LA Chargers (+3) @ Baltimore Ravens: 41.5
Another regular season re-match, and one that took place quite recently in LA with the Ravens coming out on top on that occasion. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing for either team in all fairness. It seems pretty obvious what the Ravens game plan is but that doesn’t mean it’s easily stopped, and the Ravens D is good enough to adapt and stop whatever is thrown at them.
The Chargers road form gives me hope that they can come out with the win, they’ve put up a few statement wins away from the Stub Hub, beating the Chiefs, Steelers, Seahawks and to a lesser extent Denver. The wins against the Chiefs and Steelers were particularly impressive coming from big deficits in the second half to win both. I will be referring a lot to the previous game against the Ravens as it’s fairly relevant!
It could well be the last good chance that Philip Rivers has to make/win a Superbowl. He’s been very good this year on the whole despite throwing and Interception on the first drive of the game in the last 3 games in a row which is quite ridiculous, and he’s finished with 2 in each of them. In fact, worryingly the last 3 weeks of the season have been his worst. That may well be down to not having a fit Melvin Gordon in those weeks but it’s a worry especially coming up against the Ravens on the road. I love Rivers, I like that he has his own style although it’s horrible to see it’s clearly very effective for him.
The passing game mainly uses Keenan Allen as the chain mover in the slot with the Williams bros. Tyrell and Mike used a lot in the deeper passing game and redzone. Allen has a low of 44 yards in any game this year, a breakout of 148 against the clueless Steelers who tried to defend him with linebackers. Tomlin is a moron. He’s been very consistent without doing anything too much that entices me on the betting front. Mike seems to have taken over redzone targets in recent weeks and he should do, they drafted him because he’s a big body with a good wingspan and gives Rivers that target, he was only targeted 3 times vs the Ravens though, catching 1 for 7 yards, in fact the whole passing game was pretty inept in their first matchup. Tyrell 1 for 12 from 2 targets. so frankly not a lot to go off there. Travis Benjamin adds a little extra downfield threat as well and has been involved more in the closing weeks of the season. The tight end position could be interesting this week as Hunter Henry is apparently a full participant in training after returning very quickly from a torn ACL. It will be interesting to see if he goes as he’s a very reliable target for Rivers in general. Old man Antonio Gates has filled in well enough in his absence but again, nothing really worth a bet.
Melvin Gordon for some reason was still in the game in the closing stages of a meaningless game last week and went off for a while with a knee injury but has been training fully all week so should be fine to go. He’s a top 10 RB in the league so they could definitely do with him being good to go. He’s scored 14 TDs this year, 10 on the ground and 4 through the air, and is equally adept at each. The previous game vs the Ravens they heavily targeted Justin Jackson (10) out of the backfield and he finished with 47 yards from 7 catches. Those targets will either go to Ekeler or Gordon in this one. Speaking of… Ekeler is a very good 3rd down back who had to try and step into RB1 status when Gordon was out, he’ll be better as the 2 of a 1-2 punch so should do well enough in this one, both he and Gordon scored last week.
The defense will have to play well to either get to, or keep an eye on Lamar Jackson when he runs. They a top 3 pass rush duo in Ingram and Bosa who will face a challenge against the Ravens O-line and their 17 Tight end sets. They actually allowed Jackson to have the best passing game of his short career against them.
The coaching job done by Harbaugh and Mornhinweg in playing to Jacksons strengths is the reason they’ve made the playoffs, losing just 1 game (at the Chiefs, in overtime) since Jackson took the reigns. They know he’s not yet ready to throw the ball 40 times a game and have done a good job of covering that with a ton of RPO and when you’ve got a QB as electric as Jackson then that’s definitely the right move, his burst is remarkable, and despite only starting 7 games he’s had more rush attempts than any QB in a season ever. It’s probably not maintainable in the long-run but it’s working this year! He only had 39 yards on the ground against the Chargers, but as mentioned above that coincided with his best passing game.
The arrival of Jackson opened up the entire run game which has by some way led the league in those 7 games, averaging 224 rushing yards per game between them. Gus “the bus” Edwards came in with Jackson and his direct style has been very effective as a counter-punch to Jackson’s ability. He’s run hard without really getting any scores, 92 from 14 attempts in that Chargers game, and averaged about 5.5 yards per carry in those games. There has been more input from Kenneth Dixon in the last 6 games of the season, averaging about 10 carries per game and going for 117 against the Browns in the last game of the season last week. He also adds a little in the passing game which Gus doesn’t get any use at all. They do have Ty Montgomery as well but he seems to have been faded out of the picture since getting Dixon back fit.
The passing game is very difficult to talk about because they just haven’t had to use it much with their rushing ability. Frankly I can’t pick any of them to do anything in any week. John Brown was good with Flacco, Willie Snead has had an unimpressive but efficient season on the whole, Crabtree is a big guy. Chris Moore has some pace to him but is unreliable, and then there’s all of the tight ends. Hayden Hurst, Nick Boyle, Maxxxxxx Williams and my personal favourite for props – Mark Andrews, he beasted an 83 yard TD run against the Chargers and in my mind is the best pass catching guy of those 4.
The defense in Baltimore is the best in the league (despite conceding 55 in 2 games to my Bengals) They caused Rivers all sorts of issues in the first matchup. In theory having that tape you’d think the Chargers should be able to work around those issues, but I’d expect a lot of different looks to be on show from the Ravens in this one.
Well.. I have no idea which way this is going. My brain goes straight to the Baltimore Ravens taking care of the Chargers again, they have a good home-field and are seemingly unstoppable with the run. However, betting logic suggests you don’t back a rookie QB in his first playoff start, and going up against one of the most experienced QBs in the league is a nice juxtaposition.
I would lean to the Chargers winning on the road, and over on the total. But I don’t want to back either with my own money. CHARGERS
- Mike Williams anytime – 5/2 (skybet) – 2pts
- Melvin Gordon o27.5 rec. yards – 5/6 (365) – 2pts
- Mark Andrew o22.5 rec. yards – 10/11 (PP) – 2pts
Philadelphia Eagles (+6) @ Chicago Bears: 41
BIG **** NICK! The man who will never have to pay for anything ever again in Phillie is back and leading his team on the Superbowl trail again. They were down with a single percent chance of making the playoffs before they somehow beat the Rams in LA 3 games ago, they had to win all 3 and get help from elsewhere and that’s what they did. He threw for 471 yards and 4 TDs against the Texans a couple of weeks ago and had an effiicient 85% completion rate against a broken Redskins team last week. He has bruised ribs from a Clowney hit in that Texans game but will be playing this week. I don’t know how he does it, but he’s special in these key games.
Alshon Jeffery was his favourite target in the Rams game, and has 5 targets in each of the other weeks with Foles after an average year with Wentz. Nelson Agholor was the man last week though catching 2 TDs in that easy win, and 1 the week before as well. Then you mix in Golden Tate who is capable but has shown very little now with the Eagles, and Mike Wallace is back in the fold as well after being re-activated from IR, although is listed as doubtful. The main man in general in the passing game is their tight end, Zach Ertz, he finished the season with 116 receptions and 8 TDs, the Bears allow 42 yards per game against the position but Kittle is the only decent TE they’ve faced this year and he finished on 74 yards in that game. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Dallas Goedert get into the end zone this week to be honest, it seems like something they’d look for in a crunch game.
The running game hasn’t been electric but is good enough, and going up against one of the best 5 run defenses in the league could prove a bit of a problem for Josh Adams who is the main basher there. They have mixed in Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles though who are both good in the passing game and add more options against a stupidly good Bears pass rush.
The Eagles defense seems to have settled a little since they got decimated at cornerback and done a far better job in the last month now they’ve bedded in a little. The pass rush is very good. Fletcher Cox got 3 sacks by himself last week!
Apologies for this preview if you’re a Bears fan. I just don’t really “get” their offense.
Mitchell Trubisky is leading his team into the playoffs in his first full season as a QB, but in my opinion it’s not really much to do with him. I think he’s distinctly average and I’ve compared them to the Jaguars of last season (admittedly I do think he’s better than Blake was last year) but in fairness they have won the last 8 games he’s started in so whatever he does, or doesn’t do it generally ends in a win. He’s very mobile as well although has only once gone over 23 yards on the ground in his last 7 games.
I can’t even really tell you who the passing game runs through, it’s a mix of Robinson, Miller, Gabriel, Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen? I have no opinion from a betting front, one thing that probable coach of the year Matt Nagy has done is mix things up each week, it has definitely left me stumped. Anthony Miller went off with a nasty looking shoulder injury last week but apparently it’s not too bad, Robinson and Gabriel have both been listed on the injury report as well but all are expected to play. Robinson at least has the targets over the last month, averaging more than 8 per game, and against a weakened Eagles secondary I think he’ll probably have the best game of the options available. It was expected before the season that Trey Burton would be used like Travis Kelce in KC but he’s had far too many nothing games for me to trust in any sense whether TD or yards.
I can’t even tell you who’s going to have a good game at running back, but since it’s got colder over the past month Jordan Howard has had more carries and scored 4 times in those. Tarik Cohen is definitely the more exciting back to watch, the human joystick can make something from nothing each and every time he gets the ball.
The defense is where this time excels. They lead the league in turnovers, Eddie Jackson has 6, Kyle Fuller with 7, due in part to the amount of pressure the defensive line gets on opposing QBs. Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks are wrecking balls up front and seem unstoppable, the matchup against a very good Eagles offensive line will be a great matchup.
I have to think the Bears defense will be able to shut down Nick Foles and the Eagles offense.
- Jordan Howard anytime – 11/10 (WillHill) – 2pts
- Zach Ertz anytime – 2/1 (Skybet/365) – 2pts
- Dallas Goedert anytime – 8/1 (365) – 1pt
- Adam Shaheen anytime – 8/1 (Unibet) – 1pt
Bears win, total goes under.
So, that’s your lot on this weekend, should be a brilliant weekend of football, I can’t see any blowouts in fairness, even the Bears game I think the Eagles will be able to keep it fairly close unless Foles falls apart.
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