Saturday, January 10, 2009

NFL playoffs, Divisional play Weekend

Baltimore at Tennessee (-3) - The temptation to go with the Ravens here is both strong and understandable. When last seen, two weeks ago, the Titans were getting blown out by the Colts. When last seen, last week, the Ravens were dominating the Dolphins. And I've not been a Tennessee "believer" all year. All that said, the things that were concerning about the Ravens a week ago (rookie QB, rookie head coach) are still concerning. And the Titans are a much better defensive team than the Dolphins are. This is likely to be a <toss in whatever your preferred cliche for a physical game is here> game, and Baltimore winning would be the mildest of all possible upsets, but it would be an upset nonetheless. Take the Titans, give the points.

Arizona (+10) at Carolina - Sometimes you end up talking yourself into one that you don't quite believe. Here's one. That 10 points just looks like too many against a team with Arizona's offensive talent, so I feel fairly comfortable picking taking the points.* Can they actually go into Carolina and win? That's less likely. I think that they could, but I think that they won't. Going to take the Panthers to win but not cover.

Philadelphia (+4) at NY Giants - This will obviously be the third meeting this year between these two teams. The Giants won by five in Phildelphia, the Eagles won by six in New York. The Eagles come in having won 2 in a row and 5 of 6, the Giants having lost 3 of 4. If you look at the season as a whole, the Giants had a better record. But that could be just because they got off to a better start. The teams look comparable. New York has scored more and allowed more, but the margin in both categories is very small. If you look at the teams in games played after the first week in October, the Eagles are 8-3-1, the Giants 8-4. The Eagles have scored 26.3 points per game, the Giants 25. The Eagles have allowed 17.2 points per game, the Giants 20.4. In other words, for the last several months, the Eagles have been a better team by any measure. They are not intimidated by the Giants and they won't be intimidated by the situation or the crowd. They are as likely as any team in the NFL to lay an absolute egg, but let's assume they don't. They Giants shouldn't by favored by four in this one, and I think that the Eagles actually win. (For the sake of a competitive game next week, let's all hope so.)

San Diego (+6) at Pittsburgh - I don't know what to do with this one. The Steelers had a far better record than the Chargers, but that probably isn't a fair representation of the difference between the teams. The Steelers have outscored their opposition by 124, the Chargers by 92. Advantage Steelers, but not a huge advantage. The Steelers also have the home field advantage, and you'd think that it would be a big one, but San Diego played well in New England last January, and lost by only one in Pittsburgh in November. (OK, that should have been 8, but it could easily have "should have been" only one. It was a very close and competitive game.) Is Roethlisberger hurt? Is Tomlinson going to play? Again, I just don't know. I think that the six points is too many to give, so I'm picking the Chargers to beat the spread. I don't think, however, that I'm picking them to beat the Steelers..

* - It's also easy to imagine this one being over after the first quarter.

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