Betting on the NFC Championship Game: Handicapping Keys and Possible Distractions
by Trevor Whenham - 1/14/2015
The biggest challenge that football bettors face this week in the NFL may be that they have too much time. There are only two games to break down, and there are no college games to distract them. That makes it way too easy to get distracted by storylines that aren't ultimately that significant to the outcome and not give the biggest storylines the most attention. In an attempt to help you stay on the straight and narrow leading up to the NFC Championship, scheduled for Sunday in Seattle, here are three of the biggest keys that will determine the outcome of the game and the three biggest distractions that are going to get much more attention than they warrant from a betting perspective:
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Aaron Rodgers' health: Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league when he is healthy, but that's just not the case when he can barely walk. Against Dallas his calf was a real issue. At times he had no mobility, and it looked like he was really laboring to make some throws as well. It was easier to get away with that against the Cowboys than it will be against the Seahawks - and Green Bay didn't exactly blow away Dallas last weekend. A whole lot rides on Rodgers and his ability to perform at a high level for this offense, so if you can't go into this game with a lot of faith that he is going to be ready - or at least ready enough - then t will be really tough to back his team with any confidence.
Eddie Lacy: Lacy was pretty awful the first time these two teams met this year. He carried the ball 12 times and had only 34 yards to show for it. He just couldn't get anything going. In his last seven games, though, he has been a beast - averaging 99 yards per game and besting 100 yards three different times. Lacy has been a driving force for this team in the second half, and his impact will be even more significant if Rodgers is not at his best. Seattle had been all but impossible to run on in much of the second half, but key injuries have hit the defensive line hard, and the Panthers were able to gain 132 yards last week. Your view of this matchup is going to be key to your view of this game.
Green Bay against the run: The Packers are not particularly good against the run. They have shuffled personnel around to remedy their issues and they have improved, but they are still below average. Both Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson have had good success running the ball against this team, DeMarco Murray had 123 yards on just 25 carries last week, so we know that they are still vulnerable to a good run attack. If the Packers can't find a way to contain the Seahawks on the ground then this one could get ugly - especially if the weather is less than ideal.
Home-field advantage: I am sick of hearing about the 12th Man. Sure, Seattle is a tough place to play, and the Seahawks play hard there. They are far from perfect, though. They lost to the Cowboys, needed overtime against Denver, and were underwhelming in beating the Raiders. They have been much better lately, but they have also hosted their division rivals lately - and all have had excuses. Last week in the playoffs they didn't exactly blow the Panthers out of the building for much of the game. Green Bay has not been a great road team this year, but the reality is that all of that is irrelevant here. All that matters is this game - and we know both that Seattle is capable of losing at home and Green Bay can win on the road. Don't let geography distract you from what is important in this one.
Fail Mary: As I am sure you'll recall, the replacement referees made a mess of a call in 2012 in Seattle. Golden Tate was awarded a game-winning touchdown, but a clear offensive pass interference call prior to the catch was missed, and the NFL admitted after the game that the call was wrong - which meant that Green Bay should have won. It was ultimately the controversy that forced the end of the referee's labor dispute. It's a crazy story, and we will hear a lot about it before his game. It is irrelevant, though. What happened early in 2012 has absolutely no bearing to these current teams and how they will play. None. Conspiracy theorists will be tempted to look for meaning, but there is none to be found.
Richard Sherman: Sherman is a great cornerback and the quarterback of a great defense - there is no denying that. He is also one of the great self-promoters in league history. He will tell anyone how great he is - whether they ask him or not. He has done enough in big games that people - the media and the betting public - are happy to listen to him. While he will have an impact on this game like he does in every game, it would be very easy to attach too much significance to him and his role in this one. He doesn't walk on water, and he won't single-handedly change the outcome of this game.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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