Baltimore Ravens (12-5) at Tennessee Titans (13-3) Line: Titans by 3. Total: 34. Walt's Projected Line: Titans -4.
Saturday, 4:30 ET - Buy Tickets
The Game. Edge: Ravens. Injuries: Ravens: OUT: QB Kyle Boller (IR), WR Demetrius Williams (IR), TE Quinn "Miracle Man" Sypniewski (IR), OT Marshal Yanda (IR), OT Adam Terry, DT Kelly Gregg (IR), DT Dwan Edwards (IR), ILB Tavares Gooden (IR), ILB Prescott Burgess (IR), CB Chris McAlister (IR), S Dawan Landry (IR). Titans: OUT: DT Albert Haynesworth, CB Reynaldo Hill, CB Eric King.
I'm obviously happy with last week's 4-0 performance. I just hope my luck doesn't go away in Round 2 - especially in this game.
As for Vegas, the oddsmakers weren't too happy with the Week 18 results. Of the three heavily bet teams, only Indianapolis failed to cover. Philadelphia and Baltimore killed the house on Sunday. The only consolation for Vegas was that San Diego winning by six killed a lot of teasers.
Before I get into this contest, two observations: First, it's cool that all four of these games are rematches. Because these teams are so familiar with each other, it's unlikely that there will be more than one blowout. And second, how crazy is it that the two No. 6 seeds are only +3 and +4 on the point spread to the No. 1 seeds? This, one week after those same No. 6 seeds were 3-point favorites at the No. 3 seeds.
BALTIMORE OFFENSE: Joe Flacco didn't exactly have his best game against the Titans the first time these squads battled each other. In a 13-10 loss, Flacco was 18-of-27 for 153 yards and two picks. While many quarterbacks have faltered against Tennessee, it should be noted that Flacco wasn't exactly horrible. This was Flacco's fourth start. One of his interceptions came at the end of the game when he was trying to make something happen. The first pick, by the way, was an error on Flacco's part; instead of throwing the ball away, he threw across his body. He doesn't make those errors anymore (13 TDs, 5 INTs, 5 fumbles since Week 7). Also, Flacco converted a number of third-down attempts (7-of-14 to be exact) in that contest.
There's no reason to believe Flacco will play any worse. He's matured since that Week 5 contest, and he's a pretty level-headed guy. He's gone into Pittsburgh, Dallas and Miami and performed relatively well.
In the 13-10 defeat, Baltimore was able to run the football - something no one has really done against the Titans this season. Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain combined for 115 yards on 33 carries. Flacco consequently received great protection, as Tennessee failed to register a single sack that afternoon.
TENNESSEE OFFENSE: Kerry Collins is about five billion years Flacco's senior, yet he was arguably worse in the first meeting. Collins finished 17-of-32 for 163 yards, one touchdown and two picks. The score came late in the fourth quarter, immediately following a bogus roughing-the-passer penalty where a Baltimore defender essentially tapped Collins on the shoulder. I remember this vividly because I had the Titans -2.5 in that contest, and thanked the football gods that the official was fixing the game.
That said, I believe Collins has a better shot at beating Baltmore than Chad Pennington. The Ravens' sole weakness on defense is their susceptibility to the long pass. Collins, despite his age, still has a rocket arm. The problem, however, is that Collins has no wideout who can help him beat the Ravens. Case in point: In the 13-10 victory, Collins' longest completion went for just 26 yards against Brandon Jones. If you're betting on Tennessee, do you seriously want to count on some dude named Brandon Jones? I think not.
Unlike Baltimore, the Titans couldn't establish the rush. That's no surprise because the Ravens finished first against the run this year. In the Week 5 battle, Chris Johnson and the Blob combined for 48 yards on 21 attempts.
RECAP: I love the Ravens. In fact, they're my Pick of the Month. I have a number of reasons for you, aside from the fact that they're the better team.
the Ravens are hot. They've covered 10 of the last 12 contests. They're also underrated because all you hear is, "A rookie quarterback can't win two road playoff games in a row." Well, until last week, no rookie quarterback ever won a road playoff game to begin with. Flacco's not your average quarterback. He's unflappable, while the rest of the team is very confident.
More importantly, Tennessee essentially signed its own death certificate when it rested its starters in Week 17.
I've heard the argument, "The Titans are different. They're a run-first, defensive team, so they don't really need the reps."
That's far from the truth. The players haven't done anything since Dec. 21. Asking them to play a physical game for 60 minutes is sort of like driving a car in freezing weather without warming it up first. It might work initially, but there's a good chance the engine will stall. The Titans won't last for 60 minutes. Their legs will fail. The timing will be off. Things just won't click.
If you don't believe me, check this out. The following teams rested their starters in Week 17 before a playoff game. This chart, which goes back to 2002, when the divisions re-aligned, shows how each squad performed in its initial postseason contest. The asterisks denote teams that had first-round byes, like the Titans.
2008: Titans* - ?? SU, ?? ATS
2008: Colts - Loss SU, Loss ATS
2007: Colts* - Loss SU, Loss ATS
2007: Jaguars - Win SU, Loss ATS
2007: Steelers - Loss SU, Win ATS
2007: Buccaneers - Loss SU, Loss ATS
2006: Eagles - Win SU, Loss ATS
2006: Saints* - Win SU, Loss ATS
2005: Colts* - Loss SU, Loss ATS
2004: Colts - Win SU, Win ATS
2004: Steelers* - Win SU, Loss ATS
2004: Chargers - Loss SU, Loss ATS
2004: Eagles* - Win SU, Win ATS
2002: 49ers - Win SU, Loss ATS
In short, teams resting their starters in Week 17 are 7-6 straight up and 3-10 against the spread in their first playoff game. You may look at that and say, "Well 7-6 straight up isn't so bad!" Believe me, it is. Every single team on that list, save for one, was a favorite. Going 7-6 straight up when you're expected to win isn't exactly too promising.
Going even further, teams resting their starters in Week 17 prior to a playoff bye are 3-2 straight up and 1-4 against the spread. The one cover was authored by the Eagles, who beat a miserable Mike Tice-Daunte Culpepper combination. The four spread losses came at the hands of Pittsburgh (20-17 win as a -9 favorite), Indianapolis in 2005 (21-18 loss as a -10 favorite), Indianapolis in 2007 (28-24 loss as a -10.5 favorite) and New Orleans (27-24 win as a -5.5 favorite).
As you can see, coaches who bench their starters to avoid injury are doing themselves a huge disservice. While the public tends to believe that it's a good move to rest key players to avoid injury, reality is that the squads doing so have just a 50-50 chance of winning as a massive favorite!
The Titans aren't a massive favorite. They're laying just three points. That's because these two teams are even. With that in mind, you have to love Baltimore, given the huge edge it has in the wake of Jeff Fisher's foolish decision.
The Psychology. Edge: Ravens.
The Ravens are the hottest team in the playoffs, while the Titans are probably the coldest, given that they rested their starters prior to a bye. The players haven't seen any action since Dec. 21. Also, this Tennessee squad as a group doesn't have a playoff win and is expected to live up to its great regular season. That's a lot of pressure.
The Vegas. Edge: Titans.
Slight action on the Ravens, but nothing too big.
Percentage of money on Baltimore: 62% (225,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Ravens.
Worst Bye: Playoff teams with byes are 6-14 ATS since 2003 (3-9 since 2005).
Ravens are 7-2 ATS on the road under John Harbaugh.
Ravens are 6-3 ATS as an underdog under John Harbaugh.
Opening Line: Titans -3.
Opening Total: 33.5.
Weather (Saturday Update): Possible showers, 48 degrees. Light wind.
Week 19 NFL Pick: Ravens 24, Titans 12 Ravens +3 (8 Units - January NFL Pick of the Month) -- Correct; +$800 Over 34 (.5 Units) -- Incorrect; -$55 Ravens 13, Titans 10
Arizona Cardinals (10-7) at Carolina Panthers (12-4) Line: Panthers by 9.5. Total: 48.5. Walt's Projected Line: Panthers -9.
Saturday, 8:00 ET - Buy Tickets
The Game. Edge: Panthers. Injuries: Cardinals: OUT: C Scott Peters (IR). Panthers: OUT: LB Dan Connor (IR).
Last week, I discussed my Grade School Reunion (scroll down to Colts-Chargers to read about it) and the five things I took away from it. In case you want a quick summary, those five things were: 1) Talk to every girl in grade school. 2) Don't wait until the reunion to tell a girl you had a crush on her. 3) Don't get stuck talking to the person with bad breath. 4) M.G. class is hard. 5) Be nice to everyone.
Well, I didn't include everything I did when I was really drunk. Why not? Because I don't remember doing it. However, after talking to my neighbor Melissa, who also attended the reunion, I discovered some of the stupid things I did that night (if you don't feel like reading about this, scroll down to ARIZONA OFFENSE):
1. LOOKED FOR CAR KEYS THAT WEREN'T THERE: This girl Patty drove a few of us down. She didn't want to drink because she has a kid. I was pretty grateful for that - until the end of the night.
It was around 3:30 and Patty wanted to go home. She motioned me out of the apartment, but I refused to go. Patty asked how I would get home. My response? According to Melissa...
"I got this Patty, I got this. I'll drive home. My car keys are somewhere... I can't find them... They're around here somewhere. Where's my car, you ask? I parked it somewhere... I can't remember where. Don't worry Patty, I got this."
Whoops. My car was parked in front of my house, which was a 25-minute drive away, while the car keys were sitting on my desk. If only Cedric Benson had friends like Patty...
2. HIRING A BABYSITTER AT 3 A.M.: Patty had to leave in the first place because her baby was crying. Drunk out of my mind, I said (according to Melissa): "Who can we pay to get this taken care of?"
Patty replied, "I don't want to pay anyone. It's my baby."
So, I responded, "But there's someone we can pay to fix this."
When I have kids, they're not going to last five months... Oh, and if you work for social services, please ignore this part.
3. PROVING MY SOBRIETY: I have a gift. I can't stop time like Hiro, read minds like Parkman or debacle everyone like Jack Bauer, but I feel as though my gift makes me very special. I can recite the alphabet quickly - backwards!
I know just talking about this puts me at risk of getting shot by my future self, but believe me, this is true. I can go Z to A in a matter of seconds without stumbling once.
When I was completely wasted that night, I decided to prove my sobriety to my former grade-school classmates. So, I recited the alphabet backwards. And then I did it again. And again. And again. Melissa told me I did it like 10 times.
Whoops. I guess I really shouldn't tell anyone what I can... wait a second... who's the guy with the horn-rimmed glasses outside my window, and why's he staring at me?
ARIZONA OFFENSE: The Cardinals surprised everyone by running the ball against the Falcons. Well, I wasn't too shocked because Edgerrin James totaled 100 rushing yards against the Seahawks the week before. Atlanta, ranked 28th versus the rush, didn't have a shot at stopping James.
Carolina isn't great against the run either, but they're not as terrible as Atlanta. In fact, in the Week 8 meeting, James and Tim Hightower combined for a mere 20 yards on 13 carries.
Despite that lacking production, Kurt Warner was able to go 35-of-49 for 381 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. I don't expect that to happen again for three reasons. First, Carolina was flat in that contest after playing two divisional opponents in a row. Second, that game was in perfect conditions. It's going to be 40 degrees in Carolina on Saturday night. And third, the Cardinals' offensive line hasn't played well on the road this year. Julius Peppers is going to eat Warner alive, which will help Carolina's seventh-ranked pass defense shut down an Arizona aerial attack that could be missing Anquan Boldin.
CAROLINA OFFENSE: The Cardinals are easily the worst team remaining in the playoffs because they can't stop the rush or the pass, especially on the road. The Panthers, meanwhile, are arguably the best team in the NFL because they play tough defense and run the ball better than anyone. Mismatch? I think so.
I really can't see Arizona containing DeAngelo Williams. Williams trampled the Giants' eighth-ranked run defense a few weeks ago. He'll have no problem finding lanes to burst through on Saturday night.
Williams will open up play-action opportunities for Jake Delhomme. Arizona won't have an answer for Steve Smith.
RECAP: When the Cardinals drenched head coach Ken Whisenhunt with a Gatorade shower, I immediately liked Carolina as a pretty big play. Arizona is just happy to be here. You can tell that they didn't expect to even win one playoff game.
Now, the young Cardinals have to travel out of their stadium, where they were carried to victory by their fans, and to the East Coast, where they've struggled all year. Carolina is just too good and too battle-tested to be challenged by a team like Arizona. Also keep in mind that the Panthers enjoyed their own dynamic homefield advantage this year; they were the only team to finish 8-0 as hosts.
The Psychology. Edge: Panthers.
Do the Cardinals believe they can win on the East Coast in cold weather? After New England drilled them, I'm not so sure. Carolina has tons of playoff experience. Besides, the Cardinals already had their Gatorade moment.
The Vegas. Edge: Cardinals.
Slight action on the Panthers.
Percentage of money on Carolina: 62% (223,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Panthers.
Worst Bye: Playoff teams with byes are 6-14 ATS since 2003 (3-9 since 2005).
Cardinals are 1-4 ATS on the East Coast in 2008.
Panthers are 13-21 ATS as a home favorite of 3.5 or more since 2001 (3-2 in 2008).
Panthers are 20-26 ATS at home since 2003 (5-2 in 2008).
John Fox is 6-1 ATS in the playoffs.
Jake Delhomme is 14-19 ATS as a home favorite (5-2 in 2008).
Prop/Teaser/Parlay Picks A list of some of my favorite team/player prop picks this week (Offense & defensive ROY picks to be counted
whenver winners are announced.) Picks carried over on a week-to-week basis will be in black.
Note: For legality purposes, this Web site does not promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only.
Last Week's NFL Picks Against The Spread (Week 11, 2015): 5-6-3 (-$2,010)
Last Week's 2-3 Unit NFL Picks (Week 11, 2015): 0-1 (-$330)
Last Week's 4-5 Unit NFL Picks (Week 11, 2015): 0-1 (-$550)
Last Week Over-Under (Week 11, 2015): 9-5 ($0)
Last Week's Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks (Week 11, 2015): $0
2015 NFL Picks of the Month: 0-3, 0% (-$2,200)
2015 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 78-90-9, 46.4% (-$5,920) 2015 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 27-26-1, 51.0% (-$685) 2015 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 10-14, 41.7% (-$3,040) 2015 Season Over-Under: 80-76-4, 51.3% ($0) 2015 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: -$595
1999 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 27-41-3 (39.7%) 2000 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 128-123-8 (51.0%) 2001 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 127-122-7 (51.0%) 2002 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 123-136-7 (47.5%) 2003 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 146-126-8 (53.7%) 2004 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 157-123-8 (56.1%) 2005 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 156-126-11 (55.3%) 2006 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 151-135-9 (52.8%) 2007 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 162-135-10, 54.5% (+$2,550) 2008 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 148-140-7, 51.4% (+$2,620) 2009 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 151-124-9, 54.9% (+$3,370) 2010 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 144-131-8, 52.4% (+$6,080) 2011 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 137-133-12, 50.7% (-$1,925) 2012 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 130-145-8, 47.3% (-$5,760) 2013 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 144-131-8, 52.4% (+$5,580) 2014 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 143-133-7, 51.8% (-$1,885)
2002 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 41-49-2 (45.6%) 2003 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 52-51-2 (50.5%) 2004 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 65-44-3 (59.6%) 2005 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 77-61-1 (55.8%) 2006 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 65-61-4 (51.6%) 2007 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 83-59-5, 58.5% (+$4,110) 2008 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 44-57-3, 43.6% (-$3,510) 2009 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 49-35-3, 58.3% (+$2,260) 2010 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 51-38-4, 57.3% (+$3,180) 2011 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 44-51-3, 46.3% (-$2,715) 2012 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 45-50-2, 47.4% (-$2,130) 2013 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 38-42, 47.5% (-$2,890)
2002 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 11-12 (47.8%) 2003 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 16-13-1 (55.2%) 2004 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 18-11 (62.1%) 2005 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 25-22-1 (53.2%) 2006 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 21-29-1 (42.0%) 2007 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 35-30-2, 53.8% (+$420) 2008 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 39-26-2, 60.0% (+$4,055) 2009 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 29-26, 52.7% (+$330) 2010 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 32-22, 59.3% (+$4,790) 2011 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 14-14, 50.0% (-$1,260) 2012 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 14-21, 40.0% (-$3,650) 2013 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 17-9-3, 65.4% (+$2,970)
2001 Season Over-Under: 3-2 (60.0%) 2002 Season Over-Under: 121-91-3 (57.1%) 2003 Season Over-Under: 126-132-2 (48.8%) 2004 Season Over-Under: 139-124-4 (52.9%) 2005 Season Over-Under: 117-145-4 (44.7%) 2006 Season Over-Under: 129-132-5 (49.4%) 2007 Season Over-Under: 136-145-3, 48.4% (-$1,900) 2008 Season Over-Under: 137-125-6, 52.3% (+$860) 2009 Season Over-Under: 128-135-4, 48.7% (-$3,195) 2010 Season Over-Under: 128-135-5, 48.7% (-$5) 2011 Season Over-Under: 131-131-5, 50.0% (+$135) 2012 Season Over-Under: 125-121-5, 50.8% (+$30) 2013 Season Over-Under: 132-130-5, 50.4% (-$340)
2007 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$1,035 2008 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$1,775 2009 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$865 2010 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: -$200 2011 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$590 2012 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: -$1,685 2013 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$2,245
2006 NFL Picks of the Month: 3-3 (50%) 2007 NFL Picks of the Month: 3-3, 50.0% (-$400) 2008 NFL Picks of the Month: 6-1, 85.7% (+$3,720) 2009 NFL Picks of the Month: 3-2, 60.0% (+$640) 2010 NFL Picks of the Month: 2-4, 33.3% (-$1,810) 2011 NFL Picks of the Month: 5-2, 71.4% (+$1,870) 2012 NFL Picks of the Month: 3-2, 60.0% (+$560) 2013 NFL Picks of the Month: 6-0, 100% (+$3,900) 2014 NFL Picks of the Month: 2-4, 33.3% (-$1,350)
Career NFL Picks Against The Spread: 2,235-2,068-126, 51.9% (+$4,600) Career 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 721-650-34 (52.5%) Career 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 298-265-11 (52.9%) Career Over-Under: 1,760-1,722-50 (50.6%) Career Second-Half NFL Picks: 22-15-1 (61.1%) Career NFL Picks of the Month: 30-22 (57.7%)
My Team-by-Team ATS Record This section shows how well I do when picking each team this year. The purpose is to see how well I read each team. Pushes are not
displayed. Winning/losing streak in parentheses.