NFL Conference Championship Weekend
updated 1/19 1:00pm et
A special thank you to all who were interested in this year's pay picks. We swept the slate clean with zero losses in five collective attempts.
The NFL Conference Championship Pay Picks were:
GREEN BAY (+7.5) over SEATTLE
NEW ENGLAND (-6.5) over INDY
Welcome to the 2015 Divisional playoff selection. After the Thanksgiving selections and the four follow up selections were all victorious, I’m looking to continue the momentum just one more time. But this will be the trickiest of them all. The lines are tight. The games are few. But with both spreads hovering around 7 all week, then one going over the key number and one going under, a small window of opportunity abounds. One must always be careful with a pair of seven or eight point favorites, so that the entire public won’t be unloading on one of the teams as an obvious teaser like they did with the Steelers over Denver and Tim Tebow a few years ago. I don’t see that happening this season, as all four teams are capable and few would be shocked if either Indy or Green Bay won outright. That’s leaves just the game analysis, so let’s take a crack.
GREEN BAY (+7.5) at SEATTLE
Adjustment! Adjustment! Adjustment! That’s the key here.
Tell me what has changed since week one except the point spread. In week one against the Packers, the Seahawks were coming off a Super Bowl victory and were probably #1 in the power rankings like they are now. The Packers were expected to finish about 11-5 or 12 -4. Neither team has a major injury. Those things stayed the same since week one, but one thing has changed: the point spread.
The Packers were about a 4.5 or five-point dog in week one but now they get a significant jump up to 7.5. Significant because it leap frogs the key number of 7, where the Seahawks must now win by two scores. They couldn’t cover five points, so oddsmakers propelled them up and over 7 to 7.5 points. So take Seattle in week one at -5, but the Packers now at +7.5.
That’s the obvious part and is reason alone to go with a lean to Green Bay, but there’s some additional analysis.
We all know Seattle’s defense is great. It was great last season and it’s still great. It’s true the Seahawks have held their last eight opponents to an amazing eight points per game average. But look who they played. Ryan Lindley. Colin Kaepernick on the down slope who lost the art of throwing the ball. Backup Mark Sanchez. Unproven Cam Newton. The Terrible Giants. Derek Carr (last in the NFL in QBR). And Shaun Hill from the Rams.
Since the Packers game, the best QBs the Seahawks faced were Phillip Rivers, Tony Romo and Peyton Manning. Two were losses, and they didn’t cover seven points against the Broncos. The fourth best was Alex Smith, a loss.
Having just played the Cowboys and knowing that same Cowboy team controlled Seattle back in October, Mike McCarthy would be best suited to go back and look at what schemes the Cowboys used to shut down the Seahawks.
Seattle pulled away from Carolina last week to cover the big number, but one must wonder what the final score might have been if not for that 90-yard pick six, a potential 14-point swing.
The Packers were manhandled in week one at Seattle. They missed many tackles and the Seahawks got a lot of yards after contact. Another key was that they didn’t throw to Richard Sherman’s side of the field, a huge disadvantage. Toward the end of September and beginning of October, teams starting throwing at Sherman and they got point production and wins, so look for Rodgers to be more fearless this time around. His leg has been advertised to be hurt and not 100%, but he sure looked like it was good in scrambles against Dallas. He has said it hurts and was in visible pain vs. the Cowboys, but was running when he needed to. They’ll have some kind of high tech heat/shock pad for him on the sidelines and at halftime.
The Seahawks are the superior team on both sides of the ball and have the home crowd working to their advantage, but a tough Seattle defense combined with a Packers defense eager to make up for missed tackles in week one, could make for a low scoring game, so a close Seahawks win is a rather likely outcome in lieu of another double digit playoff win.
Seven straight NFC Championships have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Look for the Packers to make it eight.
Take Green Bay plus the points
NEW ENGLAND (-6.5) vs. INDIANAPOLIS
If you want to talk about adjustment in this one, look at last season’s playoff game which featured these exact two teams. The Pats were favored by 7.5 points and came away with a 21-point win.
A year later, they go under a touchdown to 6.5 with arguably a better team.
Now the other thing is “well what about how the Pats were a 3-point dog at Indy this season, won by 22, and now they get a nine point swing to a 6-point favorite?” True, but that was at Indy, and this is at New England. And it’s the playoffs. What’s more relevant is last week. The Patriots were favored by seven at home and couldn’t cover against the Ravens, so oddsmakers give them a little bump down to 6.5 against an about an equal team. And now you go with the Patriots.
The Pats are 19-8 in the playoffs with Belichick and all eight losses have come with teams they defeated during the regular season, so revenge got the best of them. But I’m going against the grain and taking New England anyway. Plus, this is a bit different because Belichick played last Saturday and the Colts played Sunday night.
That means Belichick, the “Urban Meyer of the NFL”, could sit back in his film room with his assistants and diligently watch that entire game. Just studying. That’s a luxury he hasn’t always had.
Andrew Luck has a trio of excellent receivers but Belichick has all-pro Darrelle Revis and the expertise to throw schemes at the Colts offense which has worked the three prior times these teams have played.
Interestingly enough, the Patriots didn’t attempt a rushing play in the second half of the Ravens game, but don’t be surprised if Belichick mixes up the pot for this week. When these two teams met in week 11, Jonas Grey came out of nowhere and rushed for 200 yards. In last season’s playoffs, LaGarret Blount rushed for 166 yards against the Colts. And the Pats have Gronk. A good tight end is always the key to making it to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots will be without their starting center, but right guard Ryan Wendell filled in last week and did just fine while his replacement did OK, but can improve. The unit will have a week to prepare.
In late November at Green Bay, when the Packers iced it with a late first down, the camera caught Tom Brady on the sidelines, pacing up the bench with his head down, saying “FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!” three times, about two seconds apart. This team doesn’t like to lose. And coming off a loss in last season’s divisional playoffs at Denver, a home loss to Baltimore in the 2013 playoffs, a Super Bowl loss the season before that, a home loss to the Jets in 2011 in a teaser buster, a home loss to Baltimore in the 2010 Playoffs, missing the playoffs in 2009, and a Super Bowl loss to the Giants after the undefeated regular season, this is their game to win.
When Peyton Manning and Tom Brady move on, the league will be Andrew Luck’s and he will get to a Super Bowl or two.
But for now, look for Brady and Belichick to have one last hurrah at the expense of the youngster.
Take New England minus the points
Good Luck! TFM
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Pay picks are 32-11-a few ties for the life of the site. A summary of the last 28 pay picks, in order from most recent:
"2015 NFL conference championships"
The Packers went from +4.5 to +7.5 from the regular season to the playoffs at Seattle, with the same teams playing. Plus Seattle's defense wasn't as good against good quarterbacks. New England, even minus a touchdown, would NOT fail in its 5th attempt to win a Super Bowl, especially at home. Selection goes 2-0.
Oregon was playing Ohio State for the National Championship with an over/under set at 75 points. That didn't seem like much for those two teams, but Urban Meyer's history in big games couldn't be neglected. He managed to slow down every fast opponent he ever faced in big games. Not to mention, Ohio State's defense was very underrated. UNDER 75 points was the selection, which won.
"NFL Week 16 and Bowl Selections"
Dallas (-3.5) vs the Colts was almost automatic, and those who read my write up knew why. The Redskins (+7) vs. Philly was the other, in RG3's last chance. The Bowl selections were Northern Illinois (L), Penn State (W) and Baylor (L)
Selection goes 3-2, but just 1-2 in the bowls. Oh, Baylor....
SMU was getting 12 points against two-win UConn which was out of bowl contention and nothing to play for, but the Mustangs had a new coach and motivation to not finish winless. The Falcons were playing the red hot Packers, but oddsmakers adjusted after GB covered six prior home spreads, and jacked it up to their highest of the season in an effort to get the dog to cover, which they did. Selection went 2-0
"Thanksgiving with TFM 2014"
Cincinnati over Temple and UAB had to beat a 3-win team as a small favorite for its first bowl berth in 10 years, and Northern Illinois (the better team) as a 6 point dog over Bowling Green. Idaho and UL Monroe were getting big points over 2 teams out of bowl contention. Idaho (+17) lost by 17 and pushed. The other four selections won. 4-0-1
"NFL Playoff Selections 2014"
The tough 49ers were the weekend's top play over Cam Newton and the Panthers and come out with a decisive win. The Saints (+8) were the other selection at Seattle. Those who got in on gameday probably won the Saints, as the spread creeped up to nine points. Either way, the selections end up on the winning side.
"Thanksgiving with TFM 2013 including the 'Fab 5' "
Alabama and Rutgers started the day on a sour note by losing outright, and the Eagles, favored by 3 or 3.5, won by three. But the remaining selections for Saturday, five special college underdogs, all covered the spread and three won outright (Southern Miss, Iowa State and Temple). The Pay picks go 5-2-1 or 5-3.
"Rookies vs. Veterans"
It was Aaron Rodgers getting points and Matt Ryan favored by small points against two rookies, and I said both rookies would not come away with the win in the same weekend. I was right about that, except Atlanta missed the spread by a half point, making this double pay pick a very unfortunate loss.
"Third time a charm"
Mon tee Ball, James White and the rest of the seniors were playing in their third straight Rose Bowl and after losing the first two, Wisconsin (+6.5) was the top play for the bowls. Had to get the play in before New Years Eve though, as the spread went down during the final 24 hours.
"Thanksgiving with TFM 2012"
Four college selections. Marshall and Purdue had to win. Purdue won, Marshall covered. Colorado was getting 23 at home to 7-loss Utah, who was favored by way to many points for just losing a bowl berth. Illinois was the 4th pick and failed to cover, so the 2012 Thanksgiving selections go 3-1 after going 4-0 last Thanksgiving.
"Passion, Ego and Double Revenge"
Combining Bill Belichick's ego, Tom Brady's passion and the team's revenge, New England was the Super Bowl selection and although the defense did a decent job against the Giants for most of the game, a Wes Welker dropped pass likely prevented the spread cover as the Pats could not overcome the Giants in the trenches. The first Super Bowl pay pick loss.
"2012 Bowl Selections"
There were just two. Wisconsin (+6) was the first selection, with the thinking they were about equal to Oregon but getting a nice amount of points. They just missed the spread, but the second selection and top play, Alabama, was totally dominant over LSU for a split selection.
"Thanksgiving with TFM 2011"
The top play for the weekend was the Ravens (-3.5) vs. the Niners who wouldn't win their 5th east coast game in 11 tries, and the Packers (-6) weren't favored by nearly enough over Detroit. On Black Friday, 2 teams HAD to win to secure a possible BCS bowl and $$$, Houston (-3) and Louisville as an underdog. Favorable low spreads for a pair of must win teams. The selections went 4-0 for the best pay pick ever on this site so far.
"Saturday Knight Selection"
Boston College over UCF, the ACC team off a bowl game was getting points, but was 25-0 ATS against non-BCS conf teams setting a hypo of +7.5 like the spread was here, and UCF was 0-26. That streak came to an end when UCF won and covered with a 21 point 4th quarter.
"On the Road Again"
In NBA action this past winter in 2011, Golden State was coming off a win at Cleveland and was favored at New Jersey, but they never win 2 road games in a row. Nets were the pick, and won.
"No sense of Urgency"
Easy call with Oklahoma St. in the Big 12 second round game in NCAA basketball
that featured a team that didn't need to win (Kansas) favored by 14 points.
This was a dual selection for Saturday in the NCAAB conference tournaments. Kentucky didn't need to win over Alabama but they did and covered the spread as Bama was the pick. But the night cap and day's top selection was San Diego State over BYU as Jimmer wouldn't get 52 points again or beat the Aztecs 3x in a row, especially without their power forward. Selection Split.
"No sense of Urgency, Part II"
OSU didn't need to win but were favored by 10.5 points over Penn State in the Big 10 NCAAB conference tourney. They won by 11 points, but Penn State made the tournament anyway. Pay picks are 20-8 now for the life of the site, and 4 of the last 6 losses have come by a half of a point (including Akron +29.5 over Temple in October and TCU -2.5 over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl).
"A Heat-ed Revenge"
The Miami Heat (-4.5) over the Spurs in the rematch where Miami lost by 30 at San Antonio. This time they won by 30. I also said to take the UNDER, as the Spurs wouldn't hit 18 shots from 3-pt range again and that Miami would step up the defense at home after getting very embarrassed the first time, which also hit.
Round 1 NCAA Tourney Picks
Wofford and Wisconsin were the round 1 pay picks. BYU was a bit overrated without their leading rebounder and taking on a slew of seniors from Wofford, who covered by a half point. Belmont had 30 wins but none over a quality opponent, and 24 of their 30 wins came over teams void of a winning record. Wisconsin was the better team and not favored by enough. Both selections covered.
The 2010-11 Bowl selections:
There were 3 bowl selections for the end of 2010 as 1 package, with Tulsa and UTEP splitting. That left it all up to TCU, who I promised would beat Wisconsin, but they missed the spread by a point.
Thanksgiving with TFM 2010:
I did a teaser and guaranteed the open end (Alabama) would hit, which it did, barely. However, the Arizona Cardinals, the 2nd part of the teaser, laid an egg on Monday Night Football. The free selections that weekend, Memphis (+20) and Texans (-6) did win however.
Akron was a +29.5 at Temple and coming off 2 consecutive MAC blowouts (28+ point losses) but MAC teams never lose 3 conference games in a row by that margin, until Akron lost by 30 at Temple. When my pay picks do lose, they are close, as this one was by a half point after a 6-0 halftime deficit.
"A SUPER letdown"
49ers (+5) over Saints
The Saints were coming in 1-0 ATS, but no SB winner had ever started 2-0 ATS except for one (including the 2008 Pats instead of the Giants). To compound the situation was the fact the Niners were a home dog coming off a blowout.
SF Giants over Wash Nationals You had to go back to the 60's to find the Giants perform worse than they did in a 3 game series at Oakland from May 21-23. Hosting the Nats, from the East Coast, as almost even money, they were a lock to win that game after scoring just 1 run over the 3 game series.
"Walking the Plank"
Pirates (+1.5) over Astros The Pirates were coming off losses of 8-1, 8-0 and 20-0 and were almost a shoe-in to get some hits/runs and cover 1.5 runs at Houston, which they did in a 4-3 loss on April 23rd.
"NBA Playoff Double Trouble"
Perhaps the greatest Pay Selection I've ever had. Up until this point, I hadn't seen a pair of games cross such good parameters as the Lakers (vs. OKC) and the Mavs (vs. Spurs) in game 5 for both teams. Lakers gave (literally) game 4 to OKC, and they were 17-0 at home in game 5's, and were coming off dual losses at OKC but were 9-0 at home off consec. losses (avg. win 10 pts) and 9-1 off a double digit loss with Gasol, and OKC hadn't beat a playoff team 3x in a row all season. The Mavs, playing earlier that night and losers or 3 straight to the Spurs coming home facing elimination, hadn't lost 4 consec games in 135 tries, playing the Spurs who hadn't beat a playoff team 4x in a row in 2 years. Selection won easily.
"Game 3 double trouble"
This selection did not win, but it was close. Real close. Utah missed a tip-in at the buzzer which would have given them the win, and the selection a split since Atlanta failed to cover the first game. I made a huge case of why both game 3 home teams would not lose- Atlanta ATS and Utah outright. I was an inch away from being right.
"In the spirit of good ole Tim Donoghy" Oregon St (+9) over Washington
A Tim D. themed selection in March 2009 where I detailed why the Beavers would cover the spread in their conf. tourney, detailed and listed how they got favorable calls all season compared to other Pac 10 teams (due to coach?) and how Wash didn't often win 3 consec games by double digits. Also, the Beavers didn't lose consec games by d.d. all season, and they were playing a team they just lost to by d.d, in the conference tourney, and keeping in mind they won the CBI the season before as Obama's brother in law became coach. Beavers lost the game, but covered.
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