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Against the Spread

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Conference Championship Picks

Friday, January 20, 2012


Ed Williams and Jeff Baldwin kicked off the postseason with varying degrees of success, and they were able to carry that momentum into the Divisional round as well. It may have taken 19 weeks, but Ed posted a perfect week as the 49ers, Patriots, Texans and Giants all came through him. Jeff only missed one game last week, but it was his lock of the week, so the Ravens cost him 100 units as they failed to cover by just a half point. While both Ed and Jeff have impressive 6-2 records, Ed leads Jeff in units by 100: 1,250-1,150.

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. Can they continue their hot streaks? Can Jeff pull back to even with Ed?

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

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (-7)

Ed: The Patriots looked like an offensive juggernaut last week in their demolition of the Broncos, while the Ravens had their hands full with the Texans. The Ravens have also struggled on the road this year, so the Patriots seem to have everything going in their favor. But if we learned anything from last week, it's that defense still matters in this league. The Saints and Packers were both knocked off because their high octane offenses were slowed down and their defenses didn't step up. The Patriots have an even worse defense than those two teams, which leaves the door open for the Ravens. Terrell Suggs and company will be in Tom Brady's face all afternoon and should slow them down just enough to stay in the game. New England will have no answer for Ray Rice, and Baltimore even has a chance to win this one outright. Take the touchdown.
Ravens +7, 50 units

Jeff: The Ravens travel to New England looking to slow down the high-powered Patriots offense.  Besides the Ravens' defense, the key to this game will be whether Joe Flacco can make some plays in the passing game and generate touchdowns.  The Ravens' offensive line has to give Flacco time to throw the ball, so he can hit his receivers down the field.  This is something they struggled with last week against a very good Texans defense.  Look for Ray Rice to have success on the ground, which will open up the passing game. The Patriots' defense played better last week, but I still think the Ravens will move the ball on them effectively.  I think the Ravens keep this game close.  I do expect the Ravens' defense to come up with some stops to give their offense a chance late in the game.  However, I think in the end Tom Brady and the Patriots will find a way to defeat the Ravens by less than a touchdown.
Ravens +7, 50 units

Ravens at Patriots (Total points: 50.5)

Ed: After Brady lit up the Broncos last week, it's tempting to go with the over here. But if the Ravens are going to have a chance in this one, the defense has to play the game of its life, and I think they will. Ray Lewis knows that time is not on his side, and he'll leave it all out on the field. Suggs will pressure Brady into throwing the ball before he wants to, and New England couldn't run the ball to begin with. This one will make you sweat it out, but it should be a 24-21 type of game, so go with the under.
Under 50.5, 50 units

Jeff: Tom Brady and the Patriots are going to score their points because they are just that good offensively.  I also think the Ravens will put up their share of points against a very suspect Patriots defense.  The Ravens' offense didn't look good last week, but the Texans' defense was one of the best in the league.  I expect Ray Rice to make some big plays and Joe Flacco to have a solid game.  I think he responds well to Ed Reed's comments.  Also, look for a defensive or special teams touchdown thrown in the mix. 
Over 50.5, 50 units

New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers (-2.5)

Ed: Are the Giants a team of destiny? I don't quite know about that, but I do think they're better equipped to beat the 49ers than the Saints were. Alex Smith was brilliant against New Orleans last week, but he won't have as much time to make those smart decisions this week. The Giants' pass rush will force him into at least a couple of mistakes, and Eli Manning is playing at such a high level that it will be the only opening he needs. The 49ers are a much better defense than the Packers, but Eli is backing up his preseason talk and playing like the elite QB he said he was. The 49ers won't be able to contain both Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, so look for one of them to have a monster day. The Giants will struggle to stop Vernon Davis, but the pass rush will do just enough to keep him from dominating. This one should be a tight game all the way, but in the end, I have to go with the better quarterback, and as well as Alex Smith played last week, he's not on the same level as Manning. Go with the road warrior Giants.
Giants +2.5, 100 units

Jeff: Eli Manning and the Giants look to continue their playoff run as they travel to San Francisco looking to avenge a loss earlier in the season to the 49ers.  The 49ers are riding high as well after their tremendous upset win against the Saints.  The forecast calls for rain, but I really don't think that favors either team significantly.  I think both teams will struggle running the ball so it will come down to what team makes bigger plays in the passing game.  At the end of the day, I trust Eli Manning more than Alex Smith.  Manning has the playoff experience and better weapons in Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham that he can use to put points on the board.  Another key to this game will be which team can put more pressure on the opposing quarterback.  I give the slight edge to the Giants.  I think this game will be close, but you just get this feeling that the Giants keep their momentum going and find a way to win this game. 
Giants +2.5, 150 units

Giants at 49ers (Total points: 42)

Ed: I really wanted to take the under in this one before looking at what the actual number was, but 42 is just too low with both these teams playing so well right now. While the 49ers won't be able to be as explosive as they were against the Saints, the Giants are susceptible to the big play. Alex Smith will struggle much more this week, but one or two big plays isn't out of the question. And as explained earlier, Eli Manning is playing at an extremely high level right now. This one could easily be a 27-24 final score, which would beat the under handily.
Over 42, 100 units

Jeff: This total has dropped three points since it opened due to rainy weather forecasted for Sunday in San Francisco.  I'm not going to be steered away from there being points scored because of the weather.  I think both teams will struggle running the ball, which will force them to throw a lot, which will lead to some big plays and points.  Throw in some turnovers on both sides, which will result in a short field, and I think this game goes over the posted total.  In Week 10, these teams put up a combined 47 points, I can see a similar result Sunday.
Over 42, 50 units








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