There are some days/weekends on the sports calendar that are just can’t miss theater for me. One is the opening of the baseball season and not the hack one they play overseas, but the real Opening Day.
Another is the beginning of the NCAA college basketball tournament, which in my circles is a national holiday. Mix in some Masters and the Rose Bowl (which I haven’t missed since I was 8 years old) and you can catch my drift.
And I know people reading this are asking, “what about the opening weekend of the NFL season”?
Well, that used to be the case before the mighty NFL suits started shoving a game down our collective throats every other day to begin the season. Because of that, it has lost its Christmas day-type nostalgia, at least for me. Don’t get me wrong, I watch the Red Zone religiously all day, but it doesn’t have that same can’t sleep the night before type vibe as in the past.
Just one man’s opinion, that’s all.
But what I do get all jacked up like a 19-year-old on adderall is this weekend on the NFL calendar. Divisional Playoff weekend is the best set of games on the NFL calendar in my opinion and it’s not even really close.
And I don’t usually have a dog in the fight as my Bolts either don’t make it or lose in a dumpster fire way during the Wild Card weekend. But I digress.
What is better than having the best four regular season teams in both conferences taking on teams coming off big Wild Card playoff wins? Need more proof, just take a gander at the QB’s that will be participating this coming weekend’s games.
Manning vs. Luck.
Brady vs. Flacco.
Rodgers vs. Romo.
Wilson vs. Newton.
So with that backdrop, here’s my view on the Saturday sessions from a gaming aspect.
New England Patriots (-7.5, 49) vs. Baltimore Ravens – Saturday 4:35 PM
I’m guessing if you actually got a quiet, honest moment with Bill Belichick and asked which team he wanted to see in this spot, he would probably mutter under his over-sized hoodie “not the Ravens”. But that’s exactly who will be traveling north to Foxboro on Saturday afternoon for another monster playoff matchup.
The Ravens dominated their rivals last weekend in the Big Ketchup Bottle and now take their “house money” mentality to a place they have had plenty of success in past playoff matchups.
The Pats have been the best AFC (if not NFL) team most of the season. Brady, Gronk and a much improved secondary has made them the odds on favorites to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since they lost to the NY Giants (again) in 2011-12. So what gives in this one?
Well, I’ll leave the heavy lifting on the minutia of the game to my BSR colleague’s Andrew Holly and Matt Lund who cover the local team as good as anyone in the business. I’ll stick to what I know and that’s who will cover the spread. And as I said on BST and the BSR podcast, I will and cannot pick against Joe Flacco and a John Harbaugh led playoff team. Not saying they will win, but giving a playoff tested team like the Ravens a TD+ is too much to pass up. I also think the game goes under the 49 point total.
Nuggets: Ravens are 3-0-1 in their last four meetings with Pats. Underdog is 4-1-1 in last 6 meetings. Ravens are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 January games. The road team in this series is 5-0-1 ATS in their last 6 meetings.
Seattle Seahawks (-10.5, 40) vs. Carolina Panthers – Saturday 8:15 PM
The defending champs are rolling heading into these playoffs. Winners of 9 out of their last 10 including 6 straight wins and ATS covers, the ‘Hawks are poised for another SB appearance.
QB Russell Wilson and that media “darling” RB Marshawn Lynch have put just enough points on the board to give the ‘Hawks home field advantage throughout the playoffs. But it’s been their hard-hitting, opportunistic defense that has stepped up their game that has cheerleader of a coach Pete Carroll smiling from ear to ear.
The Panthers, on the other hand, have that team of destiny on their side.
QB Cam Newton almost seriously died in a car accident just over a month ago and just a couple of days ago their head coach Ron Rivera had to escape a house fire. Winners last week over a QB-less Arizona Cardinals team isn’t exactly like coming off winning in Pittsburgh.
I do feel the Panthers have the defense to make this one much more interesting for the people who think this will be a Seahawks blowout. I understand the ‘Hawks 12th man bit and how they basically never lose at home (only two losses in two years at Quest field). But I’m catching a Panthers vibe and giving me 10+ points is too much for me to pass up on. I do think it will go under the total of 40 as well.
Nuggets: The “under” is 5-1 in their last 6 meetings. The Panthers are 2-0 ATS in the last two meetings.