I find it fitting that the first round of the NFL playoffs coincides with the annual arrival of the adult entertainment convention here in town. Not that I’ve ever been to the latter (no really, I swear!), but I have to imagine the mindset of those who do attend is similar to those who wager on wild-card playoff games. You go into it cautiously optimistic, try to pace yourself and repeat a 1,000 times in your head, “I promise, nothing I see will shock me”—and yet inevitably you end up with at least one “I don’t believe what I just saw!” moment.
Sure enough, wild-card weekend was about as bizarre as seeing Jenna Jameson in a nun’s habit. To recap:
Three of four underdogs won outright.
Three of four road teams prevailed (the exception being the Seahawks, who eliminated the Super Bowl-champion Saints as a 10-point underdog).
Jets QB Mark Sanchez upstaged Colts QB Peyton Manning in the comeback department (doing so in Manning’s house).
And Michael Vick, who a month ago looked like an amalgamation of Dan Marino, Barry Sanders and Superman, was merely average in a 21-16 home loss to the Packers, whose hero wasn’t QB Aaron Rodgers but running back James Starks (uh, who?).
Yeah, who didn’t see all of that coming?
Despite all the zaniness, I navigated my way to a 2-2 start to the playoffs, while also hitting Auburn and the “under” in the BCS title game (finishing the bowl season 12-8-1 and up $740!). The bad news? Along with probably 80 percent of the betting world, I missed with last week’s big play on the Saints, putting me in a postseason hole heading into the divisional round. Let’s see if I can climb out of the hole with a profitable effort this week (although to do so, the NFL would have to return to some semblance of normalcy).
Still, I went 6-4 overall last week (including my leftover plays from the year-end issue) for a profit of $331, putting my bankroll at $5,977. Now on to this week’s picks …
$440 (to win $400) on PATRIOTS (-8½) vs. Jets: What the hell, laying big points worked out so well with the Saints last week, so why not eat the chalk again? Hey, I know it seems crazy, especially with the Jets coming off a huge win at Indianapolis. But in retrospect, how impressive was that? The Colts were beat up all year, and they needed a four-game season-ending winning streak just to get into the playoffs. And still New York needed every second to pull out a 17-16 victory.
Now the Jets hit the road again, this time facing a divisional rival that won its final eight regular-season games by a combined 174 points. Six of those wins were by 13 points or more, including a 45-3 pasting of the Jets in New England. The Sanchez/Rex Ryan combo has faced the Patriots four times in the last two seasons, beating them twice at home (16-9 and 28-14) and losing twice in New England (31-14 and 45-3). Also, these teams last met in the playoffs four years ago. Result? Patriots 37, Jets 16, with New England easily covering as a 9½-point home favorite.
$110 (to win $100) on Seahawks-Bears OVER 41: There’s no chance Matt Hasselbeck (four TD passes) and the Seahawks will torch the Bears’ stout defense like they did the Saints in last week’s 41-36 stunner. But they won’t have to; they just need to produce like they did in their last four meetings with Chicago, when Seattle scored 24, 30, 19 and 23 points. The latter was the Seahawks’ 23-20 upset win in the Windy City on Oct. 17 (I lost one of my biggest plays of the season on the Bears that day).
That game nudged over the 37½-point total, meaning the “over” has cashed in five straight meetings between these teams since 2006. Furthermore, Seattle has now gone over the number in nine of its last 10 games, and the Bears ended the regular season on a 5-1 “over” binge (their last three home games ended in scores of 31-26, 36-7 and 38-34).
BEST OF THE REST: Packers (+2) at Falcons ($55); Packers-Falcons UNDER 45½ ($44); Ravens (+3) at Steelers ($44); Jets-Patriots OVER 45 ($33).