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LAS VEGAS – Are the Baltimore Ravens out of gas?
Sharps betting early believe so. Enough early money came Sunday night and Monday morning to make the Pittsburgh Steelers minus six hosting Baltimore in the AFC championship game.
Las Vegas Sports Consultants senior oddsmaker Mike Seba can’t believe the Ravens are getting this many points. He made Pittsburgh minus 3 ½, although his company sent-out an opening line recommendation of Pittsburgh minus six.
“Pittsburgh is slightly better than Baltimore,” Seba said. “But I could never make it higher than four. The total is 33. If bad weather comes the total could drop even lower. A field goal is like gold.”
Pittsburgh edged the Ravens in overtime at home, 23-20, in a memorable Monday night game during Week 4. The Steelers then scored in the final 45 seconds to pull out a 13-9 road win against Baltimore on Dec. 14. It’s the first time Pittsburgh swept Baltimore since 2002.
Can the Steelers beat the Ravens three times in a single season?
“Those two games couldn’t have been closer,” Seba said. “Pittsburgh got drilled at Tennessee (a 31-14 loss on Dec. 21) and Baltimore just won there. You have to look at those three games.
“Points are going to be at a premium. Getting more than four points is taking a lot. I think it is tremendous value.”
The Ravens slipped past the Titans, 13-10, on Saturday as three-point underdogs. Tennessee was the No. 1 seed. The Titans out-gained Baltimore, 391-211, and had a 21-9 first down advantage.
It was an extremely physical contest. It’s Baltimore’s second straight road playoff win. The Steelers had little trouble disposing of San Diego after being idle the week before.
Bookmakers better hope Baltimore doesn’t win the Super Bowl. Some places had the Ravens as high as 125-1 to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the season.
Few, if any, envisioned an NFC championship matchup of Philadelphia at Arizona. Both teams have caught several breaks. The Eagles wouldn’t even be in the playoffs if Tampa Bay and Chicago didn’t each lose during the final week of the regular season.
The Eagles were 5-5-1 after 11 games. Their Super Bowl odds were 200-1 at some books during that time. Now they’re either three or 3 ½-point favorites with a Super Bowl berth at stake.
Those places favoring Philadelphia by three were making bettors lay extra juice in the 20-to-30 cent range. LVSC’s opener was Eagles minus 2 ½.
“The Eagles have to be favored,” Seba said. “It’s just a matter of by how much – 2 ½, three, 3 ½.
The Eagles have the post-season experience factor going their way, along with a much stronger defense. The Cardinals, though, have become a force at home during the two years Ken Whisenhunt has been coaching them.
Arizona has won 12 of its 17 home games under Whisenhunt, 11-6 against the spread. The Cardinals stuffed Michael Turner in beating Atlanta at home during the first round of the playoffs and then upset Carolina as double-digit road ‘dogs, 33-13, despite not having Anquan Boldin.
The Cardinals took advantage of six Jake Delhomme turnovers in dealing the Panthers their first home loss of the season. Now they get to host the championship game, while avoiding playing on Eastern Standard Time and in cold weather.
Sparked by Kurt Warner and star receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Boldin, the Cardinals have been a big ‘over’ team. They’ve gone above the total in 12 of their last 18 games.
Despite Philadelphia’s third-ranked defense and 48 sacks, oddsmakers set a big total. LVSC recommended 50 ½. The ‘over/under’ has come down to as low as 47 at some places.
“I could see the total coming down,” Seba said. “Playoff games can get tighter. Teams tend to get more conservative. The Cardinals also are running the ball better.”