Some Super Bowl Betting History for You to Consider

SBXIII
SBXIII
Super Bowl XIII has become known as "Black Sunday" because Vegas took a beating.

As we have now entered the official “Super Bowl” week, I think it’s important to share some history of betting the big game. Obviously, there is no event in America that has more action in a given year than the Super Bowl.

The amount of money wagered on this game every winter is enough to run most nations for a calendar year if not longer. If you are going to be one of those millions of folks who are going to lay money on the championship of American Professional Football then let’s check the history books for some perspective and analysis. Any piece of information you can get your hands on is is crucial.

Favorites in the Super Bowl have gone 33-15 straight up in the previous 48 games. They are also 26-18-2 against the spread. The National Football Conference holds a 26-22 advantage and has won five of the last seven Super Bowls.

The largest upset in the game came way back in Super Bowl III when the New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts 16-7. The Jets entered as 18-point underdogs.

Seahawks
Seattle entered last season's Super Bowl as an underdog and it looks like more of the same this season.

In terms of the Over/Under, the Over has ruled in 25 of the 48 games. Super Bowl I did not have an O/U so means the Under was the right play 22 times. The Over has won three of the last four and is tied with the Under with five victories each in the last ten Super Bowls.

In terms of the recent history of underdogs, they have won six of the last seven Super Bowls including last year when Denver entered as a -2.5 point favorite over the Seahawks. The only favorite to win during that stretch was Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV.

The most infamous Super Bowl in terms of betting was Super Bowl XIII. This was the second of three Super Bowl meetings between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. The Steelers opened at -4.5 but as the game neared, it fell to -3.5 with heavy action on Dallas. The Steelers were victorious 35-31 so Vegas bookies were hit hard.

Many bettors took the Cowboys on that early -4.5 line while many jumped on the Steelers when it went to -3.5. This has since been known as “Black Sunday” to many in the sports gambling business.

As we move our focus to this year’s game, our friends at Bovada currently have the New England Patriots listed as two-point favorites over the defending champion Seattle Seahawks.

If we look at the pattern over the last ten Super Bowls we can come up with the following:

If we like the Patriots as the favorite at -2, then your chances are strong. Winning 33 of 48 is pretty solid.

If we like the AFC team (the Patriots), then we might want to move towards Seattle.

If we are talking about playing the Over/Under then we are going to suggest the Over based on recent results. If we go based on all of the Super Bowls, then this decision really does come down to a coin flip as we’re very nearly at 50%.

Since 2000, the NFC has been the Super Bowl favorite only four times. The St. Louis Rams twice (1-1), the Packers (1-0) and the San Francisco 49ers (0-1). Outside of the Packers win, the other three times saw the Rams not cover against the Titans, the Niners lose straight up to Baltimore and the Rams losing straight up to the Patriots.

With all that swirling around these Patriots, you have to ask yourself whether it will galvanize them or ruin them? That said, you must still look at the history because it tells an awful lot.

Odds to Win the NFC West for 2014

Wilson
Wilson
Don't expect Russell Wilson to listen to the hype. I expect another focused year from him and the 'Hawks.

It’s our last stop in the NFC. Let’s head West and break down the toughest division in pro football.

Seattle +110 – The defending Super Bowl Champions look as good as any defending champ in recent years when it comes to their chances of repeating. Both the offense and defense are largely intact and the business-like approach seems to be there are well. My only question is how much does Marshawn Lynch have left? He declined a bit last year compared to the year before so that’s something to keep an eye on.

The last six weeks of the schedule feature five divisional games including two each against San Francisco and Arizona and one against the Rams. Toss in a trip to Philadelphia and that could be a very tough hurdle.

Season Projection: 13-3

Dorsey
Don't underestimate the loss of Glenn Dorsey to a season-ending injury for the Niners.

San Francisco +150 – A lot has been made through the first two preseason games about how poorly the 49ers have played as they are 0-2. In most cases I wouldn’t put much thought into it, but this team worries me and here’s why. They are aging rapidly on defense. They’ve lost defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey for the season and will be without Navarro Bowman to start the season. Do they have a viable replacement for Frank Gore should he go down and will guard Alex Boone ever sign?

The Niners’ schedule isn’t brutal but it has some potential road blocks right off the bat. They open at Dallas who will test their struggling secondary. They then have Chicago at home and also have trips to Arizona, St. Louis and Denver in the opening half of the season. Philly and Kansas City visit Levi’s Stadium in that stretch as well.

Season Projection: 10-6

Arizona +750 – The Cards were going to be my surprise pick in this division (and that wouldn’t have been much of a surprise based on their finish last year) but defensive tackle Darnell Dockett went down for the season this week and that’s a massive blow. He anchored the league’s number one defense against the run which is huge against division foes like the 49ers and Seahawks. Carson Palmer looks great so far this preseason and the running attack should be more balanced as well.

Despite going 10-6 in 2013, they get a third-place schedule which will help. The final seven games will decide their fate this season. They entertain Detroit, Kansas City and Seattle but must hit the road to Atlanta, Seattle, St. Louis and San Francisco. A good start to the season will benefit them in the long run.

Season Projection: 10-6

St. Louis +750 – Let’s get right to it; this team will ride or fall with quarterback Sam Bradford. The Rams flirted with taking a quarterback in the May draft but stuck by Bradford who has been hit with injuries and average play. The running of Zac Stacy and a defense that looks to be really good and aggressive will help.

If this team played in any other division I’d probably have no issue putting them in the playoffs. The reality is that they play in the NFC West and it’s going to be extremely difficult to reach the postseason. The Rams’ season may be defined by a stretch of five games from late October through November. They’ll play at Kansas City, at San Francisco and at Arizona while they host Denver and Seattle on the ends of that three-game road trip.

Season Projection: 8-8

Overall: Seattle will be tested but they’ll win the division. My one big concern in the 49ers. I can actually see them sliding down to third in 2014.

Weekend Ramblings is Back With Thoughts on the NCAA, Tiger Missing the Cut and More

NCAA
NCAA
The NCAA will no longer exist as we currently know it.

It isn’t like it’s gone anywhere it’s just that I haven’t used the title in awhile. Either way, Weekend Ramblings returns and here are my thoughts on the latest in the sports’ world in a ‘Readers’ Digest’ form.

It was a very interesting and precedent-setting week for the NCAA as two different decisions were made that will have long-lasting impacts on college sports and most specifically, college football. The first seismic shift came from the NCAA itself when it’s Board of Governors voted to give autonomy to the ‘Power Five Conferences.’

What this means is that the Big 12, Big 10, Pac-12, ACC and SEC can essentially run things the way they would like to moving forward without the NCAA being able to say “boo” about it. Let’s face it; there is a significant difference between the Power Five and everyone else when it comes to money and power in most sports but clearly football is the issue here.

This ruling will allow the Power Five to work together to create legislation that benefits them. This could be in recruiting, in how the schools schedule future opponents and perhaps even how they create a football playoff in the future.

The second big shift came late yesterday when a judge ruled in favor of Ed O’Bannon and his fellow plaintiffs against the NCAA. This was the lawsuit brought against the NCAA where players’ likenesses were being used without their permission in such things as video games and jersey sales. The bigger issue was the fact that the schools were taking in all of the profits while the athletes were seeing zero dollars despite their obvious likeness being used.

Ultimately this paves the way for college athletes to be paid. While some believe this is a step in the right direction, it could also be the opening of another Pandora’s Box. How will athletes be paid? Will the starting quarterback make more than the back-up left guard? Can they be compensated for each and every jersey with their number that is sold?

Stay tuned because this in only the beginning.

Tiger
Tiger missed the cut in the PGA and that's good for him and us.

I admit that I’m guilty of kicking a dead horse far too often. I do it with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and I certainly do it with Tiger Woods as well. My reasoning is that these guys continue to do things that scream for discussion and debate and Woods is once again doing this. I can keep calling him out because I don’t have to worry about being ignored by him for an interview.

Woods of course missed the cut yesterday in the PGA Championship after limping around the golf course with his bad back. I don’t doubt Tiger was in some pain and I congratulate him for actually finishing the round, but I’m tired of the act. You know and I know if he were somehow in contention that he would be labeled ‘heroic’ and ‘tough’ for hanging in there.

But he wasn’t in contention and he never is when he withdraws from a tournament. See last week as the latest example. OK, I’m over it.

One final thought for today is on Michael Sam who played in his first NFL game last night in the preseason opener for his St. Louis Rams against the New Orleans Saints. Sam was credited with a tackle and a QB hit on the evening. This was ESPN’s highlight of the night by the way.

I mention this only because I hope the day comes when an openly gay football player makes a tackle that it isn’t a big deal. I hope it’s noting more than statistic in the box score. That’s the road Sam is paving for many that will follow.

Tony Dungy Needs to Just Shut Up

Sam
Sam
Tony Dungy wouldn't have drafted Michael Sam because of the 'distraction' he would bring.

Below is the definition of the word hypocrisy.

the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense. Therefore a hypocrite is one who practices hypocrisy. Ladies and gentlemen and I give you Tony Dungy.

This isn’t easy for me to write because I have great respect for Coach Dungy. Well, maybe had is the more operative word now after his comments regarding St. Louis Rams’ rookie Michael Sam being a ‘distraction.’ In case you didn’t know, Michael Sam happens to be gay. He’ll be the first openly gay player in the NFL should he make the Rams’ roster or any other team’s roster.

Dungy
Tony Dungy needs to just move away from the microphone for the time being.

Before I get to Dungy let me tell you how I feel about Sam. I do not care that Michael Sam is gay. I do not care that he is black. I do not care he attended Missouri. I don’t care if he likes The Beatles more than The Rolling Stones. The only thing I care about with regard to Michael Sam is this; can he make his football team better?

Dungy is of course entitled to his opinion as I am to mine and you are to yours, but his comments this week and then his attempt to re-define them reek of hypocrisy and religious intolerance. As MMQB’s Peter King said, “Dungy is a deeply religious man who follows the bible to the letter of the law. I don’t think he’d ever be in favor of gay marriage.”

We’ve known for some time that Dungy is exactly as King says he is. He is very religious and if you’ve read even a chapter of any of his books you’d know that. There’s nothing wrong with that with one exception and that’s the very exception that applies to Dungy’s comments.

As head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dungy drafted a player out of Miami of Florida named Warren Sapp. Like him or hate him, Sapp had a Hall of Fame career. When he was drafted however, he dropped significantly in the first round because of well-known marijuana use. Apparently this ‘distraction’ wasn’t too big for Dungy to deal with as coach.

As Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts, his All-Pro wide receiver Marvin Harrison was allegedly involved in two shootings in Philadelphia. In fact he was involved in a third just last month. During the initial incidents, Dungy supported Harrison and that’s fine. Most coaches would do the same. When asked if the incident would affect his football Dungy said, “No, Marvin will be fine. I can’t speak for Marvin, but my sense is he’ll be fine.” This was after he was sued by the man he allegedly shot. Still, not a ‘distraction’ for Dungy’s team.

As an analyst for NBC, Dungy took it upon himself to help Michael Vick while he was in prison after his dog fighting ring was exposed. That’s very good of Dungy but why was he so willing to support to Vick? Obviously because he didn’t want him to be a ‘distraction.’

Dungy tried to clear up his comments that Sam would be a ‘distraction’ by saying he believes it isn’t his sexual orientation that’s a problem but rather the media ‘distraction’ his sexuality will create. To this point, Sam has not been a ‘distraction’ at all according to Jeff Fisher who spoke with ‘Mike and Mike’ this morning.

Maybe the real ‘distraction’ is Dungy himself. Long an advocate for African-American players and coaches in the NFL, it appears his own beliefs are getting in the way of him advocating for another player. My advice Tony is to just stop talking because every time you open your mouth you have to make room for your foot.

 

For Michael Sam, The Journey Continues

Sam
Sam
Michael Sam was drafted by the Rams and could break down barriers the way others have in pro sports.

It’s often difficult to gauge the realities of a controversial situation usually until much time has passed. If you like back at critical moments in the world of sports, this point is often proven. Take guys like Fritz Pollard and Jackie Robinson who faced incredibly difficult circumstances as the broke the color barriers in professional football and baseball respectively.

With each man facing any number of vicious attacks both verbal and physical, they managed to persevere.

Michael Sam now becomes the next Pollard and the next Robinson as he becomes the first openly gay man drafted into the National Football League. As the seventh round began on Saturday, the attention of both ESPN and the NFL Network started to shift towards Sam. It was not long ago that he announced his sexuality admitting that he had told his Missouri teammates back in August.

He and the Tigers won the SEC East Division and lost to Auburn in the SEC Title Game. Sam had an excellent ear and was eventually named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Despite being a bit undersized, or what scouts call a “tweener,” Sam was still viewed as a third or fourth round pick.

As Friday evening’s festivities wound down it became more and more obvious that Sam would not be taken on the draft’s second day.

A Conspiracy of Sorts?

Michael Sam eventually got the call he had been waiting for when late in the seventh and final round, the St. Louis Rams called to tell him he was drafted. The emotional response was understandable. It cannot be easy to have walked in his shoes in recent months especially after his announcement and then a poor combine effort in Indianapolis.

Henderson
Marshall Henderson claims his ignorant tweets about Michael Sam were due to a 'psychology' experiment.

Being drafted so late meant that social media was abuzz with the speculation that the Rams were simply doing the league a favor by drafting him. First of all, it’s good PR and second of all it would have looked bad had he gone undrafted. Why? Because maybe it would have sent the signal that the NFL wasn’t quite as ready for a gay player as we had assumed.

There is no proof to this conspiracy theory and there won’t be. What’s done is done and even though he was drafted, there is no guarantee that Sam will make the 53-man roster come early September.

Social Media Ups and Downs

Not surprisingly, the immediate response following the drafting and then reaction of Michael Sam was swift and full of both positive and negative thoughts. From Miami Dolphins’ safety Don Jones’ ignorant tweet to the Texas Longhorns’ quarterback Case McCoy’s likewise comment, it was this way all afternoon. The fact the Sam planted a kiss on his boyfriend in front of the nation immediately after his phone call left many speechless for better or for worse.

While the positive far outweighed the negative, it only got worse when Mississippi basketball star Marshall Henderson put out a series of homophobic tweets. No long after, he announced that he doing an experiment for a ‘gay’ friend as part of a psychology class at Ole Miss. Even if that is the truth, it was a poor choice and a poor way to conduct a field study.

Thankfully, the positive comments have continued to pour in and as yesterday, only Johnny Manziel’s Cleveland Browns’ jersey was sold more than Michael Sam’s was. That says something and it has to make Sam feel good.

I hope the barriers that Michael Sam is facing in the coming months are broken down by him and I hope that a man’s sexuality become nothing more than a footnote to his future as an NFL player.

 

 

I Give Up Trying to Figure Out the NFL

Austin
Austin
Tavon Austin and Jeff Fisher left Indianapolis with 38-8 blowout victory.

So let me get this straight. Last week, the Indianapolis Colts went down to play division rival Houston. The Texans were reeling having lost five straight and were starting rookie quarterback Case Keenum. Therefore this had to have been an easy Colts’ victory right? Oh the Colts won the game alright but it took a massive comeback and the Texans’ losing their head coach at halftime to do it.

Either way you slice it, the victory was an impressive one for the Colts.

Fast forward to yesterday. The Colts are playing at home and with a lot of emotion coming off that comeback win over a rival that they basically gave last rites to and they host the St. Louis Rams. The Rams aren’t terrible by any stretch but they have lost QB Sam Bradford for the season leaving them with Kellen Clemens.

As any red-blooded American would do prior to this game, I didn’t hesitate in making sure that I selected Indy to win this one. I didn’t hesitate one bit.

Imagine my surprise when I’m watching the locally televised game and I see the score coming from Indianapolis. 7-0 Rams. OK, tough start for the Colts…. 14-0 Rams. Wow, must be some lucky bounces going the Rams’ way I guess. 21-0 and then 28-0 and then 35-0…. What the hell was going on in the Lucas Oil Stadium an under .500 team was putting an absolute whooping on the AFC South Division leaders?

The final was 38-8. I’m sure Colts’ owner Jim Irsay has already taken to Twitter to apologize for his team’s pathetic performance and if he hasn’t its coming you can be sure of that.

This is the National Football League today my friends.

What happened to the Colts was really quite simple. A strip sack and return for TD by Chris Long was then followed by a 1-yard TD run by Zac Stacy and then that was followed by a 98-yard punt return for TD by Tavon Austin. Austin would tack on a couple of receiving touchdowns for good measure.

Still not convinced that this season is becoming as wacky as any recent history? Take a look at the standings.

Johnson
Megatron had two scores as the Lions left Chicago with the division lead.

Start in the NFC where in the North, the Detroit Lions are leading following a dramatic win in Chicago today. Yes, I said, “Detroit Lions.” This team was 0-16 five years ago and the thought of them winning on the road was absurd. They’ve beaten the Bears twice this season so they own the tie-breaker and the Packers, sans Aaron Rodgers, are now in third place.

The NFC South is now a two-team race with New Orleans being pressured by Carolina who won in San Francisco 10-9. Notice I didn’t mention Atlanta? The Falcons, a Super Bowl favorite of many, are 2-7.

The NFC West is holding true with Seattle and San Francisco at the top but Arizona and St. Louis cannot be taken lightly and the NFC East is a heap of mediocrity at best.

The AFC races are much more in line with traditional thinking with a couple of exceptions.

Traditional power Pittsburgh finds itself in the cellar of the North with a 3-6 record and defending Super Bowl Champ Baltimore needed an overtime win over leader Cincinnati to stay a game up on the Steelers.

With Denver’s win at San Diego, the showdown is now set between the Broncos who are 8-1 and the Kansas City Chiefs who are 9-0. I mentioned the South where Indy is the only team over .500. Jacksonville made sure of that with their first win yesterday over Tennessee.

In the East you have the Pats and surprising Jets and maybe the Dolphins? I say that because who knows how this ‘bullying issue’ will turn out.

Parity has taken over this league and to a point where I don’t know any of us truly expected. With seven weeks remaining, you’d better buckle in because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Seattle Laying Double Digits on the Road

The Seattle Seahawks are on the road this week and are still double-digit favorites for Monday Night Football against the St. Louis Rams.

The 6-1 Seattle Seahawks will be taking on a 3-4 Rams team that will be without Sam Bradford its starting quarterback who tore his ACL in week 7.

Kellen Clemens the replacement for Bradford has not been a starter in a game in the NFL since 2011. Even with Bradford, the Rams were not the best of bets covering only twice in seven games to start the season.

By contrast, Seattle has a record of 5-2 against the spread after seven games. Dating back as far as the preseason of 2011, Seattle is covering at a rate of 75% in all its games, with a mark of 39-13-1 ATS.

Not since 2005, has Seattle been a favorite on the road by 10 points or more. That season, the Seahawks won the NFC title. San Francisco was the opponent back then with a 1-7 SU record. San Francisco gave them a game and nearly pulled off an upset but the Seahawks won SU but lost ATS.

The current line has Seattle favored by 11 points with the point total on 43 on most betting sites like Bovada, betonline, topbet and sportsbook.com.

The line opened last week at 10.5 and is up to its current 11, but there are sites where Seattle is laying 11.5 and even 12.5.

Seattle has won SU and ATS in three of the last five games head to head with St. Louis. Last season St. Louis split with Seattle in their two meetings including a 19-13 upset win in St. Louis. St. Louis was 1-1 SU and 2-0 ATS in the two games last season with Seattle.

Seattle should be able to take advantage of a weak St. Louis defense that has allowed the second most yards in the league per pass attempt at nearly 8. In addition, the Rams have allowed over 126 yards rushing per game, which is third most in the entire league.

The big question of the game is will St. Louis succeed in moving the ball against the defense of Seattle, which is allowing fewer yards each play than all other teams in the league.

It would have been a concern even if Bradford had been starting, let along Clemens. St. Louis is ranked No. 30 in the league in yards gained, with just the Jaguars and Buccaneers worse.

Prior to Bradford going down with his injury, the Rams had won two consecutive games SU and AT, including one over Houston on the road.

A poor running team with a new backup quarterback against the league’s toughest defense spells a possible shutout or at least a double digit difference.

Pick: Lay the point and take the Seahawks

Thursday Night Offers You Some Potential Action

Thomas
Thomas
Thomas and Virginia Tech survived a scare last week but can they win at Georgia Tech?

College football and the National Football League are both offering some action for Thursday night and all three games could give you some opportunities to make amends for a rough weekend. Check out the three games below.

Virginia Tech (+7) at Georgia Tech – The 3-1 Hokies are struggling despite their only loss coming to top-ranked Alabama. Last week, Marshall took them into overtime before the Hokies finally emerged victorious. Quarterback Logan Thomas entered this season with hopes he would be in the running for the Heisman Trophy. Instead he has thrown six interceptions to just four touchdowns.

The Yellow Jackets meanwhile are scoring a boat load of points. Georgia Tech is scoring 45 points per game but the number is a bit inflated by the 70-0 win over Elon in the opener. The running game is its’ usual tremendous self. The Jackets are fourth in the country at over 345 yards per game.

This one may be decided by the defenses however. Georgia Tech is giving up just over 11 points per game while the Hokies are giving up about 17 per game. The Hokies are 0-5 ATS in their last five road games. Georgia Tech is 1-5 in their last six games with Va Tech. I think this one will be tight so I love the Hokies getting seven.

Iowa State (+3) at Tulsa – The Cyclones are coming off a bye week which followed a tough loss to rival Iowa. Their other loss is to in-state Northern Iowa in the opener. ISU doesn’t do anything offensively ‘great’ and that’s part of the problem. The running game is 99th in the country and the passing attack is 50th. Pair that with a defense that is giving up 28 points per game and there’s your 0-2 record.

The Golden Hurricane aren’t sitting much better though. They rank in the bottom half of FBS schools in both rushing and passing and defensively they are giving up over 37 points per game. Over their last seven games, Iowa State is just 1-6 against the spread while Tulsa is 2-4 over the same span.

This is the type of game where I really think the stats speak for themselves. Take the Cyclones and those three points in this one.

Kaepernick
Kaepernick needs to return to his late-season form of a year ago if the Niners plan to win in St. Louis.

NFL

San Francisco (-3.5) at St. Louis – For the first time in the tenure of Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers are coming off back-to-back losses. His team entered last Sunday’s home contest with Indianapolis 8-0 in games following losses or ties under Harbaugh but that stat was crushed by the Colts’ defense.

Now the Niners must travel to St. Louis to play a Rams team that gave them fits last year. The only good news for San Francisco is that the Rams are coming off a horrible loss in Dallas where they were never in the game from the outset. With both teams at 1-2 and Seattle firmly in command of the NFC West at 3-0, this game takes on huge significance.

The 49ers are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games in St. Louis. Straight up, the Niners are 4-2 in their last six in the show-me state. Over their last 25 games at home against San Francisco, the Rams are 7-16-2 against the spread. This game should depend most heavily on who can run the football.

The Rams are 28th in the league while the 49ers defense is a shocking 29th in the NFL against the run. Something will have to give here to be sure. Colin Kaepernick has struggled in the last two weeks and he’ll need to get off to a good start. Relying on Frank Gore early could help that situation. I really like the 49ers giving the 3.5 in this one.

Picking NFL Division Winners

A win over New Orleans on Thursday night coupled with Tampa Bay's loss to Denver on Sunday was enough to see Atlanta crowned NFC South champions.

Ahead of Week 13 there were 12 postseason berths up for grab. Now, heading into Week 14 only eight remain.

New England secured the AFC East for the ninth time in 10 years Sunday with a win over the Miami Dolphins. Denver won a second consecutive AFC West crown with a victory over Tampa Bay. At the same time, that Buccaneers loss handed Atlanta the NFC South division for just the second time in eight years. Houston also secured a Wild Card berth at the very least with a win over Tennessee.

Now teams can start to panic. With playoffs spots set to vanish quickly, it’s time to win, win, win. Of course, the best chance for any team is to win its division, thus doing away with any Wild Card shenanigans. Here’s a look at the teams that have the best chance of doing exactly that.

 

AFC North

Baltimore (9-3, 4-1 Division) Remaining: @ WAS, vs. DEN, vs. NYG, @ CIN Odds: 1/3

Pittsburgh (7-5, 2-2 Division) Remaining: vs. SD, @ DAL, vs. CIN, vs. CLE Odds: 7/2

Cincinnati (7-5, 1-3 Division) Remaining: vs. DAL, @ PHI, @ PIT, vs. BAL Odds: 7/1

The AFC North will have a terrific finish this year, thanks to Pittsburgh’s win in Baltimore on Sunday. The Ravens, favorites still to take the division, have the toughest run in, but that two-game cushion is exactly that; a cushion. A 4-1 division record with only Cincinnati to play could also act as an additional game on the lead. Pittsburgh could easily run the table whilst Cincinnati has to play both the Steelers and Ravens, which is a tough task for anybody.

Take: Baltimore – The Ravens might not play as well as Pittsburgh or Cincinnati but they’ve done (just) enough already this season to have the necessary advantages if necessary.

 

AFC South

Houston (11-1, 4-0 Division) Remaining: @ NE, vs. IND, vs. MIN, @ IND Odds: Off

Indianapolis (8-4, 2-1 Division) Remaining: vs. TEN, @ HOU, @ KC, vs. HOU Odds: Off

This one’s real simple; one win gives Houston the division championship. Indianapolis can have a say by beating the Texans twice in the last three weeks of the season, but that would still require Houston to lose to both New England and Minnesota. There’s a reason this one’s already off the board.

Take: Houston (if you can find someone silly enough to still be offering the opportunity).

 

NFC East

NY Giants (7-5, 2-3 Division) Remaining: vs. NO, @ ATL, @ BAL, vs. PHI Odds: 5/9

Washington (6-6, 3-1 Division) Remaining: vs. BAL, @ CLE, @ PHI, vs. DAL Odds: 13/4

Dallas (6-6, 3-2 Division) Remaining: @ CIN, vs. PIT, vs. NO, @ WAS Odds: 7/2

The Giants are favorites to take the NFC East but they’ll need to improve on recent performances, especially with trips to Atlanta and Baltimore on the slate. Don’t expect the Falcons to roll over just because they’ve booked their place either. Once Baltimore is finished with – win or loss – this weekend, Washington has a very winnable schedule, while Dallas has been so erratic this season that you wouldn’t want to put your money anywhere near them. But then again, an upset could be in the making.

Take: Washington – Both the ‘Skins and Giants could very much end the season at 9-7. The tiebreaker will go to the Redskins with their superior division record, providing they beat either Philadelphia or Dallas.

 

NFC North

Green Bay (8-4, 3-0 Division) Remaining: vs. DET, @ CHI, vs. TEN, @ MIN Odds: 1/2

Chicago (8-4, 2-1 Division) Remaining: @ MIN, vs. GB, @ ARZ, @ DET Odds: 3/2

Minnesota (6-6, 2-2 Division) Remaining: vs. CHI, @ STL, @ HOU, vs. GB Odds: Off

Three losses in four weeks have the Bears on the wrong end of a streak, and with news that Brian Urlacher might miss the rest of the season, things are not looking good for Chicago. That being said, the Bears have a winnable schedule, almost. Three on the road is not ideal and that game against Green Bay could make all the difference. In fact, it will make all the difference. Green Bay also has a winnable schedule, more winnable than Chicago even. The Vikings aren’t mathematically eliminated but a two-game lead is too much to make up now, particularly with both Chicago and Green Bay left on the schedule as well as a trip to Houston.

Take: Green Bay – A win at Soldier Field will prove to be the big difference maker here.

 

NFC West

San Francisco (8-3-1, 2-1-1 Division) Remaining: vs. MIA, @ NE, @ SEA, vs. ARZ Odds: 1/5

Seattle (7-5, 0-3 Division) Remaining: vs. ARZ, @ BUF, vs. SF, vs. STL Odds: 7/2

St. Louis (5-6-1, 1-3-1 Division) Remaining: @BUF, vs. MIN, @ TB, @ SEA Odds: Off

First thing’s first: throw St. Louis out of this equation. The bookies have. Secondly, that tie looks mighty ugly on San Francisco’s record. Could it be costly as well? It could! Seattle is unbeaten at home and faces three of the final four at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks’ remaining game is a trip to Toronto to take on the Buffalo Bills, a winnable game, especially as Seattle finally got a road win this past weekend. San Francisco faces a tough matchup in New England in Week 15, which could easily result in a loss. That would leave (in theory) the winner of the Niners-Seahawks Week 16 game to take the division.

Take: San Francisco – Seattle certainly has the capabilities of winning out and edging this one from the Niners, but the Seahawks have been riding their luck all season and it figures that one of these games will be a bust. Don’t be surprised if it’s that final game against the Rams.

Kaepernick Gets Nod For Niners Start

Colin Kaepernick will be entrusted with another 49ers game this weekend as San Francisco travels to St. Louis.

Colin Kaepernick will start for the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday as the team travels to the Gateway City to take on the St. Louis Rams.

The news filtered out of San Francisco’s training ground on Wednesday following an announcement by head coach Jim Harbaugh.

The move leaves regular starting quarterback Alex Smith – cleared to play last week following a concussion – watching from the sidelines.

Kaepernick replaced Smith in Week 10 after the latter was injured during a game against the Rams at Candlestick Park. The second year quarterback completed 11 of 17 passes before the game ended in a tie.

With Smith diagnosed with concussion and medically unfit to play, Kaepernick made his first career start against the Bears on Monday Night Football in Week 11. During the game, Kaepernick completed 16 of 23 passes and threw for two touchdowns, as he outdueled fellow backup, Jason Campbell, spelling a concussed Jay Culter. The Niners outplayed the Bears and took the game 32-7.

Following much speculation, Kaepernick made his second start last Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. He completed 16 of 25 passes, tallying a touchdown and a first interception of the season. The Niners won the game 31-21.

Now, the second-year triggerman is set to start on Sunday.

Overall this season, Kaepernick has completed 48 of 74 passes (64.9%) for 680 yards and thrown three touchdowns and one interception. His quarterback rating is 92.92.

In nine games this season, Smith has thrown for 1,731 yards on 152 of 217 passing, with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. His quarterback rating is 69.83. He was certainly not the happiest person on the sideline this past weekend in New Orleans.

Smith visited with Miami in the offseason whilst the Niners flirted with Peyton Manning but resigned with the Bay Area side to be its starter. Smith may well have been ‘Wally Pipped’ following Harbaugh’s decision to go with Kaepernick, although everybody within the franchise is sticking firmly with the line that both quarterbacks are go-to-guys.

Despite the potential/existing (depending how you look at it) quarterback controversy, San Francisco has moved up in the NFL Futures. The Niners are now favorites (9/4) to take the NFC and 5/1 to win the Super Bowl. Only New England and Houston (both 9/2) have shorter odds.

San Francisco’s defense has given up just 278.4 yards per game, second to Pittsburgh, and is the stingiest in points conceded (14.1 PPG). St. Louis’ 28th ranked offense will be in for a long day.

Offensively, San Francisco leads the league in rushing yards, making up for a low-ranked passing game. That being said, Kaepernick has added some impetus to the Niners’ passing game over the past two weeks. The Rams will find this team tough to stop.

Heading into play this weekend, San Francisco (8-2-1, 4-1 road) opened as 6½-points favorites over St. Louis (4-6, 3-3 home), a number that has increased to 7½.

Both sides have fared well against the spread this season, each tallying a 7-4-0 ATS record.

Throw out Week 10’s tie and the Niners have straight up won seven of the last eight meetings with the Rams, as well as five of the last eight meetings in St. Louis.

The over/under is 41. The total has gone over in seven Rams games this season, but only five Niner games have exceeded the marker. Four of the last five head-to-head meetings have gone over 41 points.

If San Francisco is victorious in St. Louis – which would mark a fourth win in five games – Colin Kaepernick may just play himself into the starting role permanently, which means Alex Smith could face the trading block come February.