Texans, Saints, Tebow and Eli! This Weekend's NFL Playoff Best Bets
The scarcity of games on these NFL playoff weekends is a huge reason why wagering in the postseason can be a death trap of second-guessing for me. Fewer games on the board means there's way more time to focus (and, frankly, OVER-focus if there is such a thing) on the scant few games being played.
There's no need to fear...
It doesn't help that this week, you can make a great case for all four underdogs to cover, and three of them winning outright (sorry, Denver), because inherently with underdogs you feel like you're going in with "lesser team." I've spent more time this week talking myself into and out of my picks than any week I can remember in the last couple years.
Let's see what the weekend has in store, shall we?
Saints -3 over 49ERS
Classic example of the waffling I just mentioned -- I had been thinking that the 49ers were the perfect team to upset the Saints even before the Saints -3 1/2 spread came out. The Niners with their stout defense, solid running game, and playing at home all seemed to add up to the perfect mix to knock off Drew Brees and company. Then I had more and more people getting in my ear about Drew Brees looking unstoppable lately (granted, he is at his most unstoppable at home; this game is in San Francisco), and, more importantly, the Saints have the ability to run the ball with Ivory, Thomas and Sproles. In short, the Saints have evolved from a "dome team" into a "team that happens to play in a dome," if that makes sense. I'll probably buy the half point so the number is a field goal, but for Best Bet purposes I'll still lay the 3 1/2.
Broncos +13 1/2 over PATRIOTS
You are judged as a player and coach (and frankly, as a wagerer) on the final score, so the 41-23 final score the first time these teams played is what it is. But in handicapping, you have to look at reasons why things happened. The fact of the matter is that the Broncos were leading that game 16-7 before a six-minute period of unforced errors in the second quarter gave Tom Brady a few too many chances to take control of the game. Next thing you knew, the Pats had the lead and the Broncos had to get out of their game plan.
The Broncos can run the ball against the Patriots, this we know. (They averaged 8.1 yards per carry in the first game.) If the Broncos can protect the football this time around, then they can stay on schedule long enough to keep the Patriots offense on the sideline and, yes, cover the 13 1/2. Can they win outright? Well, I don't know if Tim Tebow's fire is burning in me that strong....