So I recently became a parent for the first time which is why I’ve completely slacked off on writing. Now, the kid’s home from the hospital and I’m figuring out a sleeping pattern so it’s time to get back on the horse. There’s no better time to do that than during the NFL playoffs – my favorite time of the year. Wildcard weekend was awesome and got me psyched for the next round. If I wasn’t paranoid about the ability to actually get my money from online sports books, or if I lived closer to Vegas, here’s how I’d be spreading my money around on these four NFL games…
New Orleans at Seattle
The first game of the weekend is one of the hardest calls for me. I see the Seahawks pulling this one out but the spread is 7.5 at most books and that half point makes it tricky. I can see this game being a back and forth affair with Russell Wilson making a clutch TD drive at the end to win it by 7. The smart (read: boring) play is probably to take Seattle and lay the 7.5. But over the years the Saints have been my greatest gambling friend, winning when they’re supposed to lose and vice-versa, and me being the only person to recognize the trend. Then again, there’s not quite enough “no way the Saints can win” mojo for me to feel comfortable. I tend to be more of a “value” gambler so I’d probably avoid the spread and instead take the Over (46). I see this one being either a shoot-out or a blow out in which case Seattle’s D scores 2 TDs by themselves and Pete Carroll will absolutely run up the score at home. If you’re the gunslinger type just take the Saint’s money line (+310) and enjoy the ride. Just be prepared for the 2 minute warning when the Saints are up by 1, Seattle has the ball at mid-field and suddenly Wilson avoids a sack and scampers out of the pocket… (Gulp!).
Indy at New England
Love this game. LOVE IT. Normally I’m a huge Belichick/Brady guy, especially in the post season but… the Colts are getting a gift touchdown in this one. Repeat: they are giving Andrew Luck a free TD, the guy who just came back from a 28 point deficit against one of the best defenses in the league. And the Patriots patchwork defense just lost another starter. You look at their defensive line-up and the most common thought is: “who the hell is that guy?” Can New England win this thing? Sure, absolutely, but it’s going to be a nail-biter. The fact that this Pats team finished 11-5 is a miracle; Belichick is a coach of the year candidate in my opinion when you look at the middling talent on his roster. Well, except for the fact that they only played 3 good teams all year (DEN, NO, CAR). The simple fact is, for all of Brady and Belichick’s brilliance there just isn’t enough talent on that team to blow out these Colts. This game is decided by 3 points or less. Take Luck and the free 7 and sleep well on Saturday night.
San Francisco at Carolina
This is probably the toughest game on the slate. These teams are essentially mirror images of each other: Electrifying mobile QB with rocket arm, stifling defense, power running game, mediocre receiving corps that focuses on strong TE play. About the only imbalance I see is the coaching, I trust Harbaugh more Rivera, though ever since the emergence of “River Boat Ron” I’m not as sure. Vegas basically agrees; Carolina is a 1 point underdog at home. Now for gambling math purposes that means SF is a 3.5 point favorite, which if Carolina was getting 3.5 actual points at home I’m all over that – I love post season home dogs – but since a playoff game can’t end in a tie this is essentially a “pick ‘em”. I don’t see a huge home field advantage for Carolina; I mean the Niners just won at Lambeau where there is a true home advantage. Do we really think guys like Harbaugh, Kaepernick and Frank Gore are intimidated by the fans in Carolina? (Exactly.) So if you’re betting this game straight just take whoever you think will win, (I say the 49ers) better yet just take the money line since that 1 point will probably be meaningless. For even better value take the Under (42). Each defense is more dominant than both offenses and the last time these teams faced off they couldn’t score 21 points combined, let alone a piece.
San Diego at Denver
This game is no picnic but I’ve got to go with Denver even though they are giving 9.5. I see Peyton Manning missing out on the Super Bowl yet again; I just don’t think it falls apart this week. The Chargers have had a great run but they just don’t have the weapons to keep up and I think Manning will be on a mission. Plus most of the lines I’ve seen have you laying -120 (aka double vig) to take the Chargers +9.5 – no thanks, give me even money and I’ll be happy needing a TD plus a FG to win. If you want to play the hero than take SD straight up (+330) and hope for a Peyton choke job.
No matter what happens this weekend just remember, when it comes to NFL playoffs, we are all winners. Enjoy the games.