Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 20

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 20

David Banks

Ravens / Patriots Over 51.5

The AFC Championship Game this season is a rematch of last year's championship game at the same venue, as the New England Patriots are once again hosting the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA at 6:30 ET on CBS. The Patriots prevailed in this game 23-20 last season, and then these teams met again in the regular season this year with the Ravens prevailing in another close but higher scoring game 31-30 back in September with replacement officials doing the game.

The Ravens have always defended Tom Brady well, so we may not see the same offense that dismantled the Houston Texans 41-28 in the divisional round this week. Yes, the Pats put up 30 points in the regular season meeting, but remember that Baltimore's best pass rusher Terrell Suggs was out for that game. Suggs and Ray Lewis are now both playing at the same time, something that did not happen even once during the regular season, and when you add in the blossoming of Paul Kruger as an outstanding rush linebacker as the year went on, you may see the Baltimore defense here that made Brady look very ordinary in this game last year when he completed just 22-of-36 passes for 239 yards with two interceptions and no touchdown passes. Also, expect Baltimore to employ a ball control offensive game plan here in an attempt to keep Brady and the New England offense on the sideline as long as possible.

That Ravens' game plan will probably start with heavy doses of Ray Rice, who rushed for 101 yards on 20 carries in the regular season meeting. Now the Patriots' run defense did improve as the year went on, as New England in fact finished seventh in the NFL in rushing defense during the season allowing only 101.4 yards per game on 3.9 yards per carry. However, the Denver Broncos finished fourth in rushing defense while allowing 3.6 yards per carry, and that did not stop Rice from rushing for 131 yards against them last week. That rushing success also freed up Joe Flacco to have one of his best games ever given what was at stake, as he threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns in the 38-35 overtime upset win. Baltimore may rely more on Rice this week as it tries to play keep-away, but Flacco should again have success when he is call upon as long as the Patriots have to worry about Rice. Also, the Baltimore offensive line did an outstanding job against a Denver defensive line that tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks, as Flacco was only sacked once all game, and that is not to mention all the running lanes the line opened up for Rice.

Believe it or now, the Patriots are just 2-8 ATS in their last 10 playoff games overall including 2-7 ATS here at home. The Ravens meanwhile are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 playoff road games. Also, the underdogs are now 3-0-1 ATS in the last four head-to-head meetings with two of those underdog covers being by Baltimore in the playoffs.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 20

Dr. Bob

Opinion

DENVER (+1) over Oklahoma City

Denver is coming off a two losses, including a 97-117 loss in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night. The Nuggets are usually at their best after a loss, especially when the opponent is coming off a win. Denver is now 47-17-1 ATS when rested after a loss against an opponent off a win (4-2 ATS this season), including 20-4 ATS as an underdog. My ratings favor Oklahoma City by 2 points, so the line could be a bit higher, but I’ll lean with Denver based on the strong team trend.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 20

Steve Janus

Illinois State -2.5

Illinois State has too much talent to be 0-6 inside the Missouri Valley. The Redbirds are simply sick and tired of losing and are going to be extremely motivated to get their first conference win against their in-state rivals. The last time these two teams played, Illinois State came away with a 20-pt win. Southern Illinois hasn't exactly been playing well either, as they are just 1-5 inside the Missouri Valley. The Redbirds are a solid 10-4 ATS in their last 14 games at Southern Illinois and are favored on the road for a reason tonight.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 20

John Ryan

San Francisco 49ers vs. Atlanta Falcons    
Play: San Francisco 49ers -3½

The Georgia Dome is going to be raucous to say the least and the fans do have an opportunity to impact the flow of the 49ers offense. Of course, the 49ers have worked on a silent count knowing it is going to be a far different atmosphere than the friendly confines of Candlestick. The simulator shows a high probability that the 49ers will win this game by 6 or more points. 49er QB Kaepernick is coming off a record breaking playoff game, but in this game the star just might be Frank Gore. The biggest matchup advantage for the 49ers is to pound the ball. They rank second in the NFL averaging 5.2 rushing yards per attempt and will be going against a Dirty Bird defense ranking 28th allowing 4.8 yards per carry. This run threat becomes magnified in play action calls with Kaepernick fully capable of pulling the ball down and taking off. The plays that were so successful last week, were created by the 49er receivers streaking down field running either fly or post patterns and getting defenders to turn their backs to the pocket. When Kaepernick saw the backs the Packers defenders, he knew he had big chances to run the ball. With Crabtree and Vernon Davis able to stretch the field with vertical routes, it will be a massive task for the Falcons to contain the 49er running attack by adding a safety to the box. Even when a running play is called, Kaepernick can check to several other plays when he sees eight men in the box. Falcons can blitz well, but have failed miserably against mobile quarterbacks this season. Moreover, the middle of the field was wide open in last week’s dramatic win allowing Seattle to complete very high percentage pass plays in space. Seattle’s Zack Miller was a nightmare for the Falcons defense and you can be assured Vernon Davis and Crabtree will be running routes into that area of the field. So, truly, I just don’t see how Atlanta can stop the very physical 49er ground game. 49ers are a solid 10-1 ATS when facing struggling passing defenses allowing 7 or more passing yards per attempt over the last 3 seasons; 15-4 ATS facing generous defensive teams allowing >=5.65 yards per play over the last 3 seasons.

Here are my prop bets for this game: Given the running attack that i see dominating this game, I like playing 49ers -1 ½ to be the team with the most first downs laying -105. Frank Gore at 11/4 to have the most rushing yards of any back in both Championship games. OVER 80 ½ Frank Gore rushing yards. Best of Luck to everyone. Enjoy the games.

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