AFC Championship game preview – HERE
An update on last weekend, I put up 2 official ones on the Sunday, didn’t have time to get into the NFC game properly, the 2 on the Patriots v Chargers game both won, the James White one was especially easy, and I can’t imagine him being at 4.5 receptions again this week. The Sunday night game, I put up a few suggestions, but no official recommendations – Sproles was 1 yard short of his total. Smallwood beat his yards, Dallas Goedert I don’t remember getting targeted as the Eagles couldn’t move the ball after the first quarter, and Ted Ginn finished on 44, 6 yards short of the 50 he needed. I’ll be going back in on that one this week, he should have had it with the first play of the game but Brees under-threw him.
So without the Eagles game, I finished 4 points down, with the Eagles bets, it was 7 points. Not a disaster, but not good enough, and it doesn’t get easier this week.
I don’t want to take any of the 4 teams against the spread, but as there’s fewer games there’s TONS of props to get stuck into, Skybet as always are the first up and have lots more markets than usual!
Both of the games are re-matches of very high scoring regular season games so should be exciting, a few general notes on this round of games.
The last 10 Championship games have resulted in the home sides winning, so 5 consecutive Superbowls of #1 seeds on each side. Now I can level this out a little as most of those on the AFC side have been the Pats at home, but still a crazy stat.
LA Rams (+3) @ NO Saints: 56.5
The regular season game finished 34-45 in favour of the Saints in one of the most exciting games of the year. Goff threw for 391 and 3 TDs, Brees 346 and 4. Stat leaders for the teams – Gurley 79 and 1 TDs, Cooks 114 and 1. For the Saints – Kamara 116 and 3, Michael Thomas 211 and 1. – A few changes from that game though, Cooper Kupp out for the Rams, Aqib Talib back for them, Ted Ginn back for the Saints.
The Rams finished the season second on total yards per game and point scored, 5th in passing and 3rd in rush yards per game, the only team to be in the top 5 in rush and passing yards per game this year. Their road form was pretty good as well, finishing 3rd in the league in points scored on the road as well averaging 28.8 per game, topping the rush yards per game by about 20 yards, but finishing mid-table in passing ypg.
I still think the jury is out on Jared Goff, he’s shown he can make throws when needed, but they didn’t need him last week, running all over the Cowboys in a fairly easy win. He finished with just 15 completions and 186 yards. But it’s hard to judge him on it as that’s all he was asked to do, he didn’t turn the ball over and that was all that was needed. The guy to the Rams game seems to basically be the fact that McVay can tell Goff exactly what is going on pre-snap up until 15 seconds are left on the play clock. That will be a challenge this week and the Superdome was rocking last week and the noise when the Rams are on offense will be unbearable so I think we’ll properly find out whether he’s any good or not this week! Unfortunately for the Rams I’m leaning to maybe not. 32 TDs on the year, the same as Brees, but 12 Ints, and worryingly his road record reads 10 TDs: 9 INTs.
The run game has been brilliant over the last month as they have leant on that instead of the pass. It was a pretty remarkable showing against a solid Dallas run defense, Todd Gurley and CJ Anderson sharing the load in a mirror of the Kamara/Ingram duo that they’ll be facing today. Cj is currently a large gentleman but was a great free agent pick up at the end of the season, he is one of the few Superbowl winners on the Rams roster and he’s definitely helping his current team get there this year. He finished with 123 yards and 2 TDs from 23 carries last week, Gurley with 115 and 1 for a total of 273 rushing yards across the team. They will do well to get near those figures this week as the Saints are the second best rushing defense in the league allowing 80.2 yards per game, although with Sheldon Rankins likely to miss out it’s a slightly easier task for the Rams. Worth noting though that Gurley is on light practise again although McVay has said it’s more resting him than anything else and I guess with CJ performing so well it’s an easier choice than forcing him to work through it. You can get anything from 40.5 on Redzone up to 57.5 on PP for Anderson rushing yards. I’ll take the overs on that, I was expecting around 50. Gurley is at 64.5 rush yards on Redzone, 66.5 on Sky, and 32.5 rec. yards everywhere. Anytimes have Anderson – 7/5 (Ladbrokes) Gurley – 8/13 (Skybet/WillHill)
As I mentioned at the top, Skybet have got a few extra markets this week, you can choose from 3 different lines on things like Receptions and Rush attempts for players, for example, o/u on 3.5, 5.5 and 7.5 receptions from Robert Woods.
The passing game runs through Robert Woods, I said last week he’d get between 65 and 85 yards, he finished on 69 from 6 receptions. It’s what he does. He finished with 71 from 5 in the regular season game between these two, and I’d hazard a guess he’ll finish around there again this week, he’s at 75.5 on RZ and 365. Brandin Cooks blew away the Saints secondary in the first matchup, and got himself a TD, he is of course a former Saint so it’s a revenge game for him again 64.5 yards for him on Skybet is the lowest you’ll find (at the moment) I still really like Josh Reynolds despite him letting me down last week, he’s a good redzone threat and they play 3 WR sets more than any team in the league, they just didn’t need to throw the ball last week – He’s set at 44.5 on 365, I took over 41.5 last week and tempted again this week, he played 87% of the offensive snaps and in fact, the more I think about it (I may be just trying to justify it to myself) it’s likely Lattimore will be on Cooks and Woods will generally be in the slot, leaving Reynold with PJ Williams who has been one of the worst in the league in coverage this year. The tight ends get snaps between them and they used 2 tight end sets a little more than usual mainly because they went run heavy, but they don’t really use Higbee (19.5 yds) or Everett (23.5 365) in the passing game to any real extent. 2 catches between them last week, and 5 between them in the first meeting of these two, the Saints have been good vs the tight end this year though. Best anytime prices for the pass catchers – Woods 11/10 (Sky/WH), Cooks 7/5 (RZ), Reynolds 9/4 (WH/Lad), Everett 5/1 (WH) Higbee 6/1 (WH/365) – For me, the value is Reynolds again. I was hoping for better than 16/1 (365) for 2 or more for Reynolds to be honest but most of the scoring odds are short as they obviously expect it to be high scoring.
They have Talib back on defense, and despite being a prize winning prick, he is a very good cornerback, and that’s an awful lot better than they had in the first game. Marcus Peters in particular was repeatedly targeted and frankly abused by Thomas. Defensive MVP Aaron Donald and Suh can get pressure on most QBs in most games, this will be a proper test against the Saints offensive line though.
- CJ Anderson o40.5 rush yards – 5/6 (Redzone) – 4 points (you could take u57.5 as well if you wanted to hedge and get a nice big middle but I’ll be sticking to just this one)
- Josh Reynolds anytime – 9/4 (WH) – 2 points
- Josh Reynolds 2 or more – 16/1 (365) – 1 point
If you haven’t got a Redzone account you can get one through my link here – Redzone – They specialise in NFL and have more prop markets to the others out there most weeks, the look ahead lines are good too – You can get -3 on the NFC (expected to be around 1.5 when the lines are properly out)
The Saints were 6-2 at home during the regular season, losing the opener to the Buccs and then their backups losing to the Panthers in the closer of the season, as always their home form was far better than their road form, the Superdome really gives them an advatange and Brees loves it there. Brees and Payton haven’t lost a playoff game at home in their time together.
They finished 8th in total yards per game, 3rd in total points scored. 5th in home yards per game and 3rd in points per game at home. They may well have been second had it not been for the final game of the season.
Drew Brees is rather good. He broke his record on completion percentage this year, however he didn’t throw for anywhere near his maximum, more a product of the offense he is now working in, you don’t need to constantly throw when you’ve got 2 good RBs and a solid defense behind you. 32 TDs landed him 6th in the league and 5 ints got him to 2nd best as well, so yeah, not a bad season. 21 of his TDs coming in the dome, and just 1 INT in the regular season (obviously threw one first chance last week) Not really much else to say on Brees. He’s #2 to Mahomes in regular season MVP. I should probably mention Taysom Hill here, although he could be included in the rushing or the defense section of the write up. He’s just a weapon on offense, and they use him a lot in various situations. He ran a fake punt on 4th down last week to change the momentum, threw the best ball of the game to Kamara for a TD which got called back and was targeted in the passing game as well, he’s fun.
The running game goes through the electric Alvin Kamara and the basher Mark Ingram, remarkably similar to the Rams rush attack in fairness. Just the 18 TDs on the season for Kamara, 14 on the ground (2 vs the Rams) and 4 through the air (1 vs the Rams) in another remarkable season for the sophomore RB. He’s great fun to watch, I don’t think he’s been as good as last year but once he finds the edge he’s still very difficult to stop. Ingram has a paltry 7 TDs on the season unsurprisingly 5 of them at home where they are more often than not leading in games. Kamara rush yards – 54.5 (skybet) up to 64.5 (RedZone) receiving – 37.5 (PP) up to 50.5 (Skybet); Ingram rush yards – 39.5 (PP) up to 46.5 (RZ), rec. yards for him – 10.5 (365) up to 13.5 (Skybet). So a 10 yard middle on Kamara yards is interesting. Anytime – Kamara 8/13 (WH) Ingram 6/5 (Ladbrokes.)
Michael Thomas is the passing game. He pretty much won the game for them last week with 171 yards from 12 receptions and a touchdown, a lot of them seemed to be on 3rd and longs just past the sticks as well, he’s a brilliant route runner and strong in the catch, he led the league in receptions this year with 126 and with barely a drop the entire season as well, he’s pretty damn good, mentioned earlier, he topped 200 yards in the first game against the Rams, although obviously you’d expect them to game-plan to stop him this week as aside from him there’s not an awful lot in all honesty. Ginn finished last week on 44 yards and provided the downfield threat for them, I’d expect him to go over 50 again this week, i’ll be a little miffed if he doesn’t actually, he had almost double the snaps of the young pretender Tre’quan Smith last week, and 7 targets for Ginn as opposed to just the 1 for Smith. I’m a little surprised to see that Keith Kirkwood actually outsnapped Ginn though, playing 69% to Ginns 52, and quite obviously Kirkwood was trusted and targeted in the redzone, on a 4th down. 1 of his 2 catches from 2 targets, I should probably mention he’s questionable having missed training with a calf issue though, if Kirkwood is out then I’d imagine Smith will get more snaps. Your yardages for the game – Thomas 87.5 (Skybet) up to 98.5 (PP); Ginn 48.5 (Skybet) up to 53.5 (PP); Kirkwood – 14.5 (PP) up to 24.5 (Skybet); Tre’Quan 26.5 (PP) – Tight ends? They don’t use them much in the passing game but it will be Benjamin Watsons last game in the Superdome this weekend, he had a few endzone targets early on but seems to have been faded out in place of Josh Hill who got nearly double the snaps last week against the Eagles. Lines for them – Watson – 14.5 (365) to 17.5 (RZ) and 8.5 to 10.5 for Hill.
Anytime prices – Thomas – Evens (Ladbrokes), Ginn 21/10 (Unibet), Kirkwood 4/1 (Lads) Smith, Watson 9/2 (WH) Hill 17/2 (Skybet)
The Saints defense will brilliant last week allowing less than 100 yards of total offense in the final 3 quarters of the game, Marshawn Lattimore started the comeback from 14 points down and effectively won the game with interceptions and he’s definitely the most important guy in the secondary. I don’t think he follows, but he’ll probably see a lot of Brandin Cooks. They have the 2nd best rush defense in the league but lost Sheldon Rankins last week who is a big part of it.
- Ted Ginn o48.5 rec. yards (Skybet) – 2 points
- Tre’Quan Smith anytime – 9/2 (WillHill) – 2 points
My god, what the hell is going to happen in this one?! – I’ve got to take the Saints at home, they won by 10 earlier in the year and the atmosphere last weekend was incredible inside the Superdome. They probably just edge it as the better team if you break it into areas as well.
SAINTS to win and cover. The total? You’ve got to think it’s going over but I think it could be more run heavy in this one and the Saints D last week really impressed me so I think I’ve got to lean under on it. For some reason I want to take the Rams handicap on the 1st quarter and 1st half, they were ahead in both in the regular season match and the Saints seem to start slow, the stats don’t really suggest it, so not a recommendation just where I’m thinking.
Mainly due to Andrew Whitworth I want the Rams to win, the guy is an absolute stud on and off the field, the work he does wherever he goes is amazing, and he’s a brilliant left tackle, it was great to see him win a playoff game last week after so many losses in Cincinnati. On the plus side, if the Rams lose then the Bengals can finally announce Zac Taylor and get their coaching staff sorted out.
Good Luck if you’re on anything, there’s a lot of words above, it’s by no means my best work, I’m pretty fucked off at how shit the Saints preview is tbh but I can’t get a proper read on this game so it’s been tough going frankly hence using more stats than I usually would which disrupts the flow of it all.