Well here we are, the conference championships. It’s going to be tough to one-up last weekend’s games. The 49ers took it to the Packers late, while the Falcons and Ravens escaped sure losses in dramatic fashion. Here’s how I see it.
This is one of those rare situations where I’m taking the Ravens to cover and still expect the Patriots to win. That’s a dangerous place to be as the winning team covers the spread a strong majority of the time.
The Ravens haven’t been able to stop the run really well all year, but have been better of late. That will be a big reason they stay in this game as the Patriots will almost surely try to find holes in that Ravens’ front seven.
New England allows big plays, and they take chances when running the clock out – that helps big dogs cover in big games. I see the Patriots doing a good job, like they have all year, of shutting down the run, but Ray Rice should cause plenty of havoc as a receiver from the backfield, and Torrey Smith has been lights out – he’ll need to have a big game to keep this one close.
As a coach, the Patriots are one of my favorite teams to watch – they are precise, disciplined, and everything they do is smart. But there’s a Ray Lewis factor in this game, right? If this is his last game it has to be a close one. Okay, there might not be much validity to that, but you know the Ravens will be playing all out in this one. A couple big plays ends up in a nice road dog cover.
It was hard for me to watch the Falcons throw a couple easy balls down the field and win that game last week over the Hawks, mainly because they did everything they could to lose that game. Up 20-0 and they needed 40 yards on two plays in 16 seconds just to get a deep field goal try to win it. They did, and here they are, but that kind of business doesn’t often work out.
The 49ers were in a pretty tight game with the Packers, and then Colin Kaepernick took the game over – running for big plays and ending the Packers’ run at a Championship. I do think this line is a little whack – as people see the final score, 45-31, and think the 49ers just dominated Green Bay. Hardly the case. Remember, the Packers tied the 49ers at 24 midway through the third quarter on a short field goal.
Even with that in mind, and knowing this line is too heavy on the Niners, I still think they are the better team. With a 4-point spread, and luck running out in Atlanta, it’s hard for me to imagine that the Falcons’ new found confidence will give them the edge, even at home, against a 49er team that is destined for a Super Bowl ticket.
It will be the running game of Frank Gore, more than Kap, in this one. Gore looks on pace to have his way with the Falcons’ front 7, a front that will almost surely be paying too much attention to the young quarterback from Nevada.
As always, I throttled Week 13 in fine fashion. Check out the games from last week! I’ve consistently had a tough time with Week 14, however – what the heck? Anyway, here’s my three starter games after a nice Thursday Night win with Denver pulling out the cover my a couple.
Atlanta has won the last 5, including every game against Cam Newton. They’ve covered four of the last five, but the Panthers covered earlier this year. The bottom line is that Carolina had been playing better football of late, and Atlanta had been struggling. The Falcons owned Drew Brees last week, however, possibly exorcising some demons while the Panthers walked into a Kansas City Buzzsaw, losing to the Chiefs who were playing with high emotions. There’s really no reason for this pick, I can’t back it up with some super serum, I just flat out think the Panthers give the Falcons a go in Carolina, and I’m even picking them to upset the 11-1 Falcons.
I love the way these Bucs are playing and I think they pull it out at home against the fledgling Eagles, but I think it stays tighter than expected. The Bucs aren’t a eat you and spit you out type team, but they do know how to win. Expect them to finish off the Eagles late, but not until Foles and Bryce Brown (yes, the Eagles’ leaders currently) make a couple big plays to keep it close.
If it wasn’t for the Vikings’ coaching staff and the ridiculously obtuse play-call decisions and personnel mis-understanding that they display on a weekly basis I would absolutely be putting my eggs in the Vikings’ basket in this one. Unfortunately the play callers have decided to ignore AP near the goal line and go with Ponder making sprint out decisions. PLEASE! Cutler has played well and the Bears will almost surely pick up a win in Minnesota. Percy Harvin out really limits the Vikings’ options.
New Orleans certainly owns this show, so it shouldn’t matter that they are worse than ever, right? I don’t know, needless to say I’m conflicted on many levels in this match-up.
I know the Saints have looked better of late, even played the 49ers solid, plus they won three straight prior to that loss to the 49ers, and 5 out of 6 coming into that game. They even got at Atlanta and handed them their first loss a few weeks ago. So that has me going Saints.
But then I think about the Saints and how they give up a ton of points to everyone, how they really can’t stop the pass or the run defensively, and how they are one loss away from ending their playoff hopes with 5 games to go. Yikes. So I have to take Atlanta, right?
The better team is Atlanta, but what it comes down to is what you’ve done for me lately, and everyone knows that my biggest betting rule is that you ALWAYS go against the team that should have lost last week and won. It was a tight one, but down 6 with under 10 to go, the Falcons snuck one out against Tampa Bay. The Bucs blew an opportunity to get in better field goal position, settling for a 55 yarder that missed. Then, one of the better run defenses in the league couldn’t stop the Falcons from garnering late first downs. All in all, I have to go with my rules, and the three and a half points are nice if the game stays tight.
Tough to go against the Bears at home with Cutler in the driver’s seat, I guess – but I would have gone against the Bears here if Harvin was on the field. He just works perfectly with AP in that defenses really have to give up a lot to stop either one of them. Without Harvin drawing attention, the Bears should have enough to focus in and stop AP from destroying them.
I just can’t over think this one. I know the Bucs have been very solid of late, and the Falcons have gone though a bit of a dirty bird nose beak dive of late, but the Falcons still boast the most complete team in this match-up. I expect Matt Ryan to have a bit of a field day against the Buc secondary, still a group that is struggling mightily to stop top passing attacks. In a game that’s dang-near a pick-em, got to go with Atlanta. You know that I love to go against the team that should have lost last week but ended up winning – well that goes out the window when both teams should have lost.
I really want to take the Chiefs at home in this one, but despite being still in search of their first win, I just can’t do it. The Chiefs are going to win a game, shoot, maybe even two, but tough to say it comes against Manning and the Broncos. Peyton is just too efficient right now and the Chiefs can really stink it up. This line is jaded a little bit, but I just see this one being a two touchdown game when it’s said and a Chiefs’ QB has thrown a couple INTs. Done.
Well, a 7-4-2 week in Week 7 wasn’t too shabby, especially when you consider the Bills’ absolutely terrible play calling and execution down the stretch, the Bengals’ self destruction, the two pushes (one, Seattle being a game that many of you bought at +7.5 and won), and the Raven’s no show. A solid week indeed. I’m back for Week 8. Here it goes…
Newton has been what many people expected him to be last year, obviously talented, inaccurate in key situations, and athletic as a runner but without all those touchdowns. The NFL definitely has a way of humbling folks, might even work on Cam… Probably not, but we’ll see. Bottom line here, the Bears aren’t as good as everyone thinks and the Panthers play a lot of close games. I’ll take the points.
The Hawks are good. The Lions are bad. It is in Detroit and the Lions certainly are out to save their season, but sometimes will isn’t enough. The Lions won’t be able to run, and if the Hawks don’t go out and try to man up all day with the Lions WRs, then Stafford will continue to have a tough time with turnovers. I’ll take Seattle.
A couple things I know after years and years of picking games: 1) the Eagles ALWAYS win after a bye week. ALWAYS. Look it up. 2) Teams that are “great” are rarely actually great, and Atlanta is “great. 3) Undefeated teams usually don’t exist after Week 6. 4) Michael Vick is a pretty good player and if he’s played poorly, he’s probably going to have a couple great games to bring his numbers back around. 5) Teams that don’t run the ball well aren’t to be trusted. 6) I’ll take Philly at home.
Team that should have won last week getting points against team that played poorly and won last week? I’ll take it. RG3 for the win.
Kick-off is 1 pm ET on regional FOX stations.
NFL Football Picks opened with the Falcons as a 6-point favorite but that has been bet up to -7.5. The moneyline odds have Atlanta as a -340 favorite and the Panthers as a +280 underdog. The over/under total opened at 50 but bettors have knocked that down to 48.5.
The recent head to head series shows Atlanta has dominated at 6-1 SU in the last 7 meetings overall and 4-1 SU in the last 5 meetings at home.
The Panthers were blown out 36-7 by the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football last week and failed to cover in that game as a 2.5-point home favorite, while the score was under the total. Matt Ryan and Atlanta hammered the San Diego Chargers 27-3 on Sunday and easily cashed as a 3-point road underdog, while the score was under the total.
Carolina is 1-2 SU and 1-2 ATS while Atlanta is 3-0 SU and 3-0 ATS, and is one of three undefeated teams left in the NFL.
NFL Handicapper stats show the total has gone over in 7 of Carolina’s last 10 games overall and in 4 of Carolina’s last 6 games on the road. Atlanta is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home.
This NFL Monday Night Football matchup starts at 8:30 pm ET and will be broadcast coast to coast on ESPN.
NFL Betting Odds have the Falcons as 3-point, -165 moneyline favorites and the Broncos a +145 moneyline underdog. The over/under total has climbed to 51 from 49.
Head to head, Denver is 7-1 SU in the last 8 meetings and the total has gone over in 7 of the last 8 meetings.
The Broncos (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) won 31-19 over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football and covered the number as a 2.5-point home favorite, while score was over the total. Atlanta (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) beat the Kansas City Chiefs 40-24 last Sunday and cashed as a 2-point favorite, with the score clearing the total of 43.
Football Handicapping trends show that the total has gone over in 5 of Denver’s last 6 games overall, and the Broncos are 5-2 straight up in their last 7 games on the road. The total has gone over in 5 of Atlanta’s last 6 games overall, and under in 5 of Atlanta’s last 7 games at home. The Falcons are 5-1 SU in their last 6 games at home.
This game can be seen on local FOX stations starting at 1 pm ET.
NFL Odds have the Falcons as a 3-point favorite after they opened as a 1-point favorite, while on the moneyline, the Falcons are a -150 favorite and the Chiefs a +130 home underdog. Bettors have put money on the “over” and pushed the over/under total from 41 to 43.
Atlanta is 10-6 SU and 7-7-2 ATS while Kansas City is 7-9 straight up and 9-7 against the point spread.
Atlanta is 2-1 SU and ATS in the past three head-to-head matchups, and all three have gone over the total. But going further back, Kansas City is 4-2 SU in the last 6 meetings, and the total has gone over in four of the past six meetings.
This is the first meeting between the teams since Sept. 21, 2008, when the Falcons won 38-14 and covered the spread as a 6.5-point home favorite while the score went over the total of 37.
Atlanta is 8-4 SU in its last 12 games, and the total has gone over in 4 of Atlanta’s last 5 games.
The total has gone under in 5 of Kansas City’s last 5 games at home, and the total has gone under in 10 of Kansas City’s last 11 games.
Atlanta Falcons @ New York Giants Wildcard Weekend NFL Free Pick: I’m picking the Falcons because I still can’t believe in the Giants. They don’t run the ball very well, they don’t play very well defensively, and Eli still has that little bit of “scare the crap out of me” in him – and not in a good way. Sometimes, even his completions scare me. But I don’t want to take anything away from Eli Manning – he’s had a hell of a year, put a very complete football season together and led a Giants team to a division title despite struggling mightily on defense all year long and going through half the season with a lackadaisical rushing attack. Manning has been awesome.
The Falcons were very much under the radar this season. Maybe it’s because they had such high expectations then started so slowly. They fell to the Bears in Chicago in Week 1, needed a miracle comeback to beat the Eagles in Week 2, lost to the Bucs in Week 3, barely beat the Seahawks in Week 4, and finished their tough start by dropping Week 5’s game to the Packers. 2-3 wasn’t what Atlanta expected coming into this season, I know that. But they turned it around, and didn’t lose back-to-back games all season long. They finished the season with 10 wins, and toward the end, Julio Jones and Roddy White made one heck of a starting receiver duo. The Falcons started to open it up, and that’s why I like them in this one.
The Giants started 6-2 (somehow) then promptly lost 4 straight games before finishing the season with two wins over Dallas and a win over the Jets. Week 17 saw New York come out and beat up the Cowboys for a playoff spot, and now they host the Falcons. They could easily come out on top against Atlanta.
I just happen to like the Falcons a little more from a consistency standpoint. They might not wow me as much, but they don’t scare me nearly as much as the Giants do. Matt Ryan doesn’t make many terrible throws, and Michael Turner is nothing if not very consistent (and the 2nd leading rushing in the NFL this season). Julio and Roddy are very good and pose a huge problem for a Giants defense that has given up a lot down the field. The Falcons score more and give up less. They had a positive point differential this season – something the Giants can’t claim. I expect a road win in New York, Sunday Night.
Seattle Seahawks (+3) @ Arizona Cardinals
Tough one, but Pete Carol gets his guys to play hard and with nothing on the line for either side, I’ll always take a team he coaches. I like Lynch to have a big day to end a great year, even though the Cardinals defense has been tough down the stretch. I just like the Hawks a lot better in this one.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons (-11.5)
I was a little confused earlier this week, but the Falcons are in. They might not put out a full effort on Sunday, regardless, as it’s almost certain that with Green Bay resting, Detroit will win, and Atlanta will be destined for the 6 seed. Still, I can’t buy the Bucs right now. Did I mention that Tampa mailed it in 6 weeks ago?
The Browns have a solid defense and the Steelers will be holding some guys out and trying to keep Ben in long enough to cover. Smells like a gross game plan that won’t work out. The Browns are good, but they’re tough, tough enough for +7 in this situation.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals (+2)
I know, I know, the Ravens have said the right things all week long, and they are looking for a first round bye and home field advantage, and this could be looked at as a playoff game for them if you squint your eyes, cock your head to the left, and keep the sun out of your eyes with your hands (like Tiger Woods when he’s putting). But the bottom line is that IT IS A PLAYOFF for the Bengals. They win, they continue, they lose, they’re out. I have to take the home team getting points, a good team, playing a loser out game against a team that is already in. Call it “want to”.