NFL against the spread picks: Two big championship favorites – Yahoo Sports (blog)
It took right up until the end, but one of the favorites in the divisional round lost. As usual.
The Indianapolis Colts were the ones to pull off the upset, beating the Denver Broncos in the final game of the weekend. All four home teams haven’t won in the divisional round since the end of the 2004 season.
And, if we believe history, beware of penciling in both home teams this weekend for the Super Bowl.
Beginning with the arbitrary starting point of 1997, of the 17 championship weekends since then both home teams have won just four times (2006, 2008, 2009, 2013 … we’re talking about the year of the NFL season and not the actual year, so these playoffs are considered 2014). There’s typically at least one home crowd who goes home quiet this round.
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The large spreads for this round are unusual. Only five times since 2004 has a team been favored by a touchdown or more on championship Sunday (the Seahawks are favored by 7.5 this weekend, and the Patriots barely miss at minus-6.5), and in those five games the favorites are just 1-4 against the spread according to OddsShark.com.
So beware of just picking both favorites this week and expecting them to roll. Here are this week’s picks, with the lines from the Yahoo Pro Football Pick ’em:
Green Bay Packers (+7.5) over Seattle Seahawks
In most NFL games, if you pick the winner the spread doesn’t matter. Meaning, it’s relatively rare to see a team lose but cover. Yet, that’s what I’m picking here.
I think the Packers can keep it close. There’s a lot of talk of Aaron Rodgers and his calf, and rightfully so, but if we’re getting the Rodgers we all saw in the second half last week against Dallas, that’s enough to make this game interesting.
I like the Seahawks. I think they’re playing the best football of anyone right now. Their defense plays like it has 14 men on the field. But I trust Rodgers and Green Bay’s offense to at least keep it close, even if he’s on just one good leg.
New England Patriots (-6.5) over Indianapolis Colts
Many years there’s a playoff team that makes the regular season meaningless. They play differently than they have all season and cruise to a Super Bowl. Is that the Colts this year?
Their offensive line, which wasn’t too good most of the season, is playing great. The defense, led by some really good play from its corners, is much better than it was in the regular season. The running game isn’t great, but it’s good enough, and the Patriots showed last week it’s a fallacy to believe you need to run the ball to win in the playoffs. And they have Andrew Luck, of course.
Still, I’m picking against the Colts again. I look at the Patriots this way: The Ravens turned them into a one-dimensional offense, Joe Flacco had four touchdown passes, Justin Forsett rushed for 129 yards and New England still won. You need to play a perfect game to win in Foxboro. Maybe the Colts can do that, but it’s hard to pick them to do it.
It’s also hard to ignore the 42-20 Patriots win at Indianapolis in Week 11. It wasn’t all that close either, with the Patriots getting more than 500 yards. Will it really flip that much in Foxboro? I don’t think so. I’ll go with both home teams to win (and one to cover), as rare as that usually is.
Last week: 3-1
Season to date: 132-127-3
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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab
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