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    NFL Picks - Conference Champs

    Last Updated: 1/14/2015 at 8:00 PM ET
    NFL Picks Pages:
    Playoffs - Conference Championships Analysis
    January 18: Predictalator Picks
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    See Predictalator Picks for this week. All trends created in the Trend Machine. Injuries noted are players who are usually active who did not play in the simulated games. Be sure to check updated and custom lines in the Play Analyzer. We will keep picks as updated as possible due to roster changes (injuries, suspensions, new starters for this week, etc.). Weather information this week provided by Charlie Schlott.

    Sunday, January 18 at 3:05 PM ET:

    Green Bay Packers +7.5 @ Seattle Seahawks (Covers 56.6%), UNDER 47 (Covers 50.1%)
    ATS Play Type: Half-Bet
    O/U Play Type: Not Playable

    The Vitals:

    Projected Score: Green Bay 20.9 - Seattle 26.0
    SU Pick and Win%: Seattle wins 63.5%
    Playoffs - Conference Championships SU Confidence Rank: #1
    ATS Pick and Win%: Green Bay Packers +7.5 covers 56.6%
    Playoffs - Conference Championships ATS Confidence Rank: #1
    ATS Wager for $50 player: $44
    O/U Pick and Win%: UNDER (47) 50.1%
    Playoffs - Conference Championships O/U Confidence Rank: #2
    O/U Wager for $50 Player: $0

    The Teams: GB SEA
    Straight-Up Record 13-4 13-4
    Against-the-Spread Record 8-9 10-6
    Over/Under Record 11-6 9-8
    Avg. Points For vs. Against 30.1-21.7 25.0-15.9
    Strength of Schedule Rank (of all NFL) #3 #2
    PM Passing Efficiency Rank #1 #4
    PM Rushing Efficiency Rank #2 #1
    PM Pass Defense Efficiency Rank #3 #1
    PM Rush Defense Efficiency Rank #3 #1
    Actual Pass/Run Ratio 56.4%/43.6% #48.5%/51.5%
    Turnover Margin +14 +13

    Injured Players: Tony Moeaki, TE, Seattle Seahawks, Paul Richardson, WR, Seattle Seahawks

    Weather Forecast: Rain (up to .25"). 49 degrees. Wind 10-15 MPH

    Wagering Information: ATS Bets - 52% Green Bay, 48% Seattle; O/U Bets - 49% Over, 51% Under

    The Breakdown: Both Conference Championship games are rematches of regular season games in which the current favorite won easily (by 20+ points) and the OVER covered and yet we expect lower-scoring, competitive matchups with value in the underdogs and the UNDER (not to mention fairly logical football scores). The reasons we see that for both games are almost identical. First of all, the fact that these teams have already played has very little impact on the projection one way or the other. More importantly is the fact that the playoffs tend to be more methodical, cleaner and better-coached games than what we see during the regular season. With these specific matchups, both favorites have major issues in pass protection and will be facing pass rushes that have improved dramatically throughout the season. Both underdogs have elite quarterbacks who will almost assuredly have better games than the first iteration, especially when benefitting from running games that have come into their own as of late. Wind and rain in the forecast for both games also aids in value with the UNDER and the underdog as weather could force the games to be lower scoring and close.

    For the NFC Championship Game, the #1 (Seattle) and #3 (Green Bay) teams from our final NFL Power Rankings will meet at the league's best home field advantage. The Seahawks have the NFL's top ranked run defense, top ranked run offense and the NFC's top ranked pass defense. That's clearly all bad news for those backing the Packers, but Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers (we'll get to some of Seattle's other issues in a little bit). Seattle only faced a top ten quarterback (according to our final, strength-of-schedule-adjusted efficiency rankings) in four games (vs. Green Bay, at San Diego, vs. Denver and vs. Dallas). In those games, Seattle went 2-2 straight-up and 1-2-1 against-the-spread with an average score of 26.5-24.0. To some extent, good quarterbacks learned from Green Bay's overly conservative approach against the Seahawks' pass defense, challenged them more aggressively and won. Just as notable as those results is the fact that Seattle has not played against a top ten pass offense since Week 6 of the season. What the team has done recently has come against below average competition at quarterback. Rodgers rebounded from some early season woes to put together an MVP-caliber season, ultimately ranking first in our pass efficiency rankings. And, though he did not LOOK like he was at 100% on the field against the Dallas Cowboys, Rodgers still completed 69% of his passes for nine yards-per-pass and no interceptions.

    In addition to Aaron Rodgers, the Packers also have their best pass rush since the 2011 NFL Playoff run that culminated in a Super Bowl victory. The Packers and Seahawks finished ninth and tenth in our pass rush evaluations from this season. That's certainly of note considering how we have consistently proven that pass rushes carry extreme value this time of year (especially against-the-spread - almost 80% of our NFL Playoff ATS picks all time have come on the team with the better pass rush and we are 80% accurate in that stretch). Not only are the Packers on par with the Seahawks defensively in pass rushing ability, Green Bay's pass blocking offensive line is significantly better. The Packers had the best pass blocking line in the league by a relatively wide margin this year while the Seahawks (like the Patriots below) were below average. Russell Wilson is clearly elite at making plays while pressured, but, in a game where pressure will matter, the Packers still have the clear upper hand.

    Seattle and Green Bay are well above average in the NFL in run/pass ratio as well. This is not oft-discussed regarding the Packers, but Green Bay throws the ball 56% of the time as compared to the league average of 58.4% (Seattle is 49/51 run:pass). When two such teams meet, games take less time with all of those running plays and scoring opportunities are limited, which gives value to the under and the underdog. One other possible win for Green Bay relates to penalties. The Seahawks play a physical brand of football that has led them to top the league with the worst penalties-per-play margin for three straight seasons. Green Bay has the fifth best mark by that metric. In the first meeting, the numbers were skewed in the opposite direction (Packers were penalized eight times to Seattle's four). We would expect a similar ratio, yet for Seattle to be the team that hurts itself more with flags in this game.

    The Packers have the best player on the field, and a major edge with the pass rush and with penalties. Plus, the methodical, run-oriented nature of this game, should keep it competitive. A great home field advantage helps Seattle win this game, yet not by enough to cover.

    Boxscore: Green Bay Packers, 21 @ Seattle Seahawks, 26

    Breakdown: Game Breakdown

    GB @ SEA IND @ NE

    Sunday, January 18 at 6:40 PM ET:

    Indianapolis Colts +7 @ New England Patriots (Covers 54.6%), UNDER 53.5 (Covers 53.5%)
    ATS Play Type: Light
    O/U Play Type: Light

    The Vitals:

    Projected Score: Indianapolis 22.9 - New England 28.2
    SU Pick and Win%: New England wins 62.9%
    Playoffs - Conference Championships SU Confidence Rank: #2
    ATS Pick and Win%: Indianapolis Colts +7 covers 54.6%
    Playoffs - Conference Championships ATS Confidence Rank: #2
    ATS Wager for $50 player: $23
    O/U Pick and Win%: UNDER (53.5) 53.5%
    Playoffs - Conference Championships O/U Confidence Rank: #1
    O/U Wager for $50 Player: $12

    The Teams: IND NE
    Straight-Up Record 13-5 13-4
    Against-the-Spread Record 12-5 9-8
    Over/Under Record 8-10 10-7
    Avg. Points For vs. Against 28.2-21.8 29.6-20.2
    Strength of Schedule Rank (of all NFL) #4 #1
    PM Passing Efficiency Rank #2 #3
    PM Rushing Efficiency Rank #4 #3
    PM Pass Defense Efficiency Rank #4 #2
    PM Rush Defense Efficiency Rank #4 #2
    Actual Pass/Run Ratio 62.4%/37.6% #60.4%/39.6%
    Turnover Margin -6 +13

    Injured Players: Bryan Stork, T, New England Patriots

    Weather Forecast: Light rain. 40 degrees. Light wind.

    Wagering Information: ATS Bets - 53% Indianapolis, 47% New England; O/U Bets - 55% Over, 45% Under

    The Breakdown: All eight of the Patriots' playoff losses in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era have been regular season rematches. That makes some sense since New England has consistently been winning divisions and thus playing the best teams in the conference during the regular season and 60% of all conference championship games have been regular season rematches. It's not a predictive trend. But it is interesting because it illustrates how good opponents are at this level and how difficult it has been for New England to translate its regular season dominance to the playoffs. The Patriots have failed to cover the spread in their last five conference championship games are just 5-10 (33%) ATS as playoff favorites of six or more points in the Tom Brady era. Technically, one of those wins ATS was over the Colts in a 43-22 game as seven point favorites last year, but that was a seven point game as late as the fourth quarter and its not likely that LeGarrette Blount rushes for 166 yards and four touchdowns or that Andrew Luck completes less than 50% of his passes and throws four interceptions in this game. Simply put, it's tough to dominate good teams in today's NFL.

    In our final regular season NFL Power Rankings, the Patriots and Colts finished fourth and fifth respectively, just one spot apart, certainly not indicative of a full touchdown spread. When the Colts played at New England in the regular season, they were just three point underdogs. Clearly, that game did not go well, but the team has gone 7-1 straight-up and 6-2 against-the-spread since that game, hardly warranting a four point shift in the line from then to now. The Colts have actually only been greater than three point underdogs twice all season (both against Denver). They have won ten games by at least a touchdown while only losing by more than a touchdown three times. Indianapolis has held four of its last five opponents to 13 points or fewer.

    Relative to the rest of the league, the Colts finished the year ranked fifth in passing efficiency and above average in pass defense - two components that were on full display in a 24-13 victory as seven point underdogs to the Denver. An interesting component to the boxscore of the loss at New England in last year's playoffs is that four Colts had at least 60 yards receiving. Last week, seven Colts had at least two catches. The Patriots have one elite corner in Darrelle Revis, but, especially with Brandon Browner banged-up, the rest of the cornerbacks for the Patriots are suspect. Depth with weapons in the passing game is an advantage for the Colts. Furthermore, Indianapolis will need to run the ball. In their three losses by more than a touchdown on the season, the Colts averaged just 12 carries for 28 yards rushing. That came with the team leaning on Trent Richardson. Richardson was deactivated last week and Daniel Herron helped to seal the victory. In games in which Herron has rushed at least ten times, the Colts are 5-0 straight-up and against-the-spread. Herron's impact is further compounded by the fact that, in New England's four losses, opponents averaged 34 carries for 158 yards on the ground.

    New England obviously has a great team, but it's not necessarily a dominant one. The Patriots rank between #8 and #10 in all of our final regular season efficiency rankings. That signifies a team without many flaws, but also one that does not dominate any individual matchup (even the passing game edge in this game goes to the Colts). The Patriots won the same number of games (ten) by a touchdown or more as the Colts, while also losing the same number by more than a touchdown. As favorites of at least a touchdown this season, New England is just 2-4 against-the-spread. And not only are the Patriots just above average, though not elite, in our all of our strength-of-schedule-adjusted efficiency rankings, they handily lose the special teams matchup in this game and are almost exactly even with the Colts in penalties.

    Boxscore: Indianapolis Colts, 23 @ New England Patriots, 28

    Breakdown: Game Breakdown

    NFL Picks Pages:
    Playoffs - Conference Championships Analysis
    January 18: Predictalator Picks
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    1/26/2014 Highlight: Using the ResultsFinder for the week of January 19th - 25th, one could find that all featured, "normal" or better against-the-spread plays in the NBA and college basketball went 13-7 (65% ATS). The ATS success wasn't limited to just full games picks. All normal or better halftime against-the-spread plays in the NBA and college basketball combined to go 64-48 (57% ATS). In the last three weeks all normal or better against-the-spread halftime picks in college basketball picks have gone 132-94 (58% ATS).

    In the previous week's NFL Conference Championship games, the Lock of the Week in the NFL Playoffs (Packers +7.5 at Seattle) easily covered. All-time, in the NFL Playoffs, Locks of the Week are 17-2 (89% ATS), including going 4-1 (80% ATS) in Super Bowls. All playable against-the-spread picks in this NFL postseason are now 6-3 (67% ATS). All-time on the site, all against-the-spread picks in the NFL Playoffs are now 41-13 (76% ATS).

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