|-3 GB (-112) @ Betamerica|
10* Big Ticket: Take Green Bay (#312)
Last week, we saw how little regular season meetings matter when there’s a rematch in the playoffs. My clients and I cashed a Big Ticket winner backing Tampa at New Orleans, despite the fact that the Saints had blown out the Bucs by double digit margins in the two regular season meetings.
Yet I keep hearing pundits talking about how the Bucs blowout win over the Packers is meaningful, three months later in frigid conditions in January at Lambeau Field. My clients and I cashed a Big Ticket winner betting on the Bucs in that game – it was a strong ‘bet-on’ spot for Tampa Bay. Here’s an excerpt from that write-up talking about how the betting markets had overreacted to the Bucs loss in Chicago on Thursday Night Football the previous week:
“In the ‘lookahead’ lines from last week – bettable lines for the following weeks games, right here in Vegas – Tampa Bay opened as a -3 point favorite against Green Bay. The Packers had a bye week. So basically, we’ve seen a SIGNIFICANT betting market adjustment as to the relative value of these two teams based on ONE of the two teams playing ONE game on the road on a SHORT WEEK. That, folks, is the very definition of a betting market overreaction. Meanwhile, the Packers are ‘fat and happy, coming off a 4-0 start and a very satisfying bye week.”
This is, most assuredly, not a similar spot. Tampa is getting heavy betting market support for the third consecutive week; the exact opposite of what happened in the first meeting. In the Wild Card round, the Bucs took heavy $$ vs Washington and hung 31 points on a strong defensive team. They took heavy $$ again last week and hung 30 points on a strong defensive team at New Orleans. This is a team with a SIGNFICANT betting bandwagon right now; an overvalued commodity. Remember, the Bucs are here, now, in large part, because they played two playoff teams with struggling quarterbacks in their first two playoff games. Heck, half my write-up last week was talking about how Drew Brees couldn’t throw downfield any better than Taylor Heinicke. That’s not likely to be the case against Aaron Rodgers this week.
Green Bay’s defense was their weakness last year and it got them bounced out of the playoffs when they were unable to stop the 49ers power rushing game. That stop unit has gotten better and better as this season has progressed; a trustworthy, Super Bowl caliber defense down the stretch; above league average vs both the run and the pass.
Offensively, I trust Aaron Rodgers on a cold day much more than I trust Tom Brady – once you leave the cold for sunny Florida, like Brady did, it’s hard to re-acclimate. And it’s not like Brady is playing ‘light’s out’ football – he threw multiple ducks last week that were lucky not to be intercepted…and that was in a dome!
The Packers spent all season grinding out wins so they would get this game at home. Aaron Rodgers has played in four previous NFC Championship Games in his career. All four of them came on the road. Rodgers started talking about getting homefield advantage throughout the playoffs following their Week 14 win: “To have the whole thing come through Green Bay is something we’ve talked about.”
It’s really hard to win three consecutive road playoff games to reach the Super Bowl. The Patriots defense forced 16 turnovers in three road playoff games back in 1985, sending the Pats to get annihilated by the Bears in the Super Bowl. The Steelers did it with a young Ben Roethlisberger in 2005, riding a dominant defense as well. Two years later, the Giants accomplished that same task and they did it the same way – defense first, eventually ending the Patriots undefeated season in the Super Bowl. And the 2010 Packers did it as well.
In the last decade, no team has accomplished what the Bucs are trying to do. In fact, teams off back-2-back road wins in the postseason are 3-7 SU, 2-7-1 ATS in their last ten tries, a ‘bet-against’ subset. The last win in this role came from Green Bay following the 2010 season and I’m not expecting another one this week. Plain and simple – the warm weather team goes home, the cold weather team moves on to the Super Bowl. Big Ticket: Take the Packers.