Remember when Joe Flacco claimed he was one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks along the likes of the Tom Bradys, Peyton Mannings and Aaron Rodgers of the world? Well, Flacco was right – but only when it comes to the playoffs. And I can’t believe I am typing this, but with a big performance against San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII Flacco could supplant Joe Montana for arguably the greatest postseason for a quarterback in NFL history.
In the postseason following the 1989 regular season, Montana threw 11 touchdown passes with no interceptions in leading the Niners to a Super Bowl XXIV blowout of Denver (also in New Orleans). That is the most touchdown passes by a QB without a pick in an NFL single postseason (Super Bowl era). Flacco has thrown eight scoring passes without a pick in Baltimore’s three playoff wins. It also should be noted that every quarterback who has finished a postseason throwing at least eight touchdowns without a pick has led his team to a Super Bowl win and also won the game’s MVP honors. The last was the Saints’ Drew Brees three seasons ago.
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Flacco is the 11/4 second-favorite at Bovada behind Niners counterpart Colin Kaepernick to win Super Bowl MVP honors next Sunday – as I mentioned in the Kaepernick props story, if you like the Ravens to win then it’s hard to argue against Flacco winning MVP. A quarterback has won it three straight years and five of the past six. I don’t happen to think Baltimore wins, so I wouldn’t go there.
One interesting prop at the book is the length of Flacco’s longest completion, set at 40.5 yards (“over” a -125 favorite). Flacco is the best deep-ball thrower in the NFL. He has the most pass attempts more than 20 yards downfield this season (101, almost 80 more than the No. 2 QB) but, amazingly, has yet to throw an interception on those throws. He has 10 completions of at least 20 yards in the playoffs. In his career, Flacco has only four games without at least one 20-yard attempt, one of which came in last season’s game against San Francisco. With all that said, it’s simply not easy to complete a 40-yard pass. Thus I like the “under” (-105) there.
Flacco is 12/1 to score Baltimore’s first touchdown of the game and 30/1 to score the first TD overall. Don’t bite there as the guy just doesn’t run. He had 32 carries for a total of 22 yards during the regular season, although he did have three rushing scores. He has carried eight times for 16 yards and no TDs in the playoffs. The Ravens have plenty of capable backs to do the grunt work at the goal line.
Here are Flacco’s totals for the game: 34.5 attempts (both -115), 20.5 completions (-115), 250.5 yards (under -125 favorite), 1.5 touchdown passes (over -130 favorite), .5 interceptions (-160 favorite). The favorite for his total TD passes is “one” at +175 and the favored interceptions total is “none” at +135. In the regular season, here are the averages allowed by the Niners: 35.4 opposing passing attempts, 21.1 completions, 200 yards, 1.2 TDs and .9 interceptions.
Rodgers was 26-of-39 for 257 yards with two TDs and a pick against San Francisco, while Atlanta’s Matt Ryan was 30-of-42 for 396 yards for three TDs and a pick. When Flacco faced the Niners last year, he was 15-of-23 for 161 yards with a TD and no interceptions. His averages in the three playoffs games: 17-of-31 for 284.3 yards, 2.7 TDs and no interceptions. Flacco’s attempts have risen in each game along with his completions. I see something like 20-of-33 for 267 yards with two scores and a pick – I will always take over interceptions when it’s at .5 just on the Hail Mary factor. Purely on value, I would take the prop that Flacco throws a pick (+180) before he throws a touchdown pass (-220).
For Kaepernick, I projected this: 18-for-27 for 248 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Here are the Flacco vs. Kaepernick props and you can do the math on what I would thus recommend: Flacco -19.5 yards, -3 completions, -6.5 attempts (all -115), and “pick’em” on most TD passes, with Flacco a -140 dog and Kaepernick at +110.
I love cross-sport props concerning the Super Bowl, and there is one on Flacco against Lakers center Dwight Howard, with L.A. at Detroit next Sunday – presuming Howard is still a Laker by Sunday (really, there’s no way the team will trade him). Flacco’s completion percentage is a pick’em against Howard’s free-throw percentage. Howard is the NBA’s worst free-throw shooter among qualified players at .50.4 percent. He has yet to hit every free throw in a game all season. His best mark is 85.7 percent, which Howard has done twice. His worst was missing all four in Wednesday’s loss to Memphis in which Howard left with an injury – he’s cleared to play Friday night.
Flacco completed 59.7 percent of his passes during the regular season and is at 54.8 in these playoffs. The guy is never going to have a high percentage because he throws those 20-yard-plus passes so often. I think it’s more likely Howard hits 60 percent – his percentage in road games is 58.1 compared to 44.6 at home entering Friday -- than Flacco does, so that’s the choice.
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