Jason’s record on his final weekly NFL picks for the 2012 postseason:
0-4 ATS (–4.22 units)
3-1 Totals (+1.9 units)
Profit: –2.32 units
I’m still not angry at Ryan Mallett. You may recall he threw the garbage-time pick that allowed the Week 14 matchup between the Patriots (OVER 11-5) and the Texans (UNDER 10-7) to go OVER the posted total. Houston scored with two minutes left to make the final Patriots 42, Texans 14 (OVER 50.5). These things happen. But maybe I should just cave in anyway and take the OVER this week.
Making Ends Meet
Well, hold up for a second. Sunday’s rematch (4:30 p.m. ET, CBS) has a few different things going for it. The most obvious difference is in the total. The NFL odds board for the Divisional round has the over/under for this game pegged at 47.5 points, the biggest total of the week, but still way below the 50.5 points they were aiming at in Week 14.
Then there’s the weather. We’re looking at a 20-percent chance of rain with temperatures in the high 40s. It was supposed to rain last time, which is part of the reason I took the UNDER last time. But it didn’t rain much at all. New England’s offense was able to operate at full speed against Houston’s injury-plagued defense.
And that was without Rob Gronkowski. He’s the most celebrated of Tom Brady’s targets, partly because he scores the most touchdowns (11 this year in just 11 games). The Pats usually do just fine as long as either Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez (51 catches, five TDs) is available at tight end. Hernandez had two TD catches against Houston in Week 14. Now both he and Gronkowski can operate together.
Naturally, after getting that matador OVER against New England, the Texans went UNDER in their next four games, including their 19-13 Wild Card victory over the Cincinnati Bengals (UNDER 42.5). That game went according to plan: two strong defenses, plenty of Arian Foster running around (32 carries for 140 yards, or 4.4 yards per carry). Picking the UNDER in that contest was like picking cherries off a tree.
If only we had the same ingredients this week. The Patriots have the No. 1 offense in the NFL, as they often do, with the No. 15-ranked defense and the No. 4-ranked special teams. That’s the basic recipe for an OVER team. The Pats lead the league in scoring as well at 34.8 points per game. The Texans were No. 2 in scoring when they met in Week 14, but have slipped to No. 8 since then at 26.0 points per game. Each team has allowed 20.7 points per game this year, tied for No. 23 overall in most points allowed.
The January Man
So here we are in January at Gillette Stadium. The sample size for these games is pretty big, which makes sense given how the Pats keep making the playoffs. The OVER has cashed in five times in the last six January games in Foxboro; last year’s 23-20 win against the Baltimore Ravens (UNDER 49) broke the streak.
That’s dating back to the 2009 season, by the way. Before that, the UNDER was 8-2 at home in January with Brady at the helm. This says something about the New England offense and how it’s developed over the years into the extremely potent scoring machine it is today. I certainly have no qualms taking the OVER this time.
NFL Picks: Take OVER 47.5 (+101)