Week 17 was a good start to 2011, as I went 11-5 which is what I needed to break .500 for the ninth straight year . It wasn't easy as I was 4-4 in the early games, and had to go 6-1 in the afternoon and root for Seattle +3 at home to pull it out on Sunday night. But somehow it happened, and I can relax and enjoy the playoff matchups for a few weeks. (Of course, that drama and outcome were nothing compared to this guy's, but maybe next year, I'll be in his shoes).
In the past I've done worse on the playoffs than the regular season, and while it could just be a sample size fluke, there might be something fundamentally different about the postseason that makes the standard "buy-low, sell high," sharp/square analysis less applicable. Either way, I'm going to change my approach and just pick the teams I think are better, or getting enough points to make the difference, i.e., I'm going to ignore who's betting on what - at least for this week.
Saints -11 at Seahawks
This line is a lot bigger than I thought it'd be after Sunday night's game. I figured maybe 8.5 at most in Seattle, but it opened at 10.5 and moved to 11 and even 12 in some places. As much as I like the Saints to win decisively, that's a ridiculous amount of points for a road team, especially one that's missing its two best running backs and with its top receiver coming off of knee surgery. Marques Colston practiced fully Wednesday so he should play, but it's not an ideal situation. But I don't like that the Seahawks won as underdogs last week - it's almost as if they've already overachieved, so who cares about this unwinnable game? Of course, the team cares about it, but they can already consider the season a success of sorts, no matter how meager their overall performance was. I really want to say the Seahawks are the value here, but I have to back the Saints who roll.
Saints 33 - 13
Jets +2.5 at Colts
The Jets were the better team all year, and the Colts were life and death at home against the Titans in a must-win game last week, so it's hard to say definitively that they've turned the corner. The one area Indy's improved the last three weeks, though, is in run defense - they shut down the Jaguars, Raiders and Titans - something that bodes badly for the Jets' declining ground attack. That means Mark Sanchez is going to have to play well against Indy's Cover - 2 (which has been uncharacteristically generous of late). Sanchez played well in the playoffs last year, and with Santonio Holmes now in the mix, he has far better weapons. On the flip side, the Jets pass rush hasn't been good, and Rex Ryan is going to have to be very careful blitzing Peyton Manning who typically destroys teams that send extra rushers. In the end, the Jets hang around, but fall just short. Back the Colts.
Colts 30 - 27
Ravens -3 at Chiefs
The Chiefs were 7-1 in Arrowhead, have arguably the best running back on the planet and a top-notch offensive system. And they're getting three points at home. But the Ravens have been the better team all year, beating the Steelers, Jets and Saints, nearly beating the Pats but for some questionable calls and barely losing in Atlanta. Baltimore is playoff tested, has one of the top defenses in the league and simply belongs in the Divisional Playoffs. Back the Ravens.
Ravens 20 - 16
Packers +2.5 at Eagles
Michael Vick peaked about six weeks ago, and while he's still an incredibly dangerous player, capable of singlehandedly destroying a defense, the consistency has not been there of late. The Packers have one of the best defenses in the league, and Aaron Rodgers is nearly as difficult to defend as Vick when he gets in sync. The bottom line - the Packers are the better team, and the points are gravy. Back Green Bay who wins outright.
Packers 27 - 23
We were 11-5 last week to go 126-125-5 on the season. We were 131-122 last year against the spread. From 1999-2009 we've gone 1439-1262 (53.3%, not including ties)