2016 NFL Championship Week Bettor’s Guide

2016 NFL Championship Week Bettor’s Guide
M.D. Wright

Championship weekend, where the stakes are high, while Vegas and individual bookmakers either make a killing or get killed. We’ve gotten absolutely KILLED on spreads in the postseason, which isn’t all that unheard of, but many of the playoff games have gone against trends thus far, and, if that continues, the two road underdogs will win this week. Let’s dig in.

Last Week:
SU: 2-2
ATS: 1-3

SU: 4-4
ATS: 1-7

Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons
The Georgia Dome
Atlanta, Georgia
Sunday, January 22, 2017
3:05 PM EST
My Call: GB +6
Over/Under: Over 60

The final game in the Georgia Dome, and they promise it will be loud (thereby opening up themselves to allegations of pumping in noise again). This will be a shootout, and for those who like watching offenses march up and down the field unimpeded by defenses incapable of offering resistance, this will be your game to take the over and keep it moving. A few things, however:

Green Bay expects to have Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson back for this game. Nelson’s probably going to get a shot or two in order to play, and it will be palpable to watch and see if he can finish the game (ribs) or how effective he can be at all. Busted ribs makes simple things such as breathing a task, much less playing wide receiver with several defenders looking to take your head off every time you catch a pass. Additionally, Geronimo Allison and Morgan Burnett were limited in practice and are true game-time decisions. At this stage of the game, it would not be wise to bet against Aaron Rodgers, regardless, although the spate of injuries could be finally catching up to Green Bay. Every one of their top five wide receivers is banged up, and that includes Randall Cobb, who just returned from a late season injury for the Wild Card two weeks ago, and Jeff Janis, who was nursing an injury, as well. Burnett’s absence, should he miss the game, would be critical.

Atlanta’s generally healthy, although they will miss Adrian Clayborn. Vic Beasley is the only legitimate threat of a pass rusher, although Dwight Freeney was kept on ice for the most part during the regular season so that he could rev it up in the playoffs. He will command attention, but he will likely only play one-fifth of the defensive snaps for the Falcons.

Green Bay may be able to get away with playing zone to neutralize big plays by Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel, but, as is always the case in playoff games, 3rd down offense and defense are the determining factors, and this is where having both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman benefits Atlanta. Despite the plethora of weapons and a young, emerging defense that has appeared to turn the corner and knowing their roles in Dan Quinn’s Seattle-based defense, it is just not a smart move to bet against Aaron Rodgers right now. Vic Beasley will have a say (at times) however.

Green Bay                      38
Atlanta                           34

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots
Gillette Stadium
Foxborough, Massachusetts
Sunday, January 22, 2017
6:40 PM EST
My Call: PIT +6
Over/Under: Over 50

The Over/Under is sketchy, because this could be a defensive battle for 2 1/2 quarters, and then a deluge of offense, or it could be a shootout from the get-go. Neither defense is really that good, although you have to give the edge to Pittsburgh. New England — in this game — is facing only their second legitimate (or third, if you want to consider Carson Palmer or Tyrod Taylor as “legitimate”) quarterback all season; and they lost that game (Russell Wilson, Seattle) and also lost to Taylor’s Bills. Add in that the Cardinals were in a season-long flux, a game that Arizona absolutely should have defeated New England, and most of the inflated defensive statistics for New England are just that: fluff. When they face good quarterbacks, which they will with Ben Roethlisberger, they are a below average defense.

Now with that in mind, all the excuses that were not heard when New England was winning are mounting: “Gronkowski’s out for season” or “Amendola’s just coming back, he’s rusty”, “Bennett’s injured and been a disappointment for weeks” or “Alls Brady has is Edelman and White.”

But we’ll hear none of it. Every team has its share of injuries to key players. As for the players who will play, New England does not match up favorably against Pittsburgh in any facet, but execution is key. Pittsburgh can be sloppy with the ball, and they must be prepared to face a good number of blitzes and exotic coverages as they want to take away Le’Veon Bell’s rushing attack, and make passing for Roethlisberger a confusing task as frequently as possible. Roethlisberger is prone to a a forced throw or two, or running into a sack while attempting to hit a home run play, and must avoid these in this game. Tom Brady will be well-acquainted with Ryan Shazier by the end of this game (we’ll predict that Shazier will get flagged for a roughing or personal foul for a legal hit at some point in this game, which may lead to points for New England on a drive). New England’s defense is as mediocre as it gets, despite the deceptive statistics. Pittsburgh’s overall speed on defense can mask a number of mistakes, but guys like Artie Burns and Mike Mitchell are going to get a lot of work in this game. Eye discipline is integral and those guys (weak side, which is generally Edelman’s side) are key to Pittsburgh stifling New England’s relatively one-dimensional offense.

We think they will.

Pittsburgh                   27
New England              24


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