Last weekend saw 4 of the longest playoff droughts ended and 8 of the 12 teams in the post-season weren’t there last year, only the Chiefs, Steelers, Patriots and Falcons made it last year, a great show of the parity that the league strives for. Admittedly the Pats and Steelers are a fair way ahead of the rest of the other AFC teams, but the NFC is wide open this year. I have looked long and hard at these games, and while all the home teams are worthy favourites I could make an argument for any of the 4 losing this week. It’s actually around 200/1 for all 4 of the away teams to win!
Anyone who followed me last season knows that I used to do quite in-depth previews with my views on televised games, I haven’t had the time to do that this year with covering all the games, but with just 4 this week I’ve gone a little crazy. Well done if you get through all of it!
Sunday previews are here – Wildcard Weekend – Sunday Games – #GoBills @ #Jaguars, #Panthers @ #GoSaints
(5 seed) Tennessee Titans (+9) at K.C. Chiefs (4) – o/u 44.5
The Titans have a points differential of -22 on the season and frankly haven’t looked great all year, they took advantage of an easy schedule to get second place in the AFC South with a win against the Jags last week. There’s rumours that despite making the playoffs Head Coach Mike Mularky could be on the chopping block, and it’s clear to see why, they’ve been boring and he’s seeming playing an antiquated playbook every week, he’s got a QB who was one of the best in college from a high tempo game and playing one of the slowest games in the league and it’s not been pretty.
Marcus Mariota is still yet to throw a red-zone interception, but he has looked anything but convincing this season: admittedly he has had to struggle through injuries and hopefully the way he closed off the game last week against the Jags with his legs was a good sign for them. While he hasn’t thrown an interception in the redzone, he did however finish with more interceptions than touchdowns on the season which is an indictment to how they’ve been playing this year. A big disappointment after recruiting Eric Decker and Corey Davis over the summer to add strength to their receiver corps
DeMarco Murray has been ruled out for this game so it will be Derrick Henry backfield once again. Something that a lot of people have been asking for all season. He had it to himself last week and despite a pretty dreadful game on the ground, averaging under 2 yards per carry (51 yards from a huge 28 attempts), he reportedly actually played pretty well and was hit a lot in the backfield. He did get a touchdown through the air, breaking a dump off for 66 yards so he is a valid weapon there as well. They should be able to keep the game close enough that he’ll get a heavy workload again and
Skybet have his yards at 65.5 Bet365 have his yards up at 67.5 – 4/5. He should be able to go over that, but I’m waiting to see what line elsewhere put up. The bookies are being very slow with it all once again.
The passing game for the Titans has been a bit of a mess, but this is a decent matchup for them, it’s just a case of trying to figure out who’s going to get the ball. Legendary old man Tight end Delanie Walker is their leading receiver on the year with 807 yards but just the 3 touchdowns. As I said above, it’s a weird one given the talent they seemingly have at WR. Corey Davis broke records in college but hasn’t been able to get going after missing a lot of camp and early season with a hamstring injury, Rishard Matthews was at nearly 1,000 yards last year but he has also suffered with injury and since coming back has found his workload being shared around. Eric Decker had at least 5 TDs in the seasons he played all the way through and was always a reliable red zone target for the Jets but he’s not really got going in Nashville, although his target share has been rising in recent weeks. Trying to figure out who will get Marcus Peters and who will get the easier task against their slot corner and the other side is a little more difficult. I may be wrong, but I think Decker plays inside more and Matthews is usually used on the outside, so in theory Matthews will probably get more of Marcus Peters, meaning the the line of 39.5 yards for Decker is a tempting one. Him scoring anytime is more of a stretch seeing as he’s only got one this season!
Their defence has been distinctly average all season, but rookie speedster Adoree Jackson has been improving and they are 3rd best in the league at preventing passes of over 20 yards this season, they’ll need to prove they are worthy of that ranking to stop Tyreek Hill. Their run defence is also one of the better units in the league, they’ve actually only allowed 1 rushing TD since week 12! Although they can be hurt by RBs catching the ball in the backfield.
The Chiefs have had a weird season, starting 5-0, falling apart in the middle, then being able to rest players and win last week having wrapped up the division the week before with a comfortable win against the Chargers, Smith, Hill and Kelce were completely rested and Kareem Hunt was supposed to be until injuries meant he had to get a carry.
They played Patrick Mahomes at QB last week who looked everything people expected after a rough start. That should put a little pressure on Alex Smith to prove himself. He started the season on fire and many attributed that to the knowledge that this is possibly his last year and knowing he had a promising youngster behind him waiting in the wings. With Matt Nagy now calling the plays for the Chiefs they have been looking to run Kareem Hunt more and that’s helped Smith as well.
Kareem Hunt had 1 carry, for 35 yards and a touchdown last week, it took him to the top of the rushing charts for the season. Since Nagy took over he has looked a lot better and has had a much bigger workload than he had for the 2 months before that. He’s shown what he can do with it by scoring in 4 consecutive games now with 25,24 and 29 carries in the 3 games he was fully playing. Bet365 have his rush attempts at o18.5 – That seems like it will be a sure-fire winner at 4/5.
The pass catchers have had good seasons with Hill and Kelce both topping the 1,000 yard mark, and scoring 7 and 8 TDs respectively. Hill has rounded into a reliable receiver in all facets, but his blistering speed is still his main asset, he holds 3 of the top 5 speeds on touchdowns this season, all a touch over 21 MPH, as I said with the Titans defence, this is where they’ve actually done a pretty good job, but I don’t think they’ve faced anyone like Hill all season. Kelce, or Baby Gronk as he loves to be known has had a good year and pretty much cemented his place as the 2nd best tight end in the league, he’s averaged 5.5 catches per game, which unsurprisingly is usually where the bookies put his reception line. This should be a good game for him, I’ve heard a lot of hype that he’s going to blow up, but his line is a touch high at 70.5 on Skybet at the moment so he’s a swerve for me. Albert Wilson is an interesting one should he make it through the week, he had the best game of his career last week (10 for 147) with the main guys rested and is the WR2 in the team, he did suffer a hamstring strain and is questionable for this weekend, but reports suggest he’ll be a go. His line is at 39.5 and I think he’ll be around there. There’s a few other guys who catch passes, but they’re hard to call and in the playoffs you hit your big guys.
The Chiefs defence is a solid unit with Marcus Peters as the standout player, they are weak against slot receivers though. But as a unit they haven’t allowed more than 20 points in a home game for 14 straight now so will be a tough test for a mis-firing Titans team. The Titans have a team total of 17.5 at 365. I think they’ll struggle to get to that actually.
Surprisingly to me, The last 5 games between these two teams at Arrowhead have ended 4-1 in favour of the Titans. I don’t see that happening this time, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Titans cover the spread. I think it will be a low scoring game, so probably under the 44.5 line – The CHIEFS should win and probably set up an opening day re-match in Foxborough with the Patriots.
- Derrick Henry o67.5 rush yards – 4/5 (365)
- Eric Decker o39.5 rec. yards – 10/11 (Skybet)
- Kareem Hunt
o18.5 rush attempts – 4/5o19.5 rush attempts – 10/11 (365)
- Hunt anytime (1 of 4 in L15)
- Total Points – UNDER 44.5
2 points staked on each of the above. Hunt in L15 (at the bottom of this page) only.
(6) Atlanta Falcons (
+6.5 5.5) at L.A. Rams (3) – o/u – 48.5
It’s safe the say the NFC playoffs are a great deal more exciting on paper than the AFC especially this one which should be the game of the weekend, last years beaten finalists against the up and coming new kids on the block, the highest scoring team in the league this season and everyone’s darlings, The Rams.
The Falcons have looked a step off this season with Steve Sarkesian calling the shots. Despite keeping a lot of similar plays he doesn’t seem to have the dynamism and eye that Shanahan had last year (and is proving he has in SF) But it took Matt Ryan a year to learn the Shanahan offence so maybe he just picks things up a little slower and will look better next year? Either way he hasn’t been great and has only topped 300 yards once in the last 5 games. He has been a little unlucky though, there have been a lot of tipped balls or passes bouncing off of his receivers.
Julio Jones is one of the best (it’s between him and Brown) receivers in the league and has easily topped 1,000 yards this year, he’s a frustrating player to back though, especially as high line is always set in the 90s (94.5 this week) He is below that most weeks, but then he’ll go and have a 250 yard game out of nowhere and prove you foolish if you go for the unders, this week he should be on track for a decent game, the Rams cornerbacks aren’t awful but they’re not elite either. If they double team Julio which they may well do then it should open things up for Mo. Sanu, the former Bengal is having a good year and received his highest targets of the year last week finishing with 71 from 7 receptions on 11 targets. He would have had a TD too had it not been for Julios arse, he’s another who is frustrating to bet on though, his line is 54.5 on Skybet at the moment, I will hold off and hope for somewhere to offer below 50 then consider the overs on it, 21/10 for him to score anytime is tempting though. Other than those two it’s a bit of a mess again, Justin Hardy is probably the other to look at, but 220 yards and 3 TDs on the season isn’t anything to put any money on. Taylor Gabriel is a speedster with talent but doesn’t get enough of the ball. Oh… Tight end. Austin Hooper was a big guy in the Superbowl for them last year and has had a fairly solid 4 or so targets per game but doesn’t put up many yards and has only scored 3 TDs, his last was around 2 months ago.
They have one of the best running back duos in the league with Freeman and Coleman, although Freeman is carrying a knock and was limited in practise on Wednesday, so I would expect him to play this weekend. He’s another who should probably get the ball more as he’s one of the best runners in the league. But he shares the load pretty evenly with Coleman (they actually had identical 23 from 11 carries last week) So is once again, tough to call what kind of workload either of them will get. Freeman is the shorter odds to score, but I won’t be putting any money on either of them.
Their Defence? It’s a quick, young unit that I thought would really improve this season but they’ve failed to really show that in most games although they have only conceded more than 23 points twice this season and that was in Seattle, and against the Lions very early on. 23 points to New Orleans in probably their biggest test in the last month or two was more than respectable.
The Rams were able to rest their best guys last week, and were probably hoping to lose to avoid Minnesota in the next round, but everyone else lost as well, so here they are. Goff and Gurley both sat along with their offensive line, and pass catchers so they’ll all be nicely rested and ready to go this week.
Jared Goff has shown great improvement this season with a coach who actually tries to win games, and an offensive line that can actually block for him. He’s been able to survey the field and find the open man more often than not. There’s not a whole lot more to say about him really, he’s had a good season, but the numbers aren’t amazing. He has recorded 2 or more TDs in his last 5 games, and 7 of his last 8 games though and now has his favourite target fully fit.
Goff’s favourite target this season (other than Gurley) has been Robert Woods, he’s had a great season and became the man that Goff likes to look for in most circumstances and he has been pretty reliable most of the time. I thought his line would be set at around 60 and I was spot on at 60.5 so unfortunately nothing there for me. The rookie Cooper Kupp has also formed a good relationship with Goff and is the most targeted player in the red zone for the team with more than double that of any of his team mates, although he has only scored 5 TDs this season so 21/10 is probably a little skinny for him, but the targets are there. Sammy Watkins was expected to come in and be the #1 for them but he’s been hit and miss as more of a downfield threat for the team. He leads the receivers with 8 scores and 4 in his last 5 games, he’s 7/4 at Unibet. There’s not a whole lot to talk about from their tight ends, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett aren’t really used much by the team.
Todd Gurley is being mentioned in the same breath as Tom Brady as a potential MVP candidate, I don’t think he’ll get it, but he has had a brilliant season with over 2,000 combined yards, and has scored 8 TDs in his last 3 games, it’s boosted Goffs numbers too as a lot of his yards have come from dump offs with Gurley doing the rest. His 19 TDs on the season lead the league comfortably (Kamara is second with 14) His rushing line is set to 89.5. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him clear that, we know he’s going to get a lot of the ball, but will it be from short catches or rushes? It gives me pause. And at 1/2 to score anytime the best I can do is put him in my L15 for the weekend, he’s also a horrible 15/8 for 2 or more as well.
Their defence benefits from the offence scoring so many points, it sets them up nicely to apply pressure on opposition QBs and that helps everywhere in the defence. Aaron Donald being the main wrecker of plans for the opposition, he’s cemented himself as a top 3 defensive player and looks likely to get the DPOY award despite missing a few games at the start of the season.
Unsurprisingly given how poor the Rams were in Jeff Fisher years the Falcons are 5-2 in recent meeting. The Rams are a different team this year, they are this years Atlanta, they’ve had great health and it’s definitely benefiting them with this run. Will the fairy tale continue? – RAMS – The one thing to the detriment of the Rams is their inexperience in the playoffs, as a roster they’ve played the fewest games by quite some way. But I think they’ll win and probably cover the spread especially with it dropping over the last few days.
I don’t actually have a lot to go for on this game, they’re very popular, well known teams and as such the prices and the lines are very tight making it pretty tough to pick anything. Once there’s more yardage markets up I might be able to find something, but as only Skybet have them priced at the moment, I got nothing.
- Todd Gurley anytime TD – 1/2 (Ladbrokes) (2/4 on my L15)
And that’s about it really. I think Cooper Kupp will beat his line but it’s not one I want to risk any cash on.
(It could possibly be better to wait for 365 and PP to offer yardage markets on at least the Titans game, but these lines are good enough for me, and wanting to get this post out early enough)
- Derrick Henry
o65.5 rush yards – 10/11 (Skybet)o67.5 – 4/5 (365)
- Eric Decker o39.5 rec. yards – 10/11 (Skybet)
- Kareem Hunt
o18.5o19.5 rush attempts – 4/510/11(365)
- Total Points – UNDER 44.5
- Kareem Hunt, Todd Gurley, Charles Clay, Michael Thomas – L15 (0.5 stake – 7.5 total) – Ladbrokes was best priced on them.