Earlier today Joe Fortenbaugh fed your degenerate urges, and now I’m here to make sure that with just three games to go, your obsession is at an appropriate level. If you haven’t canceled crucial Sunday plans yet or called off your Super Bowl Sunday wedding, then you’re doing it wrong. Generally I don’t take kindly to being propositioned, but I can tolerate it if I can turn a profit, so let’s play some props again.
Last week we sifted through the divisional weekend props at Bodog.ca in search of intrigue. Sure, making easy money is nice because anything that’s easy is nice, but easy isn’t interesting. We want a challenge, and nothing is more challenging than analyzing the likelihood of a Tim Tebow-Josh McDaniels hand shake.
Specifically we focused on Tebow props last week, and I took the under on 190.5 passing yards for the option quarterback, saying that he’d miss that number, but only slightly. I was right after he finished with 136, but my prediction that Tebow would rush for 60 yards was off, and by far more than just slightly (he rushed for 13).
This week the intrigue continues, and much of it is provided by Joe Flacco.
The knock against the Patriots here is obvious. Their secondary is a mess, and it wasn’t tested at all last week by Tebow after they allowed 293.9 yards per game during the regular season. But the Baltimore offense centers around Ray Rice regardless of the opponent’s secondary, or at least it should if Cam Cameron is thinking clearly and logically Sunday.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Rice will be getting the ball only when Flacco places it in his gut. Yesterday we analyzed the Patriots and their weakness against running backs who are effective pass catchers, and if you take the over on 240.5 yards here, you’re betting on more than just Flacco’s passing ability. You’re riding on Rice and his elusiveness out of the backfield too.
However, the under still remains the smart play, even with the leaky holes in New England’s secondary, and Flacco’s average of 225.6 yards per game this year. That average is inflated by three 300-yard outbursts which are now outliers. Without those three games, Flacco’s average drops to 190, and he had six games with less than 170 yards.
Flacco faced mostly strong passing defenses this year. The Cardinals were the weakest (ranked 17th), and they were the opponent for one of his 300-yard games. But his inaccuracy while under pressure when he’s trying to maneuver in the pocket and set up for a deep throw is concerning, especially after Houston’s five sacks last week that contributed to Flacco completing only 51.9 percent of his passes. The Patriots weren’t far behind Houston in sacks, finishing with 40 to the Texans’ 44.
That pressure could also lead to picks, another area where the Patriots excel. New England was second behind Green Bay in the regular season with 23 interceptions and Kyle Arrington finished tied for the league-lead with seven picks, so this should be an easy decision…
Upon further review, though, this isn’t quite so easy. Flacco had six games this year with zero interceptions, and one of those games was against San Francisco, a secondary that tied New England’s regular-season interception total. Two more were against Pittsburgh, a defense that may not have created as many turnovers, but was still the league’s best against the pass.
I’ll take the over here, but I’m doing it with only mild confidence because of both Flacco’s lack of turnovers against elite ball-hawking defenses, and the likelihood that Cameron rolls with Rice, minimizing his quarterback’s opportunities to kill Baltimore’s Super Bowl aspirations.
Here’s another play that you won’t be doing with much confidence, but the minimal risk is worth the substantial reward…
Brady’s averaged just 11.5 interceptions per season over his 10-year career. That hasn’t mattered against Ed Reed, because in just his four games against the Pats he’s picked Brady off three times.
Even a hobbled Reed is still one of the league’s elite safeties. The lack of confidence in this play simply stems from the thin odds associated with projecting an interception by a quarterback whose mistakes are scarce. But combine the payout here with Reed’s history against Brady, and the decision to roll with Reed should be easy.
Lastly, a wager on our infatuation with Peyton Manning…
Fox has the Giants-49ers game, and last year during the Super Bowl with the buzz around Brett Favre’s cell phone photography session at its peak, Troy Aikman and Joe Buck went way under on Favre references.
The instinct here is to take the over, thinking that with Manning’s little brother at quarterback and his father no doubt in the crowd, the Manning aura and the most compelling storyline of the offseason will be too strong for Buck and Aikman to resist.
But Buck is far too boring, and Aikman’s English is restricted to a string of clichès, making a sustained conversation about Peyton difficult.