If you will indulge me, I plan on using this section of my SCORCHING HOT NFL picks against the spread column to work through some issues. I haven’t discussed my thoughts on the Broncos game yet as it has been too painful to speak, so perhaps writing it out will help.
If you gave me the situation before the game that Denver was up 7 points and Joe Flacco had to take the Ravens down the entire field in one minute, I would have gladly been in that situation. I’ve seen numerous talk about Peyton Manning, John Fox etc. but the bottom line is the Broncos had a seven point lead at the end of the game everyone had done a good enough job to that point.
But then disaster happened. Much has been made of the absolutely terrible play of Rahim Moore on the ball that would eventually be the equalizing score. Don’t get me wrong, that was world-class bad safety play. But here’s the thing: At that point in the game basically only a hail-mary type of play beats you. The ball Flacco threw to Jacoby Jones wasn’t a strike, it was a rain-maker that was exactly like a prayer. As I re-watched the play this week, one thing sticks out to me. Why is Moore the only player back deep? Are you telling me that the design was to have 1-on-1 coverage of deep balls? Offenses pray for those kind of odds in that situation. Adams (the corner) peels back before the ball is in the air. Why? There is no reason everyone isn’t playing deep. While I think Moore deserves much blame, I find fault with the whole approach and haven’t seen much criticism of the scheme. We didn’t bring a blitz but somehow we didn’t have more than 1 person back deep to each side. It still hurts but look on the bright side, we all got one extra hour of Dan Dierdorf because of the overtime.
The first playoff weekend every game went UNDER the total. Last weekend every game went OVER the total. Favorites and dogs split at 2-2. With this much on the line, I think both games will get tight and we’ll see lower-scoring affairs so I’m siding with both UNDERS since I don’t think they both lose. I’m also disappointed that we were denied (IMO) better matchups of Seattle/SF and DEN/NE. As I said last week, I love playoff football but this weekend isn’t as exciting as the last two to me.
On to the picks!
Playoff record (11-5)
SAN FRANCISCO -4 vs. Falcons – If you have followed me at all this year, you know I don’t believe in Atlanta. Despite winning last week (and not covering), they were out-played nearly the entire game at home. All that changes this week is the visiting team is even better. I saw a quote from a Falcon defensive player a few days ago talking about how tired they were chasing Russell Wilson around. Good luck with that against this Kaepernick guy buddy. The main difference is that whatever magic spell Michael Turner used to look decent last week will not fly against the Niners defense. I grabbed SF-3 as soon as it came out and thought it might go higher than the -4 it has currently landed at most of the week. Brace yourselves, the Niners in the Superbowl is most definitely happening.
SAN FRANCISCO/ATLANTA UNDER 49 – I actually feel pretty good about this UNDER cashing. Neither team will want a shootout and these naturally conservative coaches will go full “clenched butt-cheek” mode with a Super Bowl birth on the line. You saw what Mike Smith tried to do last week when he had a lead. Both teams will want to establish a run.
NEW ENGLAND -8 vs. Ravens – I honestly can’t believe what I’m seeing in the world. No one bet on the Ravens when they played the Colts two weeks ago. Even less people wanted to bet on the Ravens last week when they traveled to Denver. Yet somehow, people can’t bet on the Ravens fast enough heading to Foxboro. I don’t care that Gronk is hurt. I don’t care that Flacco looked capable last week. What I care about is the ability of New England to find ways to score and their defense to make stops when it counts. I realize my utter disdain for the Ravens right now may be slanting this selection but I see a decisive Patriots win.
NEW ENGLAND/BALTIMORE UNDER 51 vs. Broncos – I don’t think ole Bill B is going to let the Ravens continue their resurgent offensive ways. As I mentioned earlier, the UNDER is unpopular in these situations and I’ll take my chances. The Patriots tried playing a boring, low-scoring game against Houston in the first quarter. I think that lasts for most of the game this week. Let’s root for punts!