January 13, 2012

NFL playoff picks: Round 2

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

There are two big stats at play this week for picking NFL division round playoffs games – and I’m going to ignore both of them. Sure, that may seem unwise, but streaks, like rules, are made to be broken.

First, since this version of NFL playoff format started, over 70% of home teams won their divisional round matchups. Now, that can be mainly due to the fact that they were likely the better team having finished higher in the standings, or that they had a bye week leading into the game. Plus, of course, they had home-field advantage.

Second, in the past 26 playoff games that favourites have won, they have also covered the spread. So, the Sports Guys’ manifesto rule of ‘don’t pick an underdog unless you think they can win,’ has been holding pretty true recently.

Well, don’t expect me to follow the trends here, it’s all about rational gut picks.

The lines are from Vegas and the home teams are in CAPS.

New Orleans -3.5 over SAN FRANCISCO
Here’s the pick that flaunts it against the first trend. It’s not very often that the visiting team in the playoffs is better than its host in Round 2, but that’s not the case here. The Saints are the superior team and they’re red hot. They’ve covered the spread nine weeks in a row and I can’t see them stopping here.

The Niners’ defence is incredibly strong, but have you seen the way that Drew Brees has been playing? San Francisco is incredibly strong against the run, but the Saints only use that as a changeup to their passing attack.

And do you really want to bet on Alex Smith getting the better of Brees in a game of this magnitude?

NEW ENGLAND -13.5 over Denver
There’s actually another trend that I didn’t mention above that I’ll be going against: Tom Brady is on a 35-1 run at home during the regular season, but he’s 0-2 in the playoffs at home. That will most certainly change.

A lot of people will credit Tim Tebow and Denver’s defence for their shock win over Pittsburgh last week, but I’m crediting the Steelers’ injury woes. They were down practically their entire defensive line, some of their offensive line and Big Ben could barely move without shrieking in pain during the first half.

The Patriots have already beaten the Broncos this season and they did that at Mile High in the friendly confines of Gillette, they’ll be able to run up the score against the overachievers.

Houston +7.5 over BALTIMORE
Yes. I am seriously taking T.J. Yates on the road in a playoff game, in Baltimore. He looked rattled at home last week against Cincinnati, so yes, I might be crazy. But this game is going to be about defence and rushing and these two teams are not eight points different in those categories.

Ray Rice and Arian Foster are essentially even and the two defences are pretty much on par now that Wade Phillips is back from surgery. He’ll be looking to polish up that resume too now that Tampa Bay is reportedly interested in making him their new head coach.

So, the Ravens will win, but they won’t cover – breaking trend No. 2.

GREEN BAY -7.5 over New York Giants
A lot has been said about how the Giants are built the perfect way to challenge the Packers – strong pass rush from their front four, playmaking passing game, an effective power rushing game that’s coming on – but I just can’t see Aaron Rodgers going down that easily.

Even if the Giants are rushing four great guys against a banged-up Packers offensive line, New York’s coverage guys won’t be strong enough to contain the massive amount of receiving talent that Green Bay has.

As for when the Giants have the ball, Eli Manning is good, but he’s not exactly consistent. Also, Brandon Jacobs has been trending up, but form is only temporary, class is permanent – something he doesn’t have.

I see this going down like the Saints-Lions tilt last week: The ’dogs threatening for a backdoor cover and getting it, but the favourites pulling away afterwards.

Last week: 3-1

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