There are just eight teams remaining in the quest for winning Super Bowl XLVII early next month in New Orleans.
Houston defeated Cincinnati 19-13, with an outstanding defense but an offense that managed just one touchdown and four field goals
Green Bay dispatched Minnesota 24-10, a task made much easier when it was announced a couple of hours prior to kickoff that Vikings starting QB Christian Ponder was out with an injury and backup Joe Webb would start.
Baltimore put an end to Indianapolis’ dream season with a solid 24-9 win, despite the Colts dominating time of possession by 15 minutes. The Baltimore defense was on the field for 87 plays, which may be a negative in the high altitude of Denver.
And in the battle of the rookie quarterbacks Seattle and Russell Wilson came away with a 24-14 win over Washington and Robert Griffin III. Of the four wins last weekend, Seattle’s at Washington was arguably the most impressive.
Form held up, Las Vegas style, as Seattle’s win completed a perfect 4 for 4 performance by the favored teams. All four favorites not only won their games but also covered the point spread.
All four Wild Card games also stayed UNDER the total and by a considerable margin. The 38 combined points scored by the Seahawks and Redskins fell short of the closing total by 7. The other three games each stayed UNDER by a minimum of 10.
As has been the case for more than 20 seasons, the average margin of victory was in double digits and three of the four Wild Card games were decided by at least 10 points.
Now it’s on to the Divisional round, which many observers consider the best weekend of football of the entire season.
A look at past Divisional results since the playoff format was revised to increase from 10 to 12 teams shows more than 50 percent of the games since 1990 have been decided by more than 10 points (47 of 88). It has produced the largest average margin of victory of the four playoff rounds, 14.3 points per game.
Home teams win 73 percent of Divisional round games (64 of 88), but are just 54 percent ATS (46-40-2) and favorites have covered just 49%. In this round since 1991 favorites of 3 points or less are just 7-9 SU and 5-10-1 ATS, suggesting that perhaps either or both Green Bay and/or Seattle will pull off and upset in the NFC.
Divisional round favorites from 7.5 to 10 points are 17-6 SU, but just 12-11 ATS. This could point to both Denver and New England winning their games, but for one of those two top AFC seeds to not cover the hefty impost.
Here’s a look at the four games that will determine the teams to play for the right to reach the Super Bowl a week later.
Ravens +9 at Broncos (45.5): No team is hotter than Denver which has won 11 straight games and comes off a week of rest. Only once in their 11 game win streak has an opponent rushed for more than 100 yards. Denver has excelled on both sides of the football during this streak, scoring at least 30 points nine times while holding foes to seven points or less seven times. Baltimore LB Ray Lewis got his wish of a win in his final home game before he retires but that retirement should occur following this game. Denver has too many edges on both sides of the ball, including QB Peyton Manning. And they are fresh after the bye week. DENVER.
Packers +3 at 49ers (45): Both teams have a very similar strength of schedule. For the season the 49ers have the better stats, by a rather solid margin, in yards per play on both sides of the football and especially in the rushing game. The Niners were outgained on a yards per play basis in just two games all season. The Packers were outgained on that same basis in both of its last two games against Minnesota and in seven games overall. This is the game most likely to produce an upset. But the Niners are rested, playing at home and have the better defense. The teams combined to allow just 37 points per game. It’s likely that at least one of these teams will struggle on offense, if not both. UNDER .
Seahawks +2 at Falcons (45.5): This may be the weekend’s most intriguing matchup. Much has been made of Atlanta’s failure to win a playoff game behind coach Mike Smith and QB Matt Ryan. The fact is that Atlanta has made the Playoffs in 3 of the duo’s 4 seasons and twice they lost their opening Playoff game on the road. In their lone home playoff game in this stretch they lost to eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay in the 2010 Playoffs. Seattle has the better defensive stats, ranking fourth in total defense and first in scoring defense. Yet despite their No. 24 ranking in total defense, the Falcons rank No. 5 in scoring defense. The Falcons achieved one of their most important goals heading into the season when they whipped the New York Giants, the team that embarrassed the Falcons in last season’s playoffs. Now they seek to silence those who say they cannot win a Playoff game. They have shown enough to suggest they are up to the challenge. ATLANTA.
Texans +9 at Patriots (49): In Week 14, on this field, New England took control early and routed the Texans 42-14. That game was a continuation of some major defensive issues that plagues the Texans over the second half of the season. Part of New England’s success was related to turning the ball over just 16 times on offense while forcing 41 takeaways on defense (ranking second to Chicago’s 44). And the Patriots are used to the big stage and the pressure of the playoffs. The offense is better this season than last while the defense is also improved. And New England made it to the Super Bowl last season, although they were fortunate to get by Baltimore in the AFC Championship game. Houston coach Gary Kubiak has been consistently out coached in his career. And few teams are better prepared, especially with rest prior to a big game, than this week’s foe. NEW ENGLAND.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]