The three scariest words in sports have dominated the headlines this week. They are, of course, none other than “Doctor. James. Andrews.”
Mercifully, Robert Griffin III finally went under Andrews’ knife on Wednesday, so we can stop talking about players enjoying (or not enjoying) their offseasons and focus on the real issues at hand.
All odds provided by Sportsbook.ag.
3 – Games, out of four, in the divisional round that are rematches of regular-season meetings. The only one that isn’t is Seattle at Atlanta. Baltimore and Denver just faced each other in Week 15, with the Broncos cruising to a 34-17 road victory. Green Bay and San Francisco squared off back in Week 1, when the 49ers went into Lambeau Field as six-point underdogs and came away with a 30-22 win. One of the biggest blowouts of the year took place on Dec. 10 in New England, as the Patriots punished Houston in the form of a 42-14 score line. All three winners of those matchups are playing at home this weekend, and all three are favored to have the upper hand.
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9-10 – Peyton Manning’s record in 19 career playoff games as a starting quarterback. That’s a decent mark by some standards, but not for Manning — who is 154-70 in regular-season games and 145-47 during regular seasons that resulted in playoff berths. In other words, in playoff years Manning’s regular-season winning percentage is .756 but his postseason winning percentage is .474. The Broncos are going up against a Ravens’ defense that ranked 17th overall in the NFL during the regular season (350.9 yards per game) and also 17th against the pass (228.1 ypg). Manning completed 17-of-28 passes for 204 yards and one touchdown in the previous matchup with Baltimore, a game in which both the Broncos’ offense and the Ravens’ defense were missing key starters. Baltimore is a +10 road underdog on Saturday.
38 – Rushing yards, on 12 carries, mustered by Ray Rice in Baltimore’s regular-season loss to Denver. In his last six postseason outings, Rice is averaging only 58.8 yards and has one touchdown. The former Rutgers standout lost just one fumble during the regular season but he gave away two in last weekend’s victory over Indianapolis. Rice and the Ravens are going up against a Broncos’ defense that ranked second overall in the league (290.8 ypg) and third against the run (91.1 ypg). The “over/under” for Saturday’s showdown is 46.
105.5 – Aaron Rodgers’ playoff quarterback rating on the road, the best such mark in the history of the NFL. Rodgers, who earned his first career home postseason victory when the Packers disposed of Minnesota in round one, is 4-1 lifetime away from the Frozen Tundra in the playoffs (3-1 on the road, 1-0 in the Super Bowl). In four road games he has 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Factor in the Super Bowl victory over Pittsburgh, and Rodgers has 13 touchdowns and still only three picks. Green Bay is a +3 road underdog on Saturday at San Francisco.
51 – League-leading number of times that Rodgers was sacked ruing the regular season, including three in the regular-season opener against the 49ers. San Fran defensive end Aldon Smith led the NFC with 19.5 quarterback beatdowns and he — along with the rest of the team — should benefit from the return of defensive tackle Justin Smith. Justin missed the Niners’ last two games with a partially torn triceps. The over/under of this one is 45, the lowest of the week (although all four totals are within 2.5 points).
72-23 – Margin by which the Atlanta Falcons have been outscored in their last two playoff games. Also the NFC’s No. 1 seed two seasons ago, Atlanta got blown out in its opener by visiting Green Bay, 48-21. Last year, the Falcons visited the Giants during wild-card action and stumbled out of New York with a humiliating 24-2 loss. Since Mike Smith and Matt Ryan started to turn around this franchise in 2008, they are 56-24 in the regular season and 0-3 in the playoffs (lost to eventual NFC champion Arizona at the end of the 2008 campaign). Atlanta is a -2.5 favorite over Seattle on Sunday.
7-0 – The Seahawks record “against the spread” in their last seven versus teams with winning records as they head into a showdown with the 13-3 Falcons. Seattle is 5-1 ATS in its last six overall and 5-1 ATS in its last six against NFC opponents. Pete Carroll’s squad has won five in a row and seven of eight, with the only loss in that span coming at Miami on Nov. 25, 24-21. Running back Marshawn Lynch is averaging 116.8 yards per game and 6.9 per carry in his last five outings, all of which have seen him surpass the century mark on the ground. The over/under for Lynch’s rushing yards against Atlanta is 100.5.
25 – New England’s turnover differential (in the positive department, of course) during the regular season, the best mark in the NFL. Interestingly enough, the takeaway battle was tied at one apiece when the Patriots and Texans faced each other in Week 15, and Houston still got blown out of the water. Matt Schaub and company coughed up the pigskin four times (compared with one takeaway) in their two-game losing streak to end the year, a stretch that cost them a first-round bye. New England is a -9.5 home favorite on Sunday.
1 – Touchdown passes thrown by Schaub since the end of Week 13. For those counting, that’s fewer in the same span than Kirk Cousins of Washington and Terrelle Pryor of Oakland. Perhaps even worse is the fact that it’s the same as…wait for it…Mark Sanchez! Schaub has thrown four interceptions in that span, and he has nine picks in his last nine outings. Houston’s signal-caller is going up against a Patriots’ defense that ranked 25th overall in the league (373.2 yards per game) and 29th against the pass (271.4 ypg). The over/under on Sunday is 47.5.