OAKLAND RAIDERS @ GREEN BAY PACKERS
Vegas Line: Raiders +11.5
Rob’s Line: Raiders +9.5
This was difficult. I do consider the Vegas line to be a little high, but I was torn on offering Oakland what I have or going a point higher. I settled on 9.5, but I do realise that they travel to the world champions on the back of being humiliated in Miami last week.
However, the Dolphins are playing playoff calibre football and while the 34-14 scoreline surprised me (not to mention it being 34-0 after three quarters), I have to believe that the Raiders are better prepared for this one. In addition, should Green Bay take a lead that allows them to possibly take their foot off the pedal late on, the Raiders possess the offense to score a touchdown that allows them to cover the spread.
Specifically, Oakland match up well against the home defense: Raiders rank 4th in rushing, Packers are 13th defending the run…Raiders rank 16th in passing, Packers are 31st defending the pass. It’s those stats that lead me to believe this line to be too heavy in Green Bay’s favour. Now, down the years a lot of teams who’ve already clinched a playoff spot at this stage or a couple of weeks later, have eased up somewhat in the run in to January, but this is a double edged sword.
It does offer the opportunity to perhaps rest players most in need of it and a team is arguably fresher come the divisional round of the playoffs. The minus though is that some of those teams haven’t needed to display that competitive edge for a couple of weeks so when they’re suddenly faced with a wildcard team with a chip on their shoulder, buoyed by momentum from the previous week, the lesser team on paper have an advantage that’s diffficult to see until kickoff. The wonderful world of intangibles in this sport is one of my favourite topics.
There’s a point to all of this and it’s this: Green Bay have already made the playoffs and they’re going to walk away with the NFC North. The one reason they won’t ease up is because they have every chance of going through the season unbeaten and walking the same immortal path as the 1972 Miami Dolphins. If you look at the schedule, this could be their most difficult game until the playoffs roll around. They travel to Kansas City next week before finishing up at home against the Bears and Lions. Detroit fans will naturally argue my point about this one being their most difficult game, but I did only say it could be.
I fully expect Aaron Rodgers to do what he has all season and there’s absolutely no reason to think otherwise, but if he does, for example, lead the Packers to a 14-0 lead, we know that we’re one Raider field goal away from covering the spread. Betting against Rodgers at home isn’t normally my idea of an easy afternoon’s work, but I really like the Silver and Black to cover.