NFL Championship Sunday
The theme of this year is how bad, some even say historically, the NFL was this year. As we said in our last podcast: it was more “bottom heavy” than “top heavy”. All 4 teams left, you could argue, really got here not because they are these great teams; all 4 have serious flaws. But they got here because they most likely had the easiest path of resistance on the path to the Super Bowl, especially in the last 6 games. However, since all of these teams have had easy roads, its hard to pick out who is the “sneaky” good team that maybe didn’t have a 14-2 record but who competed against the league’s top tier better than most. Historically, these teams who get deep into the playoffs with shitty schedules, don’t do well, as shown in this article.
The Patriots, the AFC’s #1 seed, had the 6th worst schedule in the modern era. Pittsburgh’s last 6 opponents this year were 14 games UNDER .500, batting at a .433 clip. Atlanta’s NFC South was absolute dogshit this year with the other 3 teams having a 22-25 record, and Aaron Rodgers carved up some incredibly scoring challenged teams in the NFC North (combined record 20-28) at the end of this year for his historical run he’s on (25 TD, 1 INT in his last 9 games). Usually, teams who get to this point thanks more to the lack of strength of the opponent rather than their own, it usually bites them in the ass in the end. This is why the 2015 Broncos, in retrospect, were so over looked: yes, their offense barely skated by, but their defense’s prowess vs some of the best teams of the league were (and should of been, for yours truly) an indicator of the fact they were the best team at the end of the year because they were BEATING the best teams (and not the Panthers, who we found out were basically a bunch of 15-1 front runners vs a soft NFC South and a weak NFC last year).
What does this mean? Two things:
A) In the years coming, unless the league does something stupid like extend the schedule by 2 games, or the playoff spot by one game (which changes these bets entirely for reasons I won’t even get into because it would take 1000 words), I think in the middle of the year when we are looking at division props, we should cherry pick not the teams who we think will necessarily WIN their divisions based on talent/health/form, but those based on simply by looking at the schedules and making that choice on the merits of those teams’ schedule strength .
B) I think this will account for close games at the end of the year and especially today, because there really isn’t one cut away team in these fields but a mash of top tier teams who all have flaws. It goes to demonstrate that the “age of parity” in the NFL is pretty much kaput, IMO.
And here are the picks:
Packers +4 (+105)
One theme in this year’s playoff: the team with the better QB, often wins the game. Aaron Rodgers has been on absolute fire in the last 10 games, and the Packers on a roll heading into the last game at the historical Georgia Dome, whose biggest memory is when Goldberg beat Hulk Hogan for the WCW title in 1998. Rodgers does well in domes, and his offenses have put up 52 and 33 in his last 2 games here. The team has come down with a locker room sickness, but they should feel a bit better today as both DeVante Adams and Jordy Nelson are expected to play. Do I think the Packers *win* outright? That’s a hard sell because Atlanta’s offense is so good and Green Bay’s defense nearly blew a 18 point lead vs Dallas last week. But considering the Falcons’ history of choking in these spots, including blowing a 14 point halftime lead vs the 49ers in 2013, taking the Green Bay ML isn’t a bad play here, either. The talk of the week has been the O/U, set at 61. I’m taking the under after seeing these stats on today’s NFL ref. I’ve seen many sharps take the under as that is the biggest O/U in playoff history, and the public is loving the over with both the league’s highest scoring offense (Atlanta) vs it’s hottest QB (Rodgers). The Under is probably the play there as games do tend to get a little tighter and closer at the end of the year, and considering the fact that we are also getting juice here, I say take the Packers and the points is the safe play. Green Bay 30, Atlanta 27 is my final score here.
Did you know that the Pats are two covers away from being tied for the best record against the spread in a single year (17-2)? That was by the 1989 SF 49ers, the greatest team I Have ever seen IMO. The lines they covered were far greater than the Pats one’s today, as it was common to see double digit lines in the 80s and 90s. Not so much today, and not so much for this Pats team, who in their gutsy cover last week showed some serious flaws in WR depth, interior offensive line play, and just turnovers in general. Granted, the Texans had the league (statistically) #1 defense, and it showed as DE Javeon Clowney really showed us something in these playoffs. That being said, the Steelers’ come in with a rash of injuries as well, especially at WR and TE, and that inpacted their red zone output in a gritty win in KC last week where they kicked 6 FGs and still won the damn game vs KC’s pathetic offense. The Steelers have shown road toughness down the stretch, and I think they can keep it close and cover but I just think the combination of Big Ben’s season long high ankle sprain, which has effected his accuracy, as well as the Steelers’ penchant of settling for field goals, will kill them in the end. I wish I could bet a prop where when the Pats turn the ball over, that the Steelers settle for a FG on the ensuing drive. I’m also taking a prop: Steelers Over FG 1.5 -135. We could have a miracle cover in this game. If the Pats had Gronk, I’d pick them to cover here……but with Brady being at home, 9-2 vs PIT in his career, and a healthy Julian Edelman, it should be enough to carry the Pats to the Super Bowl. Pats 27, Steelers 23.