San Francisco (+4) vs. New Orleans
So the 49’ers are getting more than a field goal at home…let me get this straight – I get the better defense, better special teams, arguably as good of a coach, I get a team that makes no mistakes, I get a team that is significantly better in the front 7 that is allowing less than 11 points a game at home. San Francisco is great at home defensively – now they’re only 16th against the pass, but some of that is overstated because they play in front and teams from behind are obviously trying to catch up. Yes they’ve given up some yards – Michael Vick had over 500, Tony Romo had 472 and Eli had almost 400, but it’s hard to get in the endzone. The clear thing about San Francisco is that you can’t run against them, so you have to throw…what does that mean? Uh oh! They’ve got 42 sacks. They easily led the NFL, by a sizable margin during the regular season, with a +28 turnover differential. San Francisco’s defense all starts with the front 7. Now remember, don’t get caught up in Drew Brees against Alex Smith. New Orleans has no pass rush; San Francisco has a great pass rush – so to some degree, that neutralizes the quarterback edge to the Saints. I’m telling you right now, this is my favourite bet of the weekend. I’m taking the home dog and taking the 4 points, San Francisco beats New Orleans 24-22.
Denver (+14) vs. New England
It’s going to be cold! Tom Brady to me is a better cold weather quarterback than Tim Tebow and I think Belicheck has a coaching edge and the Broncos have lost key personnel over the last 2 weeks. Chris Cooper, full back Spencer Larsen, wide receiver Eric Decker. Denver is not a “play from behind” team. They were the only playoff team to average fewer than 20 points a game and the Patriots averaged 32.1 a game. So I like New England to win this game, but Denver didn’t allow a sack against the Steelers. The Patriots don’t have one defender, now that Andre Carter is out, who could be classified as an upper tier pass rusher. What does that tell me? Tim Tebow, with the better running game, is going to have time to make decisions. When rushed like Buffalo, when rushed like Kansas City…he can struggle. But when given time, Tebow may not be overly efficient or effective, but he won’t make a lot of mistakes. Never forget the first game between these two was largely about Denver putting the ball on the grass deep in their own zone. If Denver does not turn the ball over, I believe the Broncos will keep it close and I just can’t give anybody 14 points. New England 31-21 win, but I’m taking the 14 points. (Check out the rant after this one for a further analysis of this match-up)
Baltimore (- 7 ½) vs. Houston
They’re 18-1 in their last 19 games at their stadium, 8-0 this season, but here’s the thing though; Baltimore’s defense swallows up quarterbacks at home – especially inexperienced quarterbacks at home. T.J Yates has been surprisingly efficient, but let’s not kid ourselves, T.J. Yates in 7 starts – as a backup forced into the starting role….he’s 4-3. Quarterback? Edge to the Ravens. Offensive line? Edge to the Ravens. Defensive line? Edge to the Ravens. Coach? Edge Ravens. The other thing about Houston is that even with Matt Schab and with this running game, they have struggled in the redzone. 69 trips to the redzone by Houston this year yet only 29 times – with those star running backs and with Andre Johnson and Matt Schab…only got 29 TD’s. I just don’t see a lot of scoring in this game and I don’t see the Texans getting into the endzone. I’m going to swallow the 7 to 7 ½ points, Baltimore wins it 27-17 and covering the points.
New York (+7 ½ ) vs. Green Bay
I think this is the toughest game to handicap, I’m glad too that it’s the last one I’m picking because I struggled with this one. Listen, Green Bay is 15-1 for a reason! They’re averaging a league best 35 points a game and that’s with them putting on the brakes in a lot of games midway through the 4th quarter. But if there is one team that can match them, it’s Eli Manning, Victor Cruz and Hakeen Nicks. By the way, Knicks and Cruz combine for almost 2800 receiving yards – and that’s to kind of finding Hakeen Nicks mid to late in the season, that’s when he really started to gel. I think you get a New York team with Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Trattou and Osi Umenyiora will at times make Aaron Rodgers somewhat uncomfortable. Meanwhile, I think Eli will have time to throw. The Packers did not play last week, several starters did not play or play much in the final week, I think there is going to be a little rust. But I can’t get past this: Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers are playing at such a ridiculous level offensively – and the weather is not going to be a huge factor. If you gave me snow, I could see a possible upset, but I don’t see it (according to Green Bay weather predictions). I’m going to go with Green Bay, I’m going to take the points because I think New York and Eli Manning and Coughlin, I just think they are too smart, they’re often a better road team than home team. So I’ll take the points but I’m going to have Green Bay win it, 27-23. So there you go! I went 4-1 last week, 47-35 for the year and I’ve got 3 dogs this week…should be great football! Check out the next rant (become game time) on a further analysis between the Bronco’s and Patriots…round 2!