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.
- Kansas City
- Larry Ness
- September 2, 2015 - 8:10 PM
- Offered at:
- 5dimes @ -1.5 105 Kansas City
Ventura will take the mound tonight, in what just may be the most successful stretch of his young career...
My free play is a Run-Line play the KC Royals at 8:10 ET.
Yordano Ventura was projected to be the ace this season for KC but the Opening Day starter has struggled with consistency. He was send to Triple-A Omaha for one day awhile back, before getting recalled after the club learned Jason Vargas would need Tommy John surgery. KC acquired Johnny Cueto around the trade deadline with the hope that he would be the team’s ace down the stretch but so far, Cueto’s performance has left MUCH to be desired. I’d argue that Volquez has been the team’s ace (KC is 19-8, plus-$974 in his starts for MLB’s 5th-best moneyline mark) but Ventura will take the mound tonight, in what just may be the most successful stretch of his young career.
Ventura (9-7, 4.41 ERA) began August by allowing 11 runs in 12 innings over two starts but escaped without a loss. He's since gone 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA and .167 opponent batting average, 32 strikeouts and 12 walks in 25 innings over his last four. Manager Ned Yost told MLB's official website he was impressed with some in-game adjustments Ventura made in last Thursday’s 5-3 home win over Baltimore, after issuing two walks in the first inning. "He was rushing it, he was flying open. His pitch count was up. But then he made an adjustment, slowed his tempo down, and he was down through the zone and got his pitch count manageable. His curveball was excellent, fastball up to 100 mph, changeup good."
Getting the nod for the Tigers in this one will be Randy Wolf (0-2, 2.57 ERA). The 39-year-old gave up four runs (three earned) on nine hits in a loss to Texas in his season debut (August 22), then followed that up by allowing just one run on five hits in a 2-0 loss to the Angels. Although Wolf has pitched in the majors since 1999, he’s made just ONE career start vs the Royals (back in June of 2012), giving up one run in seven innings. Ventura is 3-0 with a 4.56 ERA in four starts and a relief appearance against the Tigers and that record is due mostly to him getting a 10.17 run-support average.
Ventura has won FIVE straight decisions and SIX of his last seven, after struggling over the first half of the season. Maybe by the time the postseason arrives, Ventura will be the team’s ace, after all? Lay the 1 1/2 runs.
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