I picked NFL games against the spread all year long. Despite a disastrous start in which I overextended myself and bet on everything under the sun, I managed to finish the year plus-money. It was wonderful.
Last week, we won ten (hypothetical) dollars! Thrilling.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Many people blindly bet more money in the playoffs than they do in the regular season. That’s incredibly dumb. A dollar made in the NFL playoffs is the same as a dollar made betting on yourself to poop weekly. Value is everything, and sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not.
Here is my pick and bet for Super Bowl XLVIII. In my (hypothetical) personal life, I have a (hypothetical) futures bet on the Seattle Seahawks +1200. If you are with me there, you should probably hedge your bet by betting on the Denver Broncos to win said contest. If you’re new to hedging, hit me up on Twitter and I’ll be happy to talk it out with you. However, I will pretend I don’t have this bet for the sake of analysis.
Denver Broncos (-2.5) over Seattle Seahawks
(If you’ve been reading all year, you know that I like to use Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings to give myself a general idea of a team’s strengths and weaknesses. The stat is not perfect, but it’s infinitely better at saying “this team is good at throwing” than, say, passing yards per game. Other stats are good, too. The playoffs aren’t included in these rankings.)
Denver Broncos: 1st offense (1st passing, 10th rushing), 15th defense (21st passing, 9th rushing)
Seattle Seahawks: 7th offense (8th passing, 7th rushing), 1st defense (1st passing, 8th rushing)
If you throw in playoffs, the numbers change to:
(WEI stands for “weighted…” and it’s adjusted to make games early in the season count less)
This game is really fucking hard to pick, because I feel like it’s a similar scenario to what it would have been like if Florida State had played Alabama in this year’s National Championship Game. On one side, there’s an otherworldly offense with an otherworldly quarterback. But that offense hasn’t been challenged by an incredible defense. On the other side, there’s that incredible defense, plus a pretty good offense, but one that isn’t near the level of the other side. Ignore the comparison between the Broncos’ defense and Florida State’s, because that ruins my analogy.
My point is that the Super Bowl’s biggest question is: Who wins, the NFL’s best pass offense, or best pass defense? It’s impossible to know. It seems reasonable that Peyton goes off for a bajillion yards because this offense is that good and can score on anybody. It also seems reasonable that he gets completely shut down, because Seattle does that to really good offenses (Drew Brees, anyone?). It is also very reasonable that something between the two extremes happens.
The Broncos have played just two teams in the top-10 in pass defense DVOA. And they were in… Weeks 1 and 2. But they torched them both. Ravens at home, Giants on the road.
…but both of those teams have shit offenses. Way worse than Seattle’s.
Seriously, here are the pass-defense DVOA rankings of Broncos opponents, from Week 3 to today:
But on the flip side, the Seahawks have faced only two top-10 passing offenses. They are: San Francisco (4th, surprisingly) and New Orleans (3rd), twice. They fared well against both, though stopping the Saints in Seattle is nothing like doing it in New Orleans or New Jersey or Guantanamo Bay, where I’m told this game will be played if there’s a 30-day blizzard.
I’m not going to waste your time throwing stats at you, because you know these things: Denver’s pass offense is historically good. It’s fast-paced, efficient and explosive. Big plays. Few sacks. Third-down conversions. Fourth-down conversions. Red zone touchdowns. All of it. But Seattle’s pass defense is the antidote to all of these things. They have no glaring weakness. 5th in DVOA vs. No. 1 receivers. 7th vs. No. 2s. 2nd vs. other receivers. 3rd vs. tight ends. 2nd vs. running backs. There is no way to know what will happen when the perfect passing offense matches up against the perfect passing defense. Seattle rushes the passer well. If they get to Peyton, that’s great news. But Peyton is also incredible at avoiding pressure, mainly because of his quick trigger.
and his blazing speed and gazelle-like stride.
As for Seattle’s offense vs. Denver’s defense, here’s a pretty good Football Outsiders article analyzing the matchup.The conclusion: The Seahawks have a decent matchup. They’ll get their opportunities. But they’ve struggled at times, and they’ll have to execute (duh).
The Argument for the Broncos
– Peyton Manning is not a normal quarterback, and he has extra time to prepare. He has a whole season of Seahawks film to watch. He will know the most effective gameplan to beat this team.
– The Seahawks haven’t been impenetrable outside of Seattle. For one, Andrew Luck played well against them (16/29, 208 YDS, 2 TD, 0 INT), and beat them. The Broncos’ pass offense is infinitely better than the Colts’.
– The Seahawks’ rush defense hasn’t been great away from home. 163 yards (4.9 ypc) in San Francisco. 134/5.2 in Carolina. 151/4.3 in Houston. 109/3.8 in Indy. 200/5.4 in St. Louis. The Broncos are a pretty good rushing team, and will probably have success.
– The Broncos defensive line rates very highly against the run. It’s banged up. That’s a concern. But… they’ve looked good in limited action in the playoffs. If Marshawn Lynch gets bottled up, I think we can all agree we like Denver’s chances.
Again, I think the biggest question is: Will Peyton Manning have an above-average game? If that’s your biggest question, I like your chances. Mostly.
A few other notes:
– I don’t buy the “Peyton is bad in the cold” thing. Though significant winds would probably worry me.
– The Broncos, in limited action, haven’t been great vs. running quarterbacks this year. Terrelle Pryor played relatively well against them, twice. Alex Smith had a lot of success on the ground, twice. Andrew Luck and Michael Vick did some nice things, running the ball. They bottled up RG3. I am a bit concerned about Rusty Wilson goin’ off with this legs.
– “The (Ford) Bronco permanently entered American popular culture due to an incident on June 17, 1994, when a white 1992 model owned and driven by Al Cowlings with O. J. Simpson, who was wanted for the murders of his ex-wife and her friend, attempted to elude the Los Angeles Police Department in a low-speed chase, which was nationally televised and viewed by millions nationwide.”
Bet: Broncos -2.5 (-110), $110 to win $100
As for the over/under, I pick the over (46.5 as of this writing). I don’t think there’s much value, though, and am not betting on it. If you’re looking for more action — and who isn’t — check out my in-depth prop bets post, featuring a massive bet on Tails Never Fails. Prop bets are the best.
Also, the column was shorter than usual this week, probably because there is only one game. For that reason, I have brought in special guests to give their previews of the game. You may recognize them. Some of them play sports for fun at times.
(For more quarterback Fake Facebooking, click HERE.)
I will also be on the lookout for more props and any other bets I decide on. Follow along on Twitter. I’ll notify you. Also, you can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to hear from you, friend.
Happy betting, and good luck!
Last Week’s Dart-Throwing Record: 2-0
Last Week’s Betting Record: 3-2 (.600) (+$10.00)
Playoff Betting Record: 6-4 (.600) (+$15.00)
Playoff Dart-Throwing Record: 5-5 (.500)
Final Regular-Season Betting Record, Since Limiting My Crazy, Overextended Self: 68-37 (.648) (+$2,759.76)
Final Regular Season Betting Record 88-60 (.595) (+$800.42)
Regular-Season Dart-Throwing Record: 137-114 (.546)