The public are
expecting to see a rematch in the Super Bowl between the Patriots and the
Giants, but is that where the value lies this weekend? We look at both today’s
games and provide our NFL picks where we think we can get the win.
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
When it comes to capping NE games you have to ask yourself a
different question. It's not whether or not there is value betting
against them because on paper the sportsbooks always inflate the line thanks to the
fact that Belichick and Brady out-perform their stats. The question is
whether the inflation is justified? In this case I don’t think it is.
The inflation in this line has a lot to do with last week's performances.
BAL didn't look all that convincing vs HOU and NE smashed DEN into
oblivion. As a result the public is all over NE -7 this week with over
60% of bets coming in on that side. Early sharp money came in on NE at
-6.5, but more sharps prefer BAL +7.5. Feel free to take BAL +7, but
you can find the hook if you shop around.
In my final power rankings I had BAL slightly ahead of NE. After
factoring in home field advantage NE should be favored by 4 points. BAL
should completely own this game on the ground. Don't expect a lot of
rushing yards from NE. If Harbaugh doesn't lose his composure then Rice
should get the ball 20-25+ times and give them a chance at winning the time of
possession. Keeping Brady off the field for as long as possible is the
obvious key here. In the other key categories BAL is in the upper half in
most, while NE rank near the bottom on defense. One thing NE's
defense has going for them is their points-to-yards ratio. Only GB had a
better ratio throughout the season. This is not to say NE's defense is a
top 10 unit inside the 20's, but they do tighten up and cause some turnovers
when they are needed most. The other significant advantage NE has is on
special teams. They ranked as a top half team this year while BAL toiled
away near the bottom all season long.
But is this enough to lay the points on the favorite?
Not at all. Most of the confidence people have in NE comes solely from
Belichick, Brady, and home field advantage. Granted, it could also be
people fading a guy like Joe Flacco. He is one of those QB's that always
make me nervous, but there's no denying what his supporting cast is capable
of. They are a much more balanced team than NE and if it stays close then
they should be able to grind out a cover of +7.5. Their D-line
ranks near the top of the league and will give NE's O-line a much tougher test
than DEN did last week. They also rank high in red zone/third down
defense. The key for BAL will be to weather the early storm and be in the
game by the 2nd quarter. If they get down 10-14 points the momentum ball
will get rolling and it could be an early walk to the showers. I'm
betting that they'll be able to hang in there in a highly competitive game and
keep it within reach right until the 4th quarter. At the very least I can have confidence in a
backdoor cover if they are down by two scores late in the game.
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers
For the most part I stayed away from SF games this
season. Like NE they've outperformed their stats all year long.
Alex Smith puts up mediocre numbers in the air, they rank low in time of possession
and completed plays per game, and they are below average on both their O and D
lines. Nothing in this recipe indicates that they will even win half of
their games, let alone most of them. Last week I thought it would be the
perfect opportunity to capitalize on this overperformance and ride NO -3 all
the way to the bank.
In hindsight I would make the same play again because even with five turnovers
NO was up by 3 with under two minutes to go. Not many people would have
banked on Smith driving down the field under pressure to score the go-ahead
touchdown. At the same time, when you look at how SF won you have to
accept that it wasn't a fluke. There is a reason why they are
overperforming their stats this year.
SF rank near the top in special teams play, red zone defense, completed plays
given up, points from long drives defense, points-to-yards ratio, and turnover
ratio. These stats are the hallmark of a well-coached team and
collectively they are more than the sum of their parts.
Matchup-wise, they come out looking pretty good against NY as well. Gore
should be able to get things going on the ground and SF have the best run
defense in the entire NFL. NY have the league’s worst run offense despite
their recent playoff success. Add in the fact that this should be a
weather affected game and NY's slight edge in the air could be nullified.
Advantage SF. NY's only statistical advantages come from the O and D
lines. Usually this is a big red flag and cause for concern, but as I
said SF has been overcoming this discrepancy all season long.
When you consider this is NY's third playoff game and second straight on the
road vs a more rested SF team then this pick becomes a no-brainer. The
public are overwhelmingly on NY this week and that's no surprise after they
took out the Super Bowl favorites in GB. They are also evoking memories
of their prior Super Bowl run and most people are banking on a rematch with
NE. All of this adds up to value on SF. Home field is no joke come
playoff time and I think it will come into play in this tightly contested
affair. I like SF at anything under a field goal despite my own disbelief
in how they get it done. It took a while but I'm finally hopping on the 49ers
train with my NFL picks.