The Winnter’s Circle: Last week I hit 4 of the 7 picks I offered up here. Four out of seven, people! You should be so lucky. So let’s keep moving forward, why don’t we. There are two games on tap tomorrow, four bets to be made. (Home teams in CAPS).
NEW ENGLAND 7.5 Baltimore O/U 50
More than a TD? That’s just too much for New England to give. Why? Because during the regular season, New England lost to Pittsburgh, while Pittsburgh got swept by Baltimore, which means . . . not a damn thing. This one’s actually very complicated.
The press went ga-ga over New England’s thrashing of Denver, but that’s more about their love of winners and their insatiable need to pretend Tim Tebow is good. Gosh, if Tebow only put up 10 points, Bill Belichick’s New England defense must be something else.
Oh, it’s something else, alright. Something other than good. During the regular season, New England was 31st in total defense, 31st in passing defense, 17th in rushing yards, and 15th in points allowed.
So the erratic Ravens offense can swoop into town and put up 30, right? Probably. And that Ravens defense, which is as good as the New England defense is bad, can at least keep Tom Brady in check to some degree, right? Probably. And so more than a TD is just too much to give, right?
Here’s the rub. Baltimore kinda sucks on the road. Undefeated at home (9-0 including the playoff game), but only .500 as visitors.
Okay, now let’s make it even more complicated
The four teams Baltimore beat on the road? In addition to a walkover in St. Louis, there were two playoff teams (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati) and a feisty Cleveland squad.
The four teams they lost to? A good but unpredictable club in San Diego, a mediocre one in Tennessee, a not very good one in Seattle, and a downright awful one in Jacksonville, which, by the way, knocked me out of my King of the Hill pool, goddammit There were only four people left!
So here’s what I got. When Baltimore loses on the road, it’s largely because their offense collapses. Is this offense gonna struggle against New England? No. Because the Ravens have played down to their road competition while also rising to the occasion against good teams. I don’t know that they’ll actually win, but against the spread . . . I like Baltimore and the Over.
SAN FRANCISCO 2.5 New York O/U 43
Well, the two high-fliers (Saints and Pack) have been shot down, while the teams with brutal defensive lines are the ones left standing. Who’d a thunk it? Not me, for one. Back in Week 6, I was telling anyone who would listen that SF was destined to get a bye because of its weak divisional schedule, but they were overrated and would cough it up in their first post-season game.
But shiver me timbers, the Niners dug in and got down with a Saints team that I consider to be generally superior to them. Meanwhile, the Giants keep showing their experienced playoff mettle. This bunch still has a lot of guys leftover from that Super Bowl championship, and they’re not wilting under the pressure.
This is shaping up to be macho defensive struggle with a bevy of sacks and turnovers. New York’s running game should be non-existent, leaving Eli Manning to shoulder the load. On the other side, I expect Alex Smith to be harried; he won’t be passing all over the field like he did against New Orleans. Jim Harbaugh will probably anticipate this and go into his 1980s cocoon by trying to grind it out. Maybe the G-Men can prevail in this scenario, maybe they can’t. I’d take the points no matter who was giving them in what should be a low-scoring affair.
I like the Giants and the Under.
Tomorrow we give you a man who grinds it out like no other, Cheesy Bruin. And remember kids: don’t bet the house, because none of us actually know what the hell’s going on.