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January 4th 2014 - Posted 11:00 AM Eastern Time

There are two bets risking a total of 4% tonight.

The Saints line is +3 currently at time of release. Those who are checking later or find it at +2.5 should buy half a point to bring it up to a FG for extra insurance.


#1: Take New Orleans Saints at +3 spread against Philadelphia Eagles risking 2%

After weeks of speculation about who's in and who's out, the teams have been cemented in the playoffs and this weekend features Wild Card matchups.

The Eagles and Saints are an interesting pairing and should be an exciting game to watch however we feel that the line-makers may be overvaluing the Eagles in this spot. There is no question that the Saints have been a different team on the road this season than they have been at the Superdome, we can not argue that fact and have often backed them at home and not on the road. But this is the playoffs now and do-or-die time. The Saints no longer have future home games to look forward to as they did in the past when facing teams on the road. This is the time of the season where everything that a team had done in the past does not matter. It doesn't matter if a team won all 16 games in the regular season, all that matters is this game moving forward as it's either win or go out. Even though the Saints struggled on the road, they did end up with a better overall record than Eagles and the Eagles had the benefit of playing in no doubt what was the weakest division in the league! The Saints had the tougher schedule to get to this point and that should benefit them today.

New Orleans is a veteran team led by a veteran coach and a veteran quarterback. Sean Payton and Drew Brees have been in this situation many times before. The Saints got veteran defensive coordinator Rob Ryan on board in the offseason and that has paid dividends as well as the Saints went from tone of the statistically worst defense last year to ranked #4. This was a team that was built to be a contender from the coaching staff all the way down to the players. These veterans are well aware of the pressures of the postseason and known what it takes to win playoff games. The same can't really be said for an young and inexperienced Eagles team.

The Eagles organization pretty much decided to "blow up" the franchise from inside out. They fired long time coach Andy Reid and hired Chip Kelly (a former coach of Oregon) known for his high powered offense. The coaches are different, the offensive scheme is different and the QB is different. Nick Foles for example while clearly talented is playing in only his first post-season game and Chip Kelly is coaching in his first ever NFL post-season game. There is a lot of inexperience in all facets with this team and while making the playoffs is nice, they have exceeded expectations and are playing a bit over their heads now in our opinion.

The Eagles have gotten quite a few "lucky" breaks this season as well. They played their games in arguably the very worst division this league and often against teams with key injuries. They benefited from getting to play the Redskins, Giants and Cowboys twice this season. It's well documented that all of these teams had sub-par seasons so being the "best of the worst" really isn't that great of an accomplishment when you think about it. They also benefited from playing most of their non divisional games at home this season getting teams like Detroit, Arizona and Chicago at home while having to go to Green Bay but to play against Seneca instead of Aaron Rodgers! We don't feel that the Eagles are necessarily as good as their 10-6 record suggests.

The Saints have been known as an offensive team. Their running game has struggled a bit and they typically rely on the arm of Drew Brees, who is one of the best QBs in the game today. With Brees under center, the Saints will be taking on the worst defense in the league against the pass! The Eagles defense gives up a total of nearly 290 yards through the air to opposing QB's and will be matching up with a QB who averages over 300 yards per game! The Eagles showed their vulnerability last week in their game against the Cowboys when they let backup QB Kyle Orton, who made just his first start in a couple of years pass for over 350 yards and hit his TE Jason Witten 12 times for an average of almost 12 yards per reception! Witten is very good but today the Eagles will have to contend with the #1 tight end in the league this season in Jimmy Graham.

We have faded the Saints on the road numerous times this season with success, but we feel this is a different situation. We feel that when it comes right down to it, that the Saints are the "better" overall team with the better talent and better coaching. In a must win situation, it is usually the veterans who know what is at stake and what it takes to achieve it. The Eagles' season could end today and they would still walk away knowing that they exceeded expectations and have something to build on next year. The Saints on the other hand aren't at all ready to have their holidays started and would be hugely disappointed to go out at this stage. They are the team that we feel has the right mentality and experience to succeed and if there was ever a time to put forth a good performance on the road, today is the day and they know it. We expect the Saints to win this game outright but even if they don't, they should keep it close throughout with the points potentially coming into play. Take the 3 points with the Saints.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Eagles are 3-12 ATS in home games over the last 2 seasons.
  • Saints are 15-5 ATS in road games after allowing 17 points or less in 2 games!
  • Saints are 4-2 ATS against NFC East opponents over the last 3 seasons.
  • Saints QB Drew Brees is 4-2 SU and ATS in his career vs. Philadelphia.

#2: Take Vanderbilt at -2 spread against Houston risking 2%

This is another Bowl matchup that pits the SEC against a lesser known conference in the AAC. The level of talent and scheduling surely favors the SEC almost each and every time and even though Vanderbilt is not known as a powerhouse school, they are a team that has produced back-to-back 8-win seasons and do have some dynamic playmakers on their roster. This is also Vanderbilt's 4th bowl game since 2008 under head coach James Franklin, prior to that Vanderbilt had been just to 3 total Bowl Games in its previous 117 years! Franklin has definitely turned this program around and this is a team that is on the rise. There have been rumors that Franklin is on the shortlist for the vacant head coaching job at Penn State. Unlike other coaches who up and left their team prior to their Bowl Game, Franklin has been committed to finishing out the season strong and remained tight-lipped about moving on which has to go a long way with his players!
They will surely want to come out and reward their fans and coach with a great performance if this indeed does turn out to be his final game.

Houston has been a team that has thrived on the defensive end all season long. They were projected to finish near the bottom of the AAC but exceeded expectations by having a very opportunistic defense. Houston leads the nation in takeaways this season but when they haven't gotten them, they have struggled. Vanderbilt is not a team that often "shoots themselves in the foot". They have been very good at protecting the football and have limited points off of turnovers when they have happened.

If you look at Vanderbilt's 4 losses this season they have been to some of the better teams in the nation. Texas AM, Missouri, South Carolina and a close loss to Ole Miss, those are not losses that such a team should be ashamed of. Vanderbilt also won 4 straight to end the season while Houston lost 3 of their last 4 and so they will have more confidence and momentum coming into this.

Vanderbilt will have the very best player on the field in WR Jordan Matthews this afternoon. Even in the ultra-talented SEC, Commodores' wide receiver Jordan Matthews has often been a man among boys. Not only did he finish his career as the most prolific receiver in league history with 257 receptions, that figure also ranks third all time in NCAA history! Matthews also set SEC records in career receiving yards (3,616) and 100-yard receiving games (18). His 107 catches this year also set the SEC single-season record, marking the first time a league receiver had surpassed the century mark in catches for a season.
Matthews has come up big numerous times for his team this season and we expect him to do so again today.

At QB, the Commodores will be going with redshirt freshman Patton Robinette as Austyn Carta- Samuels is out with a knee injury. Robinette has passed for 488 yards and rushed for 177 with six scores. He has played in nine games, (starting two) including a 34-17 win at Florida. While some may look at that as a negative and in a way it is, having Robinette in the game also adds another dimension to this offense. Robinette has become known as a read-option quarterback and QBs who can run the read-option well are incredibly dangerous if the defense doesn't play disciplined football. This should be a very entertaining game to watch but at the end of the day it really is ultimately about who wins and covers the spread. Even with a backup QB, the line-makers still favored Vanderbilt over Houston.
It's hard to argue with the talent level of the SEC against lesser conferences.
Vandy is projected to have 12 eligibile draft prospects compared to Houston's 5!
That talent mismatch will likely show itself sooner or later and when it does, the cover should come with the win.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Houston is 0-7 ATS in road games after allowing 6 points or less last game
  • Vanderbilt is 17-6 ATS after a win by 6 or less points.
  • Vanderbilt is 4-0 ATS in their last four games following a ATS loss



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