Michael Vick? Gone. Drew Brees? Gone. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning? Gone and gone.
Mark Sanchez and Jay Cutler? One win away from the Super Bowl.
Somebody please wake me up from this nightmare before something really scary happens—like Steven Tyler showing up on my TV as a judge for a karaoke contest. (What? That’s real, too? Oh, come on!)
Seriously, if you’re wondering why Vegas Seven is approaching its one-year anniversary and I’m still struggling just to get my bankroll ($5,629) back to even, just look at my performance so far in the NFL playoffs: I’m 6-4 overall (3-3 last week), but down $511 (including a loss of $348 last week) because I lost my two big plays.
To recap: Two weeks ago, I supported the defending champion Saints ($220), who went 11-5 this season and had a point differential of plus-77, against the Seahawks, who won the pathetic NFC West with a 7-9 record and got outscored by nearly 100 points (407-310). Of course, Seattle won 41-36 as a 10-point underdog.
Then last week I backed the Patriots ($440) at home against the Jets. Another no-brainer, seeing that New England finished an NFL-best 14-2 thanks to a season-ending eight-game winning streak that included a 45-3 whipping of the Jets. In that game, Brady tossed four TD passes and Sanchez threw three interceptions. So what happened in the playoff rematch? Sanchez outplayed Brady, and New York won 28-21 as a nine-point road underdog.
(You know, the more I think about it, an NFL work stoppage next season might be the best thing that’s ever happened to my income!)
On to this week’s picks …
$440 (to win $400) on STEELERS (-3½) vs. Jets: You’re waiting for me to admit I’m wrong about Sanchez, aren’t you? You’re waiting for me to admit that I need to stop trashing a kid who’s won four road playoff games in his first two seasons. OK, I’ll admit it … right after O.J. admits he’s a double-murderer. Fact is, Sanchez has benefited from facing two below-average defenses (the Patriots and Colts both ranked in the bottom third in the league in yards allowed). Now he faces a defense that gave up just 14.5 points and 276.8 yards per game in the regular season.
Did Sanchez lead the Jets to a 22-17 win in Pittsburgh a month ago? Technically, yes. But in going a pedestrian 19 of 29 for 170 yards, Sanchez didn’t have to face ball-hawking Steelers safety Troy Polamalu (he sat out with an injury). Also, the Jets got outgained 377-276, and the only reason they won is because Brad Smith opened the game with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Well, Smith missed last week’s game at New England with a groin injury and is questionable this week.
The Steelers have won their last two AFC title games, and they’ve covered the spread in nine straight January contests and eight of nine in the playoffs. Finally, the odds of the Jets winning three road games against three teams that have won six Super Bowls (and appeared in eight) since 2001 are about as high as Rex Ryan’s cholesterol count.
$220 (to win $200) on PACKERS (-3½) at Bears: This from Chapter 1 in the “How To Bet the NFL Playoffs” manual: Never wager against a home underdog in a championship game … when the opponent is a division rival … that the betting public has fallen in love with. So damn right I’m going with the Packers! The reason? Green Bay has the hotter QB in Aaron Rodgers and the better defense.
To the latter point, Green Bay’s defense has yielded just six TDs and two field goals in its last four games. More impressively, if you take away a 31-27 loss at New England, the Packers since Halloween have allowed 0, 7, 3, 20, 16, 7, 17, 3, 16 and 21 points. Additionally, since Rodgers took over as a starter in 2008, Green Bay is 4-2 against the Bears, allowing an average of 12.5 points and 260 yards per game.
BEST OF THE REST: Jets-Steelers UNDER 38½ ($55); Packers (-3, first half) vs. Bears ($55); Packers-Bears UNDER 44 ($44); Jets-Steelers first-half UNDER 19½ ($33).
Matt Jacob is a former local sports writer who has been in the sports handicapping business for more than five years. For his weekly column, Vegas Seven has granted Matt a “$7,000” bankroll. If he blows it all, we’ll fire him and replace him with a monkey.