Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
I got zero wins the first week, and one last week, so let's see if I can't keep the trend going and get to two here. (I'll aim for three in the Super Bowl - (spread, over/under, one prop bet).
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Jets +8 at Colts
The current Jets run reminds me quite a bit of the Giants one just two years ago. A team that was on the verge of missing the playoffs goes on the road to beat a slumping Tampa team in the Wild Card game, stuns what many believed was the toughest team in the conference (Dallas) and then travels to take on a legendary quarterback in the conference title game (Favre). Moreover, like those Giants, the Jets are known for their defense and running game, and merely need their young quarterback to play well in spots but not carry the team. Like the formerly maligned Eli Manning, Mark Sanchez has delivered so far on that count. Of course, no comp is perfect, and going into the dome against Peyton Manning presents different challenges than going into Lambeau in the freezing cold.
A key to this game for both teams is getting off to a good start. The Jets at worst need to keep the game within one score like they did last week, so they can stick with the running game and grind down Indy's smallish defensive front. They also need to avoid a lot of obvious passing downs because the Colts rush the passer well and also play good pass defense. In short, the Jets need to put Mark Sanchez in "hitter's counts" as often as possible. And if/when Sanchez does get into third and longs or finds himself down 7-10 points, he'll need to be at his best, throwing the ball away, taking an occasional sack and even making a couple big plays.
The Colts, on the other hand, will need to put the Jets away the way they did the Ravens with a second touchdown at the end of the first half. That game was closely contested for most of the first 30 minutes, but the late score essentially put the game out of reach. The Jets are similar to the Ravens offensively, though Braylon Edwards, should he hold onto to ball, has more ability to stretch the field than anyone on the Baltimore roster.
The game will likely come down to how effectively Peyton Manning can pick apart the Jets defense with his secondary and tertiary options like Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Dallas Clark because I don't expect Reggie Wayne to succeed where Randy Moss, Andre Johnson and Steve Smith failed. If the Jets force Manning to dink and dunk and drive slowly down the field, they have a better chance of forcing a punt, turnover or field goal and keeping the game within range.
Bottom line - I think the Jets have a good chance to slow the Colts down here and put themselves in a position to win the game late. Eight points should be enough. Back New York.
Colts 21 - 19
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Vikings +3.5 at Saints
Both teams annihliated their division round opponents and affirmed beyond doubt that they were the class of the NFC all along. The problem for the Vikings is they did so at home where they're 9-0, and now have to go on the road where they're only 4-4. The Saints looked like the same team that pasted the Patriots in November the week after New England was life and death with the Colts in Indy, i.e., the best team in the NFL. A 40-year old Brett Favre leading his team to a Super Bowl would be a great story, but the conditions in the noisy Superdome with the blitz in his face won't be good. If the Vikings defense gets sufficient pressure on Drew Brees, and Adrian Peterson keeps the Saints honest, Minnesota can win this game. But Brees gets rid of the ball more quickly than anyone, and Peterson hasn't found room to run since Week 10 against the Lions. New Orleans should get a lead, and Favre could find himself playing in the same conditions Tony Romo did last week. Back the Saints.
Saints 34 - 21
I went 1-3 last week to go 1-7 overall on the playoffs. I was 131-122-3 on the season. From 1999-2008, we were 1308-1140 - not including ties - (53.4 percent).
Article first appeared 1/20/10