|over/under||over 47.5||over 47.5|
|Best Bets||Baltimore at Denver over 45||Baltimore at Denver over 45|
|San Francisco -3||Green Bay at San Francisco under 45|
|Seattle +115||Seattle at Atlanta over 44.5|
|New England -9.5||Houston at New England over 47.5|
Our game takes:
Baltimore at Denver:
Tony: This is a Denver team that won last year around this time with Tim Tebow at quarterback. How? A defense that kept them in the game, and a lot of luck. Now they have a defense that will keep them in the game, and skill at the quarterback spot. Baltimore can’t really say the same (at least to the same level), and with no home crowd to feed off of Ray Ray’s retirement dancing, this one could be ugly.
Andy: This game comes down to my belief that Joe Flacco can keep up with Peyton Manning. I think the Ravens will score some points. I think Baltimore’s defense will keep the score relatively close. But I don’t think there will really be much doubt throughout the game that the Broncos are the better team. So by mid-evening Saturday, the first-half of the semi-anticipated Championship Sunday matchup between Manning vs Brady will be set.
Green Bay at San Francisco
Tony: I truly believe that the Packers have been a fraud all season, stemming largely from their moronic comments about how “<Insert team here> didn’t beat us, we beat us.” It’s time someone expose them for what they are. The Vikings had the right approach to the game last week—or would have, if they had not inexplicably tried to turn Joe Webb into a pocket passer. The 49ers can take the same approach, though—pound it with Frank Gore, use an athletic QB (that can actually throw) to keep the Packers defense honest, and take time off the clock. Their defense is a heck of a lot better than the Vikings (or the Packers) as well, so whereas the Packers supposedly took the foot off the gas last week when they realized Webb could not score, they may struggle to find the gas this week.
Andy: Interestingly, the Packers are probably built more for success in a warm weather or domed climate than for playing at home in Lambeau Field. But I don’t think it matters all that much. Green Bay was not all that impressive in beating an incapacitated Vikings team. And San Francisco’s defense suffocated the Packers back in week one. Interestingly, at least to me, seven of the last eight 49ers games have gone over while six of the last eight Packers games have gone under. So going the under would seem to favor Green Bay, but I think those trends break this weekend and San Francisco triumphs largely by keeping the Packers out of the end zone.
Seattle at Atlanta
Tony: This one has all the markings of an upset—if you even still consider the Falcons the favorite (I can’t believe they are -145 on the moneyline). The Falcons have to throw the ball, the Seahawks have one of the best cornerback duos in the league. The Falcons have trouble on defense, the Seahawks have been high flying the last half of the season. The Seahawks are on a roll, the Falcons have appeared shaky over the last 8 games. So why do I take Atlanta? Well, you don’t end up with as poor a track record in bets as I’ve had this season without doing something like this.
Andy: Seattle has the reputation for playing better at home than on the road, and it’s probably an accurate one. But the Seahawks have won three of their last four away from CenturyLink Field, including last week’s triumph over Washington. And the team is playing with toughness and swagger. The cornerback duo is stifling, which points to a struggle for the Falcons’ tandem of Julio Jones and Roddy White. Matt Ryan hasn’t played as well late in the season as he did early on and the Atlanta run game has been less of a threat than in recent years. I’m in “show me” mode with the Falcons too, as this team’s last two postseason performances have been disasters. At this point I’m a Seahawk believer.
Houston at New England
Tony: Tom Brady and the Patriots at home. They already killed the Texans on the road earlier this season. I took the Texans to keep it relatively close, but I’m waffling on that pick. Like the Broncos/Ravens game, this one could get ugly. The only thing the Texans can hope for is Arian Foster to keep the Patriots offense off the field.
Andy: Houston ended the season losing two of three. The Texans rebounded last week to beat a Cincinnati team that looked afraid to be in the playoffs, but I’m unconvinced. I thought this was a Super Bowl team at midseason, but right now it looks like a middle-of-the-road bunch. New England always peaks about now and the Patriots are riding a stretch of nine wins in 10 games. With Tom Brady driving this bus, I don’t see Houston pulling the upset, or frankly, even keeping this one close.