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Spread: Broncos minus-9.5
Public consensus pick: 51 percent picked Broncos
Public perception: The percentage of people picking the Broncos would be higher if we were checking this earlier in the week when the line was Broncos minus-8.5. The public has pushed this line to minus-9.5 and there are some books that have already gone to minus-10 as of this writing. The Broncos are now the Super Bowl favorite (5-2 at the LVH SuperBook here in Vegas). They are clearly the most public team nowadays, and those backers were rewarded this year as the Broncos were 10-5-1 against the spread. The Ravens are the only team in the playoffs with a losing ATS record (only 7-9-1 despite covering against the Colts last week) and their bandwagon isn't nearly as full as it once was.
Wiseguys' view: There was a time when the play in this round was to bet the home favorites (as they often rolled), but wiseguys aren't afraid to take the dogs in these games anymore. In the 23 years under the current NFL playoff format, the AFC's No. 1 seed is only 9-13-1 ATS in the divisional round despite having home-field advantage and an extra week of rest. The Broncos are trying to fight that rust. As great as Peyton Manning is, his playoff record is subpar at 9-10 ATS (and it's only that good thanks to his 4-0 mark in his 2006-07 Super Bowl title run).
Tuley's Take: The Broncos were 3-1 ATS this season as double-digit favorites, but those were against the Chiefs (the ATS loss), Raiders, Browns and Chiefs again. The Ravens are much better than those teams and more likely to cover this big number. Granted, the Broncos blew out the Ravens 34-17 four weeks ago, but that was the week after the Ravens switched offensive coordinators and Baltimore has several starters back that missed that game. The Ravens also were looking to cut a 10-0 deficit to 10-7 or at worst 10-3 right before halftime when a pick-six made it 17-0 Denver, or else it could have been a much different game. The pick: Ravens (at plus-10 or higher, which is looking more and more likely).
Flacco led all quarterbacks last weekend with a Total QBR of 89.5, nearly double his regular-season QBR of 46.8. That was by far the largest increase in Total QBR of the eight quarterbacks who started last weekend.
Money is coming in on the Ravens, and as we speak the second game is drawing plenty of attention with a slight nod to the visitors (Packers), who are attracting a little bit more than the home team 49ers.
What makes this Saturday to be shaping up as a monster handle day at the William Hill books is that it is easy to make a case for the ticket you want in your left front pocket.
Rookie Running Wild
Bernard Pierce ran for 103 yards last week, the second Ravens rookie with 100 rushing yards in a playoff game. Jamal Lewis did it twice in the 2000 playoffs, the year the Ravens won their only Super Bowl title.
NFL Playoff (MIS)MATCHUPS
Ravens’ passive possession vs. Broncos’ ball hogging
Baltimore ranks among the worst teams in time of possession, holding on to the football an average of 27:43 per game. Those numbers took a tumble last week versus Indianapolis. The Colts ran the ball down the Ravens’ throats and limited Baltimore to just 22:28 TOP.
Denver finished among the top six in TOP, holding on to the ball an average of 31:16. The Broncos have been especially stingy in recent outings, posting an average TOP of 36:34 in their last three games – the highest in the NFL during that span. Much of that has to do with the emergence of RB Knowshon Moreno.