Stu Scott, Robert Ferringo, and Chuck Norris Weigh In on Championship Weekend
by Robert Ferringo - 01/15/2007
(Note: This article also appears in this week's version of Every Edge Magazine.)
When it comes to Big Game Gambling the first thing that any player with even an ounce of self-preservation should do is to find the Public Team and bet against them. Always. Under any circumstance. Over the long haul this will be the most profitable gambling system that you'll ever find. Just ask all those fortunate souls like myself who bet on Florida two weeks ago.
But the tribulation we face heading into Championship Weekend in the NFL is that I don't know if we have a clear-cut Public Team.
Is it the Saints, with our nation's collective empathy and guilt driving square bettors to their cause? As if a $500 wager will somehow purge the memories of bodies floating down Bourbon Street.
Is it the Bears, with a faithful following clinging desperately to a fading tradition? Perhaps the most storied franchise in NFL history, Chicago has mustered just three winning seasons in 11 years. Its fan base reminds me of Pittsburgh's last year: crawling out of the woodwork in droves, trying to recapture some of the Glory.
Is it the Patriots, with Tom Brady in all of his dreamy splendor and his coach, Professor Moriarty, a.k.a. Bill Belichick? People love dynasties. And despite dirty play and shady tactics the Patriots have been a paradigm of football excellence for the past six years.
Or is it the Colts, with Peyton Marino performing a Modern Greek tragedy? At some point you have to wonder when Manning will enter the Braveheart-On-The-Rack Stage of his career when even the most bloodthirsty of onlookers is crying out to give the guy mercy.
It appears as if there isn't one clear-cut Public Team to fade this weekend. Instead, I suspect the money will be flying around as if these Title Titles were each two-man Russian Roulette games being played in some smoky, back-alley Vietnamese den of sin. Since we don't have the square bettors to rely on it appears that you'll just have to try to follow my rambling analysis if you have any prayer of making it out of this weekend alive. After all, I am undefeated in the past two football weeks:
New Orleans (+3) at Chicago (3 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 21)
Both squads are coming off intense and emotionally draining contests last weekend. Neither team played its best game, but they both were adept enough to advance onto the doorstep of the Super Bowl.
If I were a Bears fan (and I am) I would be incredibly concerned about the Chicago defense (and I am). Yes, you read that right: I was more worried about the rush defense heading into the Seattle game than I was about Rex Grossman. The Bears have surrendered nearly 23 points per game over the past seven weeks - and they haven't seen the likes of an offense like the one New Orleans possesses.
The Saints offensive speed shouldn't be a concern, but their ability to bull their way between the tackles should. New Orleans has rushed for an average of 173.2 yards in their past five games of consequence. In four of those five games they topped the 150-yard mark.
But the Bears defense showed its true colors on that critical fourth-and-one near the end of regulation against Seattle. Before the play I was screaming that this is the moment this unit had been waiting for over the past five years. New Orleans has faced just two Top 10 defenses this year - Carolina and Pittsburgh. They averaged 23.3 points in those three outings but were 0-3 straight up.
If New Orleans is to go to Chicago and slay the Bears they will have to overcome an ignominious stat: in the past 15 years dome teams that went on the road to an outdoor stadium for the NFC Title Game are 0-3 both straight-up and against the spread. Those teams (Atlanta in 2005, Minnesota in 2001, and Detroit in 1992) lost by an average of 30 points. In the AFC, dome teams in that situation were 0-2 with the average loss of seven points.
Further, the home team in the NFC Championship Game is 10-5 SU over the past 15 years, 5-2 in the last seven years and 3-2 in the last five.
These organizations have met 10 times since 1996 and the Saints are 8-2 SU and 8-1-1 ATS. That also includes a 4-0-1 ATS mark since 2000, though the Bears won 20-17 in 2005 at Baton Rouge. The last five meetings have been decided an average of five points and eight of the past 10 were decided by a touchdown or less.
New England (+3) at Indianapolis (7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 21)
Since this match-up is like the Spears-Federline marriage - everyone knows more about it than they should - I'm going to spare you by not rehashing the clichéd storylines. Instead, I'll give you a sample of what you'll hear from the bobbleheads trying to break down this game this week:
Woody Paige: What no one is talking about is Tom Brady and his addiction to Internet porn? Personally, I like little boys. So I would be watching that old footage of the Manning boys in their backyard. What about Brady? Does he like boys? What will he do with those old tapes? That's the question no one is asking.
Bill Simmons: Brady and Belichick are just amazing. Like David Ortiz amazing. Or Larry Bird amazing. Or Bobby Orr amazing. Or Boston Marathon amazing. Or Paul Revere amazing. Or Boston Tea Party amazing. Did I mention I'm from Boston? And I'm great because I like Brady and Belichick. Because they're great. Boston.
Stephen A. Smith: ARE YOU SERIOUS? PEYTON MANNING CAN'T BEAT THE PATRIOTS! HE JUST CAN'T. PERIOD. THE COLTS STAND AS MUCH OF A CHANCE AS MY TALK SHOW DID - NONE!
Stuart Scott: Yo, Brady and the Pats are straight ballin' in the illest of the shizzy. For real. They're cooler than the other side of the pillow. Boo-yah. Check it: they're game is tighter than me droppin' another poetry jam. And yo dog, when it comes to the playoffs, Manning and Dungy are more crooked then my lazy eye.
Sean Salisbury: I picked Indy to win the Super Bowl so obviously I'm going to pick New England to win this game. You just can't bet against Tom Brady in the playoffs. You just can't. The Colts defense has been dominating lately and you just can't bet against Peyton Manning now that he has a defense. If you do you should have your head examined. And when Manning faces Belichick there's no way you want to bet on Indianapolis. No way. I think this is Indy's year and they have what it takes to win it all. And yes, I got my start in TV on BattleBots.
Bob Ryan: What no one is talking about here is the fact that Adam Vinatieri is now kicking against his old team. The guy is the best kicker we've ever seen in the NFL, and, with respect to Norm Van Brocklin, maybe the best player ever whose last name starts with "V". There were also rumors from some of Vinatieri's former teammates that he hated puppies and that's why he left.
Chuck Norris: As a teen, I had sex with every nun in a convent tucked away in the hills of Tuscany. Nine months later the nuns gave birth to the 1972 Dolphins, the only unbeaten team in NFL history.
OK, so I made that last one up. But what those other clowns probably won't be talking about is that home teams in the AFC Championship Game are just 6-8 SU in the past 14 years, and just 2-5 SU in the last seven. Also, the odds say that this game isn't going to provide the close, classic finish that NFL beat writers would give their children's eyes for. Over the past decade the average margin of victory in the AFC Title Game is 12.7 points, and only two of those contests were decided by a touchdown or less.
Also, New England is 8-2-1 ATS in the last 11 meetings and the underdog is 9-2-1 ATS in the last 12 in this series. These teams have met 10 times since the start of the 2000 season. New England won seven of the first eight contests before Indianapolis claimed victory both this year and last year in regular season matchups, both in Foxboro.
Finally, the Patriots have fared well in the RCA Dome. They left with a 38-34 victory in November of 2003 and delivered a 38-17 beating in October of 2001. And Tom Brady is basically Mad Max - dominant in domes. He is 10-0 SU in his career indoors.
Carpe diem, my friend. And good luck.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at Robert@docsports.com. Check out his insider's page here.