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NFL

Championship Weekend

Green Bay Packers 13-4 at Seattle Seahawks 13-4
LINE: SEATTLE -8 / 44½

There was a short blip early in Seattle’s season that saw the defending champions go 2-3, causing football folks to chant about a Super Bowl hangover. Those sentiments were quickly erased when the Seahawks went 10-1 the rest of the way, followed by a tidy job of eliminating the Panthers in a playoff game last week. There is no question that they deserve to be the odds-on favourites to repeat as champs with their strong defense and opportunistic offense. Of course, to qualify for a trip to Glendale, Ariz., the Seahawks have earned the right to host this NFC Championship game and that’s a huge edge for these hosts. Under coach Pete Carroll and QB Russell Wilson, Seattle has been infallible on this field with a 25-2 straight-up mark, covering 20 of those 27 contests. Fading the champs on this field takes some courage, but it’s a position we’re willing to take.
A concern with the Seahawks has been their level of competition. Since losing to Dallas and St. Louis on consecutive weeks in mid-October, Seattle did not face a playoff-bound team down the stretch in that 10-1 run, other than the debilitated Cardinals whom they faced twice. Seattle’s defense is undoubtedly a talented unit, but when combating the offenses of the 49ers twice, aforementioned Arizona twice, St. Louis and Kansas City in the second half of the season, we have to wonder if this group has really been battle-tested enough to warrant this type of consideration. Also of concern is Seattle’s offense, which managed more than 20 points only twice in its last seven games and will likely need more than that to get a cover here.
The Packers are no slouches. This isn’t some fluke team arriving here as a Cinderella story. They are led by arguably the best quarterback in football and this is the most points that Aaron Rodgers and his crew have been offered this season, underdogs just three times prior to this one. When these two teams met to open the season at this venue, Seattle was just a 4½-point favorite choice. Now, after both teams have compiled 13-4 records to this point, the Seahawks are favored by more than a converted touchdown? It doesn’t jive.
Despite Seattle winning that opener rather handily, that was in Week 1. Much has changed. Green Bay became better as the season wore on. Under Rodgers’ precision passing, the Packers were the top scoring team in the league, averaging more than 30 points per game. Green Bay also learned some things from that opening game, mostly what not to do. The Packers opted to completely ignore CB Richard Sherman’s side of the field in that contest but it reduced the offense to half a field and don’t expect the same on this day with Green Bay’s talented group of receivers. Dallas won in here with a similar offensive style as Green Bay’s.
The Packers have enough ability and experience on defense to contain Seattle’s mediocre offense. Spelled out, the points offered here are too attractive to ignore.

The Play: PACKERS +8

Indianapolis Colts 11-5 at New England Patriots 12-4
LINE: NEW ENGLAND -6½ / 52

We all know that the Colts allowed 246 rushing yards in New England's blowout win in Indianapolis in Week 11, but since then the Indianapolis defense has allowed just 110 rushing yards per game. I don't believe that New England will be able to run the ball down the throat of the Colts this time around. I also expect the Indianapolis defense to be able to play press man coverage on New England's wide receivers which will allow them to double team Gronk and keep him from having a huge game. This is a strategy that the Jets use regularly in their close battles with the Patriots. New England will most likely have Darrell Revis lock up TY Hilton, but corner back Brandon Browner can be exposed as he is regularly flagged for pass interference and defensive holding calls. The Colts also have huge weapons at tight end with Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and running back Boom Herron has emerged as a good option at running back. Andrew Luck loves to go deep and the Patriots have allowed the sixth most passes of 20 yards or more this season with 28. I expect the Colts to be in this one all the way with a chance to pull the upset. Taking the points and a smaller play on the moneyline. This will be the true coming of age for Andrew Luck!

The Play(s): INDY +6½ / INDY +250 ML / INDY/NE OVER 52

At the end of the day, this a quarterbacks league and Luck & Rodgers are the 2 best in the game at this time...I can't bet against them!

NFL Divisional Play Jan 11

Cowboys (13-4) at Packers (12-4)
LINE: GREEN BAY by 5½

Dallas' 8-0 road record is quite an accomplishment and, for whatever reason, the team seems to play better when traveling than when hosting. We're highly skeptical that the same holds true on this day. Green Bay has been unstoppable here at Lambeau Field. The Packers possess their own 8-0 mark as hosts and they've averaged 40 points per game while doing so. Visitors have scored less than 20 points on average during their unsuccessful stops here. QB Aaron Rodgers has been as near perfect as a quarterback can be with 25 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in front of the home crowd. Dallas has had an impressive season, but we don't feel that they are in Green Bay's class quite yet.

The Cowboys had to overcome a 14-0 deficit to the Lions last week, aided by some controversial refereeing. Green Bay has the ability to pile on points a lot more than Detroit could and it won't come as a surprise if the Packers get their fair share against a Dallas defence that has overachieved based on the talent of the players on the field. The Cowboys' strong offense has been able to mask the defense, but the unit hasn't seen an arsenal with Green Bay's capabilities. Dallas is most effective when utilizing RB DeMarco Murray, but as we saw last week, when Murray is contained (75 yards rushing on 19 carries), Dallas struggles to score points. Green Bay's unheralded run defense has allowed just two runners in the past seven weeks to exceed 60 yards on the ground, with none of them reaching 90 yards. That poses a major challenge for the Cowpokes. While Dallas' offense is a dangerous group, we believe Green Bay's stoppers to be a more seasoned and bona-fide group, led by such veterans as Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. Dallas' offensive line is one of its strengths, but Green Bay also employs a strong offensive line that protects its prized passer. With weapons such as Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy, Rodgers can exploit the best of defenses, let alone this Texas bunch.

Dallas is a popular team and that has certainly affected this line, but if Denver and New England are a full touchdown at home against comparable visitors, shouldn't Green Bay be the same with its dominant home play this year? Unless Rogers departs the game early, I just can't see the Boys keeping this one within the number.

The play: PACKERS -5½ -105

Colts (12-5) at Broncos (12-4)
LINE: DENVER by 7

In the recent past, we've questioned Indianapolis' credibility based on its propensity for beating up on weaker teams and not faring well against leading clubs. While those sentiments cannot be easily dismissed, we're not so sure how good the current Broncos really are. While a bye week had to help matters, Denver was a battered crew heading into its rest week. The Broncos had 22 players listed on their injury report before their season-ending game versus Oakland, and that has to be disconcerting. Some of Peyton Manning's numbers down the stretch may confirm, as the final five weeks of the season saw Manning and his offense rank 30th of 32 teams in red-zone completions. The wonky ankle of TE Julius Thomas could be largely responsible for the drop in production, as Thomas had tallied 12 touchdowns in the first nine weeks of the year, but did not score a major since Week 11 when the injury occurred. It all can't fall on Thomas, as there are other talented players on the Denver offense, but something just doesn't seem right with the Broncos these days.

I can point at games against the Bengals as a small barometer. Denver was handily beaten 38-27 by Cincinnati in a Week 15 contest that the Broncos needed to secure their division. By comparison, in two games against the Bengals, the Colts went 2-0 by a combined 53-10. Perhaps it is an aging Manning as the veteran QB seems to be counting on his smarts more than his physical abilities these days. That, too, is a concern. Even in his prime years, Manning hasn't performed particularly well in the playoffs, currently sporting an 11-12 overall record in the post-season. And it's not like he's facing a stiff. In fact, when you look at Indy QB Andrew Luck's stats as compared to Manning's, you will find that the two pivots were nearly identical, as Luck threw for 4,761 yards and 40 touchdowns while Peyton had 4,727 yards and 39 touchdowns. Luck also led the top passing offense in the NFL this season, averaging a whopping 406 yards per game. Even in the season opener, when these two met on this field, Luck threw for an impressive 370 yards in a 7-point loss. The Colts are an ascending group that should be up for the challenge this time around. I wish Luck had more weapons, but at his point he is soundly better than Peyton and even though the Broncos have more talent...injuries have equaled the playing field. Give me Luck plus the points!

The play: COLTS +7 +105

Lines courtesy 5dimes.eu at 8am est

NFL ~ NOV 2

Game of the Day: Broncos at Patriots

Denver Broncos at New England Patriots (+3, 50)

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will inevitably end up in the NFL Hall of Fame together and have been compared to each other since the former burst onto the scene in 2001. The two star quarterbacks continue their rivalry when the New England Patriots host the Denver Broncos on Sunday. As usual, Brady and Manning have their respective teams near the top of the AFC and Sunday’s meeting could have implications on postseason seeding down the line.

Brady’s teams have defeated Manning’s 10 out of the 15 meetings, but the Broncos got the big win when it counted in the AFC Championship game last season. “Peyton has been a phenomenal player – so consistent and durable for a long period,” Brady told reporters. “We've had a great rivalry. ... He’s always been someone I've really looked up to and admired.” Denver owns the best record in the AFC and joins New England in entering the weekend on a four-game winning streak.

TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS.

LINE HISTORY: Vegas books opened the Broncos as 3-point road faves and that hasn't moved. The total opened 55 and is down to 50 mostly due to in-climate weather.

INJURY REPORT: Broncos - RB Montee Ball (Questionable, groin), CB Omar Bolden (Questionable, concussion), LB Steven Johnson (Questionable, ankle). Patiots - DB Nate Ebner (Questionable, finger), OL Cameron Fleming (Questionble finger).

WEATHER: MOSTLY CLOUDY, NORTHWEST WIND 10-20, GUSTY. GAME TEMP 40, RH 62% WIND CHILL 32

POWER RANKINGS: Broncos (-8.75) + Patriots (-3.75) + home field (-3.0) = Broncos -2.0

WHAT CAPPERS SAY: "Denver has won and covered four straight and heads to New England for just its third road game. 9-20 ATS in the last 29 road games versus a team with a winning home record. New England on a four-game winning streak after 2-2 start and plays Denver in its third-straight home game. 3-9 ATS in the last 12 games after scoring more than 30 points." Matt Fargo.

WHAT BOOKS SAY: "We opened the Broncos -3.5 (+100) / Pats +3.5 (-120) and we saw mostly Broncos money at that price. We went to -3.5 -105 and eventually -3.5 flat on the game and that’s when we took a decent size bet from one of sharper players. We went back to Broncos -3.5 and that same sharp bettor took the Pat’s again at that new price, that forced us to get down to 3-flat on this game, which is our current number. Since going to 3-flat though we’ve seen a huge rise in Broncos support and I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually get back to 3.5 on this game. Obviously we hate moving off and on this very key number of 3, so we’ll get to -3 (-120) before going back to 3, but currently we’ve moved it from 3 flat to Broncos -3 (-115) for now." Michael Stewart.

ABOUT THE BRONCOS (6-1 SU, 4-3 ATS, 5-2 O/U): Denver received a few extra days to prepare after playing the Thursday night game on Oct. 23 and has looked even better than the team that went to the Super Bowl last season. Defensive end Von Miller, who sat out the win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Month for October with seven sacks and cornerback Aqib Talib, who made the Pro Bowl as a member of New England in 2013, is now on the Broncos’ side. “I think they’re forming their identity,” Manning told reporters of the defense. “There is no question they’re playing with confidence, and that’s what you want.”

ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (6-2 SU, 4-4 ATS, 6-2 O/U): New England’s rise over the last few weeks can be directly linked to the return to health of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was limited the first month while recovering from a knee injury that knocked him out of the 2013 campaign. The player that delivered the hit that tore up Gronkowski’s knee, safety T.J. Ward, is now with the Broncos, and the Patriots’ star has been avoiding making any statements directly about Ward. Gronkowski’s statements on the field have been loud, and he is coming off a three-TD performance in last week's 51-23 victory over the Chicago Bears.

TRENDS:

* Broncos are 0-4 ATS in their last four meetings in New England.
* Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
* Home team is 4-0 ATS in their last four meetings.
* Favorite is 5-0 ATS in their last five meetings.

CONSENSUS: 53 percent of wagers are backing the visiting Broncos.

The play: Denver -3

others...
Jags +11
NYJ +9
DEN/NE O50
MIA

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