Defensive Props Look Prime in AFC Championship Game
by Matt Severance - 01/17/2009
I wrote yesterday in this space - well, not this exact space, but you get my drift - about some interesting prop bets involving the running backs in the NFC Championship Game. More than likely, whichever ground attack between Philly and Arizona has more success will determine the winner.
In the AFC version, how can you not jump on some of those defensive prop bets? The total on BetUS is 34, which is 13 less than the NFC tilt. It's rather indicative of Baltimore and Pittsburgh that they scored three points less total in their earlier two meetings this season than Philly and Arizona did in their clash.
For example, longest touchdown of the game is at 33.5 yards on BetUS. With the league's top two defenses and arguably the best two safeties in the game, can you see that going over? Me neither.
How is this for a good prop: Total yards by Baltimore's Le'Ron McClain on his first attempt: 3.5. I honestly don't have any advice for that one, I just think it's cool. OK, I would take the under, for what it's worth, because McClain is dealing with a sprained ankle, although he will play. He ran for 172 total yards in the two earlier meetings.
I love the under on pretty much every Joe Flacco prop bet on BetUS (pass attempts, touchdown passes, passing yards). The Ravens are just asking him to protect the ball, and he is completing only 44 percent of his passes in the postseason. He hasn't thrown the ball more than 23 times and has just one touchdown but no picks. The Steelers are the No. 1 pass defense in the league.
People are always saying that it's tough to beat a team three times in a season, as Pittsburgh is attempting to do. But that's just wrong. Since the merger in 1970, a team attempting to complete a three-game sweep has been successful 11 of 18 times. This is the fifth time that two teams have met in a conference title game after a 2-0 sweep during the season. Three of the four previous times, the team that won the first two games completed the sweep.
Of course, these games have been about as close as possible, with the Steelers winning in overtime the first go-round and on a disputed touchdown catch in the final minute the second time.
Pittsburgh's success likely will depend on Willie Parker. In two of the Steelers' four losses this season (Giants and Colts), Parker didn't play because of injury. He was held to 20 yards rushing in a loss to the Eagles and 31 yards in a loss to the Titans. But Fast Willie appears healthy again had 146 yards rushing in the win against the Chargers last Sunday. Remember that Baltimore hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in two-plus seasons. Parker's over/under on BetUS is 64.5. I love the under on that one, as he gained just 47 against the Ravens in the second meeting after sitting out the first.
I read a good point in another article that I hadn't considered: Baltimore hasn't had a week off in 17 weeks. Remember, its normal bye week was lost when the Texans' home game against the Ravens was changed due to a hurricane. And the Ravens seem to be feeling it, with cornerback Samari Rolle likely out and star pass-rusher Terrell Suggs questionable among several injured players. Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu was limited all week but is expected to play. That bye week, however, did wonders for the Steelers. They have the injury advantage.
This is only the second time since the AFL-NFL merger that the No. 1 and No. 2 defenses have met this deep in the playoffs.