Posted 01/14/2008 at 05:09 PM
A big story heading to last weekend’s games was the potential for quarterback mistakes as some lacked trust in Eli Manning, David Garrard, Brett Favre, or Philip Rivers in a big game after several recent examples of interception filled games. Dallas QB Tony Romo was also going to come under heavy scrutiny for his off day travels if he did not play well. As is turned out last year’s Super Bowl champion QB Peyton Manning was the signal-caller that made the most mistakes with two key interceptions and a several misfires in the second half after a blazing start to the game. Colts WR Marvin Harrison’s fumble also proved to be a major turning point in the game as the veteran receiver halted a drive and let the Chargers get some momentum going. Manning and Coach Dungy had well documented histories of struggles in the playoffs but everything came together last year. Both are considered among the best in the league and are rightfully well-liked and well-respected but if you take away the magical 4-0 run through the playoffs last year Dungy’s playoff record is 5-9 and Manning’s would now be 3-7.
Home favorites went 1-3 in the divisional round last week, a round that is typically dominated by the home teams that enjoy a bye week. Last year those teams went 0-4 ATS with two outright upsets as well but in the previous 16 years the bye teams had gone 37-25-2 ATS with a 49-11 S/U record from the 1991 playoffs to through the 2005 playoffs. Last season both home favorites won in the conference championship round with the Colts and Bears advancing but that has not actually been the norm in this round of the playoffs. Each of the nine years previous to last season at least one road team won a conference championship game, so don’t be surprised if there is an upset this week despite the huge early lines.
In the last five years the highest line for a conference championship game was in 2003 with Oakland (-8) beating Tennessee but this week both spreads could be above that number by kickoff. If you’re wondering, double-digit favorites in conference championship games have lost ATS each of the last four instances, losing S/U in two of those games. Also no total in a conference championship game has been over 49 since 1999 but the ‘over’ has generally been the more successful play historically in this round of the playoffs, including going 8/3/1 in the last six years. The forecasts call for cold temperatures this weekend with an early predicted high of 16 degrees in Foxboro and 12 degrees in Green Bay, with decently strong winds as a possibility although precipitation is unlikely.