Ed Williams III

Against the Spread

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Conference Championship Picks

Saturday, January 19, 2013

After the first two rounds of the NFL playoffs, Ed and Jeff are neck and neck heading into the Conference championships. Ed headed into last week with a 100-unit lead after a 3-1 opening week, but he got off to a rough start, dropping the first three games of the weekend. After a tough 1-3 opening week, Jeff jumped right back into it, turning his record around in the second weekend. The big difference was in the Falcons-Seahawks game. Jeff went big with Seattle, and it wasn't looking good after the first half. The Seahawks rallied though, which not only gave him 100 units, but also allowed him to pick up a win on Ed. They agreed on the rest of their picks, so now they're tied in both record (4-4) and in units (1000).

In the Conference Championship round, they'll be picking both games as well as the over/unders for each. And this weekend they can wager up to 300 units total. Will someone start to pull ahead heading into the Super Bowl?

Check out the Wild Card column for the format they'll be following throughout the playoffs, and check out last week's Divisional picks.

San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons (+4.5)
Ed: This line is just begging people to take the Falcons, so maybe I’m falling into a trap here, but I’m going with the home team. It’s very easy to overreact to last week’s games, so I’m going to try and look at the bigger picture here. The Falcons had a horrid second half against the Seahawks, but a win is a win. Finding someone who liked the Falcons last week was like finding a needle in a haystack. And no, the Falcons didn’t cover, but most people didn’t think they’d even win the game. That second half was a wakeup call for them, and they survived. To be the No. 1 seed at home and to be 4.5 underdogs is pretty hard to believe. The 49ers needed a career game from Colin Kaepernick last week, and while Atlanta has struggled against running quarterbacks, asking for another huge game like that from a first-year starter in a mammoth game like this on the road is a lot to ask. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan is great at home, and even though the Falcons are lacking a strong running game, I think he can do enough through the air to put some points on the board. The Seahawks have a great defense, and he was able to move the ball at will against them in the first half. I think he’ll put together a complete game here and at the very least keep this one close. I think there’s a great chance they shock everyone and win this one outright, so I’ll jump all over the points.
Falcons +4.5, 75 units

Jeff: The 49ers head to Atlanta after easily defeating the Packers, led by QB Colin Kaepernick. The Falcons were able to kick a last-second field goal to defeat the Seahawks even after losing a huge lead in the fourth quarter. The Falcons' defense got carved up in the second half of that game by QB Russell Wilson. The 49ers will have no problem moving the ball both on the ground and through the air. Look for Kaepernick to have another solid, all-around game. WR Michael Crabtree has been playing the best football of his career. I'm expecting a great game from him as well. The 49ers will look to pound the ball on the ground with RB Frank Gore and wear down the Falcons' defense. On the other side of the ball, the 49ers' defense will need to get pressure on QB Matt Ryan to disrupt the passing game. This is something the Seahawks were unable to do. I think the 49ers' defense is better equipped to do this and will slow down the Falcons' high-powered attack. I think this game is close throughout, but in the end I think the 49ers' physical play will be the difference as they will pull away in the second half.
49ers -4.5, 150 units

San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons (Total points: 49)
Ed: The posted total here looks to be a direct result of Kaepernick’s monster game last week against the Packers. The 49ers went off for 45 points, but I don’t see them coming close to that total in this game. The Falcons don’t have a great defense, but they’ll have the raucous Atlanta crowd behind them, and I don’t think Kaepernick will put together back-to-back outstanding games. I expect the youngster to turn the ball over a couple of times, which will keep the scoring down. And San Francisco’s defense is arguably the best in the league. As mentioned above, I think Matt Ryan and company will score some points, but I’d be pretty shocked if this turns into a shootout. I think this will be a big field position game, and I think the kicking game will be a major factor. The offenses should be able to move the ball pretty effectively, but I just don’t see a ton of drives resulting in touchdowns here. I expect the big plays to be limited, which will keep the scoring down. This will come close to the posted total, and I think you’ll have to sweat this one out, but I’m going with the under.
Under 49, 50 units

Jeff: I'm not expecting a shootout in this game. I think the 49ers' gameplan will be to run the ball with Gore and Kaepernick so they can control the clock to keep the Falcons' high-powered passing attack off the field. The 49ers' defense will be effective in slowing down Ryan and his receiving weapons as they'll put a lot of pressure on him. The total has gone up close to two points in some places as the public is expecting a lot of points to be scored. I'm leaning in the other direction. I like the 49ers, 30-17.
Under 49, 50 units

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (-8)
Ed: Earlier this season, the Ravens outlasted the Pats in a 31-30 classic on Sunday Night Football. A lot has changed since then, but I still think we’re going to see a back-and-forth shootout. The Ravens’ defense suffered some major blows throughout the season, and their secondary is definitely weaker than it was in their Week 3 clash. The Patriots, meanwhile, have bolstered their secondary with the addition of Aqib Talib. So the Pats are a no-brainer pick here right? Not exactly. After last week, I think the Ravens have a ton of momentum. No one gave them even a puncher’s chance against the Broncos, and it was just assumed we’d see another Brady-Manning clash this week. Joe Flacco flashed “elite” talent, and Torrey Smith had a monster game. They put up 38 points against a team that was ranked third in the entire league against both the pass and the run. The game shouldn’t even have been as close as it was since the Broncos scored two special teams touchdowns. Flacco and company will be oozing with confidence, which is bad news for the Pats. New England, meanwhile, rolled over a Texans team that has been struggling for a while now. Yeah, they beat the Bengals in the first round, but that’s only because the Bengals didn’t show up that day. The Pats haven’t been tested the way the Ravens were last week, and I think that will show. I think the Ravens will jump out to an early lead in this one. I expect the Pats to come roaring back in the second half, and I think they’ll even pull out the victory. It’s tough not to think Brady pulls this one off at home. But 8 points is just way too much to be giving a good team like the Ravens.
Ravens +8, 125 units

Jeff: The Ravens travel to Foxboro after upsetting the Broncos in double overtime. The Patriots easily took care of the Texans as a few late touchdowns made the game look a lot closer then it was. There is no pressure on the Ravens in this game as very few people thought they'd get past the Broncos. In the past three matchups between these two teams, the margin of victory by either team has been three points or less. I'm expecting a solid effort by the Ravens on Sunday as they'll keep this one close. QB Joe Flacco will look to his receivers in Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith to make plays and put points on the board in order to stay with the high-powered Patriots offense. RB Ray Rice will also be key to this game as the Ravens will need to get the running game going. The Ravens' defense is getting healthy at the right time. I don't think the Ravens will win this game, but I do expect them to be competitive and keep it inside the number. 
Ravens +8, 50 units

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (Total points: 51.5)
Ed: It’s probably pretty obvious from my analysis of the matchup above that I like the over here. These two teams combined for 79 points last week, and both played against better defenses. While I don’t know that they’ll be as explosive as last week, I definitely think this will be a shootout of sorts, and, at worst, both teams will hover around the 30-point mark. Even without Rob Gronkowski, Brady still has Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez. They have a dangerous running game with Steven Ridley, Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead as well. The Pats will struggle to stop Torrey Smith who torched the Broncos last week, and Ray Rice is one of the most versatile running backs in the game. He’s no Gronk, but Dennis Pitta has been one of the more underrated tight ends in the league this season as well. And they have a great special teams weapon in Jacoby Jones. It will be points-a-plenty in Foxboro, so I’m taking the over.
Over 51.5, 50 units

Jeff: I see this game mirroring last year's AFC Championship where the final score was 23-20. The total in that game was very similar to this number. I think both defenses will get enough stops to force field goals as opposed to touchdowns to keep this game under the posted the total. This game will still have it's share of offensive fireworks, but 51.5 is a lot of points. I like the Patriots to win this game 27-20.
Under 51.5, 50 units

You can also follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffBaldwin4

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