Updated on 09/16/2011 6:39AM

49ers can overcome Pack's home edge


Oddsmakers will tell you they can make NFL lines in their sleep.

Media coverage of the league is so intense that there are hardly any secrets about injuries or strategy, and there's so much information readily available that even the most casual fans can spout statistics and trends like an expert.

But oddsmakers can also project what the betting public is likely to do with a given number - is the public more likely to lay the 3 with the home team or take the 3 with the road dog? - and adjust accordingly to balance their books.

All of this is magnified at playoff time, and the lines for this weekend's NFL playoff games are tight as a drum. Valid arguments can be made for either side in each game, and totals are just as much of a coin flip.

But I can still analyze the matchups and come up with the more likely winners.

49ers (+3 1/2) at Packers

In every preview of this game, it is mentioned that Green Bay QB Brett Favre is 29-0 at home when the gametime temperature is 34 or below. What most people fail to mention is that San Francisco QB Jeff Garcia played in the Canadian Football League and won the 1998 Grey Cup in conditions that will make Green Bay seem balmy on Sunday. Another fact you hear is that the Packers have never lost a home playoff game, but the point that's missed is that the Packers were probably always the better team (since they had the home field) in those games and were supposed to win. I'm not so sure that's the case this time.

The 49ers have the offensive firepower to keep up with Favre and the Packers. The Green Bay defense has given up an average of 170 yards rushing the last four games, and now face the 49ers' No. 1-ranked rushing offense. That should help keep the pass rush off Garcia and give receivers Terrell Owens and J.J. Stokes time to get open deep. Favre will keep the Packers in the game, but he's facing a defense with a lot of confidence after registering three shutouts (although against the Bills, Dolphins, and Saints) and an average of 9.5 points in the last six games. Getting more than a field goal - and the line had moved to 4 at some sports books by Friday morning, so shop around for the best price - is a bonus.

Play: 49ers for 22 units (to win 20).

Ravens at Dolphins (under 33)

In my opinion, this was the hardest first-round game to handicap. With the Dolphins favored by 2 1/2 points, it's tempting to lay less than a field goal with the favorite, but just as tempting to take the defending Super Bowl champs and the points. Both teams can look awesome and then show their flaws the next week (though I guess that can be said for nearly all 31 teams in the league). But even when the offenses for these teams struggle, the defenses are both pretty solid. This shapes up as a defensive battle and so I'll look at the under, even though it's a low 33 points. Neither team should have much success running on the other's defense, but they'll stubbornly try.

That will shorten the game, along with the controlled passing games of both teams, which should keep the ball inbounds and run more time off the clock. Ravens QB Elvis Grbac is on the hot seat and he won't be taking many chances, just like in his game against the Vikings Monday night (when the Ravens' offense scored only 13 points and got very conservative in the red zone) to secure this playoff berth. Dolphins QB Jay Fiedler will also be playing it close to the vest, especially with deep threat WR Chris Chambers slowed by an ankle sprain. Expect more field goals than touchdowns.

Play: Ravens-Dolphins under 33 for 11 units.

Starting bankroll: 1,000 units.

Bankroll entering playoffs: 810 units.