Straight Cash Homey: AFC/NFC Championship Round

Posted: January 17, 2014 in Football, Gambling, Sports, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

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Well after 256 regular season games and another 8 playoff games, we are left with the four teams that many people expected to be here at the beginning of the season.  One of the reasons sports is great is that upsets happen often and anything can happen.  While that is true, sometimes it is nice to see the cream rise to the top, which usually lead to the best games.  Championship Weekend is always bittersweet, since it means that football season is almost over.  Here’s to 180+ game minutes of awesomeness left.  Anyway, onto the picks.

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Patriots @ Broncos

Line: Broncos -5.5

Here we go again.  Manning vs. Brady, Manning vs. Belichick, Good vs. Evil, Offense vs. Defense, yada yada yada (I mentioned the bisque).  A lot has been made about Brady’s win-loss record against Manning’s teams over the years.  However, I feel that not enough people have mentioned how the odds were stacked in Brady’s favor, especially in the beginning of this rivalry.  Peyton has almost always had the better offensive playmakers on his teams, but Brady has had the better coach and defense for almost the entire life of the rivalry.  Does anyone really think that if Manning was the quarterback of the Patriots, they would not have won at least three Super Bowls?  Bill Barnwell wrote a great piece comparing the two quarterbacks and wondered whether we would look at Brady differently if his career had gone backwards (big stats early, championships later).  Regardless, this iteration of Brady vs. Manning is different than all the games in the past, including their Week 12 matchup earlier this season.  That game was in New England, had gusty winds, and featured key players on both teams that have since been placed on IR.

The Broncos are a great, diverse offensive team that admittedly benefited from a weak schedule.  Bill Belichick will have his team as well-prepared as possible.  Last week he was able to contain T.Y. Hilton to only four catches, albeit for 103 yards.  This week, however, he will have a much harder time taking away all the playmakers on the Denver offense.  I imagine we will see Aqib Talib lined up on Demariyus Thomas for most of the game.  That will leave the rest of the New England defensive backfield responsible for Wes Welker, Eric Decker, and Julius Thomas.  If Belichick comes up with a gameplan that focuses on stopping the pass while allowing the running game to thrive, Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball will be able to gash the sub-par Patriots front line.  Add in the quick pace that the Broncos run their offense in with the thin air of Denver, and you can imagine the Patriots injury ravaged, paper thin defense wearing down quickly.

The Patriots are an above average offensive team that has had to adjust their identity on the fly due to injuries and off-field issues.  When Rob Gronkowski was in the lineup, the were a very good-to-great offensive team.  Now they are a team that relies on their power running game and Hall of Fame quarterback.  While LeGarrette Blount has played great the last few weeks, I think much of that was due to the matchups and circumstances surrounding the games.  The Colts defense had trouble all season against the run, while the Bronco’s defense ranked seventh in the league in rushing yards allowed per game.  The Patriots passing attack will consist of a bunch of targets to Julian Edelman, a hobbled Danny Amendola, “joker” Shane Vereen, and a slew of lightly regarded players.  The Patriots are hoping that Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson can come back this week in order to give Tom Brady a deep threat.  If either come back, I think they will be limited in terms of effectiveness.  The Broncos defense has taken a hit the last few weeks, losing Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr.  For most of last week’s game, the Broncos were able to contain the Chargers offense.  While San Diego was able to make a push late offensively, the game was mostly in Denver’s hands.  While the Patriots have a better quarterback than the Chargers, I don’t think they have a wide receiver as good as Keenan Allen.  If the Broncos are able to spring out to a lead, it will force New England to throw more than they are accustomed to with this lineup.

In this latest (and perhaps final?) Brady vs. Manning matchup, I am going to favor Manning and the Broncos.  The Patriots have not PLAYED a road playoff game since losing to the Peyton Manning-led Colts in the 2006 AFC Championship Game.  While this speaks volumes for their regular season performance (thus gaining them homefield advantage), it also shows that they have had a legitimate advantage in every AFC playoff game since 2006.  Tom Brady has a career 3-2 record in the playoffs when on the road.  His first loss came at Denver vs. Jake Plummer, and his second loss came in the aforementioned 2006 matchup at Indianapolis.  This obviously means that he has never beaten Peyton Manning on the road in the playoffs.  I think that while Brady still has the better head coach, Manning clearly has the better offensive and defensive units.  New England has done a better job on special teams this year, but the thin air in Denver should neutralize most of their advantages.  If Brady and Belichick can pull out this victory, it will be their most impressive win since they beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.  While the Patriots obviously have a shot to do so, too many things will have to go right for New England and wrong for Denver.  While the Chargers were able to sneak in a backdoor cover last week, I don’t think New England has the weapons on offense to do that.  The spread has gone as high as Broncos -7 and as low as Broncos -4.5.  For the sake of today’s post, I will bet today’s line of Broncos -5.5.  While I hate the thought of betting against the always well-prepared Belichick, I just think that there is too much in Denver’s favor to go against them.  5.5 is a lot of points, but unless Manning gets his signature happy feet in the wrong moments again, I see the Broncos taking control of this game early and coasting to a victory.  Hopefully Mile High will give the Broncos the homefield advantage they deserve.

Pick: Broncos -5.5.  Due to the Patriots lack of offensive weapons and Denver potentially having a chance to control the clock with the running game, I would actually consider Under 56 as well.  

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49ers @ Seahawks

Line: Seahawks -3.5

We move on from the best player-centric rivalry in the NFL to the best team-centric rivalry in the NFL.  Similar to last week’s 49ers/Panthers game, both teams are built on physical defenses, ball control offenses, quarterbacks that can make plays with their legs as well as their arms, and great special teams.  The most talked about man in this game seems to be not a player, coach, or executive, but rather the 12th Man of Seattle.  The old adage is that home field is worth 3 points in the spread.  So if a home team is favored by 3 at home, Vegas is basically saying that these two teams are equal.  Again, based on Bill Barnwell’s home-field advantage column, the Seahawks advantage may be more valuable than that.

As my previous posts have stated, I think Jim Harbaugh is a pretty damn good coach.  He gives the 49ers the advantage in coaching every week, except maybe when he plays the Patriots.  While Pete Carroll is a very good coach who has only gotten better during his time in Seattle, I don’t think he can match up with Harbaugh.  The two quarterbacks in this game are a great example of what the position is evolving to.  Both players have shown the ability to win games on the ground and in the air.  Kaepernick is a tall, athletic freak in the mold of Randall Cunningham.  His physical tools and long strides allow him to do things no other quarterback in the league can do.  Meanwhile, I see Russell Wilson as a more athletic version of Drew Brees.  Both players have similar heights, pocket presence, and leadership abilities.  The “It” factor that has made Drew Brees a champion is something that many people see in Wilson.  Obviously, Brees has much more experience and success in the NFL thus far, but I think Wilson will continue to grow on a similar progression path.  The running back position is basically a wash in this matchup.  BEAST MODE is a harder runner, but Gore seems to be the more savvy of the two and a better option in the passing game.  I expect Gore to have a slightly better average per carry, as I think the 49ers have a superior rushing defense.  The 49ers have a big advantage in the WR/TE side of things.  When it comes to overall play, you can make a case that the 49ers have the best three receivers in this game, with Crabtree, Davis, and Boldin.  They can make plays and they can block.  Percy Harvin has always had the stigma of being injury prone, though he only missed three games in his first three seasons.  Then came the hip injury that held him out for much of last season and almost all of this season.  Last week, the Saints treated him like a piñata and gave him a concussion.  Harvin is by far the best playmaker in the Seahawks receiving corps, and I have a feeling he will not be cleared for this game.  Golden Tate is a decent option as well, but he tends to disappear for long chunks at a time.  The 49ers clearly have an advantage on the Offensive Line, with the Seahawks line varying between poor to above average throughout the season.

On the defensive side of the ball, both teams are pretty good in the front seven.  The 49ers strength is clearly their linebacking corps, with Navorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, and Aldon Smith all being annual All-Pro candidates.  The Seahawks have a deep, varied group of players in their front seven.  They have guys who can stop the run, rush the passer, and do a little bit of everything.  The Seahawks biggest advantage in this game is in the defensive backfield.  They have two of the best players in the NFL residing in their secondary.  Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas give the Seahawks the freedom to play tight, man coverage while they turn their big bodies up front after the quarterback.  The 49ers secondary has been pretty good all season, but are dealing with an injury to starter Carlos Rogers.  I think that having Michael Crabtree back will be a huge boost for San Francisco, allowing Anquan Boldin to avoid Sherman for most of the day.  I also think that if the refs decide to call the game in the secondary tight, it will be a huge disadvantage for the Seahawks.  They play physically tough and if they get called for ticky tack penalties, it will change the entire complexion of their defensive gameplan.  We will see if being the home team will give them an advantage with the officials.

Going into this week, I was leaning heavily towards picking the Seahawks.  I think that the 49ers are used to being the more aggressive, physical team and when they face a team that punches back like Seattle, they are thrown for a bit of a loop.  However, just going on the matchups, I think that San Francisco has the better coach, receivers, offensive line, and defensive front.  I think the Seahawks have the better QB, defensive backfield, and obviously a legit home-field advantage.  I think the Seahawks will be able to pass on the 49ers, while the 49ers will be able to run against the Seahawks.  Both defenses should play well enough to keep their teams in the game, while both offenses will have trouble actually putting the game away once they have the lead.  This could lead to the scenario of last team to have the ball wins the game.  In that case, I’ll take the points and the superior coaching, despite the 9ers being on the road in the hardest place to play in the NFL.

Pick: 49ers +3.5

Teaser:  Since this is the last week we have more than 1 game, here is the teaser I think I am going to lay.  It seems like a pretty obvious teaser, but I am going to place it nonetheless.

Broncos +0.5, Broncos/Pats Under 62, 49ers +9.5, 49ers/Hawks Over 33

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Comments
  1. Los says:

    Great post! Not going to click on the “cream rise to the top” video, since i’m at work.

    Truly believe that it will all come down to Kaepernick. If he plays well, Niners will win.

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