New Orleans Saints (11-6) at Chicago Bears (14-3)
3 PM Sunday, FOX Weather conditions (as of Saturday): 30 degrees, 60% chance of snow showers, 8 mph wind
Opening line (betCRIS): Chicago -3 -125, 44 Current line (betCRIS):Chicago -3 +105, 43
Sagarin ratings (rank): Chicago, 28.07 (3); New Orleans, 24.35 (7). Sagarin strength of schedule (rank): Chicago, 18.25 (28); New Orleans, 17.94 (31).
Wagerline consensus: New Orleans, 67%; Over, 63%.
Regular Season points per game: Chicago, 26.7. New Orleans 25.8. Regular Season points allowed per game: Chicago 15.9; New Orleans, 20.1.
Prior Meetings: Have not met this season
Both the spread and total dipped lower earlier in the week before bouncing back somewhat. New Orleans is seeing a lot of public backing due to their high-powered offense, as well as a poor showing by the Bears as a 9-point favorite last week. Questions about Chicago QB Rex Grossman are adding to uncertainty about the Bears in this game. On a yards per play basis, Chicago has a sub par offense, but will be facing a poor New Orleans defense, particularly on the ground. The old adage is that "defense wins championship", and if that is the case, the Bears have a big advantage in this game. I would make this line closer to 5 and think public overreaction sets up a great opportunity for backing the Bears.
Pick: Bears -2.5
New England Patriots (14-4) at Indianapolis Colts (14-4)
6:30 PM Sunday, CBS Weather conditions (as of Saturday): NA
Opening line (betCRIS): Indianapolis -3 +105, 49.5 Current line (betCRIS): Indianapolis -3 -125, 47.5
Sagarin ratings (rank): Indianapolis, 27.78 (5); New England, 32.31 (1). Sagarin strength of schedule (rank): Indianapolis, 21.83 (7); New England, 22.10 (4).
Wagerline consensus: Indianapolis, 57%; Under 53%.
Regular Season points per game: Indianapolis, 26.7, New England, 24.1. Regular Season points allowed per game: Indianapolis 22.5; New England, 14.8.
Prior Meetings: Indianapolis at New England, Week 9. Indianapolis won 27-20.
While most of the talk has focused on Tom Brady, the New England defense is an underrated unit that is among the best in the league. This season they ranked 2nd in points allowed, 6th in yards per game, and 10th in yards per play, although Rodney Harrison is listed as doubtful for this game. Belichick is 12-1 in the playoffs with New England, including 2-0 against Dungy, both games in New England, so the coaching advantage may lie with New England. We are hearing a lot about the Colt's improved defense in the postseason, but don't let only the 2 most recent games completely change your opinion - the Colts have struggled all year defensively and overreacting to recent games is usually a mistake. Strict interpretation of the Sagarin ratings would make New England a 3 point favorite in this game, even after accounting for home field for the Colts. This is a fairly evenly matched game and the best option is to take the points, buying off the "3".
Pick: New England +3.5 -115