Archive for January, 2020

Conference Championship Picks

January 19th, 2020 Comments off

Uh, yeah. I’ve got no idea what I’m talking about here.

Or at least not if we’re talking about margin of victory.

I went 0-4 picking against the spread in the divisional round. And, sure, I’d make some noise about the fact that I was 3-1 straight up. But that’s because three of the heavy favorite home teams won.

Overall, I stand at 5-3 straight up, 3-5 against the spread in the postseason. Not good no matter how you look at it.

Also, it’s late. So I’m not going to belabor any of this.

Here, in short, is what really, really not to expect in the conference championships

Tennessee (+7) at Kansas City
The Titans ought to win this game. They’ve looked so far like one of those teams that heats up down the stretch and stays hot through the Super Bowl. So far this season, they’ve beaten two teams that were better and more balanced than the one they face here. And they’ve done it by running the ball down the throats of defenses that were considerably better than the Chiefs’ run D. So please count on the Chiefs winning this game based on the fact that I’ve been wrong about most everything so far this postseason. Because I’m taking the Titans. By three.

Green Bay (+7) at San Francisco
Balance wins championships. San Francisco by 14.

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Divisional Round Picks

January 10th, 2020 Comments off

Maybe I should feel some kind of weird pride over having fared better against the spread than straight up in the wild card round.

But I don’t. Because all it means is that I knew the Patriots and Saints weren’t covering 5- and 7.5-point spreads even though I felt confident both would win.

So I landed at 3-1 with the points, whereas I only managed 2-2 straight up.

How exciting for me.

I expect to turn those results around this week. Because road teams by and large don’t win in the divisional round. So I should be able to back into at least three correct picks straight up unless something goes completely haywire. Against the spread, I’m doomed. They all look both too big and not quite big enough to me, which makes 0-4 a distinct possibility.

Here’s what not to expect.

Minnesota (+7) at San Francisco
I don’t think it’s completely crazy to believe the Vikings could pull off a second straight upset road win. The 49ers have been one of the best teams in the league all season, but they had a few rough games down the stretch, and it could happen again. And it’s reasonable to expect the Minnesota D will find a way to keep this one close enough to be decided by an unexpected bounce of the ball late. But I can’t pick that result. San Francisco’s had a couple of weeks to rest and prepare. They may get off to a slow start, but I think they get it together before halftime and hold on for the win. Niners by six.

Tennessee (+9.5) at Baltimore
I think we all know the Titans have overachieved this season. And, you know, every now and again you get one of those teams that just keeps on winning well past the point where it should stop. But the Ravens are just way too complete a team to give this one up. It might still be a game at the start of the second half, but it won’t be by the time the fourth quarter rolls around. Ravens by 17.

Houston (+9.5) at Kansas City
The Texans beat the Chiefs back in week six. And it wouldn’t exactly shock me if they found a way to repeat that success. In fact, if Houston can find a way to keep this game on on the ground, Kansas City could be in real trouble. In the end, though, it’s just really hard to overcome home field in this round. And I expect the Texans’ questionable pass D to be their undoing. Kansas City by four.

Seattle (+4.5) at Green Bay
The Packers would have annihilated the Saints. They’ll hold off the Seahawks. Green Bay by three.

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Wild Card Picks

January 3rd, 2020 Comments off

I managed to stumble into the end of the regular season. And maybe that isn’t so terrible given that it was virtually impossible to know heading into week 17 whether both teams would actually opt to participate in a solid third of the games.

And still, neither 10-6 straight up, nor 8-8 against the spread feel like anything anyone should be happy about. With those results, I hit the end of the season 168-87-1 (.658) picking straight up, and 128-122-6 (.512) picking with the points. Again, not awful, but not exactly glorious.

The good news is that I can’t possibly make more than four wrong picks in either format this weekend.

Here’s what I know about the wild card round: road teams win. Over the last 10 years, 19 of 40 wild card games have gone to the visitors. That’s pretty much half.

Let’s assume the average holds and two road teams are winning this weekend. Which two?

The Seahawks seem a pretty damned safe bet (which means they probably end up losing). And the Vikings are clearly the longest shot of the weekend (which means they probably end up winning.) So it’s simple to play the odds on Sunday. But in the AFC you have two road teams that are clearly capable of winning. And maybe things break right for both.

Chances are, if I try to pick two road teams to win, I’ll end up picking the wrong two. So I’m not gonna bother. I’m just picking the games the way I see them and figuring I’ll probably get them all wrong anyhow.

Here’s what not to expect.

Buffalo (+2.5) at Houston
In an attempt to keep myself from losing focus, I’m going to start with the big three predictives on all of this weekend’s games. Passer rating differential, Bills +3.2; scoring differential, Bills +2.0; takeaway-giveaway differential, Bills +4. In Buffalo, that points to a narrow win for the Bills. In Houston it might be enough to neutralize home field. Or it might not. The temptation is to figure the game comes down to quarterback play, in which case the Texans ought to come out on top. But there’s a solid chance the game is decided by run defense, which would mean the a slight advantage for the Bills (yet again). I think it’s a coin toss. And in that scenario, I can’t bring myself to pick against the home team. Texans by a point.

Tennessee (+5) at New England
As above. Passer rating differential, Patriots +3.8; scoring differential, Patriots +3.9; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +15. Without that last one, it’s a toss-up on any field. With the last one … maybe still a toss-up. The Titans are a good football team. But an inconsistently good one. If they have a good day, they pose a danger to all but the very top teams (and maybe even those if the ball bounces the right way). But I think it’s been a while since they played their best football. And I’m not certain they’d have made the cut if the Texans opened the door for them by taking week 17 off. The Patriots haven’t been turning their best games of late either. But they remain the better squad in this match. And I think when you combine that with postseason experience and home field, it should add up to a New England win. Patriots by a field goal.

Minnesota (+7.5) at New Orleans
The predictive stats say this one’s a good bit closer than the oddsmakers apparently think. Passer rating differential, Saints +2.1; scoring differential, Saints +0.4; takeaway-giveaway differential, Saints +4. And still I have a hard time believing the Vikings can go into New Orleans and keep it competitive. I’ll take the points, partly because the predictive stats tell me to and partly because I think Alvin Kamara is the guy who ends up winning it for the Saints and reliance on the run tends to produce lower scoring games. I won’t exactly be flabbergasted if its a blowout by the home team. But for the sake or registering a pick, I’ll say New Orleans by four.

Seattle (-1.5) at Philadelphia
Passer rating differential, Seahawks +9.2; scoring differential, Eagles +0.8; takeaway-giveaway differential, Seahawks +15. I don’t care where or when this game is played, the Eagles barely belong in the postseason. They’re not advancing past the first round. Seattle by a touchdown.

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