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Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013-14, up to January 23 inclusive:
1-1 ML (+0.71 units)
We waited overnight for the news, wondering if the world was falling apart around us - and then it finally happened: The first Pro Bowl totals were released. Sports Interaction got the ball rolling on Thursday with a total of 82.5 points for Sunday's matchup (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC) between Team Rice and Team Sanders. That’s still the only total available as we go to press.
While 82.5 may be a lot of points, it's not unusual for a Pro Bowl game. Nobody's interested in getting hurt while they're on what amounts to a paid vacation in Honolulu, so the defenders don't hit hard, and the final scores have gone through the roof over the past few years. The 2013 Pro Bowl (that is, the one played in 2013) ended in a 62-35 victory for the NFC. Of course, we're not using that format anymore. What impact, if any, will the schoolyard draft have on our NFL betting strategy?
Probably not at all. Rice and Sanders had plenty of talent on both sides of the ball from which to choose, and it's not like there was much disparity between the NFC and the AFC to begin with. This isn’t the NBA here. But there are other things going on with the new format that make me want to jump in right away and take the UNDER. I'm talking about the rule changes for this year - especially the fact that Cover 2 and press defenses will be allowed on every play. Up until now, they were only allowed in goal-line situations. This should help keep a lid on things somewhat.
Then you've got the elimination of kick-offs. Most kick-offs these days end up sailing out of the end zone, but this rule change will ensure that we don't get any of them returned for touchdowns on Sunday. Also, they've put in a two-minute warning at the end of the first and third quarters, which gives us two more possessions that won't be carried over when the clock runs out. These things add up.
Beat the Time
There are some other minor rule changes with the clock that should be noted, although they'll partly cancel each other out. The most important of these changes for our purposes is the use of a 35-second clock instead of 40 seconds. That'll give both teams a chance to cram in a few extra plays. Also, once we get into the last two minutes of every quarter, the clock will stop on any play where the offense doesn’t gain at least one yard. That probably won’t happen very often at the Pro Bowl, but it’s something.
On the other hand, any time there’s a quarterback sack and it’s not the final two minutes of a quarter, the clock will keep running. Got all that? We should also let you know that each team is carrying one more defensive back than in previous years. I’m sure you could run some advanced math and try to quantify the impact of all these changes, but the important one to keep in mind is the Cover 2.
Here’s one more reason to consider betting the UNDER for the Pro Bowl: The weather forecast for Sunday calls for a 30 percent chance of rain, along with some light winds to go with temperatures around 75 degrees at kick-off. If you’ve never experienced a Honolulu rainstorm, let me tell you, they’re quite something. Those tiny little umbrellas in your $1 Mai Tais just aren’t going to cut it. As with any total when considering the NFL odds, when the weather is uncertain, you might want to wait until closer to kick-off before jumping in. Pomaika’i.
NFL Pick: Take UNDER 82.5 at SIA