Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 13, 2018 at 7:00 AM
Though “championship weekend” in the NFL isn’t until a week from Sunday, it’s possible that this week’s New Orleans/Minnesota game is the “real” NFC championship game that will send its winner to the Super Bowl.
*These are the top two teams in the conference in most respected Power Ratings assessments. Minnesota sits atop the NFC, followed in order by New Orleans, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.
*Minnesota would be a home favorite of at least five points next week over the winner of Falcons/Eagles, putting them in great shape to be the first NFL team ever to enjoy a “home” game in the Super Bowl.
*New Orleans would be a home favorite of at least 3.5 points over Atlanta (unless the Falcons looked fantastic in Philadelphia while the Saints eked out an ugly win over the Vikings), and would obviously be favored by even more than that over the Eagles since Philly is a home dog of a field goal this week to Atlanta.
Because that’s the best matchup of the weekend in terms of Super Bowl impact, and it’s the final game on the schedule…let’s dig deeper into the showcase showdown all of you are going to watch and bet.
Drew Brees is certainly a more dynamic and experienced quarterback than Case Keenum. That’s caused many pundits to give the Saints a big fat check mark on this side of the ball. It’s worth noting that Keenum actually has a slightly better TD/INT ratio this season, and has led this offense to some big performances. Both teams can run the ball, though the Saints were disappointing in this regard last week vs. Carolina. Our STATHEADS and COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS are only giving a small, thin check mark to the Saints in this category. Minnesota has a better offense than media coverage is suggesting.
Minnesota has a fantastic defense, one that’s been given so much credit for the success of the franchise recently that people are ignoring the offense. Great unit, truly elite. New Orleans has improved in this regard in the 2017 season. Its defense was much better at getting stops and forcing turnovers than it had been. One reason so many prognosticators were picking the Saints to win the NFC was that “Drew Brees finally has a defense and running game to help carry the load.” Unfortunately, the defense was missing in action much of last week vs. the Panthers, raising some questions about whether or not the unit is truly playoff ready.
Tough call here. Home field advantage is a big deal at certain sites…and the new dome in Minnesota is definitely on that list. The Vikings loving playing here in front of a loud home crowd. But, Brees knows how to deal with something like that…and is much more likely to keep his cool under pressure than Keenum is. For many bettors, this category is where the selection is going to be made. If you think Brees over Keenum is a “pitching” mismatch, then New Orleans plus the points feels like a lock. If you think home field advantage is going to be huge for a “team of destiny” that’s also enjoying the advantages of a bye week, then it’s not hard to imagine the home team winning by at least a touchdown.
OFFENSE: slight edge New Orleans
DEFENSE: bigger edge to Minnesota
The point spread has been going up through the week, as both public and professional bettors have been talking themselves into the Vikings. Dog lovers are pleased that they can get an extra point (and maybe more) to put in their pockets.
How is JIM HURLEY going to play this one? We can’t tell you in the HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK! You have to be a paying customer to find out. But, we can tell you that the point of emphasis involves the mix of our computer model projections and point value in the evolving betting market. We have a number in mind. Maybe it’s Minnesota by three or less, maybe it’s Minnesota by seven or more. Any line moves between now and game day will determine the unit-rating of the release.
Of course, we should remind you that NETWORK clients GOT ALL THE MONEY last week when JIM HURLEY went 4-0 over Wildcard Weekend…sweeping all four underdogs and winning outright with Tennessee over Kansas City and Atlanta over the LA Rams. Will the man in the middle of an information hurricane fade the Saints again? Or, will it be another weekend of doggy delights from start to finish?
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We’ll be back with you early next week to recap this weekend’s pro football action and take an early look at the final conference championship matchups. When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!