Well, yesterday didn’t go to plan, which has been the story of the last few weeks, I think i’m doing the right research, and making the correct picks, but things really aren’t going well on the field for us. The Seahawks blew out the Lions scoring 16 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to win 26-6, the apparently inept Seahawks run game suddenly sprang into life, with Rawls going for 161 yards from 27 attempts. He’s a good running back, and one I drafted in a few fantasy leagues, but he’s really not been very good this year, maybe this will help them in get to the Superbowl? Although a road match next week against the Falcons will make that difficult. Because of Rawls success, Wilson didn’t need to rush, so missed out on his yards, just to mock my choice, he finished with -3 yards. The Lions being crap ruined the Tate, and the Boldin bet. So all in all, not great there. The AFC match wasn’t as low scoring as predicted, but the Raiders couldn’t get anything going. Rookie QB Connor Cook looked way out of his depth, throwing 3 interceptions, and only completing 18 of 45 attempts. That essentially wiped out any chance of Cooper or Crabtree scoring, in fairness, I wasn’t as ashamed of the tips for this match, despite them losing, they were always going to be a stretch, but at 5/2 for each of them, I thought it was worth a punt. I did however think the first half totals was a good shout, I thought the Raiders would play it simple and try to control the ball, I also thought the Raiders defence would be enough to contain one of the worst QBs ever, but apparently he had a decent game and screwed that up too. So… on to tonight with a sense of foreboding.
The 10 win Miami Dolphins travel up to Heinz field to take on the talented scumbags of the AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Steelers are 13 point favourites and the line is set to 45.5. That’s a huge handicap, and it’s been rising all week from 10 earlier on. I can’t take the Steelers to win by 2 TDs, although it could well happen. The totals? Yeah, that’s about right, I’d probably lean towards the overs there. The killer Bs are back for them this week after Big Ben, Lev Bell and Antonio Brown were rested against Cleveland last week, they’ll be fresh and ready to try and destroy the Dolphins, it will be the first time they’ve been able to field the 3 of them together in a playoff game. Bell has probably been the best running back in the league (although I prefer D.Johnson) and he’s not really been stopped by anyone, only falling below 100 combined yards once all season, and scoring 9 TDs in the last 7 games, including a hat trick in the game he blew up against the Bills, 298 combined yards in that one! Big Ben has some crazy home-road splits, he just doesn’t perform very well away from Pitt. However… At home, he’s dynamite, averaging nearly 3 TDs and around 340 yards per game. It’s worth saying he’s not been his usual self this season, but with Bell performing as well as he has, Ben hasn’t needed to be the leagues best, unsurprisingly his favourite target has been Antonio Brown, again, one of the top 3 at his position in the league, as with Ben, he hasn’t performed to his heights, but Bell being there has limited his numbers somewhat… He has still gone for over 1,200 yards and 12 TDs, so it may sound like i’m just a bitter Bengals fan, but he has the ability to hit 1,800+ yards if things fall right for him. Again Lev being there for the whole season ‘limited’ him somewhat. Brown had his worst game of the season against the Dolphins in their match up earlier this year, that was against Byron Maxwell, and in Miami, this time around Maxwell is injured, and it’s at home. The last 2 weeks without Maxwell the Fins gave up 154 and 151 yards to a limping Sammy Watkins and Julian Edelman. It all looks positive for Brown and the Steelers! Eli Rogers looks a good matchup for tonight too, Ladarius Green is out again with concussion, that guy can’t catch a break, and in Greens absence this year Rogers has averaged 7 targets and 82 yards. That Rogers injury also means that Jesse James gets a bump, the Dolphins are without their 2 best safeties, so he could be a long shot to get into the end zone this week too. The more I read and write about this match, the more I think the Steelers could easily top the 13 point handicap!
The Dolphins did comprehensively beat the Steelers earlier in the year, although, as said above, that was in Miami, and a completely different prospect. That game was Jay Ajayi’s welcome to the league, he ran for over 200 yards and got his only multiple TD game of the year, and averaged 8.2 yards per carry. He has slowed a bit in the last couple of months of the season, mainly due to his offensive line getting a bit beaten up, however, he did add another 200 yard game a couple of weeks ago against the Bills, and getting only his 1st TD in the last 5 games, the Dolphins won that first match up by controlling the clock and keeping the Steelers off the field. They will struggle to do that again because the Steelers defence is much improved since that game, their rookies have stepped up, and Bud Dupree is back and playing well. Ryan Shazier is one of the best line backers in the league, and playing as well as he has all season, all in all it will be a tough ask for Miami to get points on the board, especially with Matt Moore under centre. He’s actually a pretty good QB, and would be a better starter than at least two of the other teams who made the playoffs have. They have averaged over 27 points with him in control. Kenny Stills has seen better numbers since Moore took over, amazingly he has scored a TD in each of the last 4 matches to take him to 9 on the season, he doesn’t catch a huge amount of passes, but the ones he does get are money shots. Jarvis Landry still gets the most of the ball in the passing game, he’s scored 2 in the last 3, and since Moore came in, 79 yards per game, if the game is high scoring as expected, and the Dolphins fail to control the game on the ground, then Landry should be the main beneficiary. Devante Parker looked like he’d be having a break out year, but injury has slowed him considerably, he will probably face the toughest CB on the Steelers roster, so i’ll probably be avoiding him.
- Points scored in every quarter – 1/2 (Skybet) – 10 points.
- Eli Rogers o41.5 rec. yards – 5/6 (365) – 2pts
- Roethlisberger o278.5 passing yards – 4/5 (365) – 2pts
- Lev Bell and Kenny Stills to score – 9/2 (1 of 2 with Beckham and Nelson)
The late night match is probably the game of the weekend, Packers enter as 5.5 point favourites and the total is set to 44.5. The Pack are the hottest team in the league and go up against a team that have mostly stumbled through the season and rode the coattails of one Odell Beckham Jnr. The Pack and Giants have already played this year and Green Bay won 23-16. The game sounds much closer than it actually was as the Giants managed a meagre 221 yards of offense. Which, if you weren’t sure, is terrible. The Packers gained 185 yards more and dominated time of possession. The strength of this Green Bay team? Aaron Rodgers. His nimble feet and rocket arm have carried Green Bay for years and never more so than this season. To put his career in perspective, of the 9 years as a starter, Rodgers has posted a passer rating over 100 in 7 of those 9 years, including this year passing for 4428 yards and 40 TD’s to just 7 interceptions. That is insanely good. Last year, his perceived ‘off year’ he posted a passer rating of 93 which is still pretty damn good. He is also the only QB in NFL history to have a career passer rating over 100.The next 2 are Peyton Manning and Steve Young who are of course, Hall of Famers. Rodgers will be the man firing to his arsenal of weapons. I will happily say that I was completely wrong about Jordy Nelson this year. He has found his mojo and along with Davante Adams, they have the most combined touchdowns as a WR pairing with 26 of Rodgers 40 scores. Nelson and Adams are all but locks to receive the bulk of the targets so both are likely to score (as long as Adams doesn’t drop any more touchdowns that is). If, and it’s a big if, New York’s vaunted secondary are able to contain Nelson and Adams, they still have weapons like Ty Montgomery, Geronimo Allison, Jeff Janis and Jared Cook. Might seem obvious but Jared Cook is the real game changer in this one. His matchup with the NY linebackers and safeties will be key. Given the focus on the wide receivers, I would be extremely surprised if Cook doesn’t score at least once and dominate over the middle of the field. Ty Montgomery is set for a decent game as the sole running back with fullback Aaron Ripkowski filling in. Green Bay has historically got great production out of their full backs so Ripkowski is a great shout in goal line situations this week. Superstar in the making Landon Collins at safety leads the expensive but now great New York defence. Their stats show that they have been extremely stingy in the run game (88 yards a game) but their pass defence has been victimised on occasion and are only 23rd in passing yards. This all but plays into Green Bay’s strengths and we have seen all year that Rodgers does not need a run game to be successful. For all intents and purposes, with how on fire Rodgers has been, I don’t see a scenario or set of circumstances, other than injury that sees the Giants contain the Packers offense. The key then becomes the Giants offense and Packers defence. Eli Manning has been criticised heavily this year for virtually hand cuffing what should have been a dynamic passing game. Any attack with Odell Beckham as it’s primary pass catcher should be explosive but they see themselves 26th in scoring and 25th in yards per game. They have lacked an identity all year and the severe lack of a running game has greatly affected their ability to extend drives and work closer than 3rd and long. Manning is traditionally a streaky passer but outside of his superbowl wins, his career passer rating is 83, a full 21 points lower than his esteemed QB opponent. The run games for both teams have been generally bad, with neither having a starting player run for more than 600 yards over the course of the season. injuries and poor play permitting, the run game might just be the most important aspect of this game depending on how cold the weather gets. So it is worth keeping an eye out on the weather report. Of all the deficiencies of the Giants QB, that has not stopped Odell Beckham stomping, kicking and barking his way to the tune of 1300 yards and 10 scores. He and Sterling Sheperd are the go to guys with Beckham getting the volume of targets but Sheperd tends to get more looks in the redzone. The Green Bay secondary has literally been torched by wide receivers in recent weeks so Eli has to be hot in this one for them to stay close. On paper the Packers have one of the least effective defensive units but when your offence is so darn good, you can kind of get away with it. A great stat I saw was that the Packers are 10-1 when their defence holds the opposing team to under 30 points. THIRTY. Holding?! That is an incredible statistic that just cannot be ignored. Basically when the Packers offense is hot, which they are riding a 6 game winning streak, you have to score more than 30 points to have a chance to win. The New York Giants, as they have miserably shown all year, aren’t very good at that, posting 0 games over 30 points and less than 20 points in their last 5. The Giants have proved over the years that the underdog tag suits them very well, winning 2 Superbowls in the Manning era, coincidentally going to Lambeau and winning on the way to both of those wins, and Eli is 7-0 as an underdog in the playoffs, however, this Packers team are just too good. I don’t think it will be a blowout but even this New York defence won’t be able to contain Aaron Rodgers who hasn’t thrown an interception since week 10 and has 18 touchdowns and 2000 yards in that same time span. I’ve not even talked about the Green Bay offensive line which is one of the top 2 lines outside of Dallas in the NFL. Oh and they are at Lambeau Field where Green Bay are 56-16 with Rodgers at QB.
- Cook anytime – 11/4 (unibet) 1pt
- Cook o38.5 rec. yards – 4/6 (365)- 3pts
- Beckham longest pass received – o27.5 – 8/11 (365) 3pts
- Paul Perkins rush yards o52.5 – 10/11 (skybet) 2pts
- Ripkowski anytime – 5/1 (skybet) – 1pt
- Nelson and Beckham anytime – 4/1 2pts as a single (2/2 on the double – 26.5/1 for that – 1pt)
I’ve argued with myself over Ty Montgomery or Paul Perkins rush yards, Ty is set at 44.5 yards, and Perkins you can get at 48.5 (8/11 on 365) They’re not high figures, so may well be worth a shout, especially if it’s chilly up there, and 12 Fahrenheit isn’t exactly tropical. But Montgomery had that one blow up match vs Chicago then two duds, so I feel Perkins increased workload recently is more reliable.
So that wraps it up for the wild card weekend. Looks like it will be the Patriots hosting the Texans, Steelers travelling to the Chiefs. The Seahawks going to Atlanta, and probably… the Packers in a cracker against the Cowboys.
Apologise for the poor results over recent weeks, I honestly think i’m picking the right things, obviously, I wouldn’t suggest them otherwise, but haven’t been getting any breaks. Fingers crossed that changes tonight, and good luck if you follow anything. I think the Steelers game points in every quarter is a banker, hence the 10 pt stake. Cook anytime is a bit of a stretch, he doesn’t score many, but as Jay said, he should have a good matchup. Beckham could well go off, but his yards are set around 100, so I’m not willing to tip that, hence going for the longest catch instead. His ability to run after the catch, against a bum secondary will be vital for the Giants.