NFL title games for the birds

Jan 13, 2009 5:07 PM
On The Mark by Mark Mayer |
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The 2009 Super Bowl looks to be for the birds.

Eagles, Cardinals, Ravens all still alive. The only bird to lose was the Falcons and that’s because they had to face the Cardinals.

Teams with macho names like the Giants and Titans just didn’t have much of a chance. Who could blame Tennessee’s Keith Bullock for his look of disbelief in seeing Baltimore say thank you very much for the three miscues in the red zone and a ticket to Pittsburgh.

And, the G-Men can pretend all they want about not missing Plaxico Burress, but the big guy was missed.

As for my 40-1 futures ticket on the Arizona Cardinals, I’m proud to say we’re two wins away from collecting. Though I picked Arizona to cover the 10-point spot against Carolina, I never really thought the Cards would blow the Panthers out.

College football is done and I was glad to collect on the Florida Gators, both on the side and the under 35 first half. But matching that 59 percent success rate heading into college basketball picks will be a tall order. If able to figure out the University of Massachusetts, then you are on your way to a betting diploma.

But the NFL is king so we’ll start with the conference title games:

NFC championship

Eagles -3½ at Cardinals: Just the fact Arizona is hosting this game is amazing enough. I really misjudged this line, thinking it would be as high as 7. So in my world, the Eagles carry great value. And Donovan McNabb is playing with that chip on his shoulder from being pulled in the Baltimore debacle. Since then the Eagles are 6-1, with most of those victories on the road. Two straight double-digit successes in the playoffs make me believe this line is low.

As for Arizona, I’m in their corner with that 40-1 ticket purchased last Feb. 14. So they are my Valentine. Whether my love get crushed may well depend on the resurgence of Edgerrin James, who has given the Cardinals a run game that defenses at least have to respect. This has opened the passing lanes for Kurt Warner and mostly Larry Fitzgerald. The NFC title game is unchartered waters for the Cards and sadly it may all end here. Philly has the experience, the better defense and that 48-20 win over Arizona to live on. EAGLES.

AFC championship

Ravens +6 at Steelers: It seems like everything does work out in the end. San Diego’s 11-10 or 18-10 game in Pittsburgh was revisited last week and now the Ravens can erase the "Was Santonio Holmes in the end zone?" TD that beat them 13-9.

The Steelers are faced with the task of defeating a team three times in a season, having won the first meeting 23-20 in Pittsburgh. Close games with not much to choose. Baltimore, even with Joe ‘Cool" Flacco, has to feel somewhat fortunate to reach the AFC title game after being outplayed by the mistake-prone and bye week rested Tennessee Titans.

An interesting point is the Ravens have not had a bye since Week Two due to the Hurricane Ike situation in Houston. On the other hand, the Steelers earned a second bye week from being the No. 2 seed and were the only one of four teams with that distinction to win. And Pittsburgh looked refreshed with two weeks to prepare for San Diego.

Willie Parker, out for much of the season, rushed for nearly 150 yards and looked great. Same for Big Ben Roethlisberger, who had no effects of a concussion and was throwing rockets downfield. However, this line move up from 4½ to 6 is nuts. This could well be a 13-10 game just like in Tennessee. RAVENS.

And now for our first installment of college hoops, we tread slowly.

Tuesday

Kansas St +10 at Kansas: The visiting Wildcats played Oklahoma tough and have a shot in Lawrence. Kansas not yet the championship team of last season. K-STATE.

Kentucky +3½ at Tennessee: Kentucky is 7-3 ATS and a live dog even in Knoxville. KENTUCKY.

Wednesday

Syracuse +4½ at Georgetown: Syracuse has won seven straight and is 4-1 ATS in last five board games. Georgetown has gone three straight without covering. SYRACUSE.

South Carolina -1 at LSU: Now the Gamecocks are scoring in the 80’s instead of the 60’s and off to a 12-2 start. LSU is also 12-2, but mostly off a very soft schedule. S. CAROLINA.

Thursday

Santa Clara +20 at Gonzaga: Zags often face huge spreads and don’t get there. They are 1-5 ATS in last 6. Santa Clara is no real threat to win, but could stay within 20 points. SANTA CLARA.

Arizona +10 at UCLA: Both opened Pac 10 play beating Oregon and Oregon State. And, both teams have struggled against the spread. Taking the underdog looks safer. ARIZONA.

(The projected lines are based on the Noland Parry power rankings. Home court worth 5 points).

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