NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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GAME REPORTS

 
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Any Points at All
by Dennis Ranahan

In 2012, the regular season kicked off with the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys. All of our numbers added up to the Cowboys winning as a road underdog.

But we didn’t offer our clients a side on the game.

The fact that no defending champion had lost this contest since the league instituted the defending Super Bowl Champion hosting the season opener on Thursday night in 2004, caused me to flinch.

But, there were reasons why the Cowboys were in a good spot to beat the Giants and thus become the first road team to beat a defending champ in the nine year history of the series. The Giants by pure numbers were the worst team to ever win a Super Bowl. In 2011, the 9-7 Giants were outscored by six points in the regular season, no team had ever won the Super Bowl with a negative regular season points for and against mark.

Dallas had missed the playoffs in 2011, and saw an opportunity to make a stake in the 2012 season by beating their NFC East Division rival. The motivation was with the underdog here, as the defending Super Bowl Champion had little left in their motivational tanks to defend their title.

What it takes to win on opening night, is the same characteristics it takes to win any other contest. The combination of talent and the even more important motivational edge. Since Dallas broke through with that first road win in 2012, defending Super Bowl teams are just 3 and 3 straight up and 2-3-1 against the point spread.

No Super Bowl team was given a tougher task to defend their title than the 2013 Baltimore Ravens. As a double-digit underdog in Denver the Ravens upset the Broncos in an overtime Divisional Playoff Game. The Baltimore Orioles of Major League Baseball, do not share a stadium with the Ravens. But, their playing facilities do share a parking lot. So, you can either have a game being played at Camden Yards or M & T Bank Stadium … but not both at the same time.

The Orioles play 81 home games, and still they refused to reschedule their game and asserted their first rights to the parking lot as stated in their contract. The Ravens were banished to the road to defend their title, and the mean spirited schedule makers had them go back to Denver to open defense of Super Bowl XLVII.

The only knock on Peyton Manning in his career is that he lost nearly as many postseason games as he won. But in the regular season, Manning was a most consistent winner. He lost at home as a prohibitive favorite in the playoffs, now revenge for that defeat in the opening of the next season … on his home field … the same one he lost at eight months earlier, made this the most predictably obvious choice against the defending champs.

The result verified the data: Broncos 49, Ravens 27.

Two years ago, the New England Patriots downed the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs enroute to their Super Bowl LI title. Last year, the schedule makers gave the Chiefs an opportunity to seek revenge, and the visitors obliged with a 42-27 clubbing of New England while listed as an 8½ point road underdog.

Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles edged the Atlanta Falcons in a Divisional Playoff game, and now the schedule makers give the Falcons an opportunity for quick revenge.

Given Atlanta is the better team, motivated and the underdog, still leaves us wishing we had taken a position on this game when the line offered the visitors four points. The spread is now below a field goal, but straight up winners always win the money when they get any points at all.

Qoxhi Picks: Atlanta Falcons (+1) over Philadelphia Eagles