NFL Picks: Conference Championships

Written by Football, Sports

Gamblor had a quiet week last week, going 2-2 for a small loss of $31.  The computer, like many bettors, anticipated that Arizona would put up a much bigger fight against the Saints.  As I’ve said before, Gamblor’s gambling season is over – the playoff losses and gains are completely theoretical.  I haven’t filled in any historical data so I have no idea whether the process actually works once the regular season is over.  And with fewer games each week, Gamblor has less to say anyhow.

Hopefully some of the readers this week include folks who have found their way over from walterfootball.com courtesy of the Punch-Out video I passed on.  It was submitted by a group called Team Awesome as an entry in the Nintendo Short Cuts Showcase contest, and didn’t even receive so much as an honorable mention.  And now it’s got more than twice as many views as all of the ten original finalists combined.  So in honor of Team Awesome, I thought I’d use their fine work as an inspiration for this week’s feature.

(To watch this video, right-click and hit play)

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Given how violent of a game football is, fistfights are actually relatively rare.  With all the protective pads the players are wearing, there’s not all that much point.  These days, when looking to cause serious damage, most players have learned to lead with their head.  But there have still been a number of cases of fisticuffs that have, for one reason or another, made it into the legends and lore of the NFL. 

The Top 5 Most Memorable Punches in NFL History:

5. LeGarrette Blount vs. Byron Hout. It’s debatable whether this punch belongs in this countdown, since it happened at the college level.  But given the ultimate effect it had on his career and his draft status, it’s got the potential to be a very influential incident.  After favored Oregon lost their season opener, Boise State defensive lineman Byron Hout threw one too many taunts in Blount’s direction and was paid back with a devastating right to the jaw that would have led to a TKO if it had happened in the ring.  Blount was kicked off the Oregon team following the incident, and although he was reinstated for the final game of the season and was fortunate enough to play in the Rose Bowl, his draft status plummeted as a result of sitting out the majority of his senior season.  It’s not clear which NFL team will roll the dice on Blount, but it’s unlikely he’ll be taken before the sixth round, which essentially means that he could wind up anywhere.

4.  Garth DeFelice vs. Kenneth Darby. Garth DeFelice doesn’t sound like a linebacker’s name, does it?  It’s not.  DeFelice was a referee working the umpire position in a game between the St. Louis Rams and the San Francisco 49ers.  After Mark Bulger dumped off a short pass up the middle to Kenneth Darby, the running back tried to keep DeFelice between himself and a potential tackler, but ended up running into his forearm instead.  While there was no malicious intent on either side, it made for a pretty amusing moment and a terrific still photograph (click on the photo for the full version).

3.  Tom Cable vs. Randy Hanson. The Raiders have been terrible for years, and putting Tom Cable in charge did little to change things in any meaningful way.  But he did get into the proper spirit of the organization by unloading a punch against assistant coach Randy Hanson during a preseason meeting, shattering Hanson’s jaw and leading to a police investigation of the incident.  Shortly afterwards, additional accusations of physical abuse surfaced from two of Cable’s ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend.  Ultimately there were no repercussions for Cable, although he’ll be fired shortly and it’s unlikely that any other NFL team will have much interest in employing him down the road.

2.  Buddy Ryan vs. Kevin Gilbride. During the playoff-bound Houston Oilers’ season finale against the New York Jets, a long-simmering feud between Ryan and Gilbride finally broke through the surface.  In a game where his team was leading 14-0 going into halftime, defensive coordinator Ryan got frustrated with offensive Gilbride’s adherence to the run and shoot scheme.  Ryan felt that Gilbride’s refusal to run the ball and eat up the clock was putting his defensive players at risk, and when quarterback Cody Carlson fumbled, Ryan was furious and lunged at Gilbride, delivering a glancing blow to his fellow coach’s jaw.

1.  George Atkinson vs. Lynn Swann. The feud between the Raiders and the Steelers in the 1970’s has never been matched in terms of sheer intensity.  The Raiders defensive backs had a particular animosity for Steelers receiver (and eventual Superbowl MVP) Lynn Swann, believing that the fleet receiver had a deep-seated fear of contact and could be intimidated.  In a 1976 regular season game, Atkinson delivered a vicious (and incredibly dirty) blow to the base of Swann’s skull, which knocked the receiver out of the game and resulted in a concussion – the second such injury that Swann received at the hands of Atkinson.  I think the hit in question can be seen at the 2:45 mark of this video – it’s about as cheap of a shot as you’ll ever see.  Atkinson was fined $1500 for the incident, and subsequently filed a $2 million slander lawsuit against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their head coach Chuck Noll for his statement that a “criminal element” existed in the NFL.

And now, on to the picks…so to speak.  According to Gamblor’s calculations, neither one of the games this week is worth betting on.  Vegas has set the lines with the intention of getting equal action on both sides of each game, and as things stand at the moment, they seem to have succeeded.

NEW YORK JETS
at
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Gamblor’s Pick: Indianapolis (-7.5)
Bet Amount: None
WHY I AGREE: Considering pure statistics only, Gamblor thinks this line is a little on the high side.

Two weeks ago, not many people thought the Jets would be able to walk away from Cincinnati with a win.  Last week, nobody thought the Jets were going to be able to keep up with the Chargers. They’ve made a lot of folks into believers, but I think this is where the dream finally ends for them.

As I mentioned last week, when returning to action after a layoff, Peyton Manning has been pretty ineffective.  And although the Colts covered the spread with ease last week, that had more to do with Baltimore’s mistakes than any particular dominance on the part of the Colts offense.  Now that they’ve had a week of serious football to help them get their rhythm back, I think they’ll be able to put up more points.

The Jets simply won’t be able to keep up.  Sanchez has held together remarkably well during these playoffs, but unless his offensive line is able to maintain an incredible advantage via the running game, he’ll be forced to throw the ball in an effort to keep up with the Colts.  I’d love to see the Jets win this game, but I think it’s very likely that they’re able to come anywhere close to the Colts here.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS
at
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Gamblor’s Pick: Minnesota (+3.5)
Bet Amount: None
WHY IT’S WRONG: New Orleans didn’t miss a beat in their return to action last week, taking full

advantage of an exhausted defense and completely shutting down an offense that had put up 51 points the week before.  Having the extra downtime at the end of the season, while often a handicap for most teams was actually very beneficial for the Saints, because rest and recuperation was actually something their players were in dire need of.  Gamblor thinks that Minnesota should be getting more points here – and I have to agree.

The homefield advantage for both of these teams was very apparent last week, and both of their opponents looked thoroughly confounded when trying to change plays at the scrimmage.  That’s key, because as good as Minnesota looked last week, they won’t have a crowd helping them this time.  They’ll run into the same problems that Dallas did – and Arizona too.

Vikings fans have been dreading an inevitable Brett Farve meltdown all year, and I think this is where they’ll finally have all their fears realized.  We’re all familiar with Farve’s cry of “Blue 58” but it won’t be loud enough to penetrate the Superdome’s crowd noise.  Adrian Peterson hasn’t been able to accomplish anything lately, and with Farve’s ability to stay in synch with his receivers thrown off, he’ll miss a few reads and throw an interception or two.  Considering how flawless the Saints will be, this will be devastating – because Farve will be forced to throw even more in an effort to keep up.

I hope I’m wrong on both of these games and we’re treated to a pair of competitive contests…but I’m expecting a pair of blowouts this weekend.

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Week Zack Gamblor Weighted Wins Weighted Picks Weighted Win % Profit
Win Lose Push Win Lose Push
Wild Card 1 3 3 1 2751 3053 97.0% $486.74
Divisional Playoffs 2 2 2 2 87 320 27.2% -$31.00
Total 3 5 5 3 2838 3373 84.1% $455.74

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