Forgive me, Tim Tebow, for I have sinned. Time and again I’ve doubted your ability to competently throw the football—in part because 90 percent of the time I’ve seen you throw it, you’re either sailing ducks over your intended target’s head or chucking it into the ground like you’re hunting gophers. And time and again, you’ve made me look like a fool, with last weekend’s inexplicable 29-23 overtime playoff victory over the heavily favored Steelers being the latest example.
Who knew that, after leading your Denver offense to a grand total of 8 yards in the opening quarter, you’d explode for 439 yards the rest of the way—against the NFL’s top-ranked defense? Who knew that in three quarters and one overtime play you’d lead your team (which had tallied exactly 27 points in the previous 12 quarters) to 29 points—against a defense that had held five of its previous six opponents to nine points or fewer? Who knew that you’d turn 10 completions into 316 yards—against a defense that limited opponents to a league-low 171.9 passing yards per game?
Who knew? You knew, sir.
And now, after shredding the NFL’s No. 1 defense, you get a second crack at the Patriots, whose defense tormented you over the final three quarters of a 41-23 New England victory in Denver a month ago. Alas, it’s also a defense that ranked 31st out of 32 NFL teams in total yards and passing yards allowed. Still, the experts here in Vegas are spotting you nearly two touchdowns before the game even kicks off.
They don’t believe in you, Mr. Tebow. But I believe. I believe for two reasons: 1) If I doubt you again, I’m afraid there’s a bolt of lightning with my name on it; and 2) I know the most quoted biblical reference in sports is John 3:16. Your two bosses are named John (Elway and Fox), and in your first playoff game you threw for 316 yards.
Coincidence? I think not. On to this week’s picks …
$660 (to win $600) on Broncos +13½ at Patriots: Number of playoff wins since Feb. 3, 2008: Tim Tebow 1, Tom Brady 0. In fact, going back to their 17-14 Super Bowl loss to the Giants, Brady and the Patriots have dropped three straight postseason games, the last two coming at home: 33-14 to the Ravens as a 3½-point favorite in 2009 and 28-21 to the Jets as a 9½-point chalk last January. The two quarterbacks who outdueled Brady in those two games: Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez, two lightly regarded kids in their second NFL season … just like Tebow.
More symmetry for you: New England entered last year’s game against the Jets as the No. 1 seed, closing the regular season with eight straight victories (including a 45-3 beat-down of New York) while averaging 37.4 points per game. This year, New England enters the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, closing the regular season with eight straight victories (including its beat-down of Denver) while averaging 36.4 ppg.
And while the Broncos have covered in nine of their last 13 playoff contests (and five of their last six road games this season), the Patriots have failed to cash in six straight playoff games (and 14 of 17 when laying more than 10 points at home).
$330 (to win $300) on 49ers +3½ vs. Saints: First I back Tebow over Brady; now I’m going against a team that’s won and covered nine straight games. No, I’m not trying to get fired—it just seems that way. Yes, the Saints have been very impressive during their nine-game winning streak. They’ve also played just one of those games outdoors. That was a 22-17 win at Tennessee, and the Titans were at the Saints’ 5-yard line when time expired.
Away from the great indoors this season, New Orleans went 3-2 (2-3 against the spread), with only one convincing win (23-10 at Jacksonville). Now the Saints travel to San Francisco, where the 49ers are 7-1 (7-0-1 ATS), winning by an average of nearly 17 ppg. Since a fluky 27-24 overtime loss to Dallas in Week 2, the Niners have won six straight at home while yielding a total of 43 points.
$220 (to win $200) on Giants +8 vs. Packers: Three reasons for backing yet another underdog: 1) The Giants’ physical front seven vs. the Packers’ banged-up offensive line; 2) New York’s speedy receivers vs. a Packers secondary that yielded a league-worst 300 passing yards per game; and 3) momentum and confidence (since a last-second 38-35 home loss to the then-unbeaten Packers, New York has won and covered four of five).
BEST OF THE REST: Giants-Packers OVER 52 ($88); Texans +7½ at Ravens ($66); Broncos +7½ (first half) at Patriots ($55); Texans-Ravens OVER 35½ ($44); Giants money line (+320) at Packers ($20).
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS (with one play pending): 4-3 (-$254); Bankroll: $6,321.