This season’s Super Bowl reminds me of the same situation last year. The Seahawks needed good fortune to sneak out a home win the NFC Championship against San Francisco. This year they were on the right result of a Packers collapse but Seattle was unimpressive for 55 minutes. Last year the Broncos dominated the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Two weeks ago New England defeated Indianapolis in even more convincing fashion.
I remember the day after Seattle and Denver advanced, I strongly leaned towards taking the Broncos in the Super Bowl. I overreacted to what I saw from one weekend of games and my initial thoughts favored Denver. The point spread for this Super Bowl also reacted to what happened in Championship Weekend. If I remember correctly, Denver went from about a field goal underdog to a field goal favorite in the days following their AFC Championship win. The more I thought about it the more I started to like the Seahawks because they were the better defense and there was line value. I ended up picking Seattle and got that game right even though I didn’t predict a blowout.
This year I had the same thoughts after the Patriots and Seahawks advanced. I was leaning towards the Patriots especially if they were going to be a three-point underdog, which was the line before Championship Weekend. Just like in 2014 the line moved in the Patriots favor and now they are the favorites. When the line moved so much I changed by opinion and started to heavily favor Seattle. I’m going to pick Seattle for this game and here is what I think will happen in the game:
Trail Blazers (+7) over Hawks: This is one of my favorite picks on the year in the NBA. The situation sets up perfectly from an All-Star Game angle. The Atlanta Haws are riding a 17-game win streak including a 15-2 against the spread run (they failed to cover their last two games). The Hawks aren’t on national TV much and don’t get a lot of attention, but three players from Atlanta were picked to represent the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game. The biggest All-Star snub was Portland point guard Damian Lillard who is the consideration for NBA MVP. I expect Lillard to play angry and focused to prove that he should’ve been picked to be on the All-Star team. Meanwhile the Atlanta players might feel overconfident that they were selected. The markets have finally caught up with Atlanta and they are now getting respect in this line. The Hawks might win this game but this spread is asking them to win by a margin. Expect Portland to be focused on the defensive end after giving 55 points on Wednesday to Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving.
It looked like I was going to bounce back one time in college basketball last night with Iowa State by missed free throws and sloppy play by the Cyclones allowed Texas to cover with a buzzer-beating layup. That’s the kind of year it’s been for me when picking college basketball but still a lot of season left. I have four picks tonight including two in the NBA. Don’t have time to analyze each game so just posting the pick. Check back later this week for a full Super Bowl prediction and the props that I like.
Pittsburgh (-4.5) over Virginia Tech
Kansas State (-1) over West Virginia
Raptors (-3.5) over Pacers
Bucks (+3) over Heat
Iowa State (-5) over Texas: I expect Iowa State to rebound after an upset loss at Texas Tech on Saturday. The Cyclones have a great home court and a big coaching edge over Texas. The Longhorns lost by 21 at home when they were in this ESPN Monday night spot earlier in the season.
Florida State (+1) over North Carolina State: North Carolina State hits the road after back-to-back home games against rivals Duke and North Carolina. Big letdown spot here.
Notre Dame (-6.5) over Miami: Miami just beat Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium and now have to go to unfamiliar territory at Notre Dame. This line is too low.
Ohio State (+1) over Iowa: Ohio State is looking for revenge after the Hawkeyes beat them at home in their conference opener.
Michigan State (+3) over Maryland: Michigan State will also be seeking revenge after dropping their conference opener to Maryland in double overtime back on December 30.
Packers at Seahawks -7.5
The only question in this game is how healthy is Aaron Rodgers? The Packers quarterback looked more comfortable as the game went on against Dallas but the Seahawks defense is much stronger the the Cowboys. I think there is a slight overreaction to this line with the Rodgers injury but don’t feel comfortable picking against Seattle at home. I would pass on picking this game but like the following props:
Aaron Rodgers UNDER 260.5 total passing yards: I think the Packers are going to run the ball early to make sure their defense stays off the field. Rodgers is banged up and the Seahawks have an elite secondary.
James Starks OVER 15.5 total rushing yards: This is a little risky because Starks is the backup but I think the Packers will need to use two running backs if they want to run the ball. Eddie Lacy was limited in practice earlier this week so there’s a better chance of Starks getting touches.
Marshawn Lynch OVER 87.5 total rushing yards: The Packers defense allowed 123 yards to an injured Demarco Murray last round. Lynch has 110 yards on 20 carries against the Packers in Week 1. Expect Lynch to have another 20+ carry, 100+ yard outing.
Luke Wilson OVER 27.5 total receiving yards and OVER 2.5 receptions: The Packers allowed six receptions and 71 yards to Jason Witten last week. I don’t trust the Seahawks wide receivers and Wilson is becoming a bigger part of Seattle’s offense.
Las Vegas Bowl: Utah (-2.5) over Colorado State (Win)
South Carolina (-4) over Alabama: Alabama has started conference play 2-0 after wins against Texas A&M and at a rebuilding Tennessee team. The Crimson Tide will be playing in their second straight road game, and it’s very tough to win away from home in the SEC. Alabama also might be looking ahead to their weekend home game against No. 1 Kentucky. South Carolina faces a must-win situation after starting SEC play 0-2. They defeated Iowa State a week and a half ago so they are a solid team that should win this game. I’m not sold on Alabama yet and will take South Carolina here.
The first ever College Football Playoff National Championship sees Ohio State and Oregon play in Arlington, Texas. The talent level on both teams are about equal. The Buckeyes have the coaching edge with Urban Meyer, who thrives in the role as an underdog. The reason Oregon is a touchdown favorite over Ohio State is because of the quarterback edge. Marcus Mariota has been decorated with awards throughout this collegiate career and has the chance to win the most important prize tonight. Mariota is very consistent, doesn’t turn the ball over much and has great foot work. Ohio State is starting Cardale Jones who is only making his third start. He impressed in wins over Wisconsin and Alabama but it’s hard to say if his success will continue on Monday night. If Jones plays like he did in the Sugar Bowl, then Ohio State will stay close in this game throughout. I think Urban Meyer will come out with a game plan to control the clock early, which will lead to a lower scoring first half. The first half under 37.5 looks attractive. I think Jones will play well and there has been something with Oregon not playing well in big games in the past. I think Ohio State can win this game but will take the points just in case.
Pick: Ohio State (+7) over Oregon
A historical trend that you will hear about the NFL Divisional round is that at least one team who played in the Wild Card round has moved on to the conference championship since 2005. A lot of people say the NFL has parity, and any team that makes the playoffs could win the Super Bowl. This has been true in cases with the New York Giants twice under Eli Manning and the Packers in 2011. However, you have to ponder if there is still parity in the NFL. The Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks and Packers were all expected to win double-digit games before the season, and they accomplished that feat. Those four teams are clearly the best teams in the league and it’s reflected in the point spreads this weekend. So the historical trend that a home team is likely to lose this weekend can be thrown out the window. It would be surprising if the final four doesn’t involve New England, Denver, Seattle and Green Bay (unless Rodgers is ineffective because of injury.)
Here is a look at each game and my thoughts on the point spread and totals: