We had another decent week, losing only the Ravens game, and by half a point at that, though the Texans were clearly the right side all the way. This week, I feel pretty clear about the AFC game and am probably not qualified to handicap the NFC one with any pretense of professionalism. I'll write it up and pick it anyway, but if I were a judge in a court of law, I'd be forced to recuse myself from the case.
Ravens +7.5 at Patriots
The Patriots rolled so easily over the Broncos last week, you had the feeling they could name the score. Tom Brady threw for five touchdowns in the first half and probably could have gotten to double digits if the Pats had any reason to keep the pedal down. The Ravens, on the other hand, were the inferior team against the Texans, winning mostly because Jacoby Jones made a terrible decision to field a bouncing punt, and T.J. Yates made an ill-advised throw into coverage on first down with plenty of time left and the game on the line. As a result, the Patriots are seven-and-a-half point favorites at home, even though all year the Ravens, Patriots and Steelers were roughly equal teams jockeying for supremacy in the AFC. In my view, last week's results shouldn't have moved the line that much. Tim Tebow and the Broncos had put up several clunkers in recent weeks, while the Texans had been a strong team all season. Expect a close game that either side can win and back Baltimore.
Ravens 27 - 24
Giants +2.5 at 49ers
As I mentioned in the intro, I'm probably not qualified to handicap this game because I'm a Giants fan, and there's no way I could pick the 49ers even if I thought they were a 60-percent "lock" to cover this week. (And 60 percent when it comes to covering is about as close to a lock as you'll get). That said, here's why I like the Giants: (1) They just went into the 15-1 team's building and beat them by 17 points; (2) They barely lost to the Niners the first time they played in San Francisco, and that was with a terrible defense that was missing Michael Boley and Osi Umenyiora and whose secondary was playing far worse than it is now; (3) The Giants defense has allowed zero points to Atlanta and 20 (really 13 if you take away the gift roughing-the-passer call) to the Packers the last two weeks; (4) Eli Manning is playing at the top of his game and has a big edge over Alex Smith; (5) The Giants made a similar run in 2007 and have experience winning big playoff games on the road; and (6) The 49ers are coming off an emotional rollercoaster win against a team that was favored on their home field. It was an all-time great game that took everything they had emotionally. Of course, the 49ers have a great defense, especially against the run, great defensive line and linebackers, an underrated quarterback, a great coach and are playing at home. Still, if the Giants play the way they've played the last four weeks, I think they win outright. Back New York.
Giants 23 - 13
We were 3-1 last week to put us at 6-2 for the playoffs. We were 124-125-7 on the regular season. From 1999-2010 we've gone 1565-1387 (53%, not including ties).