After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?
02 Feb 2011
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: Well, Mike, it's time for another year of prop bets. And you know what? The Scramble for the Ball-influenced prop bet trend seems to be sweeping across the country.
Mike: Like rolling thundersnow, it has indeed swept onto the desks of lazy journalists everywhere.
Tom: Well, hey, any cheap gimmick you can roll out every year sounds like a great idea to me.
Mike: This is sports journalism. We are all about the gimmicks. The only really disturbing instances are where a column that is actually seriously about gambling runs one, unless there is a clear disclaimer that the whole process is silly and insane. As Ian Dembsky and Al Bogdan put it so well when all this insanity began back in 2004, I'd be worried that part of the audience is going to think they've found some great new action.
Tom: Are you trying to indicate that putting down a negative-EV bet on a coin flip isn't the greatest idea since the Internet? Actually, while you're at it, why don't you tell people what we're doing here anyway.
It's that time of year again, the time of year when your Scramble writers
run out of ideas amuse one and all with Super Bowl odds that people are actually betting on. I'll spare you the lecture about how this demonstrates the evils of gambling (haha, see what I did there?) and go straight into Scrambler Emeritus Al Bogdan's perennially stolen explanation, adapted for the tenor of our times:
Most of these bets are whether a proposition is over or under the "line," usually total. For example:
Number of brain cells reading this week's entire column will kill (22.5)
Here, you would be betting on how many brain cells this week's installment of horror will destroy (and it makes last week's look like a piker). You would have to choose either more or less than 22.5. Since football stats are generally whole numbers, most propositions won't have "push" as a viable option. If you were to bet that more than 22.5 of your little dudes would croak, you would have to wager a hypothetical $105 to win $205 -- your $105 that you wagered plus $100 more (hence the "-105"). If you wanted to take the under, you would wager a hypothetical $100 to win $230 -- your $100 back, plus $130 (hence the "+130"). Since I imagine your Scramble writers have almost certainly killed a number of your brain cells purely through fright at this point, the under is less likely to win, therefore you'd get more money if it actually does come through.
The other bets are those with many possible options, like wagering on who will score the first touchdown in the game. The odds there will be something like "Enrico Palazzo +500," meaning that if you wager a hypothetical $100 on him and he scores the first touchdown, you'd win $600. The line would probably be even higher, however, given that he's dead, and never played professional football in the first place.
For the purposes of determining a winner of this column, we're laying down 100 quatlus down on any of these "pick from a crowd" bets. For over/unders we're wagering 100 on any overs where we're receiving positive odds (e.g. anything above +101) and wagering whatever it takes to win 100 on any overs where we're receiving negative odds (e.g. anything below -101).
We'd also like to remind you that even though Scramble is the original, it's important to remember what really counts here: Ours is bigger.
Tom: Yup, other people may have taken this to 11, so we're taking it up to 14!
Mike: Everyone else should be on notice that we will continue staking claims on arbitrarily high integers should anyone go above 14 in the future.
Tom: Yup, and when somebody else claims a higher number than 14, we'll fall back on the snow claim. If you want to take it to 17, then goshdarnit, there better be 17" of snow falling the day you write your column.
Mike: With thunder.
Tom: Damn straight. And on with the show we go.
Tom: Green Bay is going to win 24-20, so they'll cover.
Mike: I'm going to limit my comments solely to the fact that Pittsburgh had a much higher DVOA this year, and that the shootout the Steelers won last year was made possible by the letters A, B and the absence of Troy Polamalu. If they were favorites, it would be more difficult, but I like Pittsburgh against the spread.
Mike: Like I said earlier, I don't think that either of these defenses are going to give up enough points to go over 45. The Steelers gave up an average of roughly 15 points per game (which included the Patriots' shellacking, because shellacking is apparently a word people are using again), while the Packers gave up roughly the same 15 points per game. I don't see these teams allowing half again their combined averages, regardless of how well Green Bay's offense is playing. Under.
Tom: In my prediction, 24 plus 20 equals 44, which is less than 45. Under.
Tom: The NFL breaks TV ratings all over the place. This is high, but still not high enough. Over.
Mike: While everyone will be disgusted with this game, people will still watch, because Rodger Goodell owns our souls. Over.
Mike: For those unfamiliar with Neilsen's ratings system, TV rating is essentially the percentage of the total sample (in this case, the sample is the number of people in Pittsburgh and Green Bay, respectively) watching the program. This seems like a sucker bet, honestly. If it were raw viewers, then sure, Pittsburgh itself is much, much larger than Green Bay and would easily outstrip it. Pittsburgh, however, is also full of hipsters, arty types and that guy from the GoDaddy commercial who doesn't watch the Super Bowl anymore because he discovered the Internet has soft-core porn. The Packers are the only remotely interesting thing going on in Green Bay, so I will gladly take the (insane) even odds.
Tom: Pittsburgh had higher local ratings this year, and I believe by enough of a margin to overcome Green Bay's odds edge in my mind.
Tom: Now that they're recording it, the singer don't extemporize quite as much, so she'll be a little bit under.
Mike: Singers (I refuse to refer to them simply as "artists") hate to be upstaged. Since Ms. Aguilera doesn't have the halftime show, she is going to milk the anthem for every precious second. Since this is corroborated by TMZ's pictures of her leaving John C. McGinley's School of Unnecessary Diphthongs, I'm confident with the over.
Mike: Six seconds seems on the low side here. Go ahead and sing our national anthem now (bonus points if you can get people to stand up). Provided you haven't been slapped, arrested or simply ignored, everyone will be clapping when you hit the "a" in "brave." It's perfectly common for an audience to start applause on the last note of the song, which just encourages the singer to continue singing, because these people don't actually ingest food and water for sustenance, as normal people do, but literally feed off attention. "Brave," with all the cheering and the fireworks and the color guard and the gigantic feed of her on Jumbotronicus will be like a hobo who slipped past the hostess at Old Country Buffet. The result will be about as pretty. Over.
Tom: But since they are recording it, the padding comes in at the known parts, like "Braaaaaaaaaaaaave." Over.
Tom: No, wearing a cowboy hat is not actually required in Texas.
Mike: Is Ms. Aguilera known for wearing cowboy hats? Anyway, she's a New York girl, so I can't imagine she's going to be willing to throw that bone to the handful of corporate executives in the audience who pretend to be Cowboys fans for their clients' benefit. No.
Tom: I'm hoping for some highlights or something. Completely blonde, no.
Mike: What? No?
(This is the last time we have an instrumentalist write about the national anthem singer. -- ed)
Mike: What are the chances of football bettors follow the Black Eyed Peas well enough to be able to give any sort of guess as to what Fergie will be wearing? I get the feeling that there are going to be a lot of people becoming Internet Experts on the subject and fooling themselves into thinking they have an unbeatable Fergie-system, because some people just really love losing money. I'm contractually required to answer place this bet, and the NFL is so gun-shy after the "wardrobe malfunction" that there will be a lot of pressure on Ms. Fergie's Last Name to be as conservative as possible up against her camp's pressure for her to wear as little as possible, which means Skirt/Dress, emphasis on skirt. You thought we were done with angry singer jokes? Do not doubt my fortitude!
Tom: Shoot, I have to watch the Super Bowl halftime show to see how this question comes out. Skirt/dress.
Tom: No, no reason she should be.
Mike: Are you really going to bet against Fetish Fuel? I didn't think so. Yes.
Tom: The lesson I learned last year is people aren't shown on TV nearly as much as you think. I thought the Mannings were an easy over, and they didn't come close. Under.
Mike: I think he'll get two shots before the game starts, when the team is yakking about the stadium and before anything interesting has happened. That said, there are a huge number of Packers and Steelers fans, and none of them like JJ. I don't expect him to show up after that, which means under.
Mike: If they show the "players' wives" section before the game, then it'll be because of Roethlisberger's women troubles (I should probably say "women's Roethlisberger troubles" to be accurate). If they don't, then it will be whoever gets the first possession, which is essentially a toss-up. Considering Roethlisberger has even odds, I'm going with Ashley Harlan. Whoever that is.
Tom: Aaron Rodgers' girlfriend isn't newsworthy. Ben's fiancée is. Ashley Harlan.
Tom: I'm tempted to go under on the same theory as for Jerry Jones showings, but (a) it's easier to say somebody's name than to show somebody, (b) B**** F**** used to play for the Packers, and (c) Joe Buck is calling the game. Over.
Mike: Brett Favre Brett Favre Brett Favre. Over.
Mike: None. The NFL is the biggest product FOX has, and the NFL doesn't want any talk of labor disputes to sneak into its Super Bowl orgy of excitement and enthusiasm. Under.
Tom: Agreed. An easy under call for me as well.
Tom: Whoever is on the winning team. Since that's Green Bay, that's Clay Matthews.
Mike: I'm assuming that there's a refund if the book decides that the announcers do not make a definitive statement on the issue. This result would make me so sad. I half-expect Troy Aikman to make a completely incomprehensible joke about the two players' hair, and Troy Aikman worships at the altar of hardware, so I'll go with the new AP Defensive Player of the Year. Troy Polamalu.
Tom: Fruit punch is still my favorite Gatorade flavor, and yes I did try the ones you commenters suggested last year. I like the odds on Lime Green.
Mike: Only trainers know the Gatorade/water breakdown on each sideline, but at least a third of the jugs we see are water. Clear/water seems to be the smart bet.
Mike: I'm guessing there's some historical data that Gatorade showers are generally performed by defensive players. That said, both teams are pretty young on offense and decently old on defense, so I'm trusting the young whippersnappers will beat the old guys to the punch. This has nothing to do with the odds, I swear. Offensive Players.
Tom: I don't recall seeing the offense do it ever, except maybe in the infamous Kentucky-LSU game, when the defense was still on the field. Defense all the way.
Tom: I'll go with teammates this year.
Mike: This is a big toss-up, but the two most likely MVPs (Roethlisberger and Rodgers) each have vaguely interesting (interesting only to the sports media) stories that tangentially involve their coach. I think that if Roethlisberger wins, he'll make a show of thanking his fiancee, but she's not family yet, so she doesn't count. Unless, of course, Polamalu somehow wins MVP, in which case the speech will be largely inaudible but will definitely by about God. That aside, I'm betting that Rodgers would thank McCarthy for not talking about Brett Favre Brett Favre Brett Farve and Roethlisberger for Omar Tomlin and the Rooneys for not throwing him under the bus. Coach.
Tom: This has been much less of a factor than I feared it would be. 10/1 is much too low for something that hasn't happened except perhaps as part of a stunt. No.
Mike: During practice? Absolutely. During the game? Both of these cover teams are awful, so the punters are going to be aiming for the sideline. No.
Mike: The Steelers aren't big on stealing/mocking other teams' celebrations, largely because they have their own set of equally stupid celebrations. The odds are against it, but I'm not biting. No.
Tom: I'm not sure what this is, so I'll say no.
Mike: Green Bay will score a touchdown. Unless it's scored by B.J. Raji or Aaron Rodgers, that player is going to want to be on film performing the Packers' signature move on the NFL's largest stage. Yes.
Tom: Yes, absolutely yes.
Tom: He seems to play a lot in goal-line situations. The Packers will score four times, so they'll likely be in goal-line at least once. Yes.
Mike: I actually think the Steelers line is too powerful and skilled to make running a big guy with no blocking skills at them a good idea, so I'm taking no.
Mike: The presence of this bet does not lift our prohibition of mixing politics and football. I remember the President being vaguely frontrunnerish in the past regarding the Steelers, plus he's a Bears guy, so I don't see him going for the Pack. Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tom: Pennsylvania has more electoral votes than Wisconsin. Pittsburgh Steelers.
(With the arrest of Everson Griffen, the over was hit on "current players arrested," so that prop is no longer available.)
Tom: Other people may find the promos annoying, but I'm curious to see what Budweiser's ad will look like and expect it to be good.
Mike: The big commercial every year comes out of left field, even in the post-dotcom commercial environment. I'll go with the odds and other.
Mike: Jerry Jones? Really? Who is insane enough to think that the owner of the team in whose stadium the game will be played will be on the cover of the USA Today? The picture will almost certainly be the MVP, so really the bet is which team you think will win the game. Roethlisberger has been the bridesmaid twice. However, so I'll go with the relatively safe bet and Aaron Rodgers.
Tom: Green Bay will win, but the odds on Ben Roethlisberger are so much better I'll go with him.
Tom: Market Up, I suppose.
Mike: The market is inching up the past few weeks, so I imagine that it will continue. Plus, all those executives who are at the game to pretend to like football will probably be really happy due to the after-party, so all signs point to up.
Tom: I'm very surprised Cullen Jenkins gets his own odds. Ben Roethlisberger's odds edge over Rodgers makes him my nod here as well.
Mike: Usually for these it's just straight-up odds of team winning for the quarterbacks, but as I said earlier, Roethlisberger has been left at the altar twice. Of course, the first time he showed up completely drunk and barfed on the priest, and the second time he was trying to marry Diane. That said, the story on Roethlisberger has changed considerably since then. If the Steelers do win on anything other than a defensive performance for the ages, 7/2 is just too good to pass up. Ben Roethlisberger.
Tom: A Sonic-approved Tails.
Mike: Heads weighs more! Tails!
Mike: This is another good bet you can use to identify problem gamblers. The previous is just too ridiculous for anyone to actually put money on, but there's enough of an angle on this one that a person could obsessively research how often the Steelers (the visiting team) calls heads and tails, and cross-reference that with the heads/tails probability. I will do no such thing. Pittsburgh Steelers
Tom: Pittsburgh Steelers ... Why not?
Tom: I'll go with the Pittsburgh Steelers, since they'll get the ball first.
Mike: While I'm guessing that the Steelers will win and defer, they are very stingy on opening drives, and the first half in general. I'll take the better odds and go Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tom: Field goal or safety has better enough odds I'll go with that.
Mike: I see a number of drives stalling near mid-field, but I imagine that the first score will be a maroon- or red-zone touchdown.
Mike: Since I've already decided this is going to be a low-scoring slugfest that only I actually enjoy, I'm going with the under.
Tom: 20 is fewer than 21, so under.
Tom: 24 is greater than 23.5, so over.
Mike: And this is where strategic (awful) betting comes in. If there is a team that's likely to overshoot that 15-point mark, it's the Packers, so I'm going to be a wuss and hedge my bet with the over.
Mike: If there is going to be decent scoring in this game, I think it's going to come late, probably in the fourth quarter, when NFL defenses are contractually obligated to stop being aggressive. Under for both.
Tom: I'll go with a 14-10 Green Bay halftime lead, so under for Pittsburgh and over for Green Bay.
Tom: I like the long odds on Mewelde Moore for no good reason.
Mike: At least somebody believes in the Pittsburgh rushing attack. With Pouncey out, I'm not sold. Really, though, John Kuhn? I mean, if he scores, I'll happily shout "KUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHN!" at the TV with my fist clenched in anger, but there is no way he scores the first touchdown of the game, against Pittsburgh's defense. A wide receiver is a much better option for both teams, and I have to say that Jennings is more dangerous in the red zone. Greg Jennings
Tom: The Pittsburgh Steelers will get the ball first, so they'll get a first down first.
Mike: The odds are even, so I may as well go with Green Bay Packers.
Tom: I'm disappointed penalty isn't an option here. Rushing play.
Mike: Maybe defensive pass interference counts as passing? It does come on a passing play. Still, I'm not sold on any effective running this Sunday, so I'll go with Passing Play.
Tom: It wouldn't be a Pittsburgh Steelers drive without a random third down conversion.
Mike: I think the Steelers will be relatively effective in keeping Green Bay from converting on medium-to-long third downs. That plus even odds means I'll take the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tom: I want to say the Packers, but the Pittsburgh Steelers odds are just enough better I have to go with them.
Mike: I'm guessing that the Packers inaugural drive ends with a silly punt around midfield, maybe on Pittsburgh's side of the field. Green Bay Packers.
Tom: Again, an odds-driven Pittsburgh Steelers pick.
Mike: I'm willing to take a flyer on a long Ike Taylor DPI. Green Bay Packers.
Tom: Pittsburgh Steelers field goal sounds good to me.
Mike: At this point, any narrative I had constructed for this game has been buried under arcane nonsense. Then again, constructing a narrative for a sporting contest is in and of itself pretty silly. Remember that when anyone tells you that your betting is inconsistent: consistency only matters if you guess how things will go correctly. If that doesn't make you want to stop gambling, nothing will. Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Touchdown.
Tom: Pittsburgh Steelers due to the odds edge.
Mike: Yeah, at this point the odds are the most important thing. Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tom: This seems like a big disparity, but it actually makes a lot of sense. In a close game, teams are more likely to have to play for a touchdown. Yes, it'd be a bad bet to lose, but I'll still go with the touchdown.
Mike: Both of these teams excel at playing to not lose. Field Goal or Safety.
Tom: Pittsburgh Steelers due to the odds edge.
Mike: OK, I'm willing to go a bit crazy here. I like the idea of a defensive contest, so I may as well take the odds and go with Neither Team Scores 10-plus Points.
Mike: One of the lesser-known changes Bill Polian has pushed through the rules committee is that a defense is now required to allow a ball carrier to break at least one (1) tackle on any passing play in the fourth quarter. The more you know! Fourth Quarter.
Tom: I know the second quarter tends to have more plays, and the fourth quarter often does as well, but I'm still going with the Third Quarter.
Tom: 14+10=24, (44-24)=20, so first half.
Mike: Tom has apparently exhumed his play-by-play, so we can get the startling clarity of a future that will almost certainly not happen. I stand by my logic regarding the fourth quarter, plus the odds are good. Second Half.
Mike: The game will be close, but you read that correctly; -1800. This is probably the safest bet on our ridiculous list. No.
Tom: This would suck to lose, but I'm going with no.
Tom: Since I'm calling for a four-point game, no.
Mike: This would mean that we should call for a push on the line! Pushes are lame! Laaaame! No.
Tom: 44 is even.
Mike: This bet just makes me sad. Even, I guess.
Mike: Long touchdowns are much more rare than most people think, especially for teams that have good safety play (the Steelers) or great man coverage (the Packers). Under.
Tom: I made fun of this prop last year, but it's actually a reasonable number based on past Super Bowls. I'll go over, because both teams are capable of hitting a deep strike pass play.
Tom: Will there by a 1-yard touchdown? I'll go with no, so over.
Mike: There is roughly a 68 percent chance of any given game yielding a 1-yard touchdown play, but the Steelers and Packers combined to only allow seven this year (three by the Steelers, four by the Packers). Both teams have good packages to stuff short-yardage runs, and are less likely to get stuck in first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Over.
Tom: I feel like this sort of question is susceptible to relatively easy mathematical analysis, which I would actually perform before laying any money on this prop bet. I'll go with 1-7 yard touchdown.
Mike: Really? Mathematical analysis of a prop bet? That just seems like cheating. I like the combination of odds and completely non-scientific feeling of frequency I get from 16-25 Yard Touchdown.
Tom: Another question I'd actually look at before laying real money on. No.
Mike: I don't think either team is good enough in the return game to overcome even these teams' inept coverage, so if this prop is going to sail, it will have to be on defense. Both teams were above average in scoring defense, but that doesn't mean much for any given game considering the Packers had six touchdowns and the Steelers had four. Still, there is some chance that one of the many defensive playmakers in this game will come up with something, and I like the odds, so I'll take yes.
Tom: Thanks, Mike, for actually looking this up.
Tom: Mason Crosby has a better leg, but I'll go with Pittsburgh Steelers because they'll be making two field goals and Green Bay only one, and I understand the Monty Hall Problem.
Mike: As long as you're aware of your fake gambling's fake statistical model problems. Like Tom said, Crosby has a better leg. Green Bay Packers.
Tom: Out of sheer cussedness and conservatism, I'll say yes just because.
Mike: +800 just isn't enough to get my interest. I guess the Steelers offensive line's safety issues have come back to haunt us bettors. No.
Tom: If you assume PATs are made at a 99% rate, with five of them being attempted no is a more favorable bet.
Mike: OK, maybe this is the safest bet. No.
Tom: Because it's part of the FO mantra, I'll point out the implicit assumption that only fumbles lost are actually fumbles and say interception.
Mike: Ben Roethlisberger is playing. Interception.
Tom: I wish for a "neither team calls a timeout in the game" alternative, but will go with Green Bay Packers, probably when Mike McCarthy loses a challenge.
Mike: Tomlin called a challenge on the opening kickoff! The Steelers will not be outdone in this or any other department of ineptitude. Viva Omar! Viva Pittsburgh Steelers!
Tom: Again, I wish for a "no penalty in this game" option, but will go with Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mike: Including a "no penalty" option would make sense, but ultimately be meaningless because nobody in their right mind is going to think that these two teams will play a completely clean game. Green Bay Packers, because they're more likely to get early jitters.
Tom: This prop bet just invalidates itself if there is no coaches challenge in the game, I assume. With the extension of DVOA back to 1992 and the Seattle Seahawks offense from that year, Mike McCarthy is no longer the offensive coordinator for The Worst Offense in DVOA History, so he can blow a challenge in the Super Bowl to celebrate. Green Bay Packers.
Mike: See previous comment on Steelers refusing to relinquish title for kings of ineptitude. Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tom: These odds look really wrong. I thought coaches won challenges roughly 40 percent of the time, so these odds should be reversed at best. Play stands.
Mike: Whoever made these odds has obviously not paid attention to the way coaches challenge. Or their ability to challenge intelligently under pressure. Even odds on a judgment call or Tony Dungy Challenge? Heck yeah, I'll take Play Stands.
Tom: I'll go with over for no particularly good reason.
Mike: This number only really makes sense if you expect a passing-heavy shoot-out, which I very much do not think will happen. Under
Tom: Since Pittsburgh will be trailing, they'll be forced to pass the ball. Over.
Mike: Pittsburgh will attempt to run the ball, regardless of whether it actually works. This will cut into Roethlisberger's attempts, since much punting will be had. Under.
Tom: Only two touchdowns this game for the Steelers this game. They'd have to get both through the air for this one, so I'll go under.
Mike: I think that if the Steelers score two touchdowns, there's a better-than-even chance that they are through the air. Since the Rashard Mendenhall pass has been burned, that means Roethlisberger. At +125 vs. -155, I'm willing to bite. Over.
Tom: I'll go with 1.
Mike: Let's not get greedy. 2.
Tom: I'm expecting at least a game-sealing interception for Green Bay, and they may get another one. Over.
Mike: Who really thinks Roethlisberger won't let at least one duck go flying into the arms of a defensive back? Over.
Tom: I don't feel like he's had very many rushing yards in the playoffs, and he seems to scramble to throw more than to run opportunistically. Under.
Mike: Man coverage is going to stick to his receivers a bit better, which means waiting for open guys is going to become a lengthier and more dangerous proposition. I'm willing to bet that Roethlisberger came to the same conclusion watching film this past week, and he'll be ready to start running (and have some success). Over.
Tom: Pass incomplete, because the odds are easier to calculate that way.
Mike: Arians will dial up a deep bomb to Wallace to warm things up from the start. It will hit the turf. Pass Incomplete.
Tom: I like the odds edge on throw an interception, especially because he'll be doing both.
Mike: Roethlisberger's matured into a pretty good quarterback, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say it takes him a while to do something really stupid. Throw a Touchdown.
Tom: I'll go with under because I don't think he'll have much success against Green Bay's defense.
Mike: No Pouncey means that Green Bay is free to do all sorts of things to the offensive right side, the only place where the Steelers have any success running. That'll be shut down, and Mendenhall will end up with the under.
Tom: Somebody needs to read Mike Tanier's Two Yards at a Time article. Under.
Mike: Aforementioned futile deep bomb will loosen things up, combined with aforementioned jitters to get Mendenhall four or five yards. Things will tighten up considerably after that. Over.
Tom: Under, because I don't think they like him very much as a receiver, or at least I don't.
Mike: Good coverage means lots of dumpoffs. Over.
Tom: I've already taken Mewelde Moore as a potential touchdown scorer, so I'll go with no.
Mike: I think I said elsewhere that he wouldn't? I honestly don't remember anymore. No.
Tom: I think he's a more interesting threat than Ward, so I'll go with over.
Mike: If the Steelers are going to win, Wallace needs to have a big day. I guess this is a hopeful over.
Tom: No, he will not.
Mike: The top receiving threat only get +135? That's cold, bookie. Yes.
Tom: Ward seems to be finally hitting the receiver wall, so I'll go with under.
Mike: I agree, Ward's primary use is for magic third-down conversions at this point, which means a decent number of receptions but not a huge number of yards. Under.
Tom: An interesting number, and one I would debate if this column wasn't going to be insanely long. Over.
Mike: Again, one flows from the other. Under.
Tom: Yes, he will get a touchdown reception.
Mike: I think Ward will be too well-covered in the end zone. I like Wallace's ability to get a mid-range play and Miller's ability to get space in the end zone more than Ward's chances. No.
Tom: I'll go with over because Green Bay is surprisingly mediocre against tight ends except when I pick up the opposing team's tight end in fantasy.
Mike: Wallace needs to have a big game, but I think this match is won or lost with Miller. Green Bay is bad against tight ends, so Roethlisberger is going to find him. Over.
Tom: No, he won't.
Mike: Sure, why not? Yes.
Tom: Darn, I was hoping for an unreasonable pick, but Harrison had 100 tackles on the regular season. Over, I guess.
Mike: I get the feeling that he's going to blow up a few draws, plus his normal workload, so over.
Tom: He had 63 tackles this year in 14 games. That includes some partial appearances, and I think he's healthy now, so over.
Mike: Polamalu is going to be blitzing or decoying as a blitzer a lot, but I don't think the Packers will run well enough to even get to the second level reliably. This is a tough call, but I think I'm going with the under.
Tom: Rodgers is now somewhat hard to sack, so under.
Mike: With Polamalu healthy, he can run around and confuse the offense. That will create opportunities for Pittsburgh's linebackers. James Harrison likes opportunities. Over.
Tom: But Rodgers will still be sacked, and Woodley will get it. Over.
Mike: I don't see Green Bay keeping Pittsburgh to zero or one sack, so Woodley is just as likely to get one. Perhaps more, since Kuhn will be keeping an eye on Harrison. Over.
Tom: My bold call: no Rodgers interceptions, so no.
Mike: While I think that Rodgers will throw at least one interception, I think Ryan Clark is a much more likely recipient. No.
Tom: Twenty points, two field goals and two extra points. That's eight, so over.
Mike: Tomlin is going to be happy with fraidy-cat punts unless he absolutely needs to, and in a close game he won't. Under.
Tom: He's not a great kicker, but not that bad. No.
Mike: This is really a wild guess, so may as well go with yes.
Tom: Heath Miller, just because.
Mike: All Hines Ward does is catch third-down miracles.
Tom: Rodgers will probably be MVP because he'll have more than 300 yards passing and a couple scores. Over.
Mike: Rodgers has cracked 275 yards in a more than half of his games this year. He did so once against a Top 10 team (the Bears in Week 3), but failed to do so in his other three attempts (the Jets in Week 8 and Chicago again in Week 18 and the NFC Championship Game). Pittsburgh's defense is better than both the Jets and the Bears, so I'm comfortable with under.
Tom: I think Rodgers will have multiple scores, but two is too many go over on. Under.
Mike: Please run, Packers. Please run. Run, run, run. Please. (This will not happen.) Under.
Tom: One or two, one or two, one or two ... I'll go with one.
Mike: Two seems like a nice number.
Tom: He's not throwing any interceptions this game. Under.
Mike: Pressure that is difficult to read leads to quarterback mistakes. I think there will be at least one interception, so over.
Tom: Rodgers is an opportunistic scramble. I don't expect the Steelers to spy him like the Falcons did, but instead to play coverage, so this will be over.
Mike: While I agree they won't spy him (because that would be stupid), Polamalu's closing speed in short zones is essentially the same thing. Under.
Tom: Pass complete, just because.
Mike: Rodgers is going to be going into this game looking to take what the defense will give him, so his first attempt will be a high-percentage throw. Pass Complete.
Tom: He'll have at least one touchdown pass and won't throw an interception, so this one is easy. Throw a touchdown pass.
Mike: Heavy pressure early and some jitters leads to an interception first, I think. Thrown an Interception.
Tom: How many carries will Starks get to be ineffective? I'm guessing not enough, especially playing against a good Steelers rushing defense. Under.
Mike: Once again hoping that Green Bay will attempt to run, and once again realizing that they are not so insane as to try. Under.
Tom: Again, two yards a carry, especially Starks, especially against the Steelers. Under.
Mike: I seriously doubt Starks will end up averaging above three yards per carry. Under.
Tom: Starks is a better runner than Brandon Jackson, but still not a very useful receiver. Under.
Mike: This game (which as I said, you will hate) is going to be dumpoff-tastic. Over.
Tom: Now, he probably will get goal-line carries, but I think somebody will vulture a touchdown away from him. No.
Mike: KUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHN! No.
Tom: I think Greg Jennings will have a good game. Let's say six receptions for around 100 yards and a score. That's an over.
Mike: If there's anyone on the Steelers that can cover Jennings, it's Taylor. That's a big if. Over.
Tom: Am I entirely consistent in saying I like Driver to score the first touchdown and Jennings to score a touchdown, and Rodgers to only throw one touchdown pass? Well, no, but I wasn't consistent in picking the Colts to win and Brees to win MVP last year, and that latter worked out for me. Yes.
Mike: Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Yes.
Tom: I'm probably unfairly dismissing Driver because of Ward's age, and I don't think his skill set is a great fit for exploiting the Steelers defense, but I'm still going under.
Mike: Forty-six yards is a lot against this defense. Under.
Tom: I've already said I like the odds on him, so I'll be somewhat internally consistent. Yes.
Mike: Probably not. No.
Tom: Is this actual receiving yards, or "receiving yards James Jones should have had, if he was actually better at catching the ball"? I'm assuming the former, so under.
Mike: No metaphysics? Aw, I was giving Jennings credit for the inescapable Taylor mega-DPI. Receivers who are successful against the Steelers need to run good routes (to find the holes in their zones) and have sure hands (to hold on after the defensive back plasters them). Jones loses out on both counts. Under.
Tom: I don't really think of him as a red-zone threat, probably because I don't think he has good hands. No.
Mike: Absolutely not. No.
Tom: Hm, Hawk had 111 tackles in the regular season despite not starting a game, but has only had 11 tackles in the postseason. I guess I'll go with under and hope it's a trend.
Mike: Games started is kind of a useless statistic for defenders in a hybrid system. I think Hawk is going to be cleaning up a lot of unsuccessful Mendenhall runs, so I'll go with the over.
Tom: Sixty tackles in 15 games, and 13 in the postseason. Those both call for under.
Mike: I think Matthews, on the other hand, is going to be very frustrated. He'll be gunning for Roethlisberger all night, and while he'll get to him a few times, this will probably remove him as a major factor. Under.
Tom: Woodson had 92 tackles this year? I definitely wouldn't have guessed he had that many. I'll go with over just so I can have the same number of overs and unders.
Mike: Woodson plays a weird freelancing safety position in many Green Bay plays. Of course, weird positions is par for the course in the defense. That said, I think they'll keep him in pretty strict man, just because Wallace is a significant threat that Green Bay must neutralize. This means more defenses and fewer tackles. Under.
Tom: I think it's likely, but not -190 likely. Under.
Mike: Have you seen this offensive line? Over.
Tom: Only 7.5 sacks in 19 games, including the postseason. Under.
Mike: The Steelers don't get beat that often on a purely interior rush, and Roethlisberger doesn't take coverage sacks lightly. I'm not big on Raji's chances. Under.
Tom: I'm expecting at least one, maybe two interceptions of Roethlisberger, so I'll play darts here. I'm being conservative and don't want to lose -400, so I'll go with yes.
Mike: I think Woodson is a more likely recipient, regardless of how well Williams is playing. No.
Tom: No, I'm not expecting both Green Bay corners to end up with an interception, as Nick Collins will probably end up with one of the interceptions, but I'm still saying yes.
Mike: I guess I already answered this one. Yes.
Tom: Twenty-four points, three extra points and a field goal. Under.
Mike: Pittsburgh has a scary red-zone defense. Two field goals and a few extra points would make the game about as high scoring as I imagine it being, so I'll stick to the under.
Tom: No, he will not.
Mike: Crosby has good accuracy. No.
Tom: Jennings will have the most catches, so I'll go with him.
Mike: Dumpoff time! James Starks.
Tom: Aaron Rodgers will throw more, so I'll go with him.
Mike: I like the odds on Ben Roethlisberger.
Tom: Rodgers won't throw any, so this is an easy Ben Roethlisberger.
Mike: Jitters! (They're like magic beans.) Aaron Rodgers.
Tom: I don't really care if this is 25.5 or 50.5, I'm going with Rashard Mendenhall.
Mike: That's pretty significant -- 25.5 yards. That said, I don't think that Green Bay will find much success running the ball. Will they find within 25 yards of Pittsburgh's total? Eh, probably. James Starks.
Tom: They'll both have good games. I think Mike Wallace will do just enough to cover.
Mike: I like Wallace's chances of winning this outright. With 10 extra yards, it's a shoo-in. Mike Wallace.
Tom: Pittsburgh will have the ball first, so Mike Wallace's superior odds and my belief he'll have more total make him the pick.
Mike: Wallace's early looks are all going to be low-percentage deep shots, so I don't like his chances on this one. The odds aren't that good. Greg Jennings
Tom: Again, the Steelers will have the ball first, so I'll go with Hines Ward.
Mike: I remember talking about Hines Ward third-down miracles, so I may as well stick with the program. Hines Ward..
Tom: I've already stated my belief Shaun Suisham will have more points.
Mike: Half a point is really the book just describing an extra point, so this one comes down to the odds. Mason Crosby.
Tom: Desmond Bishop, as you might infer from previous selections.
Mike: I'll go with another "Gee, wouldn't it be great if the Packers tried to run the ball" pick and take James Farrior.
Tom: A.J. Hawk may be the guy who gets exploited in pass defense against Miller. I wonder if he'd be playing if the Packers were better able to play 3-3-5 instead of the 2-4-5.
Mike: As much as I love Larry Timmy, I have to agree with Tom's reasoning. A.J. Hawk.
Tom: Aaron Rodgers is going over 300, so he'll cover this.
Mike: I already said I didn't think Rodgers would get 275 yards. Stop asking me the same questions, foolish betting machine! Brett Favre Super Bowl XXXI.
Mike: I already took the under on two touchdowns for Rodgers, which really annoyed me as a bet because my play of choice would be "push." Pushes are lame. This bet is also lame, because it's the same bet, but with Brett Favre. Seriously, haven't we had enough? Brett Favre Super Bowl XXXI.
Tom: This may end up a push, but I'll go with Brett Favre.
Tom: Rodgers is at 63.2, so this is a very narrow Brett Favre edge.
Mike: Wow, I completely forgot how awful Favre's completion percentage was. His average, 63.2 percent, is probably attainable. I think the Steelers are going to allow a decent amount of stuff underneath, and Rodgers is going to find his outlets often in the face of the pass rush. Aaron Rodgers Super Bowl XLV.
Tom: Super Bowl XLV is an easy call for me.
Mike: Will Roethlisberger get more than 123 yards? Almost certainly. Will he get over 238.5? OK, you know what, they went to the trouble of making this bet (238.5) different from the raw yardage for Roethlisberger (240.5), so I'm going for it. You heard it here, folks: Roethlisberger will throw for either 239 or 240 yards. Ben Roethlisberger Super Bowl XLV.
Tom: Again, he's going around 300. Super Bowl XLV.
Mike: In this one, they have Roethlisberger throwing for at least 240.5. We have already established that he will throw for between 239 and 240 yards (inclusive). Easy to go with Ben Roethlisberger Super Bowl XLIII.
Tom: I don't care about the NBA. Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mike: The Heat play basketball, right? So it stands to reason that someone engaged in a contest with them would also be engaging in the practice of basketball. I'm guessing that rebounding is a frequent occurrence, and this guy is some kind of 7-foot monster, so sure, we'll go with Blake Griffin Rebounds.
Tom: The reasonable range for NBA games in my mind exceeds the reasonable expected point range for this Super Bowl. Magic-Celtics is the pick.
Mike: No matter how close a basketball game gets, in my experience of watching games (literally ones of games!) things get close at the end due to the eventual loser fouling the team's worst free-throw shooter repeatedly over 45 minutes of real time. I'll go with Super Bowl XLV.
Mike: Since this one goes past the Super Bowl weekend, it's not part of our picks. On the other hand, this is probably the most hilarious bet of them all. I mean, who would pick the Pirates to win anything?
Tom: Dwight Howard is a 58 percent free throw shooter. His percentage + 6 = 64, which is greater than 63.
Mike: I take it Dwight Howard isn't one of those guys that gets fouled a lot, then. I think Rodgers is going to have a high-percentage, low-yardage game, but it seems to me that a basketball player with good field goal numbers would have a high free throw percentage (I didn't bother looking up his actual percentage, just to make things more fun). Dwight Howard.
Tom: Ohio State plays Minnesota, which is an excellent two-point defending team and has a solid rotation of big men. Still, I'm expecting little enough from Quarless I'll still go with Jared Sullinger.
Mike: Apparently two2-point defending is bad for OSU, but not as bad as Pittsburgh's zones are for Andrew Quarless.
Mike: Seriously, where are all the hockey prop bets? I already said that Green Bay won't score much in the first half, so people will yell at me if I don't choose LeBron James.
Tom: It's the Clippers, so LeBron James will work hard in the first half and relax in the second.
Tom: A close call, but I'll go with Ben Roethlisberger because of the slight odds edge.
Mike: Crosby has been a points machine this year. Roethlisberger is likely going to be behind the Steelers scoring in this game. Tough call. Sidney Crosby.
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