For all the anticipation and excitement that championship weekend in the NFL brings to our living rooms, it’s always a bit depressing to know we have just three games left before the football season comes to an end.
Sure, us degenerates will probably bet the Senior Bowl and Pro Bowl, but for those of you who have the uncanny ability to exercise restraint when it comes to getting down on some action, these final three games offer up our last opportunities to make a score before next September.
Wait, what the hell am I talking about? There’s college and pro hoops and baseball season to fill the void! Ok, I’ve got my fix and suddenly don’t feel so depressed.
What do you say we close out this football season on a high note and then turn our attention to what lies ahead for the next few months?
BALTIMORE RAVENS (13-4, 4-4 road) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (14-3, 8-1 home)
Time: Sunday, 3:00 p.m. ET
Opening line: New England -7/48
Current line: New England -7.5/50
Current betting trends: 66% backing New England, 53% backing the OVER
Baltimore Ravens: 8-8-1 against the spread, OVER is 10-7
New England Patriots: 10-7 against the spread, OVER is 12-5
Interesting trends: The home team is 4-1-1 ATS in the last six meetings between Baltimore and New England, while the Ravens are 1-3-2 ATS in their last six games at New England.
Analysis: Following the conclusion of the Ravens’ 20-13 win over the Houston Texans last Sunday afternoon, BetOnline.com opened the AFC Championship game at New England -6.5, while most shops in Vegas hung NE -7. It didn’t take more than 10 minutes for the early bettors to get down enough action on the Patriots to force bookmakers to adjust to NE -7.5, which is where the number currently stands.
Marquee showdowns such as this won’t feature a lot of movement on the side, but the total is a different story. New England’s defensive performance against the Broncos last Saturday isn’t fooling anyone, as early bettors came out firing on the over and quickly steamed the total from 48 to 50.
“To the casual fan watching last week’s playoff games, you would look at the New England win over Denver and say how impressive the Patriots looked winning 45-10. You would then look at Baltimore and say they were lucky to get by Houston and rookie quarterback T.J. Yates.
“However, if you dig deeper you’ll see that the Patriots were never tested on defense last week, as Tim Tebow never got anything going and posed little threat in the vertical passing game. Baltimore, on the other hand, was a team that was in a battle against a very good defensive ball club that had a very strong running game.
“When you’ve got a good defense and a strong rushing attack, you’re going to stay in ball games. New England hasn’t beaten a team this year with a winning record and this line is just too high. New England’s defense is still suspect and it will get tested severely this week by the Baltimore Ravens. I look for the Baltimore defense to put some pressure on Tom Brady. Brady doesn’t like pressure, as that’s when he starts turning the ball over. Expect a much closer game in New England this week and we’ll look at Baltimore plus the points.”
NEW YORK GIANTS (11-7, 6-3 road) at SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (14-3, 8-1 home)
Time: Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET
Opening line: San Francisco -1/45
Current line: San Francisco -2.5/42
Current betting trends: 64% backing New York, 70% backing the OVER
New York Giants: 10-7-1 against the spread, OVER is 9-8-1
San Francisco 49ers: 13-3-1 against the spread, UNDER is 9-8
Analysis: Two underdogs, two solid defenses, two upset victories. The 49ers shocked most of the public last Saturday afternoon with their 36-32 win over the high-powered New Orleans Saints, while the Giants went into Lambeau Field with an unmistakable swagger and knocked off the defending champion Green Bay Packers, 37-20.
So where would Vegas open this game at? Good question. The LVH SuperBook (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton) opened this game at a pick‘em, while the MGM and Wynn sportsbooks posted SF -1. The early action came pouring in on the home team, which forced bookmakers to adjust the line to SF -2.5.
As for the total, the early bettors steamed the under in a big way and drove the number from 45 all the way down to as low as 42. Remember, these two teams met in San Francisco back on Nov. 13, with the Niners pulling out a 27-20 victory in a hard-fought battle.
“The interesting thing about this matchup is that Super Bowl futures odds for the 49ers carry a slightly higher payout than futures odds for the Giants at most books, meaning oddsmakers must think the Giants are a slightly better team given they have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl, should they get past San Francisco this weekend.”
“Still, home-field advantage is enough to make the Niners a slight favorite in this spot. Two factors that normally work against teams actually seem to work in favor of the Giants: 1) They’re not afraid of playing on the road (haven’t had a losing ATS record away from home in any season since 2003, including a 6-3 ATS mark this year); and 2) they thrive as an away underdog (27-15 ATS since the beginning of the 2004 season).”