Today's Free Picks for
Posted Friday at 1:30 PM EST.
3:05 PM EST. The Patriots are headed to their seventh straight AFC Championship game and by now their team name should be said with an echo effect. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the greatest coach/star player combo in NFL history, and they give that NBA dynasty Michael and Philip built in Chicago a run for its money on the all-sport list. The highly reported rift between Brady and Belichick has only grown in scope, as it was newsworthy that the two were on speaking terms this week after the former injured his throwing hand in practice. The negativity swirling around the Patriots is at an almost unprecedented level. Belichick is expected to lose both of his main assistants to head coaching opportunities, but those inevitable moves only further cloud the uncertainty around the champs. Former quarterback and everyone's new favorite color man Tony Romo said it best, "If there is a Mount Rushmore, there should be one statue up there. Once he (Belichick) gets all that tape, it's very hard to beat them, and then defensively, they know your tendencies."
The Jaguars 45-42 victory in Pittsburgh last Sunday is resonating in the market, and you do not have to look any further than the line movement in this game to see that. Nearly across the board, this game opened at 9½, and due to many factors, this number has come crashing down. While we are not in the business of breaking down X's and O's, we do enjoy a tidbit or two, and for all the new found love Blake Bortles is receiving this week, we have to point out that this guy is a total front-runner. When the Jags are rolling and have a lead, Bortles is great with a QB rating of 114. When the deck is stacked against Bortles and he and the Jags are playing from behind, he has an awful QB rating of just 66. The Jaguars were only 4-4 on the road in the regular season, and their win in Pittsburgh was a big upset that few saw coming. We are always looking for over and under reactions, and the Jaguars are in our sights.
These playoffs are starting to be the Year of the Underdog. Or at least the "disrespected" since that has fueled more than one upset this month, but this game has a much different feel, as it is the Jaguars who are talking all kinds of smack in the lead up to this game, while the Patriots are quietly going about their business. We wrote last week about the bitter man Tom Brady has become, and a full week of reports about how the Jags are going to pressure and punish him with a bum throwing hand will only fuel his fire. By hook or by crook, the Patriots are going to the Super Bowl and don't discount the latter. While we're not suggesting NFL games are predetermined, having the Jaguars in the Super Bowl is a nightmare for the league, the network, and most importantly the advertisers. There is nothing that can be done about the NFC side of the bracket, but the Patriots are the leagues' premier franchise, and they'll be given the benefit of every doubt to make sure they're in Minneapolis on February 4th.
The total in this game is in the mid-40s which is much higher than its NFC counterpart, and that means oddsmakers expect somebody to score. Do you trust the Jaguars to get the job done? We don't, and so there is value in Patriots at this number. Remember last week when everyone was asking how the f**k are the Jags going to score against the Steelers? Nobody is asking that question this week after the Jags hung up 45 last week but we have warned you several times about putting too much emphasis on one game. The Jaguars defense has given up more than 40 points in two of their last four games, and they nearly let the Steelers off the hook last Sunday. Surely there is something on the tapes that "The Hoodie" can exploit. This line would have been double-digits if Jacksonville had to travel to New England for the Divisional round, but the Jags big win at Pittsburgh has influenced the market, and now everyone is wearing a "Sacksonville" t-shirt. We hope they kept the receipt. Pats roll.
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NEW ENGLAND -7½ +105 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.10)