01/15/2012 12:41 AM
Sunday Divisional Round Action
January 14, 2012
The final two spots for the NFL conference title games are up for grabs on Sunday with a pair of divisional playoff matchups. The Ravens are playing their first home playoff game since the 2006 season, as Baltimore hosts Houston. The late game features the defending Super Bowl champion Packers entertaining the feisty Giants at Lambeau Field.
Texans at Ravens (-7 ½, 36) - 1:00 PM EST
For the first time in John Harbaugh's four seasons as head coach of the Ravens, his club is the champions of the AFC North. Baltimore has won a postseason game in each of the last three years, while taking on a Houston team coming off its first playoff victory ever. The Texans will look to ride the momentum of last week's home triumph over the Bengals, thanks to a strong defensive performance.
Houston intercepted Cincinnati rookie quarterback Andy Dalton three times in a 31-10 victory as four-point favorites, including a pick-six by J.J. Watts in the final minute of the first half. Dalton's rookie counterpart, T.J. Yates threw for just 159 yards in his playoff debut, but Arian Foster rushed for 153 yards and two scores to lead Houston to the win. The cover by Houston was its first since rallying at Cincinnati in Week 14, pulling out a 20-19 stunner as 2 ½-point road underdogs.
The Ravens took care of their business at M&T Bank Stadium this season with a perfect 8-0 record. However, Baltimore finished 4-3-1 ATS at home, including three ATS losses as double-digit favorites. The good news for the Ravens is the 4-0-1 ATS when laying a touchdown or less, as Baltimore took care of Houston in Week 6 with a 29-14 rout.
In that mid-October meeting, the Ravens scored the final 16 points of the game to knock off the Texans as seven-point 'chalk.' Baltimore needed three Billy Cundiff field goals, while the Houston offense was able to muster only 293 yards and one touchdown in the loss. Joe Flacco became only the second quarterback all season (Drew Brees in Week 3) to throw for at least 300 yards on this Texans' defense, who has played extremely well despite the loss of standout defensive end Mario Williams. The former top pick suffered a torn pectoral muscle in a Week 5 loss to the Raiders, as Houston has allowed 19 points or less in nine of the last 11 games.
Baltimore has compiled a 4-3 SU/ATS record the last three postseasons, including a perfect 3-0 SU/ATS in its first game. In spite of being on the road for all seven contests, the Ravens dominated the Dolphins ('08) and Chiefs ('10) as favorites, outscoring the two opponents, 57-16. Baltimore is just 1-2 SU/ATS in the divisional round under Harbaugh, including a 31-24 defeat at Pittsburgh last January as 3 ½-point 'dogs.
Since 2006, this is the 16th playoff game with a total listed at 40 or less. The 'over' has hit 10 of the previous 15 times, including in the two AFC Wild Card games last weekend. The divisional round saw plenty of high-scoring games last January with all four games eclipsing the 'over,' as the Ravens easily cashed the 'over' of 37 in the loss to the Steelers.
Giants at Packers (-7 ½, 53) - 4:30 PM EST
Green Bay opens up its title defense following a 15-1 regular season as the Packers welcome in the Giants to Lambeau Field. New York took care of its business in a Wild Card blowout of Atlanta for the franchise's first playoff victory since Super Bowl XLII. However, there's several storylines from off the field that could turn into a potential distraction for the defending Super Bowl champions.
Packers' offensive coordinator Joe Philbin has been dealing with the tragic loss of his son, who drowned last week in Wisconsin. On the field, Green Bay rebounded from a surprising defeat at Kansas City that snapped a 19-game winning streak by beating Chicago and Detroit at home to finish with the best record in the NFL. The Packers scored a league-high 560 points, while eclipsing the 30-point mark in 11 games this season.
The domination at Lambeau Field was evident, as Mike McCarthy's squad won all eight home games, while covering seven times. The lone ATS loss came in a 35-26 victory over the Buccaneers in Week 11 as 14-point favorites, but the Packers own an amazing 11-2 ATS record at home since October 2010. This is the first playoff game in Green Bay since the 2007 NFC Championship, when the Giants came into the frozen tundra and stunned the Packers.
In Brett Favre's final game as a Packer, the legendary Green Bay quarterback threw an interception in overtime, leading to a game-winning field goal by the Giants in a 23-20 stunner. New York captured the NFC Championship as 7 ½-point underdogs, en route to knocking off the 18-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl two weeks later as double-digit 'dogs. Prior to this season's playoffs, the Super Bowl upset was the last postseason win picked up by Eli Manning.
The Giants' quarterback bounced back from a disappointing end to the previous three seasons with a strong performance in a 24-2 pounding of the Falcons last Sunday. Manning tossed three touchdown passes, including a pair of scores to Hakeem Nicks, who racked up 115 yards on nine catches. New York's defense held Atlanta's explosive offense to just 247 yards and 14 first downs, while cashing easily as three-point favorites.
Tom Coughlin's club has quietly done well against the number recently by compiling a 5-1 ATS record the last six games. The only setback in this stretch came as 5 ½-point favorites against the Redskins, falling at home, 23-10 in Week 15. Since that loss, the Giants have outscored their opponents, 84-30 in the last three wins over the Jets, Cowboys, and Falcons.
The first ATS cover in this span came against the Packers in Week 13, a 38-35 shootout defeat at Met Life Stadium as seven-point underdogs. The game easily finished 'over' the total of 53 ½, thanks to seven combined touchdown passes by Manning and Aaron Rodgers. Both teams accumulated nearly 450 yards of offense, but it was Mason Crosby's 30-yard field goal at the gun that gave the Packers their 12th victory of the season.
Green Bay ran through the gauntlet of four wins in four weeks away from Wisconsin during its Super Bowl last season, with three victories coming by seven points or less. The divisional round turned out to be the biggest scoring output for the Packers by putting up 48 points in a blowout of the Falcons at the Georgia Dome, including three touchdown passes from Rodgers.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs: