“ The only monster here is the gambling monster that has enslaved your mother! I call him Gamblor, and it's time to snatch your mother from his neon claws!” --Homer SimpsonLast week: 7-8-1. Final regular season record: 67-69-3. Lock of the week: 7-2. Dammit! So close to .500, but I couldn't beat the last week uncertainties. Now its time for the playoffs, where you typically see the better teams distance themselves and can find some good bets. However, the lines were very well set this week and picking these games will not be as easy as I wished it would be. Home team in CAPS.
SEAHAWKS (-3) over Redskins
Right now the Redskins are hot. They have won four straight games and have been playing quite well with Todd Collins at the helm. The Redskins are a team that is built in a typical postseason form. The rely on a strong defense and strong running game and keep the passing turnovers to a minimum (lately). There is no doubt that they can beat any team in the NFC on any given day. Seattle, however, is pretty good at home, 7-1, and has a lot of playoff experience over the past few years. Seattle has a ballhawking D which leads the NFC in interceptions with 20 on the season, and they have a +10 turnover differential. Most importantly, there is a trend going on with my bets and Redskins game.
Jaguars (-2.5) over STEELERS
It is rare that the away team gets points in a playoff game. The reason Jacksonville is favored is because two weeks ago, in Week 15, the Jaguars came into Pittsburgh, won 29-22, and dominated them like they were 85 year-old disabled hobos, out-gaining the Steelers 421-217 in total net yards. The Jags D bottled up the Steelers's passing game, holding them to 102 yards on 32 attempts. The Jags rushing attack is 2nd in the NFL and QB David Garrard only threw three interceptions all year long. Turns out that decision to get rid of Byron Leftwich worked out. The concern here is that the Jags are playing in Pittsburgh, in January, where they are pretty good. In fact, that Week 15 game was the only one the Steelers lost at home. The Steelers still have the top rated defense in the NFL and the 3rd most potent running game. These two teams play the same game, but Jacksonville plays it better -- I'm making Jacksonville my lock of the week.
Giants (+3) over BUCCANEERS
Tampa Bay is a team that you look at on paper and say, "Wow, they probably aren't very good." But, 300 pound men are better at football that is played on a field. The Bucs have the best pass D in the NFC, and 2nd best overall. They also lead the NFC in turnover differential, with a +15 difference. That means they protect the ball, and they also have a defense that forces turnovers: pretty good combination for the playoffs. Another good note, Bucs QB has beaten the Giants in the playoffs twice already. If the Giants play smart however, most of these problems can be avoided. The Giants need to win with their running game, which ranks 4th in the NFL. If the Giants can run the ball and not fall behind early, they should be able to win this game straight up. Both teams have no real quality wins, particularly the Bucs, who have five of their nine wins coming at the hands of other teams in the horrible NFC South.
CHARGERS (-10) over Titans
The Titans typically don't lose games by lots of points. That is why at first glance they may seem like the pick here with a high 10 point spread. They have a solid D (5th in the NFL), particularly against the run (also 5th), and extra particularly when Albert Haynesworth is healthy and stomping it up. The Titans can also run the ball well (5th again!), but running doesn't do much help when you are down early. The Chargers are relatively hot, having won six straight and the offense is finally clicking. Vince Young will be in his first playoff game, and will struggle mightily. I wouldn't be surprised with a 5-19 performance with three interceptions. If Norv Turner weren't the coach, this would probably be my lock, but with Norv, even a sure thing isn't for sure. Despite their coach, I'll still take the Chargers.