01/19/2012 3:36PM

Tuley: Ravens defense can stop Patriots


LAS VEGAS – Sports is the best reality TV out there.

There’s breakups and makeups. One day you’re smelling like a rose and the next you’re booted off the island. You never know what’s going to happen next, and that’s even more true with sports compared with some of the lame shows with plot twists that you can see coming from a mile away.

Look at the NFL for example. All of the talk last week (well, besides the Tebow sideshow) was about the Packers looking like they were rolling on their way to back-to-back championships, and if they stumbled you had the Saints, who everyone seemed to be thinking was the second-best team. The Packers were the 9-5 favorite at the LVH – Las Vegas Hotel & Casino (formerly known as the Hilton) with the Patriots at 5-2 and the Saints at 4-1, but the only reason the Saints’ odds were higher than the Pats’ was because they supposedly had to go through Green Bay first. The LVH also has a generic Super Bowl line in which the NFC had risen to a 4.5-point favorite vs. the AFC with an over/under of 54.5 on the thought that either the Packers or Saints would be there.

Well, that all changed in the course of a few hours over two days last weekend. On Saturday, the 49ers eliminated the Saints 36-32 in a smashmouth game that turned into a shootout and the Patriots rolled over the Broncos 45-10 to solidify their hold as the second choice. After the Ravens held off the Texans 20-13 on Sunday, the Giants really upset the apple cart by sending the Packers packing in a 37-20 rout.

After the final four was set, LVH made the Patriots the odds-on 10-11 favorite to win the Super Bowl with the 49ers and Giants both at 7-2 and the Ravens at 6-1. The generic line was also adjusted the AFC –4 vs. the NFC with the over/under dropping to 50. The four potential Super Bowl lines based on this weekend’s winners are expected to be Patriots –6 vs. 49ers, Patriots –4.5 vs. Giants, Ravens -1 vs. 49ers and Ravens –1 or maybe pick-em vs. the Giants.

During the course of the week, money has come in on the 49ers and Giants, who were both down to 3-1 as of Thursday morning with the price on the Patriots raised to +110. The Ravens remain 6-1.

Now, if those futures aren’t far enough in the future for you, the LVH also posted their Super Bowl futures for next year in New Orleans. They made the Packers the 5-1 favorite with the Saints at 6-1 (this year’s champ be damned), followed by the Patriots at 8-1; Steelers, Eagles, and Ravens at 12-1; Texans and Chargers at 15-1; and the 49ers, Giants, Cowboys, Jets, Falcons, and Lions all at 20-1.

Back to the betting board

I went 2 for 4 last week, losing both games Saturday, but winning both Sunday. On Saturday, the Saints-49ers went over the total of 47.5 late in their game and the Broncos failed to cover, but then on Sunday the Texans covered the 7.5-point spread in a 20-13 loss to the Ravens and the Giants beat the Packers outright.

Ravens +7 vs. Patriots

This line opened Pats –7 at several books here in Vegas last Sunday (and as low as –6.5 offshore) and was quickly bet to 7.5. The reasons I heard most (from sharps and squares alike) was that the Ravens didn’t look good in their win over the Texans, while the Patriots blew out the Broncos. I made the line on this game Pats –6, and maybe I was biased since I had the Texans plus the points versus the Ravens, but I felt they beat a very good team and that this line shouldn’t be over a touchdown (not that I’m complaining as I grabbed the +7.5 and advised all my followers at ViewFromVegas.com and on Twitter to do the same).

The line has since been bet back down to 7, but I still believe the Ravens are the right side. Yes, the Ravens weren’t clicking on offense against Houston, but that’s a solid defensive unit and I don’t see them having any problems moving the ball this week. Even though the Pats have been playing a little better on defense lately, they still ranked No. 31 in the league this season. We saw how the Packers’ defensive deficiencies caught up with them last week. And while the Pats can certainly score on anyone, the Ravens’ have the type of defense to be physical with them and make enough stops to keep them in the game.

PLAY: Ravens for 1 unit.

49ers -2.5 vs. Giants

Oddsmakers had a much bigger difference of opinion on this game as it opened pick-em at the LVH and 49ers –1 at several other books, but a few offshore books even went with Giants –1 before flipping to the 49ers as the favorite. Early money flowed in on the 49ers and it pretty much settled at 2.5 by Monday morning. Several people (including LVH’s Jay Kornegay) have predicted public money will come in on the Giants and push the line back towards pick-em, but it was sitting pretty solid as of noon Thursday.

I made the line 49ers –3 (and was really thinking it should be –3.5 or –4 but moved it down after the Giants’ win), so, yes, I like the favorite and made sure to grab it in case the line went to 3. I understand all the people saying the Giants look like the 2007-08 team and are peaking at the right time. In fact, this is usually a spot where I would love the hot dog, but I don’t think enough respect is being given to the 49ers’ 8-1 home record and 8-0-1 against the spread. And while the Giants certainly were impressive by going into Lambeau Field and knocking off the Packers, the 49ers’ win over the Saints was equally impressive: First, they pretty much shut them down (and have a better-than-decent chance to do that to the Giants) and then matched them score for score in a wild finish.

PLAY: 49ers for 1 unit.

NFL playoffs record: 4-4 for net loss of 0.4 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1).