NFL Conference Championship Round

Yesterday’s bet, Marquette at Notre Dame, was a winner. Taking a bit of a different approach today. I am going to preview both NFL games.

Green Bay Packers (-4) at Chicago Bears (+4), Over/Under 42.5

This is the 3rd meeting between the Packers and Bears this season. They split the first two games. It will be cold (20 degrees) with a chance of snow (as it should be). Green Bay had an injury-plagued season but now enter this game full of momentum. They have an excellent QB and defense.  Chicago found a running game mid-season winning 8 of their last 10 games. Like the Packers, they have a good QB and defense (of course, at this point of the playoffs most teams have those two qualities).

Green Bay (12-6) clinched a playoff spot in the last week of the season. They can thank Chicago for that. The Packers average 6.0 yards per play (YPP) and 14.2 yards per point scored (YPPT) on offense. On defense, they allow 5.4 YPP and 19.8 YPPT. They are efficient. QB Aaron Rodgers averages 8.26 yards per attempt (YPA) with 28 TDs and 11 INTs for a 101.2 QB rating. Rodgers played excellent in both playoff games.  The Packers will need another big game from Rodgers and their run defense to win today.

Chicago (12-5) is likely regretting that final game against the Packers. They won relatively handily last week (more than the score shows) holding the Seahawks to 34 rushing yards. The Bears average 5.3 YPP and 13.7 YPPT on offense.  On defense, they allow 5.2 YPP and 17.1 YPPT. They are efficient on both sides of the ball. QB Jay Cutler averages 7.58 YPA with 23 TDs and 16 INTs for a 86.3 QB rating. Cutler will need a big game and help for his running game to win today. The Bears are a good home team and shouldn’t be overlooked as home-underdog.

The Sagarin Ratings have Green Bay 30.5 and Chicago 25.4. With the 1.9 home advantage, the fair line is Green Bay -3.2. According to pregame.com, 66% of spread bets are on Green Bay and 58% of total bets are on the Under. The point spread moved from Green Bay -3 to -3.5 early in the week; it is now sitting at -3.5 and -4 depending on where you look.

My NFL model has Green Bay 22.6 and Chicago 20.3 for 42.9 total points. Green Bay has a more effective passing game. The teams are similar in offensive efficiency. The teams are also similar in defensive yards allowed. Packers are better against the pass; Chicago is better against the run. The Packers are more efficient. The key variance contributor is Chicago’s passing yards allowed.  Chicago has to slow down Aaron Rodgers and the Packer receivers to win.

New York Jets (+4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (-4), Over/Under 38

The Jets beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh earlier this season. The Steelers out gained the Jets in that game but the Jets won the special teams battle. QB Mark Sanchez had a mediocre game against a Steeler defense missing Troy Polamalu.  Polamalu is playing today. The Jets beat the number 1 seed Patriots last week.  Can they win their 3rd straight road playoff game today? The Steelers faced a physical Ravens team last week. They were down by 14 at the half. Will that physical, emotional win cause a letdown today?

The Jets (13-5) said all preseason its Super Bowl or bust.  Should we be surprised they are one game away? They have been quiet all week following their upset win in Foxboro. New York averages 5.3 YPP and 15.2 YPPT on offense. On defense, they allow 5.0 YPP and 15.7 YPPT. They aren’t the most efficient team. QB Mark Sanchez averages 6.49 YPA with 17 TDs and 13 INTs for a 75.3 QB rating. Sanchez is turnover prone but took a big step forward in the 2nd half last week. The Jets have more offensive weapons but must protect Sanchez (this isn’t the Colts or Patriots defense).  The Jets will need to limit turnovers, have excellent special teams play, and control Roethlisberger and the Steeler passing game to win today.

Pittsburgh (13-4) didn’t look like a playoff team in the 1st half last week. They scored 24 points and held the Ravens to 3 in the 2nd half. They don’t have the momentum that the Jets do, but they have proven all year they can put it together when they need to. The Steelers average 5.7 YPP and 14.3 YPPT on offense.  On defense, they allow 4.7 YPP and 17.8 YPPT. They are efficient. QB Ben Roethlisberger averages 8.23 YPA with 17 TDs and 5 INTs for a 97 QB rating. Roethlisberger is the better QB and has the playoff experience advantage. The Steelers have to get pressure on Sanchez and limit the special teams big plays.  Pittsburgh will be tough to beat at home twice.

The Sagarin Ratings have Pittsburgh 30.74 and New York 28.76. With the 1.9 home advantage, the fair line is Pittsburgh -3.9. According to pregame.com, 56% of the spread bets are on Pittsburgh and 59% of total bets are on the Over.  The point spread opened at Pittsburgh -3 and has slowly moved to -4.

My NFL model has Pittsburgh 22.5 and New York 17.4 for 39.9 total points.  The teams have similar offensive yardage production; Steelers pass more, Jets run more.  The Steelers are more efficient on offense.  The Steelers have a better, more efficient defense.  The key variance contributor is both teams pass defense.  Whichever team can better pressure the QB and limit passing yards will win the game.

Summary

The Packers have momentum entering today. The Bears have steadily improved this season. Green Bay is the better overall team; but the Bears have dangerous weapons and are a home underdog. I think the Packers edge out a close win today but the Bears cover the spread. I modeled the game at Packers -2.3. I think there is value with the Bears. Bet the Chicago Bears +4.

The Jets beat the bet two QBs in the league over the last two weeks. They are living up to their own hype. Pittsburgh comes off a physical, come-from-behind win over a divisional rivalry.  Both teams have a case for deflation. The Jets have better offensive weapons but winning 3 road playoff games is a tall task.  I modeled the game at Pittsburgh -5.1. Pittsburgh will be tough to beat twice at home and has the playoff experience in key positions. Bet the Pittsburgh Steelers -4.

Follow me on Twitter for all my picks.  Good Luck!

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