Gamblor finished its season in style, making the second-largest number of weighted picks in its entire 14-year (theoretical) history and finishing with a weighted win percentage of 57.5% and a profit of $153. Its overall record was actually terrible at 5-11, but it hit its number 1, 3, and 4 picks, including its biggest bet of the season of $524 on the Buffalo Bills, who closed their season by routing a completely disinterested Colts team. I am now a permanent enemy of the Green Bay Packers, who beat Gamblor yet again by putting in 110% effort against the Arizona Cardinals in a completely meaningless game they’ll be playing again this weekend. As it turns out, I didn’t have the stones to let Gamblor bet as much money as it wanted to risk ($1200 total) so my take from the week wasn’t quite so high. But it was a nice end to an otherwise disappointing season.
Gamblor is all done gambling for the year. The spreads during the playoffs are completely different from the regular season – the sportsbooks don’t seem comfortable trying to set traps the way they normally do. All of the spreads during the wild card week will open at about -3 in favor of the host, all of the spreads during the divisional playoffs will open at about -5 in favor of the host (who are off a bye week’s worth of rest), and both of the spreads during the conference championships will open at about -3 in favor of the host. They’ll move a bit according to the action on the game, but there’s really no major edge to be found in the spread itself. I’m including Gamblor’s picks below just for the purpose of giving me something to agree or disagree with, but as the disclaimer below clearly states, this is for amusement purposes only. I made my own picks during the season ostensibly to prove that Gamblor’s judgment is better than my own, and seeing as its record of 122-130 beat my own record of 119-133, I don’t think either one of us has sufficient credibility to advise anyone on how these playoff games are going to turn out.
With that said, Gamblor is once again in love with the Arizona Cardinals – for even more than it bet last week. I’ll explain below.
|NEW YORK JETS
Gamblor’s Pick: New York (+2.5)
Bet Amount: $72.50 (Hedge)
|WHY IT’S WRONG: Gamblor thinks this spread is perfect. Literally perfect. All 360 models see this spread resulting no side dominating in more than 55% of the permutations. And I can’t disagree.
The game we saw last week really doesn’t have all that much to do with game we’ll see this week. The last time the Bengals made the playoffs was in 2005, and the last time before that was in 1990. That was also the last time they hosted a playoff game, which they won (against the Houston Oilers). Their fans will not let this opportunity to affect the game pass them by.
All of the relentless talk about Mark Sanchez’s “poise” pretty much fell off after he threw four interceptions while losing to the New England Patriots in an important game during Week 11. On the road. Sanchez hasn’t had much success away from Giants Stadium – in his three toughest away games (New England, Miami, and New Orleans) he’s thrown just two touchdowns to seven interceptions. And this will be his toughest road game yet.
Many of the weaknesses that the Bengals showed against the Jets will have been addressed. They were wise not to use a vanilla game plan in the final game of the season. Needing the win, the Jets showed all their cards. The Bengals will have a more interesting – and more effective – game plan of their own this week. Injured defensive linemen Domata Peko and Robert Geathers will be back, Cedric Benson will play, and Chad Ochocinco will be 100% again. It’s not hard to imagine this being a very tough game (that even has the potential to go to overtime), but in the end the Bengals will end up on top.
Gamblor’s Pick: Philadelphia (+4)
Bet Amount: $16.92 (Hedge)
|WHY I AGREE: Losing to the Dallas Cowboys last week was a tremendous letdown for the Eagles. They looked terrible, they blew a chance at having a bye (and home field advantage the following week), and they let their fans down in the final game of their season. But as strange as it sounds,
I think it might end up being a good thing for them. The Eagles had put together a six game winning streak, but during those games the toughest opponent they faced was the Atlanta Falcons. The loss to the Cowboys was an important wake-up call for them.
Dallas has beaten Philadelphia in both games they played this year, taking the earlier contest at Cowboy Stadium by a score of 20-16. They seem to have conquered their December curse, but there’s still plenty of bad mojo left regarding their record in the playoffs in recent history. There are times when teams try too hard, and I think they have the potential to fall into this trap. Philadelphia can bait them with a few trick plays and double moves that exploit their hunger – look for DeSean Jackson to pull in at least one long touchdown before this game is over.
Like the earlier game, I see this one as being a tight contest. There will be a lot of lead changes, and it should be an exciting game to watch. But I think the spread has drifted just a little bit too high, and will factor in in Philadelphia’s favor.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Gamblor’s Pick: Baltimore (+3)
Bet Amount: $10.27 (Hedge)
|WHY I AGREE: This is New England’s last gasp. They managed to beat Baltimore earlier this season on the road, but that was primarily due to a dropped ball by Mark Clayton that cost the Ravens a first
down inside New England’s ten yard line with under a minute left. Joe Flacco learned then that he’s capable of beating the Patriots – and he won’t have forgotten it. The Patriots certainly have plenty of playoff experience – but so do the Ravens. And it’s more recent experience – they made it to teh conference championship last year, while the Patriots were stuck at home moaning about the inequities of the playoff structure.
New England’s secondary is weak. Against the three most prolific passing teams they’ve faced (Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Houston), they’ve given up an average of 35.7 points per game and lost all three contests. While Baltimore isn’t capable of those kinds of numbers, John Harbaugh is smart enough to recognize the Patriots’ weakness in this area and make the most of it. With Ray Rice and Willis McGahee helping to force the defense to focus on stopping the running game, the Ravens will have a chance to throw the ball downfield often. And Flacco will be capable of executing the game plan solidly.
The Patriots offense, on the other hand, is leaking oil in a major way. Randy Moss seems to wither at the slightest sign of adversity, and with Welker gone the Ravens will be able to smother him with at least two defensive backs on every single play. Edelman has the physical tools to fill in for him, but doesn’t have the same rapport with Tom Brady that made Welker so dangerous as an outlet for Brady on blitzes and in other tight spots. It’s not hard to see Baltimore winning this game outright, and I hope they do.
|GREEN BAY PACKERS
Gamblor’s Pick: Arizona (-1)
Bet Amount: $471.25 (Flip)
|WHY IT’S WRONG: Yet again, Gamblor sees this spread as being far too high in favor of the Cardinals. Last week I mentioned that Green Bay has been costing the sportsbooks a ton of money
thus far this season because they haven’t set the lines properly, and I finally figured out why Gamblor always thinks the spreads in Green Bay games are always off. It’s all about turnovers.
Gamblor factors in the turnover ratio pretty heavily – because it’s one of the most important indicators of how strong a team actually is. This year, the Packers finished with a ratio of +22. They only turned the ball over 15 times (7 interceptions and 8 fumbles) while taking it away 37 times. Nobody else in the league is anywhere close to that – and even the worst teams in the NFL (Detroit) is only at -16. It’s the highest ratio the NFC has seen in the last ten years or so.
The Packers are red-hot right now. Their offense seems unstoppable, and their defense is completely shutting everyone else down. They’ve won seven of their last eight, and haven’t lost against the spread during that time, and they just trounced Arizona in what they’re hoping was a preview of Sunday’s game. This seems to be the one game where Vegas is taking a bit of a chance but they’re already starting to panic. The line, which opened at -2.5, has already slipped all the way to -1. And at the moment, 88% of the money is on the underdog Packers. I’m not sure they meant to, but the books are relying pretty heavily on an Arizona win.
In the end, I simply can’t be objective about this one. I hate the goddamed Packers because they’ve cost me so much money this season – $940 in total. I hope the Cardinals stomp them into a fine yellow and green paste.
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