Rob Pizzola

robpizzola

@robpizzola

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Super Bowl week is upon us. No other week has the ability to lure a savvy bettor into making some truly dumb plays the way this one can. You’ll be able to bet on just about everything that happens this weekend, but the important thing to remember is that prop bets come at a significant cost with inflated juice, and they’re usually pretty damn sharp.

Prop bets can be fun, but you don’t want to be the guy at your Super Bowl party holding a stop watch while the national anthem is being sung (Ed note: I’ll gladly hold that stop watch, and a little later on this afternoon we’ll have a post analyzing some, um, less conventional props…yes, analyzing). With that being said, I’ll offer up my top prop bets for Super Bowl Sunday, but first, let’s talk a little about the strategies you’ll want to employ when making prop bets of your own.

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49ers @ Falcons

As soon as Matt Bryant’s second attempt at a game-winning field goal split the uprights last week, I got right on my computer and backed the 49ers this week. I called Atlanta a bunch of chokers last week, and they did all they could to piss that game away. Unfortunately for those of you that didn’t get behind the 49ers early, you’re likely going to be forced to give away an extra point or two this weekend if you want to ride with San Francisco as well.

San Francisco’s dismantling of Green Bay was masked slightly by an early pick-six and a garbage time touchdown that boosted Green Bay’s final score. Outside of that, the 49ers did exactly what they set out to do, and that was keep Aaron Rodgers on the sideline with their running game, while also putting Colin Kaepernick in reasonable down-and-distance situations so that he would have the freedom to do what he wanted to with the football. On that night he leaned toward the run and didn’t disappoint, smashing the rushing record for quarterbacks.

It’s that type of offensive explosiveness that explains why Alex Smith is on the sideline. Some detractors question whether Kaepernick can replicate this success on the road in the Georgia Dome, but the young man already has a win to his credit in the Superdome, so the bright lights in Atlanta shouldn’t affect him. Frankly, I couldn’t care less whether this game was played in Atlanta, San Francisco, or Cucamonga. Everyone’s money is on the 49ers this week because no one believes the Falcons can stop Kaepernick, and with good reason. In three combined games against Atlanta this season, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson combined to throw for 887 yards and six touchdowns, while also rushing for 262 yards and three additional scores, with only one total turnover in those three games.

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Ravens @ Broncos

A rough way to start the weekend’s football action, as this is by far the least intriguing matchup on the card. We saw these teams play less than a month ago, and it wasn’t pretty. The Ravens hosted that matchup, and they’ll now have to go to Denver for this one. The elevation could be an issue for an aging Baltimore defense, as the team makes the trip to Mile High for the first time since 2006.

If the eyeball test isn’t enough for you, there’s this little thing about Peyton Manning owning the Ravens. Peyton began his career with a pair of losses to the Ravens (the most recent of which came in 2001), and he’s followed those up by ringing off nine straight wins against them, two of which came in the playoffs. The average margin of victory in those games was 14.0 points.

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Well, Wildcard Weekend was a dud. I guess that was to be expected when teams like the Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings make the playoffs. Shame on anyone who cheered for those two teams down the stretch this season (unless you’re a fan of those either of those teams, of course—loyalty comes ahead of viewing pleasure).

Anyways, without further ado, here were my thoughts on the Wildcard Weekend games from this past weekend.

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Bowl Records

Webster (16-13-2)

Pizzola (16-14-1)

Papa (15-14-2)

Bottero (11-19-1)

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Well, the end of Bowl season is finally upon us, and that means that the BCS National Championship game is here. Three of the four of us finished in the green with our picks (two of four if you’re counting units instead of record), but even the lowest of the low (Gino Bottero) have a chance to redeem themselves with a winning selection in the most important game of the college football season. Here we go.

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Bengals @ Texans

A month or so ago it would have been difficult to imagine the Texans playing this weekend, let alone playing against the Bengals again, giving away the same 4.5 points that they did a year ago with T.J. Yates playing under center. Wins in seven of eight for the Bengals and losses in three of four for the Texans led to the teams meeting again to open the AFC playoff schedule. Houston had a stranglehold on the No. 1 seed in the AFC until they pissed it away down the stretch. Now they have to play a streaking Cincinnati team that should be able to exploit some of their weaknesses.

Defensive woes plagued the Texans in the final two months of the season, but the bigger concern may be their offense, which has taken a big step backward. Arian Foster runs the show, and he could be wearing down after an unhealthy number of touches over the last two seasons. Outside of a couple games against Indianapolis’ lousy rush defense, Foster failed to rush for more than 3.5 yards per carry in five of six games in the second half of the season. Whether the blame for this belongs to Foster or the Texans’ offensive line which isn’t blocking the way it used to, the fact remains that the team has had to rely on Matt Schaub more than they would like.

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Bowl Records:

Pizzola (14-11-1)

Webster (14-11-1)

Papa (13-12-1)

Bottero (9-16-1)… #AmateurHour

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Allstate Sugar Bowl – Florida vs. Louisville

  • Consensus Line: Florida -14, total 46.5
  • Public Action: 68% on Florida, 78% on the over

Pizzola: I have to grab the points with Louisville here. Florida boasts a solid defense but their offense leaves much to be desired, so I have a tough time seeing them pull away from the Cardinals in this one. The Gators struggled to score in most of their non-conference games this season, including games against Jacksonville State, UL-Lafayette, and Bowling Green. Louisville’s rush defense is pretty average and they won’t completely shut down Florida’s rushing attack, but they’ll stack the box and hope to force some third-and-longs. The Cardinals pass defense is strong and they won’t fear Gators’ quarterback Jeff Driskel who was extremely inconsistent this season. Driskel was sacked 33 times in 216 dropbacks this year (13% sack rate), which means the Louisville pass rush may be capable of making a game-changing play. This game stays within single digits. Louisville +14

Webster: Louisville is clearly outmatched in this one as they look to snap the Gators streak of four straight bowl game wins. Early in the season it looked like the Cardinals might crash the BCS party but eventually tough losses to Syracuse and UConn derailed their hopes. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville’s quarterback and the Big East Player of the Year is really something to watch. His success or failure against this Florida defense; the defense that Louisville head coach Charlie Strong helped build, will determine how this one goes. With that being said, I’ll be taking the points in this one based on a shaky Gator offense that ranked 103rd in the nation in total yards. Louisville +14

Bottero: Spreads this big are normally reserved for teams with better offenses than the Gators. Teddy Bridgewater has the seventh-best passer rating in the nation. Florida’s fifth-ranked defense will give him some trouble, but the Cardinals will put up enough points to make a 14-point margin unreachable for the Gators. Louisville has played close games all year, with seven of their last 10 contests decided by a touchdown or less, and this one should be no different. Charlie Strong will have his boys motivated as he faces off with his former employer. Louisville +14

Papa: Florida scored only 33 touchdowns on offense this year so it might be difficult to lay two touchdowns with them in this game; but then again, this is the Big East we’re talking about. Florida is a team that likes to run the ball, and they should find success against a Louisville defense that is weak against the run. Louisville has a great wide receiver corps and a decent quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater but this offense hasn’t produced enough in the running game to be a threat to the Gators defense. The Cardinals defense likely won’t be able to stop Mike Gillislee and the Gators running attack in this contest, so I’m going to lay the two touchdowns. Florida -14

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