Colts -8 over the Jets (30 units): The first being the one holding that Rex Ryan led the Jets to “another level” this season. The Jets 9-7 record this year came against teams with a .516 winning percentage and two that laid down for the Jets in the season’s final two weeks, while last season’s 9-7 record was earned against teams with a .568 winning percentage.
The Jets benefited from playing an overrated Bengals unit that was never the same after losing Chris Henry, then enjoyed a playing-surface-aided win that was gift wrapped by Norv Turner and the Chargers. And now we’ll benefit from the same because we’d take the Colts here if the line was 12.
Some of it’s run-of-the-mill Jet fan mania. The kind that compares Ryan to Bill Parcells, and Mark Sanchez with Joe Namath.
Another absurd line is one we’ve read from several respected voices (No names, please!) telling us that the Colts deserve “karmic punishment” for resting starters instead of prioritizing an undefeated season before a Super Bowl win. Punished for trying to win a championship? What can you say?
The Jets wouldn’t have the league’s top rated rushing attack if they could move the ball through the air. And their top ranked defense benefited from the fact that teams who beat them generally didn’t have to move the ball very much to do so. In addition to the two against teams that didn’t play, six games against the Bills, Dolphins, Bucs, and Raiders helped inflate the Jets numbers as well, especially against the pass.
The Jets can’t get a pass rush with out a blitz, and this week Shaun Ellis will play without a broken hand. Manning has thrown some picks this season, including last week, but the hobbled Kerry Rhodes (ankle) is no Ed Reed, even when he’s healthy. Also, John Clayton mentioned this week that the Jets are vulnerable to top tight ends.
The Jets crowed this week about playing the Colts starters even for a half in Week 15, but Football Outsiders pointed out that the Colts had several missed opportunities in that game, and played without the bookend pass rushers around whom their defense is built (Mathis sat the whole game, and Freeney played only on third down). It’s hard to see the Jets having much more success moving the ball against these Colts than Chris Johnson and the Titans, who were shut down by the Colts in weeks 5 and 13.
The Jets won their Super Bowl last week. The bandwagon’s now way too heavy (witness, for example, ESPN’s odds expert Chad Millman jumping on during Simmons’ podcast after being against the Jets for the first two weeks of the playoffs). I couldn’t be happier to jump off to join the best quarterback in the NFL and one of the best run organizations in all of sport here (must read on Colts owner Jim Irsay by L. Jon Wertheim here).
Folks are speculating as to whether the Colts will be sorry for letting these Jets into these playoffs, in something of a Frankenstein scenario. It seems more to me like the mother who tells the child, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out too.”
I generally don’t play totals, but think the talk about the Jets defense is overblown enough here to justify a play on OVER 40 (5 units) as well.
Saints -3.5 over the Vikings (30 units): Vikings backers are paying too much for Favre here, and the notion that he’s playing better now than at any point in his career. The Vikings system suits him well, for sure, and his stats reflect that. But what helped more was games against the Bears (twice), Lions (twice), Niners, Browns, Rams, Seahawks, and a deflated Giants unit with nothing to play for in the season’s final week. Favre and the Vikes also benefited from playing both of their games against the Packers in the season’s first eight weeks, before Green Bay’s rookie-laden defense had gotten it together for the Pack’s strong late season run.
The Vikings opponent of this season that looks the most like these Saints is the Cardinals, who thumped the Vikes in Arizona in week 13.
Don’t overrate the Vikings win last week over the Cowboys. We told you last week that the Vikes were a bad match for a Cowboys team that struggled against balanced offensive attacks, and depended on play action to set up its passing game. In-game injuries to two Cowboys offensive linemen, a pair of circus touchdowns by Favre, and terrible in-game decisions by the Cowboys staff (like a FG attempt (that missed) on 4th and 1 in the 1st when the Cowboys were having no trouble picking up yards on the ground) made things much worse here.
No such luck for the Vikes this weekend. New Orleans is an awful matchup for them, especially in the noisy dome where the Vikings pass rush will have a harder time getting off the ball (the Vikings defense has struggled on the road all season). The Saints strength attacking downfield goes directly to the Vikings weakness in the secondary (worse, with Winfield limited to nickel duty), and Pat Williams and Ray Edwards are both banged up along the defensive line. The Cowboys weren’t able to exploit the green Jasper Brinkley filling in for E.J. Henderson in the middle last week, but it’s hard to see the Saints not taking advantage of this hole. The Vikings are prone to tackling problems, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see those resurface tomorrow.
On the other side, Gregg Williams has turned the Saints defense around. As noted last week, the unit’s been underrated all season, its success hidden by numbers inflated by injuries to key parts and frequent big leads. According to the folks at Football Outsiders, Favre has struggled this year against the blitz, and the Saints play some of the most blitz-heavy defense in the NFL. Percy Harvin’s migraines don’t help here, but even with Harvin, I don’t expect Minnesota to keep up.
Like the Jets, the Vikings seemed at least a little bit too happy after last week’s win (talking more “Tasmanian devils” than “Pants on the Ground,” here). I’ll be glad to see both of them gone by tomorrow night. I wouldn’t be surprised to see two blowouts.
Colts vs. Saints is one of the best Super Bowl matchups we’ll have seen since when?
*Note: I made a 25 unit play on the Jets to win the game at +280 (2.8-1), but only to hedge against my 30 unit 6-1 play on the Colts to win the Super Bowl from October.