NFL Divisional Weekend: Not so easy to call

Last week’s game weren’t all that close or exciting…well except you know who’s game. My picks from last week went 4-0, including my zany upset pick of Denver. I have this feeling we may see another upset or two this week as well. Let’s go game by game and see what we’ve got.

New Orleans at San Francisco

Can Alex Smith Upset the Saints?

The Saints did what they do best last week against the Lions and that’s put a ton of points on the board. This week they head into San Fran and face a much stiffer defence. In fact San Fran finished the season as the #1 ranked defence in terms of Total Defense (YPG). San Fran’s specialty is run stoppage, ranking #1 in the league against the run. However, that means very little when it comes to the Saints who prefer to move the ball through the air and San Fran’s d was just average against the pass this year (#16). These two teams did not face each other this year and the last meeting was in 2010 in San Fran with the Saints squeaking out a 3 point victory.

Keys of the game:

Can the 49ers win the time of possession game? One sure fire way of stopping Drew Brees is by keeping him off the field. The best way to do that is by running the ball. San Fran had the 8th best rushing attack in the league this year and will need a monster game by Frank Gore to have a shot in this one. The Saints d isn’t the most stout in the league, but they’re also not a pushover by any means. Of course all bets are off here if New Orleans gets up double digits early as this will force the 49ers into a track meet which is definitely not their strength.

Can Drew Brees be stopped? From what we’ve seen this season it’s tough to see anyone stop Brees and his aerial attack. A possible equalizer could be the elements, if the conditions get ugly and wet it could slow down the Saints and force this game into a running battle. Scary proposition that mother nature may be the only one who can stop Drew Brees.

Pick: Saints

As I said last week I think the Saints are going to the Super Bowl. The Saints defence is underrated and Brees and co. are just unstoppable right now. The line for this game is Saints -3.5. I would probably lay off this game because I think they’ve got the line pretty good on this one. If I was going to bet I’d tease the 49ers to +9.5.

Denver at New England

The Mastermind

I’m not even going to get into what happened in Denver last week. It would take an entire blog post on it’s own to talk about it. All I know is…I’M RIDING THE TEBOW TRAIN AGAIN this week. These 2 teams met earlier this year with the Pats winning 41-23. That score is a little deceiving as Denver was definitely holding their own in that game until they got the turnover itch. Ok people, this is a david vs. Goliath mismatch on paper…except on the defensive side of the ball where the Pats are horrendous.

Keys of the game:

Can Denver keep the turnovers down? This is what killed the Broncos the last time these teams met. The Broncos cannot afford to give Tom Brady extra chances and premium field position.

Which New England defence shows up? The Pats defence has been awful this season, but Bill Belichick is a mastermind at making something out of nothing. The Pats saw what Tebow was able to do against a stacked 8 man box. Will they employ a more traditional defence dropping more into coverage rather than being concerned about plugging the running lanes?

Can Denver stop the two headed tight end monster? Gronkowski and Hernandez are a nightmare for any defensive coordinator. If you double one, the other one will ruin you. They both are big and both have speed. The biggest mismatch on the field every game.

Pick: Broncos

Again not going to be a popular pick this week, but if the Broncos can keep the turnovers down I think their defence is strong enough to keep this close enough for some Tebow magic (or flukes, depending on which side of the hate you’re on) to occur. The line for this game is New England -13.5, if I’m picking the Broncos to win outright then I’d obviously be taking the Broncos +13.5.

Houston at Baltimore

Ray Rice and Ray Lewis

These two teams met earlier this year with Baltimore winning easily 29-14 at home. This game features two of the strongest defences in the league and two of the elite running backs in the game. The Ravens are big favourites in this game coming in as 9 point faves (at Pinnacle anyway). The Ravens must have breathed a huge sigh of relief after seeing their arch rival Steelers lose last week. The Steelers have been their main roadblock in the playoffs the last few years. With the Steelers out of the way, the pressure is on Joe Flacco and co. even more now to be the AFC champs.

Keys of the game:

Will Joe Flacco finally have a big playoff game? The player with the most pressure on him is without a doubt Joe Flacco. As mentioned above, this is his shot now to show he is in the top tier of QB’s. It won’t be easy though going against the 2nd ranked defence in the league.

Ravens D vs. Arian Foster: This in my opinion is the key to this game. If Arian Foster can’t breakthrough and have a big game the Texans are in big trouble. With no running game the Texans play action specialty will have no effect and the Ravens D could feast on Taylor Yates

Pick: Ravens

The Ravens are an up and down team, but one thing that has stayed consistent all year for them is their play at home. I think we see more from Ray Rice then we do from Joe Flacco and I think in the end the Ravens D wins the game on a turnover. I think this line is a bit inflated and if I were to bet this game I’d take the Texans +9.

New York at Green Bay

End of the championship reign?

These two teams met last month with the Packers eeking out a 3 point victory in New York. This in my opinion is the game of the week. The Giants look capable of being world beaters right now with their defence clicking and their offence on fire. However, winning against the Pack at Lambeau is never easy and they will have to find a way to stop Aaron Rodgers…a feat not many have been successful at.

Keys of the game:

Aaron Rodgers…this is pretty much it right here. The Pack will give up points, but can the Giants do anything to stop Aaron Rodgers? The Giants will need a huge game from their front 4 to put enough pressure on Rodgers to give their iffy secondary any shot.

Can the Pack stop the Giants running game? The Giants have been a running wrecking crew in their last 3 games averaging 131 yards per game while the Packers have struggled against the run in their last 3 allowing an average of 137 yards per game. If the Giants can get the running game going it will not only open up the dangerous passing game, but it will also eat up clock and keep Rodgers on the sidelines.

Pick: Giants

I think the Giants are peaking at just the right time. The Packers defence is not the defence we saw last year. The pass rush has disappeared and the secondary is porous. I think the Giants D does just enough to squeeze out the upset.

 

This week has been the hardest week to pick this year especially from a gambling perspective. Vegas has been getting rolled and I think that is why you see some of the public teams having overinflated lines. I think the best bet on the board is the 49ers, but even then I’m not so sure. Anyway, enjoy the games and good luck if you are laying down the cash.