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Total Bias

   by Ben Burns - 01/02/2009

With the playoffs upon us, rather than focusing on just one matchup, I thought I'd begin this week's column by taking a brief look at some over/under stats from each of the eight teams involved in "Wildcard Weekend." (Ben's weekly complimentary opinion can be found below)

Both Saturday games are expected to be high-scoring. Atlanta travels to Arizona and Indianapolis invades San Diego. Most books currently have the over/under lines for both those games at 51, with some 50.5's popping up on the late game.

Sunday's games are expected to see fewer points. Most shops currently list the Ravens/Dolphins total at 37.5 or 38. The last game of the weekend features Philadelphia traveling to Minnesota and it's over/under line has fallen to 41.5.

Arizona: The Cardinals finished with an average of 26.7 points per game, that was tied for third best in the league. The 26.6 points they allowed was the fifth worst mark in the league, worst among playoff teams. Eleven of their 16 games, including seven of eight at home, finished above the total. The 'over' was a perfect 6-0 when the Cards faced a team with a winning record.

Atlanta: The Falcons finished with a solid 24.4 points per game, the 10th best mark in the league. The defense was also respectable, ranking 11th best with 20.3 points allowed per game. While the Falcons lit up the scoreboard at home, they didn't have as much success putting up points on the road. As a result, five of their eight home games eclipsed the total but the 'under' was 6-2 when they ventured outside the state of Georgia.

Indianapolis: While Manning and co. got stronger down the stretch, the Colts still finished with an average of 23.6 points per game and just 21.5 on the road. Those numbers aren't bad for "normal" teams but are down from what we've come to expect from the mighty Colts. The Colts did play well on defense though, allowing just 18.6 points per game. Despite the relatively low numbers, only eight of 16 games stayed below the number. Note that five of the Colts' seven games on grass did manage to eclipse the total. However, their game here was not one of them. On 11/23, the Colts upset the Chargers 23-20 - that game had a total of 49.5

San Diego: The Chargers' offense came to life when it mattered, exploding for more than 50 vs. Denver. That bumped their seasonal average up to 27.5 points per game, including 30.4 at home. That was the most points in the AFC and second most (behind New Orleans) in the league. The defense permitted 21.7 points, 19.6 at home. Including the loss to the Colts, the 'under was 4-3-1 in their eight home games, 7-7-2 overall.

Baltimore: The Ravens' defense was as good as ever, allowing a mere 15.2 points per game. That ranked #3 in the league. The defense wasn't quite as dominant on the road though, allowing 20.5 points per game. The Ravens' offense was better than expected, averaging 24.1 points per game, including 25.6 on the road. That led to the 'over' going 7-1 in their road games and 10-6 overall.

Miami: The Dolphins averaged 21.6 points (18.6 at home) per game on offense, which was slightly below the league average. The defense was better, allowing 19.8. The 'under' was 6-2 in their eight home games and 10-6 overall. The Dolphins and Ravens faced each other here in October. That game had a total of 35.5 and finished with 40 combined points, a 27-13 Baltimore victory.

Philadelphia: The Eagles averaged a healthy 26 points per game this season but managed only 20.7 when playing on the road. The defense gave up 21.4 points per game on the road and just 18.1 overall. The 'under' was 8-7-1 in their 16 games, including 4-4 on the road. The 'under' was 7-5-1 when the Eagles were laying points, bringing the 'under' to 22-11-2 the last three years when they've been listed as favorites.

Minnesota: The Vikings averaged 23.7 points per game overall but just 21.7 at home. The defense gave up 20.8 points per game overall but just 17.9 at home. The 'over' was 6-2 in their road games. However, the 'under' was 5-3 when they played here at Minnesota.

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Game: Baltimore at Miami

Opinion: Under 38

Condition: Line must be 37 or better

The over/under line was 35.5 when these teams faced each other here earlier in the season. Sunday's number is higher, having climbed above the key number of 37. I feel that provides us with solid value on the 'under.'

In addition to both having strong defenses, both teams like to run the ball frequently. As you know, this helps to keep the clock moving. In fact, the Ravens ran the ball more times per game (36.9) than any other team in the NFL this season. Miami was also above the league average in that regard, finishing with 28.1 rushing attempts per game.

As mentioned, the Dolphins didn't score as many points at home and the 'under' was 6-2 in eight games played here on the season. I expect a heavy dose of the run from both teams to help chew up the clock and for the final combined score to finish with 37 points or less. Consider the Under

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