For some reason, playoff football brings out the cliches in everyone. Despite a season-long emphasis on quarterback play and explosive passing offenses, when the playoffs start all the talk surrounds the run game.But we’ve seen teams – the Eagles, Colts, and Saints – win all year without any semblance of a ground attack. So are you going to put your money on regular season evidence, or traditionalist chatter?
Read through for our take.
The Spread: Saints -10.5
The Pick: The sight of a 10.5-point home underdog in a playoff game is pure joy for sharps, who love betting against the people's champ (the Saints are getting 64 per cent of the action). But the closer you look at the matchup, the worse things appear for the 'Hawks.
When the Saints lose, their opponents out-rush them 132 to 64, and take the ball away an astonishing 3.2 times per game. But Seattle is 26th in the league in takeaways and second-to-last in rushing. The Saints have twice covered spreads of at least 9.5 points against NFC West teams since mid-November. We go against our instinct, and expect New Orleans to cover here, too.
The Spread: Colts -2.5
The Pick: The Jets have been exposed. Rex Ryan's blitzing scheme and man coverage leaves too much open space in the middle of the field. Send a speedy guy up the middle, and he'll leave an over-matched linebacker in the dust. The Pats, Texans, and Bears all used this strategy to combine for 110 points in three of the Jets worst defensive games. Peyton Manning will do the same throwing to…
…who, exactly? That's the problem. Injuries have decimated the Colts roster, Collie and Clark are out, and in their recent four game streak running backs have combined for six receptions. The deciding factor in this game is Antonio Cromartie. We know Revis will neutralize Wayne, but if Cromartie can do the same with Pierre Garcon, Manning will spend an eternity waiting for an open receiver. That's easy pickings for Jason Taylor, Calvin Pace and the Gang Green D. We like the Jets.
The Spread: Ravens -3
The Pick: 80-two per cent of all bets are coming in on the Ravens. We at the Sports Page know better than to side with the average person, so we're immediately drawn to the Kansas City. Throw in the best running game and the best home-field advantage in all of football, and, well, there's a lot to like about the Chiefs.
Baltimore-backers will say that their feared blitz will get to Matt Cassel, but the numbers show he's been pretty good against a heavy rush. All the signs point to the Chiefs covering and picking up a surprising win.
The Spread: Eagles -2.5
The Pick: While the public perceives both of these teams to be strong, they're a bit overrated in Vegas terms, at a combined 17-15 against the spread. The Packers have lost their six games by a total of 20 points, but are a poor road team. The Eagles have looked great most of the season, but teams have begun to pick up on Vick's inability to handle the blitz (hey Mike, those footsteps you hear belong to Clay Matthews). The point is, this is the toughest game to handicap.
But with the points on their side and their immunity to blowouts, the Packers are probably the smart pick. If they lose it won't be by much, and unlike the Philadelphia, Green Bay has improved as the year's worn on.
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