The first week of the NFL playoffs this season is one where sports gamblers are going to make a ton of money or lose a ton. There is no in-between with this set up. I have no science or fancy math to back this up, but the old adage that looks can be deceiving is especially true this week.
The reason is simple. The four home teams are all underdogs. Home teams in the playoffs tend to win, a quick google search gave me a couple articles that told me home teams win something like 70% in the NFL playoffs.
Read the rest after the jump!
In 2004 and 2005, the road teams won 3 of 4 games on wildcard weekend. So, it happens, but really, is it comfortable to bet against a home team?
Starting with the basics, the four road teams are favored because they are either the obviously better football team (Falcons, Colts) or a crazy football team that has no idea what they are doing from week to week (Eagles, Ravens).
Okay, so the Ravens were 11-5 and obviously knew what they were doing from week to week especially when compared to the Eagles. However, I used the term crazy and there is no way I’m letting that team get on the non-crazy list.
Philadelphia Eagles (-3) at Minnesota Vikings
Like I said before, the Eagles are out of their collective mind. They absolutely demolished the Cowboys last week and after the game talked about how great it was that everything broke in their favor and they had a chance at the playoffs. They mentioned this because having that shot at the playoffs inspired them.
Yet, one week prior when they had that same shot they scored THREE points against the Washington Redskins in a game where they basically said, “The hell with the playoffs.”
There are two reasons why the Eagles win this game and one fairly relevant reason why they lose.
The fairly relevant reason why they lose is what I laid out above. The whole three points in a meaningful game against Washington is significant. Tons of people are not only looking at them to beat the Vikings, but to surprise someone in the playoffs. They could lose or tie anyone in the league on any given Sunday. The word crazy is definitely appropriate for a team that has included in their season a tie to an awful Cincinnati team and a loss to Baltimore that included Donovan McNabb getting benched. They had a couple losses early in the season based on not picking up first downs on 4th and short.
You don’t tend to get to the playoffs with that string in there and then the debacle in Washington on top of that. They are most definitely barely in.
The first reason they should win is obvious. Andy Reid loves to throw the ball and the Eagles tend to have some really good offensive games, then some clunkers, then resurgence in December based on a balanced attack and realizing they can’t pass all the time.
Well, they are indoors this week and the elements don’t come into play. McNabb and the passing attack are set with prime conditions and should be able to produce.
Second, the defense right now is incredible. In four December games the defense has given up two touchdowns. One was an 18 yard drive by the Redskins after a turnover and the other was against the Giants when the Eagles led by two scores late and played prevent defense that allowed the Giants to score, but killed the clock. This defense is peaking right now.
Should I even bother talking about the Vikings? Adrian Peterson is good, they have terrible quarterbacks. They let the Lions hang around and stay close with them. Twice.
Seriously, the Lions. In the two games against the Lions they won by a total of six points. The first win against the Lions was a 12-10 debacle that they won because of Dan Orlovsky running out of bounds in the end zone without anyone really that close to him and a pass interference call against the Lions that probably wasn’t pass interference. Those games were the two moments in which the Lions were closest to victory. I’m not saying that to spoil the fun of an 0-16 team, just saying that a playoff team shouldn’t struggle with an 0-16 team.
Atlanta (-1) at Arizona
Arizona is terrible.
Indianapolis (-1) at San Diego
If San Diego just barely beats Denver, then no one is really talking about them the way they are this week. But, they crushed Denver and now LT IS BACK!
Give me a break. They are the most poorly coached team in the playoffs and those teams usually don’t tend to do much. On top of that, LT wasn’t back for long, as he has missed three straight practices and is listed as questionable for Saturday. He’ll play, but really, we’re closer to another performance where he struggles, sits on the sidelines and Deion Sanders questions his heart than we are to LT ripping off 150 yards and a couple TDs.
The best argument for the Chargers is that 6 of their 8 losses were against playoff teams. So, they are 8-8, but if their schedule wasn’t so damn tough, maybe they’d look respectable? Not really, it just means they are 0-6 against playoff teams. It might shock them, but they are playing a playoff team this weekend.
The Chargers are pretty much the Cowboys, but in a weaker division that allowed them to slip into the playoffs despite being not so good. Insert your own joke about Rivers being Tony Romo without the gossip page stories here.
As for their opponent? They are well coached, already beat the Chargers, have a well balanced team (offense-defense) and Peyton Manning.
You know how the Chargers are hot with those four wins in a row? Well, the Colts have put together nine in a row. When they sat at 3-4 and the playoffs began to look in doubt, this team rattled off those nine wins to make sure they got to the playoffs. When the Chargers got to 3-4 they went 1-4 in their next five and got in the playoffs because another team completely folded.
Atlanta (-1) at Arizona
Seriously, you know, it does help to try and run the football in the NFL.
Baltimore (-3.5) at Miami
This is the one game where I probably feel the least confident about saying that they will win. The other three seem obvious to me and the one thing that will get in the way of those other three teams is the obstacle of playing on the road.
That said, I really like the Ravens in this one. It just, well, there’s something weird about the Dolphins that doesn’t really allow me to accurately gauge how good I think they are.
Quickly about the Ravens, the defense is an obvious strength for the Ravens, and Flacco has been better than you could probably expect at QB.
The Dolphins got to the playoffs with a wind up schedule of: St. Louis, Buffalo, San Francisco, Kansas City and the Jets. Not exactly a tough team in there other than the Jets who needed a ton of help to get in. They split losses to the Patriots, they routed them early when the Pats didn’t know their direction and then got crushed by them later on. They had wins over the Seahawks and Raiders by a total of 4 points. At home.
The Dolphins lost at home to the Ravens once already, as well.
Everything about this game tells me the Ravens will crush these fools. But, at the same time, of the home teams, all of which I dislike, this team might be the most resilient or of necessity team in the bunch. You can’t really rip on 11 wins a whole lot. All of the other home teams have less than 11. Arizona with 9, the Vikings with 10 in an awful division, the Chargers with 8.
11 is that threshold where a team starts to separate themselves from just being a playoff team, but a team that has a chance to get some work done in the playoffs. That, coupled with their home field advantage, makes them an interesting team for this week.
But, fuck it, Ed Reed is gonna light some suckers up.
Atlanta (-1) at Arizona
This game should have a ton of points. So, I’m not saying Arizona has no shot. They are at home and should be able to throw the ball a ton and are going against a rookie quarterback. All I am saying is that they are not very good.
I might be bitter because I had Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald on my fantasy team and well, that performance against the Patriots came in the fantasy playoff semi-finals.
But, then again, I might not be bitter as they got crushed by Philly, Minnesota and the Patriots down the stretch.
And, if this helped you gamble money on any of these games, you’re crazy. This column is only good for the comments come Sunday around 8pm where people can come rip me when all of the home teams prevail.No tags for this post.