NFL Championship Round - Caveat Emptor
By Marc Lawrence
And then there were four.
NFL’s version of the ‘Final Four’ kicks off this Sunday in the Championship Games where surprises aplenty have certainly been the buzzword.
That’s confirmed by the fact that underdogs have managed to pull off upsets in 14 of 44 title games since the 1990 season, the most recent being the NY Giants win at San Francisco last season en route to capturing Super Bowl XLIV.
Let’s take a quick look at what’s worked and what hasn’t in the Championship Games, because when it comes to handicapping games at this stage of the season we can use every edge imaginable.
Note: all results are ATS (Against The Spread) and are since the 1990 season, unless noted otherwise.
While high scoring games are the norm in the NFL these days, teams arriving to the Championship Round off a high scoring effort in their last game tend to come back to earth harder than a sky diver with faulty chute.
Consider: nearly half of the 17 teams in this round who put 38 or more points on the scoreboard in a Divisional Round victory fell short of the Super Bowl, going 9-8 Straight-Up.
Worse, these teams are just 9-8 SU and 4-13 ATS, including 1-12 ATS when facing a foe that tallied less than 34 points in their previous game.
With Baltimore and New England canceling one another out, that puts San Francisco on warning this Sunday.
The linemakers have done a nice job overall during this round, with favorites checking in at 23-21 ATS, and home teams 20-24 ATS.
Home chalk of 9 or more or more points has struggled, though, posting a dismal 2-8 ATS mark.
In addition, teams who played in a Wild Card game are 11-13 SU and 14-10 ATS in title tilts, including 5-0 ATS when facing a foe who scored more than 35 points in the division round.
That’s music to the ears of Baltimore backers.
Points aplenty in this league of late have forced the linemakers to raise the Over/Under totals bar.
Its what happens when there have been 27 OVERS and 17 UNDERS in Championship Games.
Surprisingly, the higher the total them more OVERS there have been as games with a posted total set at 46 or more points going 9-3 OVER.
Been There Done That
Three of the four head coaches have had the luxury of coaching team in Championship Games – namely Bill Belichick and the Harbaugh brothers, Jim and John.
Jim’s Ravens are 0-2 SU and 1-1 ATS, while John’s 49ers fell as 2-point home favorites last year.
New England’s Belichick brings a lofty 5-1 SU and 3-3 ATS record with the Patriots in Championship Games into this week’s fray. The Hoodie has been favored by 7 or more points in two of those contests, losing the money both times – including last year’s 23-20 win-no-cover over the Ravens.
Enjoy the games and good luck as always.
- Will Rogers
- November 28, 2015 - 7:30 PM
- Offered at:
- pinnacle @ -3.5 -106 Stanford
Notre Dame @ Stanford -4 7:30 EST
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are on the bubble as far as the playoffs are concerned, and they need a win here at Stanford, and possibly some help from teams like Nebraska, Penn State or TCU. The Cardinal's playoff hopes are a little slimmer, but they've already punched a ticket to the PAC12 Championship Game, and a win over the Irish could keep them in the discussion. My money is on a Stanford team that has a far more impressive body of work.
Here are my keys to the game:
1. Christian McCaffrey - The Heisman hopeful ran for 192 yards on 29 carries last week, and he also rank back a 98 yard kick for a TD. He should find plenty of room to run against a Notre Dame team that surrendered 214 rushing yards to Boston College last week.
2. Injuries - The Irish are really banged up, and last week they lost leading rusher C.J. Prosise to a high ankle sprain. He's not likely to play on Saturday versus Stanford.
3. X-Factor - The Cardinal are 38-17 ATS in their last 55 home games, and they've covered in seven of their last nine versus a team with a winning record.
Selection: This is a play on the Stanford Cardinal (Free)
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