Atlanta Falcons (11-5) at Arizona Cardinals (9-7) Line: Cardinals by 1. Total: 51. Walt's Projected Line: Cardinals -2.5.
Saturday, 4:30 ET - Buy Tickets
The Game. Edge: None. Injuries: Falcons: OUT: WR Laurent Robinson (IR), CB Von Hutchins (IR), CB David Irons (IR). Cardinals: OUT: C Scott Peters (IR).
I went 7-8-1 last week, but still came out with a surplus of 2.2 Units. The reason behind that is I went 4-1 with my 4- and 5-unit selections. The only one I screwed up was the Carolina-New Orleans game, which frustrated me because the Panthers opened -3, but fell to -1.5 later in the week. Carolina won by 2. Had I gambled on the original line, I would have went 5-0 with my top plays. Meanwhile, I botched all my intermediate selections (2-3 units) once again. I'm going to make it a point to be more selective with these in the playoffs, and especially the 2009 season.
Before we get to the first game on the postseason slate, let's look at how Vegas fared in Week 17. The books were hit hard yet again. After a hot start, the house has lost a lot of money since around Week 10. Here's the NFL Week 17 Vegas Money Breakdown.
Atlanta is one of four road favorites this weekend. I honestly can't remember the last time four visiting squads were laying points in the same postseason weekend. At least two of these road teams are going down. Let's try to figure out which ones.
ARIZONA OFFENSE: Everyone talks about how poorly the Cardinals have played going into the postseason, and while they were abysmal against the Vikings and Patriots, they handled themselves extremely well versus Seattle last week. You may laugh and cite that the Seahawks stink, but they just knocked off the Jets and battled the Patriots very closely.
Another good sign is that the Cardinals got Edgerrin James going. Replacing the inept, happy-footed Tim Hightower, James rushed for 100 yards on just 14 carries. That's bad news for the Falcons, who rank 28th against the run in terms of yards per carry (4.9).
If the Cardinals can establish James as a threat, the Falcons will have to commit more to the run, slightly taking away their focus on Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston. Those guys are lethal, and if Kurt Warner has enough time in the pocket - which he should off play-action - he'll find them for long gains on every single attempt.
ATLANTA OFFENSE: The Falcons will be able to move the chains consistently as well. The Cardinals are actually 11th versus the rush on the year, but that stat is skewed because of early-season success. I have no faith in their ability to take down Michael Turner. Like James for Arizona, Turner will give plenty of play-action opportunities to the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Matt Ryan has enjoyed one of the greatest campaigns ever from a rookie signal-caller. What he has done this season has been remarkable.
However, there is some cause for concern because he cooled off considerably at the end of the season. In the final three weeks, Ryan has thrown for an average of 167 yards per contest. In that span, he has two touchdowns, four interceptions and three fumbles. He was also sacked four times. Keep in mind that he was sacked just eight times between Weeks 3 and 14. Then again, you can point out that the Falcons won all three of the games in which Ryan has "struggled."
RECAP: Call me crazy, but I like Arizona here. I know I'm in the minority, and I wouldn't advise betting this game because it could go either way, but I think homefield advantage is huge for the Cardinals.
Arizona has played well as hosts this year, knocking off the 5-1 Cowboys and 4-0 Bills, and giving the red-hot Giants a very difficult time. The Falcons, meanwhile, are just 1-3 on the road against teams with winning records. Their sole victory was against the crappy Vikings.
Considering Ryan's recent struggles, Arizona's momentum off a win over vastly underrated Seattle and the betting action, I feel as though the Cardinals are the right side.
The Psychology. Edge: None.
Both teams lack playoff experience.
The Vegas. Edge: Cardinals.
Why has action evened out? What's going on here?
Percentage of money on Atlanta: 55% (259,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Cardinals.
Cardinals are 13-5 ATS in December home games since 2000.
Cardinals are 6-1 ATS at home as underdogs or favorites of less than -3 under Ken Whisenhunt.
Indianapolis Colts (12-4) at San Diego Chargers (8-8) Line: Colts by 2. Total: 49. Walt's Projected Line: Chargers -1.5.
Saturday, 8:00 ET - Buy Tickets
The Game. Edge: None. Injuries: Colts: OUT: RB Mike Hart (IR), OT Tony Ugoh, G Ryan Lilja, DT Anthony McFarland (IR), OLB Tyjuan Hagler, CB Marlin Jackson (IR), KR T.J. Rushing (IR). Chargers: OUT: WR Eric Parker (IR), DE/OLB Shawne Merriman (IR).
This is probably the most interesting game on the slate. Speaking of interesting, I had my grade school reunion on Friday. If you don't feel like reading about it, scroll down until you see SAN DIEGO OFFENSE:
How weird is a grade school reunion? If you're wondering, this wasn't official. A group of people just got together and organized it.
I was curious to see my former classmates from Greenberg Elementary-Middle School. I kept in touch with a few, but I hadn't seen most of them in 12 years.
All in all, I'd say 90 percent of the people looked the same. Some grew beards. Some grew breasts. Some stopped looking like weirdos and cut their 80s mullet (me).
If you check out the Facebook pictures, you'll notice that I look plastered in some of them. I was definitely drunk as hell. People kept buying shots for each other like there was no tomorrow. When I got home at 5 a.m., I threw up all over my toilet. Donovan McNabb and I are like brothers now.
I learned five things from this reunion, and I'd like to share them with you:
1. TALK TO EVERY GIRL IN GRADE SCHOOL: I made this mistake. Not talking to a girl because she's unattractive may seem like the right move at the time, but you may regret it in the future. Case in point: This girl I had never talked to before showed up, and she looked extremely hot. We're talking 8.5-9 out of 10 here. I turned around and asked the people I was talking to at the time, "Umm... why is Shira hot?"
She later asked me why I had never talked to her at Greenberg, and I was way too drunk to come up with a good excuse.
I blame myself. I should have seen this coming. Every little kid thought animated super-hero She-Ra was hot. With a name like Shira, you can't not turn out to be hot. I don't care if you're the daughter of Romeo Crennel and Rosie O'Donnell. You're going to be smoking.
So, remember kids, talk to every single girl at your school - even if she weighs 500 pounds, sports a mustache and has warts all over her face.
2. DON'T WAIT UNTIL THE REUNION TO TELL A GIRL YOU HAD A CRUSH ON HER: Another mistake I made. In seventh grade, I had this huge crush on a girl named Rachel. But I was 12 back then. What was I going to do, have my mom drive us to the movies so we could see some PG film?
As bad as that sounds, it beats waiting around until the reunion. To my chagrin, she was a no-show.
I'll look on the bright side and say that was probably for the best. The guys on the forum predicted that she's either married or into women. PuppyPuncher suggested that she changed sexes and is now known as Rick.
3. DON'T GET STUCK TALKING TO THE PERSON WITH BAD BREATH: This is a corollary to Rule No. 1. As I discovered on Friday night, a person who had bad breath in grade school is likely to have bad breath for the rest of their lives.
I won't name this person, but I got stuck talking to him/her for a good 10 minutes. If it weren't for the alcohol in my system, I probably would have spontaneously combusted after five. Thank you, Jack Daniels - I owe you one.
4. M.G. CLASS IS HARD: M.G. stands for mentally gifted. The M.G. class left us once a week to go do smart stuff. The people left behind, including myself, played games and won Snickers bars. However, I always resented the M.G. people because I was never offered the test.
Anyway, at the reunion after-party, I was talking to a girl named Melissa, who was one of the M.G. people. I told her I had never taken the test, so she decided to quiz me. I had to repeat whatever she said.
It started off easy. "One hen." "One hen. Two ducks." "One hen. Two ducks. Three squawking geese."
I mastered those easily. I was on top of the world. I was about to hop into my Delorean, travel back to 1990 and demand to take the M.G. test.
Unfortunately, it got harder... "Six pair of Don Alvarso's tweezers. Seven thousand Macedonians dressed in full battle array. Eight brass monkeys from the ancient sacred crypts of Egypt."
Oh man. I had enough trouble typing that sober, so you can imagine how confused I was when I was drunk. And who the hell is Don Alvarso?
I think my response to Melissa was the following: "Three debacling debaclations. Two of Romeo Crennel's crusty, crunchy caramel Oreos. And a partridge in a pear tree."
Yeah, I'll stick to stupid games and Snickers bars.
5. BE NICE TO EVERYONE: This is huge. If you take away anything from this list, make it this rule. If you make fun of someone maliciously, you could be in trouble at your reunion. That person will likely get you drunk, and before you know it, you're in a bathtub and one of your kidneys is missing.
I don't remember much that night after 2 p.m., but I must have been scared at one point because I texted the following to my neighbor, "Dude miles roshash wi'll ki.jjj traj." Must have been serious.
Well, I guess I can thank the heavens and the early-90s version of myself because as far as I can tell, both of my kidneys are still in my body. Great success!
SAN DIEGO OFFENSE: Back to football. And back to the playoffs for the Chargers. Wow. How do you start the year at 4-8 and make the postseason? What they've done to regroup the past four weeks has been remarkable.
Philip Rivers is on fire, and a strong case could be made that he deserves to be the MVP. Coming off a torn ACL, Rivers finished the year with 4,009 yards, 34 touchdowns and 11 picks, despite the fact that he didn't have much of a running game or a strong defense by his side.
But that apparently has changed. LaDainian Tomlinson looked as spry as ever against the Broncos. I know Denver's defense is absolutely abysmal, but Tomlinson was making all the cuts we were used to seeing before he tore his MCL in last year's playoffs.
If the Chargers can get Tomlinson going - and I don't see why not because the Colts are just 20th against the rush - Indianapolis will have to be more honest toward the run, which will open up big-play opportunities for Rivers. Vincent Jackson should have a big game. Jackson has a monstrous figure and has emerged as a top-notch wideout in this league.
INDIANAPOLIS OFFENSE: The Chargers haven't been able to rush the passer in the wake of Shawne Merriman's injury. That's not good news when you're battling the Colts because Peyton Manning can shred any secondary to pieces. In the previous meeting, Manning was 32-of-44 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. He was sacked only once.
The Colts also found some success on the ground with Joseph Addai, who managed 70 yards on only 16 carries. That wasn't surprising, as the Chargers are a mediocre 14th against the run.
The only advantage I can give the Chargers defense here is that Manning has struggled against 3-4 defenses in his playoff career.
Check these numbers out. Manning has played in 14 postseason contests. Against 4-3 formations, he's 6-3 (and on a 6-0 run). But when going up against a 3-4 base, he's just 1-4, which includes a loss against the Billy Volek-led Chargers at home last year!
RECAP: The Colts have won nine in a row, but I don't like the fact that Tony Dungy rested his starters last week. That completely disrupted all momentum his team had. Consequently, the Chargers are now the hot club going into this contest.
Manning's playoff resume isn't all that great either. I know he has a Super Bowl ring on his finger, but excluding an inexplicable come-from-behind victory against the Patriots, which can be attributed to numerous drops by New England wideouts, Manning has never beaten a non-crappy quarterback in the playoffs.
Think about it - Manning has seven postseason wins. One was the fluke New England victory. Two were against Jake Plummer. Two were versus Trent Green, one of the most overrated quarterbacks of all time (I've written about this ad nauseum). One came against the inept Rex Grossman. And the last came at the hands of a rapidly aging Steve McNair.
I'll go out on a limb and declare that Rivers doesn't belong in that Plummer-Green-Grossman-old McNair pantheon.
The Psychology. Edge: None.
No psychological edge found among these playoff-tested teams.
The Vegas. Edge: Chargers.
Probably predictable that people are pounding the Colts.
Percentage of money on Indianapolis: 88% (222,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Chargers.
Colts are 32-22 ATS on the road under Tony Dungy.
Peyton Manning is 2-7 ATS in the playoffs (excluding games against terrible QBs: Jake Plummer, Trent Green, Rex Grossman).
Peyton Manning is 24-17 ATS as a road favorite since 2001.
Tony Dungy is 1-3 ATS (2-2 SU) on the West Coast as Colts head coach.
Prop/Teaser/Parlay Picks A list of some of my favorite team/player prop picks this week (Offense & defensive ROY picks to be counted
whenver winners are announced.) Picks carried over on a week-to-week basis will be in black.
Note: For legality purposes, this Web site does not promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only.
Last Week's NFL Picks Against The Spread (Week 21, 2014): 0-1 (-$770)
Last Week's 2-3 Unit NFL Picks (Week 21, 2014): 0-0 ($0)
Last Week's 4-5 Unit NFL Picks (Week 21, 2014): 0-0 ($0)
Last Week Over-Under (Week 21, 2014): 0-1 ($0)
Last Week's Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks (Week 21, 2014): -$65
2014 NFL Picks of the Month: 2-4, 33.3% (-$1,350)
2014 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 143-133-7, 51.8% (-$1,885) 2014 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 50-41, 55.0% (+$1,500) 2014 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 12-17-1, 41.4% (-$1,990) 2014 Season Over-Under: 144-119-2, 54.8% ($0) 2014 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: -$630
1999 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 27-41-3 (39.7%) 2000 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 128-123-8 (51.0%) 2001 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 127-122-7 (51.0%) 2002 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 123-136-7 (47.5%) 2003 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 146-126-8 (53.7%) 2004 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 157-123-8 (56.1%) 2005 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 156-126-11 (55.3%) 2006 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 151-135-9 (52.8%) 2007 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 162-135-10, 54.5% (+$2,550) 2008 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 148-140-7, 51.4% (+$2,620) 2009 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 151-124-9, 54.9% (+$3,370) 2010 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 144-131-8, 52.4% (+$6,080) 2011 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 137-133-12, 50.7% (-$1,925) 2012 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 130-145-8, 47.3% (-$5,760) 2013 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 144-131-8, 52.4% (+$5,580)
2002 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 41-49-2 (45.6%) 2003 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 52-51-2 (50.5%) 2004 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 65-44-3 (59.6%) 2005 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 77-61-1 (55.8%) 2006 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 65-61-4 (51.6%) 2007 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 83-59-5, 58.5% (+$4,110) 2008 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 44-57-3, 43.6% (-$3,510) 2009 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 49-35-3, 58.3% (+$2,260) 2010 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 51-38-4, 57.3% (+$3,180) 2011 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 44-51-3, 46.3% (-$2,715) 2012 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 45-50-2, 47.4% (-$2,130) 2013 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 38-42, 47.5% (-$2,890)
2002 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 11-12 (47.8%) 2003 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 16-13-1 (55.2%) 2004 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 18-11 (62.1%) 2005 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 25-22-1 (53.2%) 2006 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 21-29-1 (42.0%) 2007 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 35-30-2, 53.8% (+$420) 2008 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 39-26-2, 60.0% (+$4,055) 2009 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 29-26, 52.7% (+$330) 2010 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 32-22, 59.3% (+$4,790) 2011 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 14-14, 50.0% (-$1,260) 2012 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 14-21, 40.0% (-$3,650) 2013 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 17-9-3, 65.4% (+$2,970)
2001 Season Over-Under: 3-2 (60.0%) 2002 Season Over-Under: 121-91-3 (57.1%) 2003 Season Over-Under: 126-132-2 (48.8%) 2004 Season Over-Under: 139-124-4 (52.9%) 2005 Season Over-Under: 117-145-4 (44.7%) 2006 Season Over-Under: 129-132-5 (49.4%) 2007 Season Over-Under: 136-145-3, 48.4% (-$1,900) 2008 Season Over-Under: 137-125-6, 52.3% (+$860) 2009 Season Over-Under: 128-135-4, 48.7% (-$3,195) 2010 Season Over-Under: 128-135-5, 48.7% (-$5) 2011 Season Over-Under: 131-131-5, 50.0% (+$135) 2012 Season Over-Under: 125-121-5, 50.8% (+$30) 2013 Season Over-Under: 132-130-5, 50.4% (-$340)
2007 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$1,035 2008 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$1,775 2009 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$865 2010 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: -$200 2011 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$590 2012 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: -$1,685 2013 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$2,245
2006 NFL Picks of the Month: 3-3 (50%) 2007 NFL Picks of the Month: 3-3, 50.0% (-$400) 2008 NFL Picks of the Month: 6-1, 85.7% (+$3,720) 2009 NFL Picks of the Month: 3-2, 60.0% (+$640) 2010 NFL Picks of the Month: 2-4, 33.3% (-$1,810) 2011 NFL Picks of the Month: 5-2, 71.4% (+$1,870) 2012 NFL Picks of the Month: 3-2, 60.0% (+$560) 2013 NFL Picks of the Month: 6-0, 100% (+$3,900)
Career NFL Picks Against The Spread: 2,157-1,978-117, 52.2% (+$10,530) Career 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 694-624-31 (52.7%) Career 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 288-251-11 (53.4%) Career Over-Under: 1,685-1,655-48 (50.5%) Career Second-Half NFL Picks: 22-15-1 (61.1%) Career NFL Picks of the Month: 30-19 (61.2%)
My Team-by-Team ATS Record This section shows how well I do when picking each team this year. The purpose is to see how well I read each team. Pushes are not
displayed. Winning/losing streak in parentheses.