We're at that point of the season where like the line or not, you're sort of obligated to pick the games. So that's what we'll do -- pick both of them.
It's real simple. The Patriots are just about a two-touchdown favorite over the Chargers and the Packers are about a one-touchdown favorite over the Giants. The games, of course, are at Gillette and Lambeau.
From what I've read from some sports books, the public has been heavy on Green Bay. But even though the money has come in that way, it hasn't moved the spread much at all. It has been stuck on 7, 7 1/2. The Patriots have drawn only fractionally more money than the Chargers, again from the reports I've seen, and the line has barely quivered after starting at 14 1/2 and settling in at 14, 14 1/2. Of course, with those types of lines where you have multiples of exactly a touchdown, a half-point can be huge, so if you're picking these games, you'd want to go shopping.
San Diego at New England (-14, -14 1/2, over/under consensus 46 1/2). In the real world, I'd never pick this game. How can you when you don't know who's playing for one of the teams? But let's assume that the Chargers have everybody in the lineup. For San Diego to be in this game at all, that defense has to have an enormous day and it has to get turnovers. The Chargers have to throw the kitchen sink at Tom Brady. At this point, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, it doesn't matter whether you get beat by a field goal or 30 points. If they harass and manhandle Brady, the Chargers have a chance. Play him like Jacksonville did, and you die the death of a thousand cuts. OK, so if we can figure this out, so has Bill Belichick. So, the Patriots counter with max protection and challenge Antonio Cromartie and company with Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth deep and alternately toss in some screens. The Patriots haven't been covering in the last two months after starting out the season 8-0 ATS. I think San Diego keeps it close and the Pats pull away. Pick: Patriots, giving 14.
New York at Green Bay (-7, -7 1/2, over/under consensus 40). This is a game in which you have to factor in the weather. It's supposed to be bitterly cold in Green Bay but the wind doesn't look to be too bad and not much chance of snow. But this is Green Bay. Regardless of what happens here, Giants QB Eli Manning has earned some respect. Two playoff wins on the road coming out the NFC's fifth seed is gutsy stuff. But we're talking about the legend here -- Brett Favre. The Ice Man cometh. Favre doesn't like the wind, but the cold doesn't bother him. Again, this comes down to pressure on the quarterback. And no team has been bringing the pressure more effectively than the Giants. Favre takes chances and often he's a hero, although sometimes it can backfire. That's what the Giants have to hope for. Pick: Packers, giving 7.