The NFL Lines – Conference Championships

Filed in NFL, NFL Tips by on January 17, 2012

The divisional playoff round saw the reigning favourite and second favourite for the Super Bowl find only the ‘exit stage right’ sign, while Tebow Mania may lose a little steam until around July or August next year. The Conference Championship deciders are settled – Baltimore travel to Foxboro to take on Tom Brady and the Patriots, while Eli Manning’s road playoff record (not to mention his reputation as an elite QB) could gain a further boost if the Giants can go cross country to San Francisco and grab the W. Two terrific games are in store – Nick Tedeschi and Cliff Bingham chime in with their thoughts and tips for each game.

CB – At the risk of drawing some ire by complaining about going 3-0 on playoff bets to date, I feel like there were some missed opportunities along the way. The postseason has followed 2011 and broader historic trends quite closely. Home team underdogs should be backed – check. Neither the Bengals nor Lions could beat teams with winning records in 2011 – check. You back New Orleans at home, lay them on the road – check. Denver couldn’t handle high powered offenses all season – check. Atlanta were very sketchy on the road, especially outdoors – check. High powered offenses could be taken down by teams with aggressive, high quality defensive units – check.

Summary of Divisional Playoff results

NT – 3 selections, 4.5 units bet, return of 3.78 units, Profit on Turnover (POT) = -16%

CB – 1 selection, 1.5 units bet, return of 2.84 units, Profit on Turnover (POT) = +89%

Total – 4 selections, 6 units bet, return of 6.60 units, Profit on Turnover (POT) = +10%

Summary of Overall results

NT – 99 selections, 144.5 units bet, return of 127.35 units, Profit on Turnover (POT) = -12%

CB – 58 selections, 73.5 units bet, return of 74.54 units, Profit on Turnover (POT) = +1%

Total – 157 selections, 218 units bet, return of 201.88 units, Profit on Turnover (POT) = -7%

(Please note – all times are American ‘Eastern Time’ – add 16 hours to get to AEDST)



Baltimore at New England, 3.00pm

Bookmakers’ line: New England -7.5 to -9

NT – Everyone is going nuts for the Patriots. Lessons just aren't learned. Two high-powered offenses were eliminated last week and it is quite possible the third is coming this week. The key to breaking this game down is the lack of quality New England have been faced with. The Pats played only two playoff teams in the regular season, getting beaten by Pittsburgh and at home by the New York Giants. So while the world gushes over the New England Patriots, I am with a great deal of confidence going to load up with a 3-unit play on Baltimore.  The Ravens have been shaky on the road, going 4-4 this year away from home, but they match-up nicely, able to take away New England's strongest area, the pass. If the Ravens can just force some errors early, they can go in and repeat their playoff demolition in Foxboro. Load up on the Ravens.

CB – As I flagged earlier, this playoff series has been one where precedent has ruled the day – now does not seem to be the time to jump off. The good news is that we have a number of angles to lean on here, all of them pointing to the Ravens.

New England have only played 2 teams with winning records this season – losing 25-17 at Pittsburgh and losing 24-20 to the NY Giants at home the following week. In fact, let’s extend it a little further and add the Dallas match from the week prior to Pittsburgh – given that the 8-8 Cowboys were conceivably the 3rdbest side that New England played all year. Across those 3 games, the Pats went 1-2 with a combined score of 57-65 and Brady throwing 6 TDs, 4 picks and an average of 273 yards per game. This compares to the other 14 games (including last week): a 13-1 record, combined score of 501-287, 39 TDs, 9 picks and an average of 341 yards per game for Brady. The lesson: New England can be stopped…. by the right team. The Ravens pass defence is up to this sort of task, having conceded only 11 TDs and come away with 18 picks this season.

Now look at Baltimore: 7 matches against teams with winning records (admittedly, 5 of these were at home) for 7 wins and a combined score of 178-100. Take out the Bengals and you’ve got a 5-0 record against 10+ win teams with a combined score of 123-60. Oh, and in those 5 games against terrific pass defence units (Steelers x 2, Texans x 2, Niners), Joe Flacco has thrown a total of 1 pick. I’m not suggesting that he’ll light it up against the Pats, but he’ll bring some things to the table and just as importantly, not take anything off it.

Baltimore’s last 2 trips to Foxboro have yielded a 23-20 loss in week 6 of 2010 and a 33-14 win on wild card weekend of the season prior, so they have history in terms of keeping New England in check. Moreover, the Patriots have had their last 3 playoff runs ended by the Jets last season, Baltimore 2 years back and the Giants in the Super Bowl 4 seasons ago. Ask yourself this – are the current Ravens much different in make-up to any of those 3 sides? To my mind, no. I think they win this game outright 23-21 and thus will be having 2 units on them with the 7.5 points start – I’m  choosing the 7.5 points at $1.92 rather than the 9 points at $1.77 because I feel the 8thand 9thpoints aren’t valuable enough for the drop in odds.

NY Giants at San Francisco, 6.30pm

Bookmakers’ line: San Francisco -2.5 to -3

NT – I am still jacked up over Sunday's win. It was one of the great games of football I've ever seen. It was a brutal rollercoaster of emotion, leaving me ecstatic but at one stage having me in a pit of despair. But the chocolates were won, Smith to Davis the new Montana to Clark. Jim Harbaugh has done such an outstanding job and there is no reason he can't go on with it this week. The Niners may be favourites but they have been disrespected by seeing the line bet to 2.5. San Fran can mix styles and they play a more consistent brand than the Giants. Maybe this is me talking through my red and gold pocket but I think a 2 unit play on the minus is in order.

CB – There is a terrific game potentially in the offing here. Indeed it is one where I really struggled to find a compelling reason to bet against either side.

The case for the Niners at the minus: (1) 8-1 at home this season with a combined score 257-119 and a 15 TDs to 3 picks ratio for Alex Smith; (2) beat the Giants 27-20 at home earlier this season; (3) a 5-1 record (combined score of 127-98) against playoff sides this season; (4) a home field crowd so appreciative of good play after years of despair that they lost their collective minds last week and will no doubt do it again here; and (5) while we’ll need a few more years of evidence yet before reaching a final verdict, it’s possible that Jim Harbaugh is the next ‘super coach’ of the NFL – everything he’s done thus far is pointed in that direction.

The case for the Giants at the plus: (1) When in doubt, take the points; (2) Eli and Tom Coughlin have done the whole ‘road trip to the Super Bowl’ thing before; (3) they’ve had 3 wins and 2 close(ish) losses in 6 matches against playoff teams; and (4) they have some serious momentum right now.

The lists might not be the same length, but that final point for the Giants is a doozy. They’ve won their last 4 games (2 against sides still in the playoff race at the time, 2 in the playoffs) by a combined margin of 121-46. More importantly, they were even more convincing against the Packers than the 37-20 score indicated – the Packers benefited from a dubious non-fumble ruling and the TD at the end of that drive leveled the scores at 10. That drive aside, the Giants really dominated the match. Right up until that win I’d have happily taken the Niners at the minus here, but now I have too much respect for both sides abilities to get involved with a small line – no play.

Recommended Bets

NT – 3 units on Baltimore +9 at $1.77 (Sportingbet) and 2 units on San Francisco -2.5 at $1.89 (Luxbet)

CB – 2 units on Baltimore +7.5 at $1.92 (Sportsbet).

Thanks to Joe Robbins/ Getty Images North America for use of the photo


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