Wild Card Sunday
January 6, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (11-5) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (10-6)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Baltimore -7 & 47
Opening Line & Total: Ravens -6.5 & 46.5
Indianapolis tries to extend its amazing season when it visits AFC North champion Baltimore on Sunday afternoon in the first round of the NFL playoffs.
The Colts finished out the year winning nine of 11 (SU and ATS), including last week’s impressive home win that knocked the Texans out of the AFC’s top spot. They were not particularly strong on the road this year though, where they went 4-4 (SU and ATS), but 0-3 against teams that finished 2012 with a winning record. Baltimore was 6-2 SU, but only 3-5 ATS at home this year. They had offensive issues all season and this will be just the fourth game as offensive coordinator for Jim Caldwell. After a strong showing against the Giants, they opted against using their starters in the regular season finale, a 23-17 loss to the Bengals.
The Colts were the feel-good story of the 2012 regular season, which they ended with an extremely emotional home win against the Texans in head coach Chuck Pagano's first game back on the sidelines since being diagnosed with leukemia. The team and its rookie quarterback are about to get a heavy dose of reality on Sunday against a veteran Ravens team. Indy was much better at home than on the road, and it benefitted from what turned out to be an extremely favorable schedule. Indianapolis played only five road games against teams that ended the season with more than four victories, and two of those five were against 6-10 teams: The Colts lost 35-9 as a 3.5-point underdog to the Jets and beat the Titans in overtime as a 3-point underdog. They failed to cover any of the three road games they played against teams with winning records, losing by 20 at Chicago, by 25 at New England and by 12 at Houston.
It’s widely believed that Ravens LB Ray Lewis will return from a torn triceps muscle for this game—the experience of Lewis and Baltimore coach John Harbaugh's many other veterans who reached the playoffs for a fifth straight season will ultimately spell the difference in this one.
Colts QB Andrew Luck has put together a terrific rookie season with 4,374 passing yards (7.0 YPA) and 23 TD, but also 18 INT. He's thrown 13 of these picks on the road where he carries a subpar 70.1 rating. The Ravens have an average passing defense with all the injuries in their secondary, as they allow 228 passing YPG (17th in NFL). Their biggest concern on Sunday will be Colts top WR Reggie Wayne, who has caught 106 passes for 1,355 yards and 5 TD this season. Rookie WR T.Y. Hilton has also come on strong with four 100-yard games in his past nine contests, including 111 yards and a touchdown in the regular season finale win over Houston.
Baltimore's run defense isn't special (123 YPG allowed, 20th in NFL), but it has held its past two opponents to 114 yards combined on 35 carries (3.3 YPC). RB Vick Ballard has been the team's main ball carrier in the past four weeks with 84 rushing attempts (21.0 per game), resulting in 346 yards (4.1 YPC). Although the Colts have been turnover-prone this season with 27 giveaways and a minus-12 TO ratio, they have played turnover-free football in the past two games, posting a +5 TO ratio.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco has won at least one playoff game in each of his four NFL seasons, but he hasn't always been great in these postseason contests, throwing for 1,532 yards (170 YPG, 6.2 YPA), 8 TD and 8 INT, equaling a subpar 70.4 passer rating. One of his worst playoff games came against Indy after the 2009 season when he completed just 20-of-35 throws for 189 yards, 0 TD and 2 INT (48.4 passer rating). But like Luck, Flacco has been much more productive at home (99.0 rating, 8.3 YPA, 15 TD, 5 INT) than on the road (74.9 rating, 5.9 YPA, 7 TD, 5 INT). More good news is that top WR Anquan Boldin (921 rec. yds) is set to return from a shoulder injury and No. 2 wideout Torrey Smith (855 rec. yds) is also healthy. This duo should be able to get open against Indy's 21st-ranked passing defense (237 YPG).
RB Ray Rice is still the focal point of this offense, but he hasn't done much in the past two postseasons with just 216 yards on 71 carries (3.0 YPC) and 1 TD in these four games. However, in his last full game with Jim Caldwell calling the shots, Rice gained 158 total yards in a 33-14 thumping of the Giants. He should also be able to find holes to run through against a Colts defense giving up the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL this season (138 YPG). The Ravens have committed just 16 turnovers, which ties them for the second-fewest in the NFL.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-5) at WASHINGTON REDSKINS (10-6)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Seattle -3 & 46
Opening Line & Total: Seahawks -2 & 45.5
Two teams riding long winning streaks meet on Sunday in the first round of the NFC playoffs when Seattle visits Washington.
The Redskins earned their seventh consecutive win last week, though QB Robert Griffin III (knee) clearly wasn’t 100 percent. Griffin threw for 100 yards and ran for 63 in the win, as the Redskins had to lean heavily on rookie RB Alfred Morris (200 yards, 3 TD).
The Seahawks come into this game as the NFL’s hottest team, going 5-0 SU (4-1 ATS) in December and outscoring opponents 193-60 in those games. They have been less impressive on the road this year, where they’re 3-5 SU and 4-4 ATS. But they won their last two road games, a blowout over the Bills in Toronto and an overtime win at Chicago.
Both teams are red-hot with super intelligent rookie quarterbacks, but the Seahawks defense is much better, as they have held each of their past five opponents to 17 points or less. Seattle's power running game is also more suited for the playoffs, rolling up 153+ yards in each of its five straight victories, averaging 212 YPG on 6.1 yards per carry during this streak. The Seahawks are 9-1 ATS when playing a winning team in the past two seasons, and 7-0 ATS during this same timeframe against great rushing teams (130+ rush YPG). And Washington is 4-13 ATS (24%) at home after posting 175+ rushing yards in the last game since 1992.
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has been outstanding in the second-half of the season, winning seven of eight games with a 67% completion rate, 9.0 YPA, 16 TD and 2 INT, equaling an impressive 120.3 passer rating. He's also rushed for 361 yards and 4 TD in these eight contests. RB Marshawn Lynch has certainly lived up to his "Beast Mode" nickname down the stretch with eight 100-yard efforts in his past 10 games, including four in a row. Lynch was a monster in his first career playoff game in Jan. 2011, rushing for 131 yards on just 19 carries, including a highlight reel, 67-yard touchdown run in a 41-36 win over the Saints. But in the next game, he carried the football just four times for two yards.
The Redskins have an excellent rushing defense (95.8 YPG, 5th in NFL), but they have been burned through the air constantly, allowing 282 passing YPG (3rd-worst in NFL). The good news for Washington is that CB Cedric Griffin is eligible to play after serving a suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. But Seattle has great depth in its receiving corps with eight players catching more than a dozen passes this year, led by Sidney Rice (50 rec, 748 yds, 7 TD) and Golden Tate (45 rec, 688 yds, 7 TD).
Robert Griffin III has thrown just one interception in 190 pass attempts on his home field this season, but has just 8 TD passes in these eight games, compared to 12 TD tosses in seven road games. Although he's clearly been bothered by his knee injury, Griffin is still completing 66% of his passes for 9.2 YPA, 12 TD and 2 INT in the past six games, equaling a 119.4 rating.
Griffin gets all the hype, but rookie RB Alfred Morris has been tremendous in the past six games, galloping for 744 yards (124 YPG) and 8 TD. He'll have his work cut out for him though as Seattle ranks 10th in the NFL in rushing defense (103 YPG). If Morris cannot be effective, the Redskins will try to throw the football, but that could be even more dangerous against Seattle's sixth-ranked passing defense (203 YPG allowed).
The Seahawks defense has 18 interceptions while allowing just 15 TD through the air. Only Atlanta (14 pass TD allowed) has given up fewer passing touchdowns in the league, while Washington has given up more than twice as many passing TD (31). When Griffin drops back, he will rely mostly on WR Pierre Garcon, who has 33 catches for 475 yards and 3 TD in the past six games. Garcon has also been clutch in the postseason, totaling 329 receiving yards and 3 TD in his past three playoff games, scoring once in each game.