February 5th, 2012
I used to do all my picks on the blog but this fall was just too busy. However, for this one last pick of the season, I decided to do it here.
So, the big game. The spread is the Patriots by 2.5. While I will be rooting for the Pats, frankly, looking at how the two teams match up, I cannot figure out how the Pats are supposed to win. Nearly every matchup in the game favors the Giants, and they also come in as the “hot” team, which has been a reasonable predictor of Super Bowl champions in recent years. New England has an edge at quarterback, sure, but Eli has been very solid this season and is 7-3 in the playoffs, so I don’t think it’s all that much of an edge. The Pats also have an edge at tight end, even with Gronk not at 100%, but the Giants have a huge edge at wide receiver, which I think more than compensates. Neither team has a particularly impressive running game; I’d give a slight edge to the G-men there. On the defensive side, the Giants have a better line, by quite a bit. New England’s secondary has improved a fair amount over the season, but since they started out as “blindingly awful” they’re only up to “average;” no edge there. I don’t really see anywhere on the field where the Patriots are dramatically better than the Giants and several places where they are markedly worse.
That usually means it’s a straightforward pick. The problem here is the spread. If the Giants are better all over the place, why is New England favored? The Giants are nearly a consensus pick among NFL analysts, pundits, and former players, and yet somehow they’re giving points? So, what does Vegas know that everybody else doesn’t? I have to say, when in doubt, I trust Vegas over pretty much every ESPN talking head. The handicappers in the desert are a lot more accountable for their decisions than the TV pontificators. I always find it disturbing when the spread goes against what everyone else is saying.
Of course, the point of the spread isn’t really to pick the winner, it’s to equalize the betting on both sides. Are there really that many more people willing to bet on the Pats in the face of fairly compelling evidence to the contrary? It’s not like the Cowboys are involved, which always messes up the spread (apparently, being rational and being a Cowboys fan are inconsistent positions). The whole situation smacks of something fishy going on, and with Belichick involved, that can’t be good.
So, the question is, does the fishiness outweigh essentially all of the football evidence? The Giants are better and they should win. Not only that, but if you pick the clearly better team, you get points. I’d pick the Patriots just on the whole oddity of it but for those points. It’s really hard to give points to the team I think is actually better. But then, it’s just a pick, after all, I’m not actually putting down a large sum of money on it. If I had to put down real money I’d take the points an the Giants. But since I’m rooting for the Patriots, I might as well pick them, too. It’s irrational and I know it’s irrational but I’m going that way anyway.
I hope New England wins on a last-second field goal to cover by a half a point. That’d be awesome.