No one should be surprised that three of four road teams won last weekend. Since 2003, teams with bye weeks are 7-17 against the spread, while teams who rest their starters are 3-11 against the spread (7-7 straight up) since the divisions re-aligned in 2002.
I went with both trends and won my January NFL Pick of the Month with the Ravens. Maybe the Titans deserved to win, but I predicted that they would make mental errors because none of the starters played since Dec. 21, and they did exactly that. Though I went 2-2 last weekend, I came out with a surplus of 3.5 Units, thanks to that 8-unit winner on Baltimore.
As for Vegas, there weren't any really heavily bet games, but the house still came out on top because a ton of teasers bit the dust when the Panthers failed to win straight up.
I received a few interesting e-mails after the Saturday contests. Here are three that were pretty amusing:
1. Just a quick note to say that thanks to your pick of Ravens over Titans I just debacled my British Bookie for rather a large sum of money. If I don't blow it all on hookers and drugs then I owe you a pint of beer if you are ever in London - Steve O.
One of the best e-mails I've ever received. Steve O. not only discussed hookers and drugs, he used "debacled" and offered to buy me a drink. I have a tears of joy in my eyes right now.
2. i made an a** of myself.. Alrtouh i am drunk while writing this from my phoen i must say tht your jaamury pick of the month nfl was a good one... I talked s**t andwas proven wrong.. I guess all i can say is yo respect - Steve P. (who sent me pseudo-hate mail during the week) - Steve P.
Thanks, Steve. Hey, I'll take respect where I can get it because...
3. nice pick on that panthers game,you have no idea what your talking about,that was the most stupid reason to go against the cardinals,you said they were gonna lose cause of the gatorade shower,now that was stupid,i have better picks than you and its not even my job,your a freakin joke dude,just quit cause soon no one is gonna read your crap - Beemer W.
If my name were Beemer, I'd be pretty pissed off at the world too.
PHILADELPHIA OFFENSE: There are some really interesting psychological dynamics that I'll get to in the recap. But delving into the matchups, I've had a few people argue to me that the Eagles were going to win because they have the better running game.
That's not even close to being factually correct. Philadelphia ran the ball 23 times against the Giants - a low figure, considering they were ahead most of the game - and gained just 43 rushing yards. Versus Minnesota, Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter combined for 65 yards on 22 attempts. Arizona, meanwhile, eclipsed the combined rushing total of Philadelphia's two postseason games in the Carolina contest alone.
The perception that Arizona is weak versus the run is incorrect as well. The Cardinals rank 11th versus the rush, giving up just 3.9 yards per carry.
Where Arizona was weak defensively throughout the season was the pass defense. However, with the emergence of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the presence of Adrian Wilson, the Cardinals have vastly improved in that department. If you want proof, Arizona was ranked 28th in pass defense back in Week 8. Now, they've risen all the way up to 16th. Being ranked 16th doesn't seem impressive, but it really is if you consider that the team's early-season numbers also figure into those stats. In the second half of the year, the Cardinals have maintained a top-10 aerial defense.
So, what does all of this mean? While people would be correct in saying that the Eagles have the better defense here, the difference between the two stop units isn't that paramount. The Eagles will move the chains aerially - definitely not on the ground - but they won't score at will, as some people project. Arizona will have its hands full with Brian Westbrook, but Philadelphia doesn't exactly have this huge, unstoppable, juggernaut offense. They scored three points at Washington a few weeks ago, for crying out loud.
ARIZONA OFFENSE: As I mentioned, the Cardinals have the superior rushing attack of these two squads. They ran all over the Panthers, as Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower combined for 133 yards on 37 carries. However, It's safe to say Arizona won't have that sort of success here; the Eagles have a top-five ground defense.
The Eagles are also great at shutting down the pass and getting to the quarterback. If Philadelphia can rattle Kurt Warner enough, he could start fumbling the football and throwing interceptions.
With that said, one of the reasons Arizona has qualified for the NFC Championship is its improved pass protection. In two postseason games, Warner has been sacked just once. If the Eagles have to sell out to put pressure on Warner, that could open up Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald for some one-on-one coverage.
RECAP: As I mentioned, there are some interesting psychological dynamics here. The obvious is Arizona's continued "Us Against the World" mentality. You saw it against Carolina - no one expected the Cardinals to win, and they let the nation know that they were for real after that huge upset.
Only, no one listened. After last week's games were over, everyone on SportsCenter was talking about a Keystone Super Bowl. On Monday morning, ESPN.com had a picture of Donovan McNabb holding up the phone in the Giants game. The caption read: "Tampa is calling." The writer of that article declared that the Cardinals have no chance.
I really don't understand why the Cardinals have no chance. They just debacled Carolina! They completely dominated them on both sides of the ball. Why are they any worse than the Eagles? As I mentioned, their defense has improved, and if anything, their offense is more balanced and explosive.
Some people will point out Philadelphia's 48-20 debaclation over Arizona on Thanksgiving night. I had the Eagles -3 for five units in that contest, and I'll tell you that the price of milk (or in Al Davis' case, the price of goat blood) has more to do with this game than that outcome.
I loved the Eagles in that spot because the Cardinals were playing on a short week and had to fly out to the East Coast. The Eagles, coming off an embarrassing Ravens loss in which McNabb was justly benched, had their backs against the wall. No one believed in them. In fact, Philadelphians wore black to that game to signify the death of the McNabb-Andy Reid era.
And that's the exact thing about the Eagles - I've written repeatedly on this Web site that they win when the chips are down, but as soon as people start believing again, they choke. Since the Ravens contest, Philadelphia has been a true favorite only twice. One game was against the craptastic Browns on a Monday night, so throw that out. The other was at Washington. The Eagles played one of their worst games of the year, and lost 10-3.
Now, the Eagles are expected to win again. With everyone already penciling them into the Super Bowl, they seem poised for one of their epic collapses - right up there with the Tampa Bay and Carolina NFC Championships, and the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.
I love the Cardinals (7-2 at home this year) to win - or at least cover - for all of those reasons. If you like them as well, wait until Sunday - this line could be -4 by kickoff.
I hope all of that typing was worth it; I'm confident that I've developed Carpal Tunnel just from this write-up.
The Psychology. Edge: Cardinals.
Ever since the Donovan McNabb benching, the Eagles have been true underdogs in every game except for two. One was against crappy Cleveland, so throw that out. The other was at Washington, and Philadelphia self-debacled itself, 10-3.
Now, the Eagles are favorites again. In Philly, everyone already is talking Super Bowl. On SportsCenter, every single analyst predicted a Keystone Super Bowl. Why is Philly even making the trip out if it has been decided already?
I've written many times that the Eagles don't play well when they're expected to win. Conversely, they're always victorious when all the chips are down.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals get to continue this "Us Against the World" mentality they had going at Carolina. From a psychological standpoint, I have no idea how the Eagles are going to win this game.
The Vegas. Edge: None.
Action has evened out, surprisingly.
Percentage of money on Philadelphia: 57% (225,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Eagles.
Cardinals are 14-5 ATS in December home games since 2000.
Cardinals are 7-1 ATS at home as underdogs or favorites of less than -3 under Ken Whisenhunt.
Eagles are 56-34 ATS vs. NFC opponents since 2001.
Donovan McNabb is 34-20 ATS on the road since 2001.
Andy Reid is 9-2 ATS on the West Coast.
Andy Reid is 13-7 ATS as a road favorite of 3.5 or more.
More quotes to be featured in the upcoming Emmitt Anthology: Volume 2. Here's a link to the original Emmitt Anthology.
1. "They played well offensively, but Reggie Bush, they still had turnovers, offensively." (Commentary: It's almost as if Emmitt tried to combine three sentences into one.)
2. "This is what the offseason has brought for Brett, not the offseason but the last two weeks, but the bye week ... And so I accept Brett Favre to come out of this offseason, or this bye week right now." (Commentary: Only Emmitt can confuse the offseason and bye week twice in the same sentence. Is it safe to say that we all "accepted" Emmitt to do that?)
3. "When you start looking at some of the passes that Drew Brees had during the course of the game, where he dumped the passes off, the guy hit the wide receiver in the hand, he drops it, he flops in the air, then Minnesota gets the interception." (Commentary: Whoa, Emmitt, slow down - you lost me at "Drew Brees.")
If you're looking for more Emmitt and some general NFL spoofs, clink on the link.
PITTSBURGH OFFENSE: As I've mentioned the past two weeks, Baltimore's defensive weakness is the long pass. The Dolphins couldn't expose it because Chad Pennington throws like an elderly woman. The Titans couldn't expose it because they believe in having the crappiest receivers possible on the roster.
The Steelers are a different animal. Ben Roethlisberger played exceptionally well coming off his concussion, so there's no reason to believe that he won't be able to beat Baltimore deep.
With that in mind, if Big Ben feels as though he needs to throw the ball downfield, a number of things can happen. Sure, he can connect with Santonio Holmes or Nate Washington on a long bomb, but because he's so interception-prone (15 in the regular season), Ed Reed could come away with a pick or two.
Pass protection will also be a problem. Roethlisberger was kept clean last week, but the Chargers haven't been able to get to the quarterback all year in the wake of the Shawne Merriman injury. Baltimore will be able to pressure Roethlisberger.
Pittsburgh's rushing attack won't work as well this week either. I can't say I was surprised to see Willie Parker look like the 2005 version of himself on Sunday; the Chargers are a meager 21st versus the rush. Baltimore, meanwhile, is first.
BALTIMORE OFFENSE: The Ravens have covered 11 of their last 13 games because their offense is really underrated. When discussing Baltimore, everyone thinks back to the craptastic offenses Brian Billick used to run into the ground. This Ravens squad averaged 24.1 points per game this season.
However, Baltimore had major trouble scoring against Pittsburgh, though you can say that about any team. In the two games against the Steelers, the Ravens averaged 14.5 points. That's because Pittsburgh ranks first against the run and the pass, and can generate more pressure than any other team in the league.
The Ravens won't rush for four yards per carry or anything, but they'll definitely stick to the ground attack. In a 13-9 loss to Pittsburgh in Week 15, LeRon McClain and Willis McGahee ran the ball 29 times for 105 yards. That kept the Steelers somewhat honest, limiting them to just two sacks on Joe Flacco.
Despite Flacco being just a rookie, I trust him in this situation. In two postseason road games, he hasn't thrown a pick or taken a sack. Flacco also seems to make a few clutch throws throughout the course of a game - whether that's a long bomb to Derrick Mason or a third-and-long conversion to one of his other wideouts.
RECAP: If you look below, you'll see that there is no psychological or trend edge. Well, there's no game edge either; despite what the spread says, I feel as though these squads are dead even. The only edge I can find is Roethlisberger's experience over Flacco's youth, but that didn't matter for Baltimore in the other two playoff games.
I'm definitely taking Baltimore to cover, but I'm siding with Pittsburgh to win straight up. I don't know how they do it, but the Steelers always seem to find a way to pull a win out of their rear ends.
The Psychology. Edge: None.
If this were the regular season, the Ravens would have no chance to win this game. They just had a very emotional road victory as an underdog against an extremely physical Titans squad. Ray Lewis couldn't even speak after the game.
But as Emmitt would say, this is the Doggone Playoff. There is no room for any sort of Let-Down Alert.
Both teams are on fire, and there is no dynamic shift. The Steelers continue to be home favorites. The Ravens continue to be road dogs. No psychological edge here.
The Vegas. Edge: None.
Shady line movement - with a good amount of action on the Ravens, this line has increased from -5 to -6.
Percentage of money on Baltimore: 58% (199,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Steelers.
History: Home Team has won 11 of the last 13 meetings.
Ravens are 7-3 ATS as an underdog under John Harbaugh.
Ravens are 8-2 ATS on the road under John Harbaugh.
Steelers are 19-6 ATS in December home games since 2000.
Ben Roethlisberger is 58-21 as a starter (47-31 ATS).
Ben Roethlisberger is 6-2 ATS in the playoffs (3-1 as a favorite).
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.
Live Dog: Cardinals +160 (2 Units) -- Correct; +$320
Live Dog: Ravens +210 (1 Unit) -- Incorrect; -$100
Odds to Win Super Bowl XLIII: Dallas +475 (1 Unit)
Odds to Win Super Bowl XLIII: Indianapolis +1050 (1 Unit)
NY Giants 9 Wins: Over +115 (3 Units)
Pittsburgh 9 Wins: Over +115 (3 Units)
Chicago 8 Wins: Under -170 (3 Units)
Kansas City 6 Wins: Under -110 (4 Units)
San Diego 10.5 Wins: Under +150 (3 Units)
San Francisco 6.5 Wins: Under -130 (3 Units)
St. Louis 6.5 Wins: Under -115 (3 Units)
Odds to win the 2008-2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award: DeSean Jackson 15/1 (1 Unit)
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Keith Rivers 8/1 (1 Unit)
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Curtis Lofton 14/1 (1 Unit)
How many Rushing Yards will Larry Johnson have in the 2008 Season? Under 1,275 -145 (3 Units)
How many Receiving Yards will Calvin Johnson have in the 2008 Season? Over 1,040 -105 (5 Units)
How many Receiving Touchdowns will Calvin Johnson have in the 2008 Season? Over 7 -115 (5 Units)
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.