Inside Slant: Championship Weekend

A collection of under-the-radar bets for you to consider for Championship Weekend.

I don’t claim to be an expert at betting football games.

After all, gambling is, by definition, a bit of a toss-up. If you manage to come out of a season with anywhere around 55% of your bets earning a profit, you can afford to pat yourself on the back. Getting to that point is the hard part, but my aim is to help you do that across a season with some under the radar wagers.

What gambling on football does allow us to do is have a little bit of fun with games we might not normally be interested in. While wagering on the spread and total points is the norm, your best bet might be to eschew these and go with more unconventional options.

What a wild and wacky ride it has been so far in the playoffs. This past week’s games did not disappoint and we have the top two seeds in each conference facing off this week. The fewer games there are, the more efficient the lines become, so we will have to dig deep into our bag of tricks this week.

So without further ado, let’s take a look back at the Divisional Round before dipping into the Championship Round.


DIVISIONAL ROUND RECAP

MISS: Total points under 44.0 – Seattle at Carolina @ 20/23

This script unfolded like nobody would have expected. How often, realistically, do you see a team wallop another team 31-0 in one half, only to lose the second half 24-0? The Panthers’ prolific offense basically put this bet to bed in the first half; it was inevitable that the Seahawks would eventually rally and score a few points. Based on previous close match-ups between these teams, the total of 44 looked reasonable; it turned out to be anything but.

MISS: Away team total points – Kansas City Chiefs under 19.5 points at New England @ 10/11

In what could be characterized as a ‘near miss’, the Chiefs managed to overcome Andy Reid’s laughable clock management at the end of the game and reach the key 20-point mark. This is one where you have to hand it to the oddsmakers, who perfectly hit the total just enough to tease me – and others, no doubt – into biting. If, however, you jumped all over the Patriots -5 line before kickoff, you were smiling.

MISS: Race to 15 points – Green Bay (at Arizona) @ 11/5

This bet was looking mighty fine for a while, with this game script unfolding like the Packers could easily pull it out. Then a ricochet in the end zone led to a fluky Arizona touchdown to put them over the 15-point barrier. Sometimes you just get bad breaks like that in gambling. That aside, what a spectacular game this was to watch.

MISS: Pittsburgh Steelers (+6.5) at Denver Broncos @ evens

The Broncos manage to cover – but just by the skin of their teeth. Pittsburgh had chances to go ahead and build a lead, which could have buried this offensively challenged Denver team. Fitzgerald Toussaint’s fumble put paid to that dream for the Steelers, who were only a few plays away from meeting New England in the AFC Championship. Another bad break for gamblers.

SEASON TOTAL YTD: 38-37-1 (.500)


CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND PUNTS

First half handicap – New England (-1) @ evens

The Patriots will be eager to put the Denver defense on their heels early with some quick passing, testing out ailing cornerback Chris Harris Jr along the way. Denver is not a juggernaut by any means offensively, and I trust the Patriots defense to do enough to be able to stymie Peyton Manning. Laying only a point in the first half seems generous enough; trust Bill Belichick to devise a good game plan that will see his team flex their muscles.

Anytime touchdown scorer – Denver RB C.J. Anderson @ 13/8

The Broncos want to run this offense true to the Gary Kubiak style – a lot of zone running concepts and play action off of that. While Ronnie Hillman provides a change of pace, I believe it is C.J. Anderson who offers more overall. The bullish back is more likely to see a goal line carry and should be relied on heavily to shorten the game on what will be a chilly day.

Home team total points – Carolina over 25 points vs. Arizona @ 5/6

Perhaps this total is about where it should be, but it amazes me how the oddsmakers continue to lean on the safe side as far as the Panthers offense goes. It seems no matter how many points they scored, the total remains low. The Cardinals defense has several excellent players, but they are by no means unbeatable. This one could turn into an old-fashioned shootout between two of the league’s hottest quarterbacks, so I believe reaching 25 points is well within the Panthers’ reach.

Carson Palmer passing yards over 288.5 @ 5/6

If a shootout pans out like I predicted above, it stands to reason that Carson Palmer will be one of the primary beneficiaries. Palmer is dealing with a troublesome finger injury on his throwing hand that seemed to affect some of his passes last week; even so, he topped 300 yards. Carolina has shown how stout they can be against the run, and the clear weakness of this defense is its secondary. I expect Arizona to attack Robert McClain and Cortland Finnegan.

EARLY LOOK AHEAD – PLAYOFF PREVIEW

The field is set, so I am going to use my amateur powers of prediction to predict the lines for the divisional round, championship round and Super Bowl.

Divisional Round comments
I went about it a different way, but ultimately I predicted all four home teams would advance to the Championship round when it was all said and done. This hasn’t happened in quite a few years, but I think we are being treated to the best games possible. My early look ahead at the lines had Denver a three-point favourite at home, but the Patriots are actually laying the points. Meanwhile, I was a half-point off on Carolina, who are laying just three.

Championship Round
AFC – New England at Denver (-3)
NFC – Arizona at Carolina (-3.5)

Super Bowl
New England vs Carolina (pick)


I hope everyone enjoys the playoffs and that you make some cash to end your season on a high. You can follow me on Twitter @davlar87.