Anybody catch the license-plate number of the semi-truck that ran me off the road and over the fiscal cliff during college football’s bowl season? Holy hell, you know it’s bad when both Bob Stoops and Notre Dame fans are sending emails mocking your pathetic bowl performance. OK, neither of those things happened, but this did: Minutes after Notre Dame finally scored to trim its BCS title-game deficit to 35-7 and push the contest “over” the total—and thus kill my big play on the “under”—my next-door neighbor called to offer his condolences on the death of this column, presuming I’d gone bankrupt.
Close, but not quite. I’ve still got a couple of bucks stashed in between the mattress and box spring, and Plan A is to invest it wisely in the NFL playoffs over the next two weeks and be sitting on a nice nest egg come Super Bowl Sunday. Plan B? Figure out a way to become the agent for AJ McCarron’s girlfriend.
On to this week’s playoff picks (Note: All point spreads are as of Jan. 7) …
$200 on 49ers -3 (Even) vs. Packers: Probably not much of a surprise that I’d be laying some chalk with my best bet—favorites only went 4-0 straight-up and against the spread in the wild-card round. But going against Aaron Rodgers? As an underdog? When San Francisco is countering with a second-year QB who has all of eight NFL starts on his résumé, including zero in the postseason? Sure, on the surface, betting against the Packers looks riskier than betting against Harry Reid inserting his foot in his mouth in the next 72 hours … until you realize that Rodgers has been sacked an NFL-high 54 times this season. And that the 49ers’ pass rush (38 sacks) is one of the fiercest in the league—one that planted Rodgers in the turf three times in San Francisco’s season-opening 30-22 victory in Green Bay (a very misleading final, by the way, as the Niners never trailed).
What about that second-year San Francisco QB, you ask? Well, all Colin Kaepernick did was put up a 98.3 passer rating while leading his team to a 5-2-1 record down the stretch, outplaying the Bears’ Jay Cutler (32-7 home win), the Saints’ Drew Brees (31-21 road win) and the Patriots’ Tom Brady (41-34 road win).
In two seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers are 25-8-1 SU and 23-11 ATS, including 14-3-1 SU at home (12-5-1 ATS). On the flip side, the Packers are 4-4 away from Lambeau Field, including losses to Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Christian Ponder, three QBs with a combined four years of NFL experience.
$110 on Texans +9½ at Patriots: My ophthalmologist recently informed me that my eyesight is perfect. I think it might time to find a new ophthalmologist. Because one eye tells me the Texans—after last week’s 19-13 win over Cincinnati—are now 13-4, while the other eye tells me Houston is a 9½-point underdog versus the 12-4 Patriots. Say what? Oh, that’s right: A month ago, the Texans went to New England and got crushed 42-14 as a 5½-point underdog. So obviously Houston doesn’t stand a chance here. Just like the Jets didn’t stand a chance two years ago when they went to New England in early December and got boat-raced 45-3 … only to return to Foxborough five weeks later and win 28-21 as—yep!—a 9½-point underdog. Shit, Mark Sanchez had three TDs and no picks in that game! Now I get Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson … and 9½ points? Sold!
$110 on Ravens +9 at Broncos: Peyton Williams Manning has played in 19 playoff games. His record: 9 wins, 10 losses. Four of those wins came in the Colts’ run to the 2006 Super Bowl title. Since then, Mr. Manning is 2-4 in the postseason (all as a favorite), including two losses to the Norv Turner-led Chargers! So, no, I don’t care that Denver destroyed the Ravens in Baltimore 34-17 in mid-December (part of the Broncos’ unimpressive 2-3 record against playoff teams, by the way). I trust Lindsay Lohan to drive me home from the bar at 4 a.m. more than I trust Manning as a 9-point favorite (in what are certain to be frigid conditions).