Gambler's Corner: Picks for the NFL Divisional Matchups

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I’m a sports investor (or as some might call it, degenerate gambler) by nature and the fantasy season is over, so allow me to indulge you with my detailed analysis and picks against the spread for the NFL Playoff Divisional matchups.

Baltimore Ravens (+10, -120) @ Denver Broncos (-10, +100) - o/u 46

These two teams met back in week 15 in Baltimore, and Denver rolled out of there with a convincing 34-17 victory.  On paper, Denver should dominate this game.  The Broncos average 32.5 points per game at home and have only been held under 30 points at home one time all season (W3  vs Houston).  Meanwhile, Joe Flacco has a QB rating of 74.9 on the road and a 7:5 TD:INT ratio in 8 games. 

I don’t think this one is as easy as that though.  What effect does Ray Lewis potentially playing in his last game have on this team?  Nobody can answer this question, but it can only help the Ravens' cause.   I think Baltimore hangs tight in this one before Denver ultimately wins 31-24.  The fact that Denver consistently scores 30+ at home is a beautiful thing, so I’ll bank on that in this one.

Play: over 46 (1 unit), Denver TT o27 (0.5 units)

Lean: BAL +10


Green Bay Packers (+2.5, +100) @ San Francisco 49ers (-2.5, -120) - o/u 44.5

The Packers would much rather be playing the Falcons, because they know as well as anyone that this is a terrible matchup for them.  I won’t hide it one bit, San Francisco is my favorite play of the weekend…for several reasons.  First, San Francisco has an elite pass defense. Only one time this year has a team eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark, and that was New England in pseudo garbage time.  In games the 49ers have lost this year, they’ve given up an average of 143 yards on the ground versus 73 yards in games they win. 

How is Green Bay going to move the ball?  That sounds like a crazy question, seeing as they have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.  But in these teams week 1 meeting this year , San Francisco was rolling (with Alex Smith at QB) until GB scored late to make the game finish at a respectable 30-22.  If Green Bay could move the ball on the ground, I’d have a little more confidence in them.  Once they become one-dimensional though, they play right into the 49ers hands.  Justin Smith will return, which literally frees up pass rushing lanes for Aldon Smith.  Green Bay’s offensive line is very overmatched in this one.

The big question mark for San Francisco is Colin Kaepernick, but the 2nd year phenom has been much more comfortable at home with a 109.4 QB rating and 4:0 TD:INT ratio in 4 home starts.  He has a solid running game to rely on and Green Bay’s defensive unit doesn’t scare me…they’re giving up 24 points per game on the road.  I like San Francisco to roll in this one, 27-17.

Play: SF -2.5 (3 units)

Side note: puts 61% of the public on the Packers. I’ll gladly take the side Vegas is on :).


Seattle Seahawks (+2.5) @ Atlanta Falcons (-2.5) - o/u 46

This is the game I’m most looking forward to this weekend.  On one side, you have an Atlanta team that has been in this exact same position before.  Two years ago, Atlanta was 13-3 (like this year) and they met a red hot Green Bay Packers team coming off of a wild card road win (@ Philly).  This year, Atlanta meets a similar foe in Seattle, who just gutted out a tough road win in Washington D.C.

The fact that Seattle went on the road and beat Washington, overcoming a 14-0 deficit in the process, speaks loudly as to how far they’ve come as a team.  But let’s examine their road record a little more closely.

  • They started off the season 1-5, their lone road win coming @Carolina.
  • They finished the season 2-0 on the road with an OT win in Chicago and a thrashing of Buffalo.  But keep in mind this Buffalo game was played in Toronto.

Seattle is the sexy underdog right now, and rightfully so--they closed out their season with 5 straight wins.  If Robert Griffin III is 100% that whole game last week though, does Seattle have any shot at winning?  Washington jumped out to a  14-0 lead, RGIII subsequently suffered a knee injury, and Washington didn’t score a single point from the second quarter on.  RGIII's injury noticeably played into this.

On the other hand, you have an Atlanta team set out to finally prove that they are not a fluke.  Tony Gonzalez is in his last season, and while it isn’t anywhere near as publicized as the Ray Lewis storyline, you can bet that everyone in the Atlanta locker room is well aware of if it.

All the fuzzy stuff aside, I could go back and forth on this game all day. Seattle's most apparent advantage comes in the run game.  Atlanta is giving up 4.8 ypc on the ground and you have a beast in Marshawn Lynch that will probably have his way against them.  If Seattle rides him, they should be home free.  Chalk up a win for Seattle in this department, as I don't see Michael Turner having much success for Atlanta.

In the passing game, everyone knows how good the Seattle secondary is, but Atlanta’s secondary is the most underrated in the league.  Question: Who has given up the fewest passing touchdowns this season?  Answer: Atlanta.  Atlanta has given up 14 passing touchdowns in 16 games while forcing 20 interceptions.  Browner and Sherman are excellent corners, but have they seen a tandem as strong as Roddy/Julio this season?

In the end, I think Atlanta squeezes out a 20-17 win.  No play on the sides for me, but I’ll put a unit on the under.

Play: u46 (1 unit)

Side note: Johnny and I have Seattle winning the NFC Championship futures, so I'll just ride those in this one and hope Seattle pulls out a W.  

Houston Texans (+9) @ New England Patriots (-9) - o/u 47.5

I honestly don’t have a lot to say about this one.  Houston really faded down the stretch, and quite frankly, their pass defense has been a liability all year.  One fun trend to examine in this one is the fact that all of Belichick’s 6 playoff losses have come against a team he’s faced earlier in the season (stat ).  Cute, huh?

Just like their week 14 matchup, I think New Engand rolls once again.  Houston relies heavily on the run game to make their offense go, and New England stymied Arian Foster to a 15/46 stat line in their first meeting.  How on earth will Houston fix this?  I just don’t see it happening, and New England forcing the game onto Matt Schaub’s back pretty much ensures victory.  Oh, by the way...How is Houston going to stop the New England passing attack that now includes Rob Gronkowski?  Pats take this one 28-17.

Play: NE (-9) (1 unit)

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