Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Conference Championship Picks

Divisional round recap:

4-0 straight up
1-3 against the spread
1-3 over/unders


174-88-1 straight up (66.4%)
136-117-2 against the spread (53.7%)
79-72-4 over/unders (52.3%)

Playoff picks are now 7-1 straight-up, yet only 3-4-1 ATS;  that's just annoying bad luck.  

For the Conference Finals, I have the road underdogs both covering, and San Fran winning outright to set up a Niners-Broncos title game.  

Denver (14-3) is a 4.5 favorite against New England (13-4), with the betting public all over the Pats at a 78% clip. I spent most of this season fading the Patriots, mostly because I watched in anger as Tom Brady shattered my fantasy team's hopes.  But the January Patriots are not the October Patriots;  they have rebounded miraculously from the seemingly unrecoverable injuries to Mayo, Wilfork, and Gronk.  They have recreated their team on the fly.  LeGarrettee Blount's inexplicable emergence as Marshawn Lynch 2.0 exemplifies the trademark resurgence of a veteran left for dead that defines Bill Belichick's Hall of Fame career.  Insane as it sounds, Blount might be the key player in the the 2014 NFL postseason.  Who saw that coming?  

Denver is an offensive juggernaut, obviously, but the Pats' secondary seems to be coming together at the right time.  Still, I can't get myself to pick New England straight up.  Just seems too much like Denver's year.  I have the Broncos 33-31 and the over (55.5). 

The 14-3 Seahawks are also a slim home favorite, giving 3.5 points against the red-hot Niners.  This spread would be 3 or 2.5 if not for the fact that Seattle has the best homefield advantage in sports.  San Francisco has simply been playing better football than any other team over the past 2 months, and has the best roster from top to bottom.  Thus, we have another underdog dominating the Vegas betting, at 74%.  

I've got the Niners winning this game 23-16, primarily because the 49ers defense is uniquely qualified to stop the Seahawks rushing attack with elite inside linebackers Bowman and Willis.  If they can force Russell Wilson into 3rd and longs, they have the speed on the edges to prevent him from making those improv plays that he routinely makes against other defenses.  Seattle lacks the weapons in the passing game to make big plays; they need to lean on the running game, and they won't be able to against San Fran. 

Kaepernick, on the other hand, is the ideal QB to face Seattle's nonpareil defense.  He can extend plays with his legs, turn the corner and run like vintage Michael Vick, and has the arm to keep the safeties honest.  He played most of this season in the pocket, but in the postseason he has emerged as the deadly dual-threat he was last postseason.  Perhaps that was Harbaugh coaching him conservatively and keeping him healthy?  

Either way, San Fran has just enough weapons to put up points on Seattle, albeit not a ton of points.   I've got the under by half a point (39.5).  

Now that the picks are out of the way, let's talk about Jim Caldwell. 


On second thought, no.  Let's not.  I need a 3 month break from the Lions.  

It's almost baseball season!  Go Tigers!  

*Oh, by the way, the answer to the question in the last post was Steven Jackson.  

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