Initially built by NASA to set lines for the Las Vegas casinos in the late 50’s (who do you think funded the Apollo missions? The government? It was the mob…), The Sin City Betbot 6000 calculated lines for over 30 years. The Betbot was given various upgrades through the years, not always with the best equipment, but he was very good at setting lines, and living the good life.
The Betbot was de-commissioned in 1990 after San Francisco destroyed Denver in the Super Bowl. The 45 point spread simply fried a number of the Betbot’s wires and he retired. The Betbot was discovered by fantasysharks.com and retooled to share his thoughts on fantasy football and life in general. This robot has done it all, and seen it all, just ask him.
The Betbot’s column is transcribed each week by Joe Petrizzi and Tom Walls, because, “Typing is a dame’s BZZZT job.”
A bit of success for me last week in the divisional round, going 3-1 ATS and 2-2 on the totals for a solid 5-3 overall week. It’s not as good as the 8-0 I expected, but this is a funny business sometimes. A kick here, a missed call there, and all of a sudden you’re getting worked up over a football game between two teams you don’t even follow during the regular season. Chill out, have a cocktail – and for pete’s sake don’t code blue like that fan from Pittsburgh. I must admit that even though I’m a robot, I used to get very tense before playoff games. As an advanced betting machine, I feel tremendous pressure this time of year because a lot more people get interested in working some action during January. In order to relax, I use a combination of Gin and short-form Yang style T’ai Chi, which I originally learned under Master Cheng Man-ch’ing in the mid-‘60s. It only takes 10 minutes for me to go from a state of nervous anticipation to complete relaxation. Even if you don’t enjoy the martial arts, I can guarantee it’s a lot cheaper than putting your foot through the TV.
Before getting to this week’s picks, allow me to remind you to always check the weather before placing a totals bet, especially when the game is taking place in Seattle. The forecast is dry for both these games, so it looks like we’re in good shape.
AFC Conference Championship
Pittsburgh at Denver – Sunday, January 22 – 3:00 pm
Line: Denver -3 – Over/Under: 41
Sunday kicks off with a bit of an unexpected AFC championship game – you would have been hard pressed to find a so-called expert picking both Indianapolis and New England to lose last weekend. Well, unless you were reading my picks. In particular, I’m taking great pleasure in the efforts of the Denver Broncos, who seem to be going unnoticed during the playoffs despite being the 2nd best team in the NFL this year. That was a feat which looks even more impressive given that they played a tough AFC West and NFC East schedule. In addition, the Broncos enjoy the best home field advantage in the NFL because of the altitude and time zone. All of this was apparently lost on the cognoscenti, who bought into the whole Patriots mystique and drove the line all the way down to a measly 3 points in what was, on paper at least, a huge mismatch that favored the Broncos. I don’t bring this up just to pat myself on the back, but the same thing appears to be happening this week. Everybody loves the Steelers, and I can’t figure out why. Now, Pittsburgh is a much better team than New England, so the game isn’t a total lock like last week’s game. Still, Denver is better than the Steelers. But just for fun, let’s break this down to see if we can’t convince ourselves otherwise.
This is a very interesting comparison on offense. Both teams feature great offensive lines, a thunder/lightning RB combo, a stud receiver, and some speedy #2 receivers. You could even say that both teams have QBs with question marks, Jake Plummer having a reputation for being a knucklehead under pressure, and Ben Roethlisberger coming up pretty lame in last year’s AFC title match. Still, both of these guys have ranged from solid to spectacular this year. I could still see some Pittsburgh pressure forcing a “Bad Jake” underarm, behind the back type of play, but Shanahan seems to have Jake with the program. Is Heath Miller the X-Factor here? Possibly, the rookie TE has produced as advertised for Pittsburgh, although Denver has the linebackers to cover him well. The Broncos don’t use the TE that much except at the goal line, but they also get their FB Kyle Johnson involved in the passing game so it’s a wash.
The only advantage I see is with Denver’s rushing attack. For as much as Pittsburgh likes to run, Willie Parker isn’t as good as Tatum Bell, and Jerome Bettis isn’t as good as Mike Anderson (at least not this season). Naturally, Pittsburgh sports one of the top rush defenses in the league. A key to this game for Pittsburgh is preventing Denver from establishing the running game early, putting Denver in long 3rd down attempts where Plummer will be subjected to the Steelers’ ferocious pass blitz. HA, you say, that’s what every defense wants to do! Some insight! True, but it’s especially important against Denver, where the QB is the weak link in the chain. If Pittsburgh can’t force the game into Plummer’s hands, Denver is going to have a significant advantage because they have a lot more talent at RB than the Steelers do.
On the other hand, Denver is no slouch on defense either. In particular, they have a stud CB, Champ Bailey, which the Steelers do not have. Look for the Broncos to use Bailey in single coverage with Hines Ward, freeing safety John Lynch to help on run support, the one area on defense where Denver may be susceptible. After last season I wrote off Lynch but this season he’s been quite good – if he can sneak into the box on Sunday I like Denver’s chances at stopping Bettis and Parker. Can Roethlisberger locate his second or third options in the passing game, or can Ward break free from Bailey often enough to move the ball through the air?
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the awful hair we’ll be subjected to this week. Both Roethlisberger and Plummer grew some of the nastiest beards this side of Kyle Orton, a mis-managed set of hairballs likely to turn your stomach. Then we have hair bear Troy Polamalu, whose nappy locks have become a sort of calling card, much like the mole on Aaron Neville’s face. This is to say, Polamalu’s appearance literally distracts you from appreciating his on-field ability. He’s quite good, but you’ll never know because you can’t stop laughing at his lion’s mane. At least this is the CBS game, so we won’t have to see what FOX analyst Jimmy Johnson has in store for us until after happy hour. Last Sunday he wore some spiked, gelled mess that surely got some hair stylist fired. He’s giving Merrill Hoge’s frosted weave some competition – I mean are these guys still male? I don’t watch the pre-game chatter, so maybe he lost a bet or something. Either way, ewwww.
Getting back to the game, these teams are fairly even, and even the slight edge in Denver’s rush offense matches up nicely with Pittsburgh’s strength on defense. I get the feeling that Roethlisberger can make some plays this weekend, and that will make the game interesting. But Denver is just too tough at home; under Shanahan they’ve only lost a handful of games in the thin air. I like the Broncos to cover the 3 points. I’m going to call this game at under 41 points, mostly based on the defensive strength of both squads. It feels like a 21-14 kind of day.
NFC Conference Championship
Carolina at Seattle – Sunday, January 22 – 6:30 pm
Line: Seattle -3.5 – Over/Under: 43.5
In the NFC things went pretty much according to plan last week, not according to seeding, but a lot of people could see this side of the bracket falling out the way it has.
Since week eight, it’s been evident that the Seahawks and Panthers were the two best teams in the NFC, well evident to me anyway, I don’t know about you. Seattle was in the awful NFC West. Carolina, meanwhile, (by the way, pick a Carolina, North or South, OK?) was in the NFC South – a tougher division for sure. Let’s face it, when you can beat up on the Niners, Cards and Rams 6 times this year, you have a pretty soft…BZT… schedule. The Panthers did have the coaching and geographically challenged Saints on their schedule, and got to play the NFC West a bit themselves. However, seeing as how they did have to face the Bucs and Falcons twice, if the Panthers switched with the Hawks into the NFC West they would have had the #1 seed in the NFC this year, make no mistake.
I love this match-up; this is going to be a tight, fun game. With the Panthers you have a multi-dimensional offense highlighted by a superstar wide receiver, a very good offensive line, and a very good defense. The Seahawks look a bit like the Panthers, notably the willingness to use the running game to set up the deep passing attack. They don’t have a superstar WR, but that’s only because the player with that sort of talent has been hurt all year. But they are better on offense at nearly every other position. Seattle’s offensive line competes with Kansas City for the title of best in class, which is going to cause trouble on the right side of Carolina’s defensive line.
Shaun Alexander got hurt last week…BZZZT… after an abysmal performance, and it might have been the best thing to happen to him that game. He’ll be back this week, and may now realize he doesn’t have to carry the entire team on his back, he may play looser, which should help him, because I think he had a serious case of playing tight (or what I like to now call Manningitis) last weekend. DeShaun Foster, on the other hand, will not be back, and this is not good for the Panthers. Yes, they won last week with him out, yes Nick Goings looked OK, but that’s because of Steve Smith, not Goings. Seattle can now worry only about Smith, and not respect the running game nearly as much.
What you saw last week with Smith was not an illusion, he’s that good, but he can’t do it alone this week. As I wrote, you can’t…BZT… over estimate playoff moxie, the Panthers have playoff moxie, they have heart and talent, and I just don’t think it’ll be enough.
The diversity of the Seattle offense will be too much for the Panthers, and Jerramy Stevens, Joe Jurevicius and Bobby Engram (ahh…Penn State) come up with a couple key grabs, but watch Darrell Jackson, this could be the week he joins the ranks of Steve Smith and the other superstars in the NFL. Note that Engram and Jackson are both questionable this week – you may want to track their injury status but I doubt either of them will miss this game. If Shaun Alexander can let the game flow around him and relax, he should be back to form too.
The Hawks advance and more importantly, cover the spread – take Seattle and lay the 3.5 points. I don’t like the over/under here, but if you have a gambling problem, and really need to bet that too, I say take the over. The Seattle offense has been one of the top units in the league, and Carolina’s defense has trouble with slot receivers. Seattle just doesn’t have the secondary to contain Steve Smith, so I think both teams can score a lot if they are willing to gamble, and late in the game someone will be scrambling for points.
If you have any questions for the Betbot, please send them to his fantasysharks contact at firstname.lastname@example.org .
So long, and remember – showgirls and gin, my friends – Showgirls and BZZZZT gin.