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I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

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Friday, January 2, 2015

2014-15 NFL Week One Playoff Preview

Betting information courtesy of 5dimes.com at the time of post (this blog has no affiliation with that site).

JR Ewing loves the NFL post season to bring out his Christmas money and put it all on the line.  These days I need it with the price of oil dropping faster than Johnny Manziel's NFL stock.

Each week of the NFL Playoffs, I'll preview the games, predict final scores, and oh, by the way, keep track of my overall oil money for straight up, ATS, and O/U on each game.  For ATS and O/U, $1100 is the Wager.  For S/U (a.k.a. Money Line), it's $1000 on either side.

My approach is pretty simple.  Look at teams home/road performance.  Look at the last four to six games.  Look at record against playoff teams (everyone can beat Buccaneers and Jets).  And look at their health.  Most of the teams are relatively even when it comes to W-L record, except Carolina...which is the heaviest betting favorite going! The week one theme seems to be how teams that could have secured a home game (Detroit, Cincinnati, Arizona) fare on the road, for what could be as many as three games in enemy territory. 

January 3, 2014: 16:35 EST
Arizona Cardinals (+6.5, +248) at Carolina Panthers (-6.5, -370) O/U 37.5

Arizona Cardinals (11-5)
Last six games: 2-4
Road: 4-4 (avg score Ari 18 vs. Opp 20)
Against Playoff teams: 2-3 (1-2 on road)
Key Injuries: QB Drew Stanton (knee, out).  

Carolina Panthers (7-8-1)
Last four games: 4-0
Home: 4-4 (avg score Car 18 vs. Opp 20)
Against Playoff teams: 1-4-1 (1-2 at home)
Key Injuries: None

The line setters are looking at the latest trends.  The home/road splits don't give a clear winner here (both teams mediocre).  The QB injury really makes the Cardinals look hapless.  The Panthers record against playoff teams (including the powerful AFC North) is bad, but so is Arizona's.   Both teams have a win against Detroit, the Cardinals beat Dallas (a much different Dallas team than now).  I'm tempted to go with the Cardinals here thinking the Panthers may be out of gas. But even with just 6.5 points, I don't see it being that close.

Final Prediction: Panthers 27 Cardinals 17. 

January 3, 2014: 20:15 EST
Baltimore Ravens (+3, +155) at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3, -165) O/U 45

Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
Last six games: 4-2
Road: 4-4 (avg score Bal 26 vs. Opp 24)
Against Playoff teams: 2-4 (0-3 on road) 
Key Injuries: None, plus they get DT Haloti Ngata back from suspension

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
Last four games: 4-0
Home: 6-2 (avg score Pit 32 vs. Opp 25)
Against Playoff teams: 5-1 (3-0 at home)
Key Injuries: RB Le'Veon Bell (knee, questionable out)

The field goal favorite is essentially just a nugget for being at home.  Bell is feeling better and probably wants to go.  They have some depth at the position and can scheme with more TE or short WR routes to keep the offense going.  I like their record against good teams and at home.  The Ravens seemed "meh" the last two weeks.

Final Prediction: Steelers 31 Ravens 26.

January 4, 2014: 13:05 EST
Cincinnati Bengals (+3, +155) at Indianapolis Colts (-3, -165) O/U 49

Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1)
Last four games: 2-2
Road: 4-4 (avg score Cin 19 vs. Opp 19)
Against Playoff teams: 3-4-1 (1-3 on road)
Key Injuries:  A.J. Green (concussion, questionable). 

Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
Last six games: 5-1
Home: 6-2 (avg score Ind 28 vs. Opp 18)
Against Playoff teams: 2-4 (1-1 at home)
Key Injuries: None.

These teams met here on October 19 and it was ugly in the Colts favor (27-0).  That was a while ago.  If you look at Indianapolis' record against good teams, it's not too good.  They beat up the weak AFC South.  A lot.  The Colts performance against the Cowboys was downright ugly and they haven't scored more than 30 since November.  The Bengals seem to have some momentum, even in a loss to Pittsburgh last Sunday night.

Final Prediction: Bengals 21 Colts 17.

January 4, 2014: 16:40 EST
Detroit Lions (+6.5, +260) at Dallas Cowboys (-6.5, -290) O/U 48

Detroit Lions (11-5)
Last five games: 4-1
Road: 4-4 (avg score Det 16 vs. Opp 20)
Against Playoff teams: 1-4 (0-4 on road)
Key Injuries: None.  

Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
Last four games: 4-0
Home: 4-4 (avg score Dal 22 vs. Opp 21)
Against Playoff teams: 2-1 (1-1 at home)
Key Injuries: None, plus they get Dominic Raiola back from suspension.

Both teams have been playing well down the stretch to say the least.  Interesting that Dallas only played three games against playoff teams (Seattle, Indianapolis, and Arizona).  The Lions played four playoff teams on the road.  Dallas had been outscored at home until the impressive win vs. the Colts late.  Despite a good trend lately in games, the competition for the Lions has been soft whereas the Cowboys had some tougher games.  And the Lions just don't score well on the road.

Final Prediction: Cowboys 31 Lions 13.

If I had to pick the three "best bets" it would be:
Cowboys: ATS
Bengals vs. Colts: Under
Lions vs. Cowboys: Under

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