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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 10:06 AM

No doubt by now you've heard all the sports talk radio geeks and all the ESPN guys/gals and even your buddies down at the corner barber shop say the same thing when it comes to this Sunday's NFL Championship Games ... any of the four teams still alive can win it all.


Now that the prohibitive favorite Green Bay Packers have been kicked to the curb and the likes of the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers - two alleged Super Bowl favs at the start of this"tournament" - have had their respective seasons extinguished the past couple of weeks the"fearsome foursome" still alive all look good but all have potentially fatal flaws:

In the AFC ...

  • Can the New England Patriots make a big-time defensive stand if called upon late?

  • Can the Baltimore Ravens get its offense cranked up after an ugly showing last week against Houston?

In the NFC ...

  • Are the New York Giants really this good all of a sudden or will their oft-toasted secondary get ravaged sooner rather than later here?

  • And will the really big stage frighten the recent playoff novice San Francisco 49ers who gagged a couple of times on"D" last weekend before roaring back to beat N'Orleans?

There is a lot to dissect the rest of the way here in the NFL post-season but first let's get you all caught up with a playoff game-by-game look at what's already happened (note all home teams below are in CAPS):


1-7 HOUSTON - 4.5 Cincinnati TEXANS 31-10
1-7 NEW ORLEANS - 10.5 Detroit SAINTS 45-28
1-8 NY GIANTS - 3 Atlanta GIANTS 24-2
1-8 DENVER + 7 Pittsburgh BRONCOS 29-23 (OT)


1-14 SAN FRANCISCO + 3.5 New Orleans 49ERS 36-32
1-14 NEW ENGLAND - 14 Denver PATRIOTS 45-10
1-15 BALTIMORE - 7.5 Houston RAVENS 20-13
1-15 New York Giants + 8.5 GREEN BAY Giants 37-20

Okay, so heading into Sunday's AFC & NFC Championship Games you'll note that only one playoff road team has won SU (straight-up) so far and that was the New York Giants snagging their big upset win in Green Bay last Sunday and overall the breakdown goes like this:

NFL Playoff Home Teams are 6-2 ATS (against the spread) while NFL Playoff Betting Favorites are a dead-even but vig-losing 4-4 against the odds.

In case you were wondering,"Over" players are a sizzling 6-2 versus the vig with the lone"unders" in the post-season coming in the Giants' 24-2 Wild Card win against Atlanta when the totals price was 47 ½ points while last weekend the only"under" came in Baltimore's 20-13 non-cover triumph over Houston when the totals price was 37 ½ points and do keep in mind that Baltimore led that game 17-13 at the half and so"over" bettors were truly burnt in that AFC Divisional Playoff round tilt.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers rock-n-roll on with the NFL Championship Games this Sunday - that's Baltimore at New England (3 p.m. ET kickoff) in the AFC Championship Game followed by the New York Giants at San Francisco (6:30 p.m. ET) in the NFC Championship Game -- plus remember there's NBA and College Basketball winners each/every day and so just make sure you're all aboard when you check with us at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else get it online right here. Got it?

Now, here's a look back at the last 10 AFC and NFC Championship Games and note that Betting Favorites are 7-3 ATS in the last 10 AFC Championship Games including wins/covers the last three years in a row while NFC Championship Game Betting Favorites are just 4-6 versus the vig the past 10 years and that includes dog covers in three of the last four years in this NFC round.

P.S., just so you know, the last time an NFL Championship Game road underdog won outright here was in the 2007 season when the NY Giants (+ 8) downed Green Bay 23-20 in overtime ... just sayin'!

We will have complete analyses of Ravens-Patriots and Giants-49ers later this week and don't forget that includes their game-by-game charts for this year and lots more!


2010 PITTSBURGH - 4 New York Jets PITTSBURGH 24-19
2009 INDIANAPOLIS - 8 New York Jets INDIANAPOLIS 30-17
2008 PITTSBURGH - 6 Baltimore PITTSBURGH 23-14
2007 NEW ENGLAND - 14 San Diego NEW ENGLAND 21-12
2006 INDIANAPOLIS - 3 New England INDIANAPOLIS 38-34
2005 DENVER - 3 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 34-17
2004 New England - 3 PITTSBURGH New England 41-27
2003 NEW ENGLAND - 3 Indianapolis NEW ENGLAND 24-14
2002 OAKLAND - 8 Tennessee OAKLAND 41-24
2001 PITTSBURGH - 10 New England New England 24-17


2010 Green Bay - 3.5 CHICAGO Green Bay 21-14
2009 NEW ORLEANS - 4 Minnesota NEW ORLEANS 31-28 (ot)
2008 Philadelphia - 3.5 ARIZONA ARIZONA 32-25
2007 GREEN BAY - 8 New York Giants NY Giants 23-20 (ot)
2006 CHICAGO - 2.5 New Orleans CHICAGO 39-14
2005 SEATTLE - 3.5 Carolina SEATTLE 34-14
2004 PHILADELPHIA - 5.5 Atlanta PHILADELPHIA 27-10
2003 PHILADELPHIA - 4 Carolina Carolina 14-3
2002 PHILADELPHIA - 4 Tampa Bay Tampa Bay 27-10
2001 ST. LOUIS - 10.5 Philadelphia ST. LOUIS 29-24


Let's check in on a couple of key mid-week games:

On Wednesday night, it's ...CINCINNATI (14-4, 4-1 Big East) at #13 CONNECTICUT (14-3, 4-2 Big East) - 7 p.m. ET, espn2
Don't look now but the Cincinnati Bearcats are ahead of the ranked UConn Huskies in the current Big East standings and therein lies the real news while heading into what figures to be a really emotional game in the Nutmeg State:

Mick Cronin's club has bounced back from that ugly brawl game against cross-city rival Xavier and the 'Cats have truly come together since that December 10th affair:

In fact, Cincinnati has won nine-of-10 games since including back-to-back triumphs at Georgetown and versus Villanova in the past week-plus. Note that in last Saturday's 82-78 non-cover win against 9-point dog Villanova, the Bearcats were able to survive a 39-point performance by 'Nova star Maalik Wayns while winning with a couple of old-fashioned three-point plays down the home stretch.

If Cincinnati plans on copping the road upset here than the epicenter player of that brawl with Xavier - F Yancy Gates (16 points and 9 rebounds against Villanova) -- must steer clear of foul woes and he must bang the offensive boards against a Connecticut club sporting four players who average double-digit scoring including lead man G Jeremy Lamb (17.9 ppg) and super-impressive C Andre Drummond who was just named Big East Rookie of the Week for the fourth time this 2011-12 season.

On Thursday night, it's ...#8 NORTH CAROLINA (15-3, 2-1 ACC) at VIRGINIA TECH (11-6, 0-3 ACC) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so UNC Tar Heels: Go ahead and show us what you got here after getting trampled 90-57 last weekend at 6-point underdog Florida State.

Folks, things were so bad Roy Williams' team connected on just 4-of-21 trifectas, nailed just 9-of-20 free throws and wound up shooting 37 percent from the floor (that's 22-of-59 FG makes) in what many folks 'round Tobacco Road claimed was Carolina's worst loss in a decade. Who's gonna argue that?

Now, North Carolina mega-star F Harrison Barnes (5-of-13 field-goal shooting in the lopsided loss in Tallahassee) must help the Heels erase that memory with a quick start here while a desperate Virginia Tech team figures to be brimming with emotions right from the start - don't miss the first 10 minutes of this game because it figures to be some wild hoop action!

Meanwhile, what is the NCAA Tournament Selection Show gonna possibly do without the whining of Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg?

The perennial tourney bridesmaid won't even be in a position to grumble if the Hokies cannot get their proverbial act together with back-to-back-to-back ACC losses recently against Wake Forest, Florida State and Boston College.

Heck, the Hokies have yet to win in this 2012 calendar year.

One real key for Tech here is Jarell Eddie (team-leading 27 triples) must get into a zone quickly and make the Tar Heels pay for its scrambling defense - if Eddie gets some open looks and doesn't bang 'em home than you can mark down a fourth straight conference loss for Greenberg's gang.

NOTE: Catch our Jim Sez commentary in tomorrow's column space plus - again -- there's AFC and NFC Championship Game updates all week long.

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