2011 Week 20 Picks

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May 122012
 

 

New England Patriots 34 Baltimore Ravens 20 Lock Pick/Survivor Pick

Pick against spread: New England -7.5 (-110) 1 unit

Tom Brady is angry. That should be all you need to know here. As soon as I read this article, I knew my Broncos +13.5 bet was in trouble last week and sure enough, Brady came out and had not only his best career playoff game, but arguably the best playoff game ever, throwing for a playoff record 6 touchdowns, including a playoff record 5 in the first half, completing 26 of 34 for 364 yards, those 6 scores, and one early pick. After he threw the pick, he was visibly enraged even though the Patriots already had a 14-0 lead. The Broncos scored on the next position and Brady was almost perfect from that point on, leading the Patriots to a 45-10 win over the Broncos.

Brady rage had very little if anything to do with Tim Tebow hogging the spotlight than it had to do with the fact that he’s 34, hasn’t won a ring in almost 8 years, has lost 3 straight playoff games, and has an unreliable at best defense supporting him. That’s immense pressure and anyone who has watched Brady in his career knows he thrives under immense pressure because of his amazing competitiveness. The article above says it all, Brady’s intensity goes up a level from high to super high in the playoffs and with the special situations surrounding this season and what a 4th ring would mean to his legacy (he’d go from one of the best, to THE best of all-time), I think Brady’s intensity could be at an all-time high. It’s gone from super high to off the charts. That’s just how Brady is. Good thing football exists or he might be classified as psychotic.

The Ravens have a good defense, but the Patriots are scoring 30+ in this one. No team is going to stop them from doing that. People like to cite Baltimore’s win over the Patriots in the playoffs a couple years as a reason why the Ravens can pull the upset here again, but there are some key differences between this game and that one. For one, Brady was not quite this intense and motivated. That’s a key. He’s in full on eff you mode.

Two, Brady didn’t have Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Rob Gronkowski, or Aaron Hernandez in that one. In 2009, if you take out Welker, who got hurt, Brady’s top 5 leading receivers that year were a secretly washed up Randy Moss, Ben Watson, Julian Edelman, Sam Aiken, and Kevin Faulk. Of those 5, only Edelman and Faulk are still on the roster. Edelmen is a special teamer and defensive back. Faulk is a running back. He’s got much better receivers this time around.

Thirdly, Joe Flacco has regressed since then. He’s had his moments this year, but overall this has been his worst season as a pro and he’s had some downright dreadful games. The Ravens have been so inconsistent this season for that reason, I don’t know how anyone can trust them. There’s also no guarantee that Cam Cameron will remember to use Ray Rice in this one. Rice destroyed the Patriots in 2009, but Cam Cameron is a moron. Rice has received 13 or fewer carries 5 times this season (1-4 SU).  Besides, the Patriots run defense is a little better this season.

Fourthly, in the end, I’m calling the Patriots loss in 2009 to the Ravens a fluke anyway. If the Ravens rush for 200+ yards again and Brady commits 4 turnovers in his own territory again, yeah, the Ravens will win, but I just don’t see that happening. The Patriots will be way more prepared for the Ravens this time around, not to mention more talented, and Brady is definitely using that loss a few years ago as motivation (as if he needed anymore).

So yeah, the Patriots are going to score 30+ especially since Baltimore couldn’t even get a single sack against TJ Yates last week. That means the Ravens need at least 24+ to cover. While I don’t think the Ravens can win this game because I don’t trust Flacco in a shootout, if Flacco has a solid game (which he’s capable of) and if Ray Rice has a good game and Cam Cameron remembers to use him (also possible), the Ravens can definitely score in the mid to high 20s against a Patriots defense that has, overall, not been so great this season. There are also two trends that work against New England, First, Baltimore is 8-3 ATS as a dog or favorite of less than 7 this year, 6-1 ATS as a dog or a favorite of less than 5.5 this year. Second, teams are 2-10 ATS since 2002 after scoring 40+ points in the playoffs.

For those reasons, I’m only putting 1 unit on the Patriots. However, I love getting the Patriots -1.5 in a teaser because I think they’re almost a lock to win here. I mean the Ravens could have lost to Houston if Houston didn’t turn the ball over 4 times last week. Brady won’t do that. Yates was able to move the ball some last week and if the Ravens can’t get to Brady this week, and even if they can a little, Brady should still carve them up. I’ll have more on that teaser later.

 

New York Giants 24 San Francisco 49ers 17 Upset Pick (+120)

Pick against spread: NY Giants +2.5 (-110) 3 units

The Giants and 49ers met in the regular season and the 49ers won that game 27-20 at home, where this game will be played. However, there are several reasons why I do not feel that will be the case this time. For one, the Giants didn’t necessarily get outplayed by the 49ers last time. It was a 7 point game, but it was 3-3, 9-6, and 13-12 after each of the first 3 quarters with the 49ers pulling away late and halting an Eli Manning game tying drive late. The Giants also won the time of possession battle by 9 minutes and the total yardage battle by 90 yards.

Secondly, the Giants are playing much better now than they were back then. This is the best the Giants have played all season and probably since their Super Bowl run in 2007. Their pass rush is healthy and their defense has been much better of late. They can get to the quarterback with 4 pass rushers and drop 7 into coverage on every play, especially on 3rd down and obvious passing downs where the Giants get after the quarterback with 4 defensive ends. They couldn’t quite do that last time.

Defensively, they’ve allowed an average of 12.5 points per game in their last 4, all wins, even though they’ve played a generally good group of quarterbacks, Mark Sanchez, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, and, of course, Aaron Rodgers. In that span, they have 17 sacks and countless pressures. The 49ers offensive line is their biggest weakness. Alex Smith really struggled when the Saints blitzed last week. He did have those 2 great late drives, but other than that, the 49ers might not have had more than 3-7 points if not for 5 Saints turnovers, 2 on special teams, the flukiest kind of turnovers there are. As bad as Smith was against the blitz last week, imagine how it can be when the Giants can get the same kind of pressure WITHOUT blitzing.

Thirdly, the 49ers are coming off an emotional win as a young team. The Broncos were in this same situation last week after beating the Steelers. We all saw what happened to them the next week. There’s a reason why young, inexperienced teams, specifically inexperienced quarterbacks, never advance far into the playoffs. If they manage to win one game, the celebration is almost always too much for them to overcome the next week. The Giants are coming off an emotional win as huge underdogs, BUT they’re a veteran team who knows how to handle this. They had 4 straight emotional wins as underdogs in 2007 and still won the Super Bowl. I trust them in this situation more than I do the 49ers.

The Giants are playing their best football right now. Their defense is playing amazing, Eli Manning is still playing at an elite level, throwing to 4 different receivers (Nicks, Cruz, Manningham, Ballard) who are all healthy. Their running game and offensive line have even come together. Their back 7 is still their Achilles heel, but their front 4 is so good, especially on passing downs, that I don’t expect Smith to be able to take advantage of their less than great back 7.

Even so, this could be a close game. The 49ers have lost by more than 3 points just once this season. They know how to play it close. However, even though what Smith did last week was amazing, leading the team essentially to 2 straight game winning drives, I still like Eli in the clutch more. He’s more experienced and he’s led his team on more game winning drives than anyone else in the league this year. In what could be a close game, I like getting points with the more clutch of the two quarterbacks. For that and other reasons, I really like the Giants this week. This would be a 5 unit bet, but the following teaser made a lot more sense to me. Here we go.

Teaser: New England -1.5, NY Giants +8.5 5 units 550 to win 500

Basically, these are this week’s scenarios (FootballFanSpot.com is not responsible for any brain related injuries associated with trying to understand the following).

(4 numbers: did teaser hit, did Giants cover, did Giants win, did Patriots cover)

New England loses or wins by 1 and San Francisco wins by 3+ -550 -330 -100 -110 (-1090)

New England loses or wins by 1 and Giants lose by 2 or less -550 +300 -100 -110 (-460)

New England loses or wins by 1 and Giants win -550 +300 +120 -110 (-240)

New England wins by 2-7 and San Francisco wins by 9+ -550 -330 -100 -110 (-1090)

New England wins by 2-7 and San Francisco wins by 3-8 +500 -330 -100 -110 (-40)

New England wins by 2-7 and San Francisco wins by 1-2 +500 +300 -100 -110 (+590)

New England wins by 2-7 and NY Giants win +500 +300 +120 -110 (+810)

New England wins by 8+ and San Francisco wins by 9+ -550 -330 -100 +100 (-880)

New England wins by 8+ and San Francisco wins by 3-8 +500 -330 -100 +100 (+170)

New England wins by 8+ and San Francisco wins by 1-2 +500 +300 -100 +100 (+800)

New England wins by 8+ and NY Giants win +500 +300 +120 +100 (+1020)

Basically, if the Patriots cover and the Giants win, I get a lot of money. If the Patriots don’t win or the 49ers win big, I lose a lot of money, with certain scenarios in between. This just made more sense to me given that I’m significantly more sure the Patriots win than cover and I highly doubt San Francisco wins by more than 8 points.

 

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