Saturday Service Plays
Saturday Service Plays
Packers -8 (1 unit) Seahawks last played in GB in 2006 and lost 23-17 and the Packers were not as strong then as they are now. 13 pt ave margin at home and home field is a great advantage for Brett Favre's team in this spot. Green Bay 28 Seattle 17.
Patriots -13 (1 unit) Jaguars got their hard fought victory on the road last week and Patriots have owned the Jags in this series and last won 28-3 at home in 2006. Patriots receivers will riddle the Jag secondary, especially if the Jags key on Moss, as Gaffney & Watson could have big days, along with a healthier Maroney. New England 34 Jacksonville 14.
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NFL Best Bet Sides
3 Star Selection
GREEN BAY (-7.5) 33 Seattle 14
Seattle played well last week in beating Washington 35-14, but two long interception returns for touchdowns broke open a close game and the Seahawks are still barely better than an average team overall. Seattle is just 0.1 yards per play better than average offensively with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and WR Deion Branch on the field (Hasselbeck struggled in the 4-plus games without Branch) and the Seahawks’ defense is just 0.1 yppl better than average even after excluding their week 17 game against the Falcons when their backups played a lot of snaps. Seattle looks like a pretty good team because they out-gained their foes 5.4 yppl to 4.9 yppl, but they faced a very easy schedule of teams. Green Bay has a mediocre defense (5.1 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.1 yppl against an average defense) but the Packers are very good offensively now that they’ve discovered running back Ryan Grant. Grant became the featured back in week 8 and turned an ineffective rushing attack into one of the league’s best, gaining 956 yards at a very impressive 5.1 ypr. Veteran quarterback Brett Favre had one of his best years ever and averaged 7.8 yards per pass play (against teams that would allow 6.1 yppp to an average quarterback) from week 3 on, which is when big play receiver Greg Jennings joined the lineup (he missed the first two games of the season). The Packers’ offense rates at 1.3 yppl better than average with their current lineup and they’ll dominate a mediocre Seattle defense.
Having a week off to get healthy, regenerate, and prepare is a huge advantage this time of year and home teams with a bye have won exactly 50% of the time by 10 points or more since 1980. The home field advantage in this round of playoffs is 5 ½ points and the oddsmakers have pretty much figured that out too, which is why you might think that the lines on this week’s games look higher than you’d expect. In this case the line is not high enough, as my math model favors Green Bay by 11 ½ points. In addition to the line value the Packers apply to a 35-6-1 ATS subset of a 68-26-2 ATS playoff situation. I’ll take Green Bay in a 3-Star Best Bet at -10 points or less, for 4-Stars at -7 or less, and for 2-Stars at -10 ½ or -11 points.
NEW ENGLAND (-13.5) 33 Jacksonville 17
A lot of pundits give Jacksonville a good shot at an upset in this game, but the Jaguars aren’t good enough defensively to hang with the Patriots. Jacksonville is equipped offensively to have decent success in this game, but I just don’t see them stopping New England’s offense.
Jacksonville should be able to run the ball with success, as the Jaguars averaged 4.8 ypr while the Patriots have allowed 4.4 ypr this season, and efficient quarterback David Garrard (6.8 yards per pass play against teams that would allow 5.8 yppp to an average quarterback) should have decent success throwing against a Patriots’ pass defense that is 0.7 yppp better than average. Garrard also doesn’t make many mistakes, throwing just 5 interceptions all season (although he was picked twice last week in Pittsburgh), so Jacksonville does have an advantage over New England’s defense.
The Jaguars, however, aren’t good enough defensively to stop the Patriots. The Jags are only 0.1 ypr better than average defending the run (4.0 ypr allowed to teams that would average 4.1 ypr against an average team – not including their week 17 game against Houston when they rested some starters) and they are just 0.4 yppp better than average against the pass (since pass rushing DE Paul Spicer joined the starting unit permanently in week 6). Tom Brady had the best season of any quarterback in history and he averaged 7.8 yppp this season (against teams that would allow 5.9 yppp to an average QB) while throwing just 8 interceptions against 50 touchdown passes. Teams that gave the Patriots problems were teams that could generate a pass rush without blitzing too much and only Spicer is a good pass rusher among the defensive linemen (8.5 sacks). If the Jaguars choose to blitz to get pressure on Brady they take a risk that they’ll get burned, as Brady is quick to respond to blitzes and usually finds the open receiver quickly. The Patriots probably won’t get to their 37 points per game average, but they should get pretty close to that.
My math model only favors New England by 9 points in this game, but the Patriots have consistently out-played the math projections this season and have a scoring margin that is 6 points more than their stats would predict. Jacksonville out-played their stats by 1 point this season, so adding 5 points to the math model projection of a 9 point margin would give you New England by 14 points, which is about what the pointspread is. This game is very tough to call, but giving Bill Belichick and this staff an extra week to prepare will make the Patriots even tougher to compete with and Tom Brady is 38-16-3 ATS in his career at home when not favored by 20 points or more, including 5-0 ATS this season and 4-1-1 ATS in the playoffs). I’ll lean slightly with New England and I have no opinion on the total.
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20*: Green Bay
My 20* play is on the GB Packers at 4:30 ET. I used Seattle as my 20* Wild Card GOY against Washington LW and now will come right back AGAINST them here! The Seahawks had the perfect setup LW. The 'Skins were playing their fifth straight "win or you're done game" and it was their THIRD road game in four weeks. Washington QB Todd Collins hadn't started a game in 10 years prior to leading Washington to four straight wins to end the regular season, RB Portis had been mediocre all season and the team's top-three receivers had just three 100-yard games between them. The 'Skins were coming off a short week and Seattle was at home, where it owned a 42-14 home record, the NFL's second-best mark since '01. Seattle totally DOMINATED the first three quarters but led just 13-0. Mid-way through the 4th, Seattle was down 14-13 and was lucky NOT to be down 21-13 (or at least, 17-13). Seattle did come back to win 35-14 but C'MON! Hasselbeck, who had a career year, was just mediocre with one TDP and two INTs (QB rating of 68.4 compared to 91.4 in the regular season!). RB Alexander is just a shell of what he once was (averaged 44.8 YPG rushing his last five games and had 46 yards on 15 carries vs Wash!) while backup Morris (4-for-17 yards) didn't look any better. Here, Seattle travels to Green Bay and let's note the Seahawks are 1-6 SU all-time on the playoff road. Also, consider this. The franchise has had just TWO winning regular seasons on the road in their 32-year history! The team was just 3-5 SU and ATS on the road TY, including a 2-0 SU and ATS mark against NFC West lightweights, SF and StL (1-5 SU and ATS in the rest of its road games). In fact, Seattle went 4-0 SU and ATS vs SF and StL this year (outscoring them 104-28), making them just 6-6 SU (5-7 ATS) against the rest of the league (barely outscoring the rest of its opponents 289-263), while beating just ONE playoff team (TB in Week 1) during the regular season. Now to the Packers. Favre was coming off two down years, with a 20-29 ratio in '05 and a career-low 56.0 percent completion rate in '06 (18-18 ratio). However, he stopped FORCING things this year and completed a career-high 66.5 percent plus had his third-best yardage total (4,155) and QB rating (95.7) of his career as well. Ryan Grant took over at RB in the team's seventh game, after Green Bay averaged an NFL-low 65.7 YPG rushing (3.3) through six games. Grant averaged 92.9 YPG (5.1 per) in the season's final 10 games, leading a rushing attack which improved to 120.3 YPG (4.5) in that stretch. Favre had four receivers catch 47 balls or more, with Driver nabbing 82 and Jennings averaging 17.4 YPC with 12 TDs. One DE is Kampman (12 sacks) and the team rotated ******* on running downs and KGB (9 1/2 sacks) on passing downs at the other side. The LBs are very underrated plus Harris and Woodson rank with the best CB duos in the NFL! The Pack went a league-best 12-3-1 ATS this year, including 6-1-1 at home. In its last four home games it allowed 9.3 PPG, winning by an average of 25.0 PPG! This has been a magical year for Favre and while he's NEVER won in Dallas (likely venue next if the Pack win here!), I expect a superb performance from him in this game. Last week the Seahawks had all the advantages and almostt let a "sure win" the game slip away. That happens to mediocre teams. This time around, it's Seattle, a historically TERRIBLE road team, which will be playing its FIFTH road game in eigth weeks, going up against a team which has defied everyone for OVER a year, by going 17-3 SU and 16-3-1 over its last 20 games! Favre's 'ride' won't end here, vs this quality of opponent! Division Round GOY 20* GB Packers.
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VEGAS SPORTS PICS
Seattle Seahawks + 9 over (at) Green Bay Packers
Green Bay (13-3) vs. Seattle (11-6) is 7-2 ATS last nine games and 4-1 ATS last five January games. Teams have split last two meetings, Seattle winning at home 34-24 last season, Green Bay winning at home 23-17 in OT in the playoffs the previous season.
New England Patriots - 13 over Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville (12-5) QB Garrard in last week's win at Pittsburgh completed 9 of 22 passes for 140 yds with two picks while RB Taylor was held to 48 yds on 16 carries. New England (16-0) set NFL records this season with 589 points and 79 TDs. Pats went 6-0 vs. playoff teams this season averaging 39.2 ppg.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Play the seahawks + the 7.5 saturday early Were taking a hard look @ the Green Bay Packers/Seahawks battle as the home crew is listed as 7?-point favorites versus the Seahawks, while the game's total is sitting at 43. Last week Seattle scored 22 fourth-quarter points in their 35-14 wild-card win over Washington, covering the 3-point home spread. 49 points scored were OVER the posted total of 38.5. Matt Hasselbeck was 20-for-32 for 229 yards, one touchdown and two picks, while D.J. Hackett caught six passes for 101 yards and a score for the Seahawks. We feel the Seahawks will shut down Packers Rb Grant, & we feel they can win this game. The team came within a few bad plays of winning its last two playoff battles on the road &, Seattle is 7-2 SU in its last 9 games Seattle is 7-2 ATS in its last 9 games & Seattle is 4-1-1 ATS in its last 6 games when playing on the road against Green Bay
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Gator's NFL "Tech" Report
NFL (Saturday): Jacksonville vs. New England
Play Under NFL home teams against the total with a team averaging >=7.3 PYA against a defense allowing 5.9-6.7 PYA after 8+ games, after gaining 8 or more passing yards per attempt in their last game, 36-10 Under the last ten seasons (78.3%)
Selection: Jacksonville / New England UNDER 48
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Seattle Seahawks vs Green Bay Packers
The NFL playoffs create a lot of betting interest – and the public is solidly on the Seattle Seahawks. Almost two out every three bets is coming in on a Seattle team that trounced Washington and ended the season strongly. On the other hand, Green Bay has been “flying under the radar” for much of the season. The public doesn’t seem to respect the Packers and this gives us value.
The line opened at Green Bay -8 (-9 at + vig at Pinnacle) but has already reached Green Bay -7 at some sportsbooks. That is a huge 1 to 2 point value near the “key number” of 7.
Green Bay has not yet earned the public’s respect, but they have beaten many quality opponents this season and look like a solid value. Take Green Bay and be on the side of the long-term winners: the sports books.
Green Bay Packers -7
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10-UNIT NFL PLAYOFF GAME OF THE YEAR
Seattle Seahawks (+9) over GREEN BAY PACKERS
Rating: 10 units
Seattle (+) over GREEN BAY at 4:30 pm EST The Packers went 13-3 during the regular season to claim the NFC’s second-best record. The Seahawks went 10-6 to win the NFC West, arguably the NFL’s worst division. Regular-season records go out the window once the playoffs arrive, though, with experience taking over. Green Bay is one of the NFL’s youngest teams and, outside of Brett Favre, has very little postseason experience. Seattle, conversely, is one of the more playoff-tested teams remaining with a majority of its 2005 Super Bowl team intact. Aside from an uncharacteristically bad showing at Carolina and a backup-filled loss to Atlanta, Seattle played extremely well down the stretch. The Seahawks went 6-2 (6-2 ATS) in the second half of the season, winning by 13.7 ppg. A big part of the success has been a jolt from Matt Hasselbeck and the passing game, which is 8th in the NFL. Hasselbeck has completed 63.7% of his passes for 253.1 ypg with 16 touchdowns over his last eight complete games. Also, he’ll have motivation to have a great game as needs to redeem himself following his, “We want the ball and we’re going to score,” snafu in the 2004 playoffs. Green Bay has gone an impressive 7-1 at home this year but it hasn’t looked all that great against better competition. The Packers played only three teams with .500 or better records at home this year and none of those wins came by more than a touchdown. Also, they lost at home by a touchdown over a bad Chicago team. In the end, this game will come down to playoff experience and Seattle wins that debate hands down. The Seahawks were given little chance to win in Chicago last year in the second round but they took the game to overtime before losing. Two years before that they were playing in the Super Bowl. This team has more postseason experience, whether it’s the players of the coaches. That experience will make all the difference. Ride with the Seahawks.
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MARQUETTE over Notre Dame (Day game)...Since home-lovin' ND (29 straight wins at Joyce Center!) playing on an opponents' home court for 1st time this season, doubt Irish have any better luck now than they had in the same scheduling setup year ago, when they were whipped by 18 at Georgetown. ND thrives at 3-point line (41% on 21 attempts pg), but Irish find no groove vs. tight-covering Marquette (permitting just 30% beyond arc), fired-up after allowing a reg.-season high in 85-72 series setback LY. Meanwhile, super-deep, uptempo Warriors (80 ppg) able to unleash devastating transition game vs. bigger but slower visitor.
*MARQUETTE 84 - Notre Dame 67 RATING - 11
WASHINGTON STATE over *Ucla (Day Game)...Can't knock Ben Howland's no-nonsense UCLA outfit that will welcome chance to engage WSU in Cougs' patient, bump-and-grind style. At the same time, it's hard not to get interested in well-schooled, unbeaten Wazzu bunch that's at all-time best No. 4 in rankings, allowing nation's-low 49.7 ppg, and now forcing foes to pay attention on blocks to rugged 6-10 jr. Baynes (64% from floor) as well as versatile perimeter weapons Low, Weaver, & Rochestie. With possessions limited, as usual, in a Tony Bennett-coached game, this is a big pointspread hurdle for Bruins to overcome.
WASHINGTON STATE 53 - *Ucla 54 RATING - 10
*DRAKE over Missouri State...Drake's ascension to its best-in-school history 12-1 start is reminiscent in many ways of the rise of Washington State in the Pac-10. After father Dick Bennett revived the Cougar program, he retired and left the team in the hands of son Tony, who has lifted Wazzu to even greater heights. This season in Des Moines, son Keno Davis has taken over for father Dr. Tom, and the Bulldogs have taken off. It's been a plus that Keno's inherited a veteran core. Thanks to three DD scorers (soph G Josh Young, sr. G Leonard Houston, 6-8 jr. Jonathan Cox), 6-1 sr. playmaker Adam Emmenecker, and a deep bench (21 points in recent road win at Evansville), Drake leads the league in steals, TO margin, triples per game, and scoring differential.
*DRAKE 80 - Missouri State 59 RATING - 11
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*Green Bay over Seattle by 14
Matt Hasselbeck won’t be making any brass scoring predictions because this playoff game isn’t going into overtime.The Packers beat the Seahawks in overtime at home four seasons ago to win a wildcard playoff game when Al Harris returned a Hasselbeck pass for a touchdown after Hasselbeck said,“We want the ball and we’re going to score,” during the overtime coin flip.The Packers are home, rested, healthy, have a solid defense, a balanced bigplay offense, underrated special teams and solid coaching. The Seahawks can match the Packers in coaching and have playmakers on defense. But Hasselbeck isn’t Brett Favre.Shaun Alexander isn’t the runner he was before guard Steve Hutchinson left for free agency and fullback Mack Strong retired. The Seahawks are 8-1 at home this season. They dominated four games against San Francisco and St. Louis, whose combined record was 8-24. But away from Qwest Field, Seattle was 3-5. Seattle coach Mike Holmgren is 1-3 at Lambeau Field against his former team.The Seahawks are 0-2 in road playoff games under Holmgren.Their road to the playoffs was a marshmallow roast.The Seahawks met only two teams that won double-digits games, losing 21-0 to Pittsburgh and 33-30 to Cleveland in overtime. If you discount their wins against the Rams and 49ers, the Seahawks would rank second-to-last in the NFC in defense and third-worst defensively in the entire NFL. Their defense, without their loud stadium crowd, is far less intimidating on the road. All Green Bay has done this season is win and cover games,going 12-3-1 ATS.The Seahawks can’t run any more.Their passing attack isn’t strong enough to overcome the cold-weather elements at Lambeau and star cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Harris.The Packers,on the other hand, have become a balanced machine thanks to the emergence of Ryan Grant. Favre’s play-action fakes now mean something.The Packers have the deepest set of wideouts in the NFC with Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Koren Robinson.The Seahawks’ best hope is in getting turnovers Seattle was an impressive plus 10 in takeaways/giveaways.However, Favre has done a much better job this season of limiting his turnovers. He completed a career-best 66.5 percent of his passes, while throwing for 28 TDs.The Seahawks breezed because they were in a weak division.They don’t have the goods to step up here. GREEN BAY 28-14.
*New England over Jacksonville by 7
Are the Jaguars the most dangerous type of playoff foe, or the same inconsistentteam that can’t win in the postseason and nearly lost to the Steelers last week after leading 28-10? The Jaguars like to believe they have become relevant again among the hierarchy, even though last Saturday’s playoff victory was their first since 1999. We’re buying into that somewhat.Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they draw New England.This isn’t to say the Jaguars can’t cover – they certainly can – but winning could prove difficult.The Patriots are on a march to prove they are the greatest team of all-time.So far the qualifications are there: unbeaten season, 19 straight victories, Tom Brady an MVP season capped by an all-time high 50 touchdown passes and Randy Moss setting a single-season touchdown record for receivers.This is the challenge facing the Jaguars.They have two key things going – they can run and stop the run.The Jaguars led the AFC in rushing, finishing No. 2 overall in the NFL averaging just under 150 yards per game on the ground. Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew combined for 1,970 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.David Garrard was surprisingly steady and also is effective running when flushed out of the pocket.The Patriots are solid on defense and extremely well-coached.Their offense scored a league-record 589 points, an average of 36.8 points per game. New England can’t score, though, if it doesn’t have the ball. Jacksonville has the ingredients to effectively play ball-control. Having an extra week of rest definitely should help New England. However, the Patriots haven’t been real sharp. Perhaps they continue flat. New England has covered only one of its past six games,while looking vulnerable in narrow victories against the Eagles and Ravens.They beat four of their last six foes – Eagles, Ravens, Jets and Giants – by a combined 19 points. That’s an average victory margin of 4.7 points. Only the Giants of those teams qualified for the postseason. Jacksonville’s defense ranked a respectable 10th in scoring, yielding 19 points per contest,while placing 12th overall giving up 313.8 yards per game.The Jaguars have a ball-hawking secondary coming up with 20 interceptions, tied for fourth-highest in the NFL.Weather could factor in this matchup. Despite being from Florida, though, the Jaguars are built for bad conditions as they proved twice in inclement weather at Pittsburgh during the last four weeks. It’s the Patriots, with their precision passing attack, that could be hurt more by wet, snowy and windy weather. NEW ENGLAND 27-20.
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Detroit over *Charlotte by 15
Not only do the Pistons have the best pointspread mark through 32 games at 22-9-1
ATS, but were winning decisively capturing 19 of their first 25 victories by doubledigits.We like that in a strong favorite. We also like the Pistons being 11-5-1 ATS through their first 17 away contests. Detroit’s bench is much stronger this season,Richard Hamilton has been on fire and its defense ranked No. 2 holding foes to less than 90 points per contest. DETROIT 102-87.
George Mason* over Northeastern by 25
Matt Janning, we know who you are now. A year ago, Northeastern’s slender 6-4 guard was wandering alone on the perimeter and knockin’ em down vs. CAA foes. This season, his first two CAA outings resulted in 6- and 12-point personal production and 0-2 ATS against opponents who are not (purportedly) the conference’s best. After already having played 10 road games this season, the CAA’s northernmost output (Boston) gets to start making longer trips into the Virginias and Carolinas for conference season.Oh, joy. Northeastern coach Coen wants to play games in the 60s and if you add the scores and divide by two, that’s what he’ll get. GEORGE MASON, 73-48.
St.Mary’s* over Santa Clara by 24
Who lost twice to Santa Clara last season, including a meek 63-47 bow-out from the
WCC Tournament? That would be St. Mary’s, infused for 2007-08 with more dynamic
point guard play and more experienced forwards. Santa Clara’s penetrate-and-kick
game isn’t much, especially compared to what St. Mary’s is. At some point, funneling
too much of the offense through the leaden form of 300-pounder John Bryant will
deaden Santa Clara’s punch and this is a good spot for it to go limp while St. Mary’s
runs happily up and down the floor. ST. MARY’S, 84-60.
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THE SPORTS MEMO
Seattle at Green Bay -8 O/U 40
Recommendation: Green Bay
The Packers have been prepping, resting and scheming the last two weeks while the Seahawks fought through a tough battle with Washington for the right to travel to Lambeau. Some would argue momentum from a first round win as a plus for the underdog Seahawks, and it may very well be, but we saw a sloppy performance that nearly turned disastrous after a five minute span of giving up one TD that cut the lead in half, a turnover and subsequent score that relinquished the lead and a mental error on a kickoff that resulted in yet another turnover which nearly buried them. Matt Hasselbeck was not sharp,the receiving corps which was rumored to be healthy looked shaky and dropped passes and the absence of a rushing attack (which gained only 77 yards on 21 carries last week) will eventually do them in this week. The Packers have been very strong at home both SU and ATS traditionally and this season was no different as they pushed their way to a 6-1-1 record against the number in front of the “cheese-heads”. Green Bay has become a complete team after relying almost exclusively on the pass early on this season thanks to Ryan Grant and a developing offensive line that has taken a real liking to the zone blocking scheme they employ. Grant has emerged from the stable with five 100 yard rushing efforts and at least one TD in each game since week 12. It brings balance and legitimacy to an offense that ranks second overall in total yardage and fourth in points scored while being led by a true MVP candidate in Brett Favre. While Seattle’s pressure caused Todd Collins a lot of misery we saw that the short to intermediate passing game can neutralize some of that pressure and that is exactly the type of offense Green Bay runs. The Pack has covered in 13 of their last 17 games overall, including four straight as a favorite in this price range. They improve that number to five straight this weekend and send former coach Mike Holmgren home.
Jacksonville at New England -13 O/U 47.5
The Pats accomplished the impossible by going 16-0 SU through the regular season. The team, however, was either disinterested or perhaps just overvalued as the season wound down, because despite finishing with the league’s top rated offense in yardage, passing yardage and points per game scored they covered just once in their final six games. The Jags were money in the bank this season with an 11-5 record against the number during the regular season (bettered only by the Browns in the AFC) including a rock solid 6-3 ATS mark away from home. While Tom Brady and Randy Moss have set all kinds of records (Brady’s 50 TD to eight INT ratio, Moss’ 23 TD catches) David Garrard, Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew have quietly established a strong offensive core. The Jags have scored no fewer than 24 points since a Monday Night Football affair against Indy in mid October, a stretch of games that included road outings against Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Indy, Pittsburgh as well as strong showings at home against Buffalo and San Diego. We know the Pats can score, just look at their 37 ppg average. Match that up against a Jacksonville defense that is decidedly down this season from recent editions and whose secondary looked extremely susceptible (even with Rashean Mathis picking off passes) and this total looks cheap. Weather may be cold but the wind is supposed to be a non-factor according to preliminary reports which shouldn’t hinder either attack. Play this one over.
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Washington State at UCLA
There are no easy baskets when facing Washington State. With a perfect 13-0 record, the Cougars have struck perfection behind a tremendous defense that has allowed an average of less than 50 points per game. In their conference opener against an uptempo Washington Huskies team, they limited their rivals to just 52 points while forcing 14 turnovers. Entering that game, Washington had averaged 78 points per game and yet against the Cougars stifling defense they could manage just one field goal in the final 6:20. On the other side of this match-up UCLA is equal to the task on the defensive side as well having allowed only one opponent to eclipse 63 points scored this season. This becomes further impressive when you consider that up-tempo teams like Michigan State, Texas, California and Maryland are on their schedule.Off a road sweep last weekend against Stanford and California,the PAC-10 got its first taste of UCLA freshman Kevin Love.The 6-foot-10 center was tremendous scoring 19 points with 14 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. He also played excellent defense and stymied Stanford and California’s big men. Stanford was thought to be a team that could match the Bruins’ size and physical nature and true to form second chances were rare as UCLA tightened up in the second half. Last season in the two meetings between the teams neither eclipsed 55 points in either game as 98 and 107 were the total pointsscored. We expect more of the same in 2008. Play it Under.
San Francisco at San Diego
Recommendation: San Diego
Conference season opener for each of these mid to lower rung WCC teams so focus and intensity should be there. With that aspect of the playing field being level, I’ll choose to side with the home team which has other notable advantages. For the young Toreros (three freshmen in their top seven), the non-conference schedule results find them far more ready for this contest than the transitioning USF squad. San Diego has played and competitively battled UNLV, USC, New Mexico, Boise State and Kentucky(won straight up 81-72) all away from home. Poor first halves versus South Alabama in the Anaheim Classic and at Nevada were backed by solid second halves which shows that this team adjusts and competes for the full 40 minutes. Their defensive superiority in this game (allow 11 ppg less than San Francisco) will likely factor into this result since despite their youth, San Diego matches up very well athletically. The Dons are currently struggling offensively under the new direction of defensive minded HC Eddie Sutton, averaging just 59.3 ppg in the three contests he’s coached. Expect USD to take advantage of the Dons who have not meshed yet and figure to have breakdowns on both sides of the floor during stretches of this game. The junior tandem of forward Gino Pomare (57.3 FG%) and explosive guard Brandon Johnson (teams leading scorer and three point shooter) are potent enough to provide a sizeable margin for the Toreros here as they get the league season off to a victorious start.
Vanderbilt at Kentucky
The Vanderbilt Commodores should be 16-0 when they travel to Rupp Arena to face the struggling Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky dropped to 6-7 with its home loss to Louisville last week and has not played since. The Wildcats have finally gotten healthy with guards Jodie Meeks and Derrick Jasper returning to the lineup, but it did not help them against Louisville. Meeks was just 1-8 from the floor for seven points in 31 minutes and Jasper was 2-4 in 31 minutes, scoring six points. Even with Meeks and Jasper, the Wildcats are a team of just five players, with no help from the bench. They were worn out by the deeper Cardinals and the pace of the game,a problem that will hurt them again this week against the Commodores. Vanderbilt’s undefeated start is no fluke, this is a solid club.The Commodores have size, experience, shooting and depth, and should have no trouble waltzing out of Rupp with another win. The Commodores have 10 players that play at least 11 minutes per game,and only Shan Foster averages more than 28 minutes per contest.Foster leads them in scoring at 21.1 ppg, with freshman center Andrew Ogilvy next at 19.3. Ogilvy, Ross Neltner and Alan Metcalfe are three guys that will give the Wildcats fits inside, as Kentucky has only freshman Patrick Patterson to combat them. Vandy likes to play fast, averaging 87 ppg and their constant pressure will wear out the thin Wildcats. Look for Vandy to make it three straight road wins at Rupp Arena and keep their unbeaten season going
Indiana at Golden State
Indiana has become a vastly different team under new head coach Jim O’Brien this season. The Pacers are second in the Eastern Conference in scoring while allowing the most points per game in the East (through January 3rd). Indy has three solid scoring options with Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, and Jermaine O’Neal all averaging more than 15 points per game. Point guard Jamaal Tinsley is thriving as the catalyst of the higher tempo offense.The Pacers also have some depth and the ability to score on the break or in half court sets. The Warriors counter by leading the NBA in scoring while giving up more points than any team in the league (through January 3rd). With a 19-7 run to close 2007,the Warriors are regaining their mojo from last season’s playoff run. With six players averaging in double figures, Golden State is able to provide constant offensive pressure to their foes. Baron Davis continues to be one of the NBA’s elite point guards with an average of over 20 points per game to lead the attack. The Warriors are especially explosive at home with an average of about seven more points per game compared to their offensive numbers on the road. Golden State went 9-5 to the over in their first 14 home games of the year. While this total will be very high, these clubs should be poised to go up and down the court in a game that should get into the 230s to yield an over in a showdown of the highest tempo teams from each conference.
Portland at Toronto
The Raptors have a truly exceptional track record in these earlystart Sunday games at home, a regular occurrence on their schedule.We’ve seen Toronto beat Houston by 13 as 3.5 point underdogs.We’ve seen them beat Chicago by 15 as five point chalk. The Raptors even took mighty Boston into overtime before succumbing in a three point loss. Opposing teams that visit Toronto for a Sunday afternoon game have a decided disadvantage in both the awkward start time and the tremendous crowd support that the Raptors receive for these Sunday afternoon games. In my opinion,the strength of this scheduling spot is never reflected in the pointspread,giving us solid value with the Raptors. And let’s not forget that the Raptors took a 20 point lead against Cleveland this past Sunday, only to blow the game with a horrific fourth quarter, giving them a notch more motivation this time around. Portland has certainly been the single biggest surprise in the NBA this season,reeling off 16 victories in their last 17 games through the weekend.But Portland ’s success has largely come at home – this is not a team to fear on the highway as they are at the Rose Garden, with a 5-10 straight up mark in road contests. When these two teams met in Portland last month, Toronto had little trouble putting up points, hitting 50% from the floor. But the Raptors did not get many calls in that game, taking only ten free throws for the entire contest. As long as the refs don’t swallow their whistles this time around, we can expect a comfortable Toronto victory.
Orlando at Utah
Two young, up and coming teams will square off Saturday night as the Magic face the Jazz in Salt Lake City. The common theme for both of these teams is exciting offense, but troubling defense. The defensive play from both of these clubs is and will continue to hold them back from breaking into the NBA’s elite class. The Magic can score efficiently in many directions all built around young-stud Dwight Howard on the inside commanding all the pressure. The tandem of Carlos Arroyo and Jameer Nelson at point guard teamed with Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu on the perimeter simply makes the Magic tough to stop. However, all four have their defensive deficiencies.Meanwhile, the Jazz own a similar blueprint. Especially the tandem of Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams give teams fits defensively. Note the latest addition of sharpshooter Kyle Korver to this offense completes this team, while teams in the last month have played a lot of zone defense against them. For whatever reason this team just can’t come together defensively.It’s especially troubling when you consider they possess defensive weapons like Andrei Kirilenko and Ronny Brewer. The chemistry just isn’t there in terms of stopping the opponent from a ‘team’ standpoint. Obviously this game just comes together as a high-scoring affair with little defense being played coupled with teams that can score in diverse ways. Play thisone OVER the total this weekend between the Jazz and Magic.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
THE GOLD SHEET
SEATTLE (11-6) at GREEN BAY (13-3)
GREEN BAY 24 - Seattle 23
Familiarity angles abound in this matchup.
Green Bay’s last home playoff victory was 33-27 in overtime vs. Seattle in
2003, when the bold Matt Hasselbeck said the Seahawks would take the ball
after winning the OT coin flip, boasting into the microphone, “We want the ball.
We’re going to score.” He then proceeded to throw an interception into the
hands of Packer CB Al Harris, who easily returned it the distance for the
winning TD. Hasselbeck, of course, was Brett Favre’s backup two years in
Green Bay before being dealt to Seattle. Mike McCarthy was Packer QB
coach under then-HC Ray Rhodes the season after Mike Holmgren’s ended his
stay in Packerland to take over in the Emerald City.
But enough with familiarity and coincidence. The underdog Seahawks are
the preference here for far more substantial reasons, even despite G.B.’s
league-leading 12-3-1 pointspread mark TY and Brett Favre’s unexpectedly
magical 2007 campaign when he hit 66.5% with 28 TDs & 15 ints., breaking a
slew of lifetime passing records along the way.
In short, Seattle has its own playoff-seasoned QB in Hasselbeck (62.6%,
28 TDs, 12 ints. in the regular season), a more experienced and slightly more
versatile ground game featuring Shaun Alexander & Maurice Morris, an equal
defense (both teams gave up exactly 291 points in the regular season), and a
more experienced kicker in Josh Brown. And the Seahawks’ aggressive
pass rushers racked up 45 sacks in the regular season compared with G.B’s
36. Moreover, WR Nate Burleson turned out to be a revelation as a KR & PR.
Seattle has been tough to finish off as an underdog, going 10-1 getting
more than a TD the last 11 seasons. Contrariwise, the Packers have failed to
cover their last three in the playoffs at the previously-impenetrable fortress of
Lambeau Field. This will be Holmgren’s 24th playoff game; McCarthy’s first.
And let’s remember that there is still a core of Seahawk players who
advanced to the Super Bowl two seasons ago and took the then-powerful
Bears to overtime in this same Divisional Round LY (losing 27-24 in overtime in
Chicago), while G.B. had one of the youngest rosters in the NFL in 2007.
JACKSONVILLE (12-5) at NEW ENGLAND (16-0)
NEW ENGLAND 36 - Jacksonville 17
With Jacksonville on such a nice
late-season roll (7-1 its last 8—excluding its meaningless reg.-season loss in its
finale at Houston), it is very tempting to side with the fearless, physical Jaguars.
But to go against the “perfect” Patriots—when they are rested, focused, and
with their “evil” genius coach Belichick given extra time to plot his beloved game
plan—without every extra edge (namely, at least a two-TD oddsmaker cushion
here), appears to be the lower-percentage play.
Yes, it is true that N.E. was 2-6 vs. the spread to end the regular season. And
also that five of its last eight wins were recorded by margins of 4, 3, 3, 10, and
3 points. But let’s keep in mind that the Pats have proven themselves to be an
extraordinary team in 2007, able to keep their regular season in perspective
despite the constant hype, focusing on each opponent in turn, game-by-game,
never getting ahead of themselves and always speaking of the bigger picture—
namely, the home-field edge throughout the AFC playoffs and the ring at the end
of the season. With Belichick in command and Brady leading the charge, you
can expect them to be at their best in this one, especially with the rock ‘em, sock
‘em Jags representing a bona fide threat.
While we have nothing but respect for the performance of Jacksonville QB
David Garrard this season (64%, 18 TDs, 3 ints.; 1 TD, 2 ints. in his first playoff
start last week in Pittsburgh), his receiving corps is none too scary, allowing
Belichick to load up vs. the run with his deep corps of defensive linemen and oh-
so-experienced LBs. Jag RBs Fred Taylor & Maurice Jones-Drew might break
through that curtain. But if they don’t, the young Garrard is likely to suffer the
same fate as the young version of Peyton Manning and other QBs during the
six-year Brady-Belichick run, when the Pats have gone 12-2 SU in the playoffs
(8-5-1 vs. the spread; 4-1-1 at home).
The numbers of Brady (record 50 TDs vs. 8 ints.), Randy Moss (record 23
TDs), and Wes Welker (112 recs.) are mighty, like N.E.’s 16-0 record, indicative
of a “special” team. But the somewhat-overlooked defense was fourth overall,
second in sacks, sixth in interceptions, and third in rushing TDs allowed (only 7).
The rough-and-ready Jags are 6-2 as a dog TY. There is no disrespect for them
here. Merely a preference for the exceptional Patriots and their exceptional
coach and QB, especially when those two appear to have a definitive preparation/experience edge on their side.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
GREEN BAY over Seattle by 11
The Pack is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2005, where they were last bounced in a first round game here at Lambeau Field. Before we get too deep into this matchup, keep this thought foremost in your mind: like a hot chocolate vendor, QB Brett Favre is at his best the faster the temperature drops. That’s confirmed by the fact that, in his NFL career, he is 36-6 SU & 24-13-5 ATS at home from Game Thirteen out – including 21-2 SU & 17-3-3 ATS when facing an opponent off a win. Add to that the fact his counterpart, Matt Hasselbeck, has covered the number in only 10 of 35 tries off a win in nondivision battles. While Seattle rolled to a 21-point victory last week against Washington they did so despite being outgained, 319-304, in the contest, as they are just 9-8 ITS (In The Stats) this season. That win improved the Seahawks mark to 2-2 against winning teams this season, hardly a number to hang one’s hat on this time of the year. The clincher, though, is the success of rested home teams in the post-season. While they’ve struggled overall of late (0-4 ATS last season), rested hosts are 15-1 SU & 13-2-1 ATS as favorite of > 7 points when taking on a .600 > foe off a win since 1990. Get the hot cocoa and marshmallows ready, Martha. Because after all, by Favre, they make some of the best hot chocolate in the land in these parts.
NEW ENGLAND over Jacksonville by 10
In this corner, the undefeated heavyweight champs of the NFL, with a perfect 16-0 record – the New England Patriots. Their opponent, hailing from Jacksonville and sporting a knockout punch with a 12-5 mark – including eleven consecutive games with 24 or more points under their belt – the Jaguars. Adding to the Pats’ chance of
shattering the ’72 Dolphins’ undefeated Super Bowl legacy is the fact that playoffteams with lofty win percentages of .900 > are 11-3 SU & 9-5 ATS since 1980… but 0-3 ATS the last three games. After starting the year with eight consecutive pointspreadcovers, New England fell somewhat to the pressure of carrying an undefeated ledger when they closed out 2-6 ATS to conclude the campaign. They’ll host a Jaguar squad they defeated on this field in the 2005 playoffs, one who finished 7-1 ATS in its final eight games. With that we note Jack Del Rio’s lofty 13-2 ATS mark as a dog with revenge in games from a loss he’s suffered throughout his NFL career. Fundamentally Jack poses a potential problem as their strength – a rush offense that averages 4.6 YPR – goes into the Pats’ Achilles heel – a rush defense that surrenders 4.4 DYPR.Yes, Tom Brady against David Garrard is a huge edge in New England’s favor. And Bill Belichick’s unbeaten career post-season log at home (7-0 SU & 5-1-1 ATS) looks to be a knockout waiting to happen, but the impost and the pressure make the Jags a tempting underdog. Let’s get ready to rummmbbblle.
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