#NFL Divisional round weekend – Saturday game previews #Skol #GoNiners #RavensFlock #Titans

A pretty successful start to the post-season for me finishing last week around 5 points in profit thanks to nailing some TD scorers for once.

The main negative for me last week was not manning the fuck up and picking the Titans to beat the Pats and relinquishing my seat on the Vikings bandwagon for a week, but history led me in the Pats game and the way the Saints had been playing I couldn’t see past them. The Pats game could have gone either way if it wasn’t for a masterclass in shithousery from Mike Vrabel which was amazing. And frankly I didn’t realise how shit Drew Brees was when push came to shove, the interception he threw was hilariously awful after being shown up by the young buck he thought he had to imprint himself and showed conclusively he can’t do it past 20 yards any more.

Anyways, on to the best weekend in football. You get the 2 best teams in each division making their re-appearance, the teams who’ve proved their worth against the other also-rans and to top it all off the college championship on Monday night!

Of course I’ve got my usual weekly Draftkings contest running, if you’ve still not had a go and need an account then sign-up through my link and you’ll get $25 in DK Dollars to enter some contests! It’s actually a decent week to enter, enough variation to have unique line-ups but not so much that it’s overwhelming.

DKPlayoffs

And join my league to get notified each week when there’s a new contest!

Right, let’s get going.

Minnesota Vikings +7 @ SF 49ers: 44.5

Weather – Clear, 56f. – 15mph wind – Noice.

Vikings

What a result last week was, much to the chagrin of Louis Ross who apparently hates Kirk Cousins, then again he’s an Arsenal fan, so he doesn’t make too many correct choices in fairness… But it was a brilliant game plan by the Vikings on both sides of the ball, they knew Brees couldn’t beat him deep and managed to shut down most of the underneath options with Thomas and Cook both having poor games by their standards. Taysom Hill was the only threat the Saints had in the game and frankly I thought they were lucky to even get it to overtime.

It was a prove-it moment for Kirk CLUTCH-sins after all the stick he constantly gets on twitter and in the media and he stuck it to everyone with the first drive of overtime taking his team down the field and finishing it off with a lob to Kyle Rudolph who had 5 inches over the man guarding him. Did he push off? Yeah, probably, but fuck the Saints, they can get the mayor to complain and launch another petition about it. Yes Kirk, yes I did LIKE THAT.

Over 50% of Cousins passing yards went to Adam Thielen who finally looked back to health after the hamstring injury which screwed him for half the season, he finised on 129 yards and caught the vital pass in OT which set up the win. Annoyingly he got stood on in practise and had to have stitches in his foot which fucking sucks. He’s expected to play but there’s always the chance that cut re-opens and ruins his game, either way it’s going to be painful for him. He was clearly Cousins favourite target though so it will be interesting to see what happens.

If Thielen does have issues then Olabisi Johnson (6/1 anytime) will likely be the man to step up, he did that fairly well in the regular season and isn’t a bad player in his rookie year. The tight ends get involved more without Thielen too so Rudolph and Irv Smith will likely be more involved should the worst transpire for Thielen.

I’m not sure what to make of Stefon Diggs’ antics on the sideline last week, there’s two ways of looking at it, that he’s such a competitor that he just wants to help his team, or that he’s so self-centred that despite his team winning a play-off game he’s crying about not getting the ball himself. Earlier in the season when he cried about it he got the ball more in the following game, but this week he’s likely going up against Sherman who’s was voted 2nd team all-pro this year. He good. So it won’t be easy for him to get the ball in this one.

This team works through the running game though and it looked great last week. Dalvin Cook seemed to be back to full health and when he’s fit he’s one of the best in the league, he is great to watch. He finished with 130 combined yards, most of it on the ground and 2 TDs from short-range areas. The regular season was good for him finishing with 13 rushing TDs and only failing to score in 2 games all season. He good. Alexander Mattison is an adequate fill in when Cook needs a rest but doesn’t have the scoring threat of his buddy.

The defense was great last week but it’s been a rough week in between for them, Xavier Rhodes played well (barring getting smoked on the long completion from Hill) but he injured his shoulder late on and their slot corner had surgery this week so will be out as well. They may well still get pressure Jimmy G as Griffin and Hunter proved themselves as one of the better pass rush duos in the league last week but it won’t be easy vs a rested and recovered 49ers O-line which welcomes back McGlinchey and Staley are back. It will probably mean they try and pressure up the middle more which they did very effectively last week. Safety Anthony Harris has registered an interception in 3 straight games for the Vikes now, they’ve actually got 3 of the highest rated safeties in the league according to PFF.

San Francisco 49ers

49ers are coming off the bye healthier than they’ve been for most of the second half of the season welcoming back Kwon Alexander and possibly Dee Ford on defense (Ford is a “true game-time decision” and McGlinchey and Staley are back at tackle for them. In fact Ford is the only remaining name on the injury report for them this week. That’s nice.

I struggle to quantify how good Jimmy Garoppolo is. I know I do and I’m not sure how to get around it. His win/loss record is ridiculous but I still struggle to give him the credit he probably deserves. It’s all Kyle Shanahan fault really, his scheming in getting players wide wide open constantly, the way he uses the RBs just makes it so easy for Jimmy that I probably don’t give him the credit he should get for the passes he makes. It’s not really a knock on him that it’s that way and it’s definitely not a knock on the team. Stat-wise he finished the season 12th in yards, 12th in QBR and 5th in TDs thrown.

It helps that he’s got a whole lot of RAC on the field and the fact that they’re usually wide open definitely doesn’t hurt them. The trade for Emmanuel Sanders halfway through the season has looked like a masterstroke, he’s been very good for them although most of it game early on in his time with the 49ers. In recent weeks rookie Deebo Samuel (NO ‘S’) has stepped up and seems like he may be the favourite wide receiver for the Niners culminating in 5 from 5 for 102 yards in the last game they played, he probably needs to find the endzone more and only converted half of his 12 redzone targets this season, just 1 score in the final 20. My boy Kendrick Bourne though converted 5 of 6 red zone targets for TDs this year and is a decent price tonight at 4/1, especially with the issues for the Vikings at slot corner.

Unsurprisingly George Kittle had the most redzone targets for the 49ers during the regular season, he’s stepped into Rob Gronkowski’s boots as the most impressive looking tight end in the league, the run at the end of the Saints game show-casing his abilities perfectly. He’s a fucking beast and loves playing the game. It’s not an easy matchup for him tonight, the Vikings actually only gave up ONE touchdown to the tight end position all year in fairness it was to the almighty Tory Fumagalli from the Broncos though so that’s fair enough. They allowed a huge game to Waller in week 3 who is one of the few players targeted like Kittle in that position though. – I don’t think VS Stats matter too much for Kittle tbh, he’s just so good and targeted so frequently that he’ll likely have 8+ targets and finish the game with a handful of yards no matter what the situation is in this one. If you fancied a complete longshot then the forgotten man Dante Pettis is 25/1 on Betfair (as low as 10/3 on Ladbrokes which is ridiculous)

Much like the Vikings, the run game and plays off of it is where the 49ers make their hay. As always they had to use a bevy of backs due to injury but seem to have fallen on Raheem Mostert being the man in the last month or so of the season with Breida and Coleman taking backseats to him. Mostert finished the season with a rushing TD in all 6 of their last games, a brace in the final game of the season and double digit carries in the final 5 games. His yardage numbers aren’t huge so might be one to avoid, but him and Cook both to score seems sensible to me (4.00 on Skybet, 4.41 on Paddypower)

The 49ers defense had a brilliant start to the season before injuries hit and made them just slightly above average, it skews their stats and frankly I don’t know how to find first 8 games and second 8 games as separate entities, so I’ll just assume it’s going to be good. Nick Bosa got a lot of the attention in his rookie season finishing with 9 sacks and his entry into the roster helped their stacked defensive line with Armstead, Buckner, Thomas and Ford all having good seasons and the secondary one of the better units in the league as well. For what it’s worth they rank #2 vs the pass and #11 vs the run according to DVOA.

Summary

I completely over-looked the Vikings last week against the Saints, I didn’t think they’d be able to slow them down, I won’t do that this week though but the Vikings will need an improved performance on last week against a rested 49ers team. It’s obviously a tough spot for the Vikings with another road slot after travelling to Louisiana and back home last week.

It’s a non-1pm kick off for Kirk Cousins which is usually his kryptonite, did he overcome his prime-time issues, or was it just because it was a 1pm kick off last week? I like Cousins, so I’m hoping the latter but thinking not.

The fact they’re almost fully fit and the Vikings are a little beaten up, I’ve got to think the 49ers win this one, I won’t be touching them to cover a TD spread though after last week stung me. I’d lean to the over as well, but with both defenses top 10 in DVOA I’m not committing money to that. The 49ers have put up some crazy points at home this season though.

Bets for me

  • Dalvin Cook anytime – 2.10 – 11/10 in a few places (6/5 on Boylesports still but who uses them?) 
  • Raheem Mostert anytime – 2.15 – 23/20 (888)
  • Kendrick Bourne o18.5 receiving yards – 1.83 – 5/6 (365)
  • Total sacks o5.5 – 2.00 – 1/1 (365)

Dalvin Cook,CJ Ham


Tennessee Titans +10 @ Baltimore Ravens: 47

Weather – Mild, 15mph winds, gusts up to 30 – Not bad.

The Titans

The Titans officially pulled off an upset win in Foxborough last week but it was one that a lot of the world thought would happen, a “square sharp” bet so to speak. I alluded to it, but the history of the Pats somehow winning games put me off it. I’m a fool.

To win a game with your quarter back only throwing 8 completions for 72 yards is pretty crazy. The completions he did make were at key points though, a lob over the middle to Firkser for the TD and a couple of completions at key moments helped the team well. He’s actually been a top 3 QB since he took over the reigns at QB for the Titans so he’s definitely helped them get to where they are this season.

He and AJ Brown have formed a good relationship and it takes a brave man to try and stop him once he’s rumbling. He topped 1,000 yards on the season and went over 100 yards in 3 of the final 6 games of the regular season scoring 7 times in those matches, they also got him involved in the run game as well. Get your best players the ball. Other than him in the passing game it’s a bit scattered. The Ravens are good vs WR1 but WR2 is a little different, who that man is though is tougher to call. I guess Corey Davis as he’s got the 1st round pedigree but never really fulfilled his potential for the Titans. Tajae Sharpe mixes in as well, and the tight ends are frequently targeted in this offense though Jonnu Smith is a beast (5/1), Firkser (10/1) and even Mycole Pruitt (20/1) get targeted in the redzone. Raymond Kaliff is the only other name I would even half-mention but he’s rarely targeted.

I probably should have mentioned Derrick Henry earlier. The NFLs leading rusher was the entire offense for the Titans last week, 34 carries for 184 yards and a TD on the ground as well as a reception on a screen for 22 yards. The drive that he scored the touchdown was entirely him, 75 yards and the score all from Henry running the ball. The Ravens rank 19th vs the run according to DVOA. He finished the regular season with 16 rush TDs and 2 through the air. Outside of him you’ll probably get a tiny bit of Dion Lewis mixed in but he’s barely worth a mention to be honest.

The Titans defense is average, and would be improved greatly by Adoree Jackson returning, he was close last week and he’s one of the few players in the league with the pace to keep up with Marquise Brown when he gets going. 21st vs the pass, 10th vs the run.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens had the best record in the league last year and have the MVP-elect for the 2019 season. They had more rushing yards than any team in history, scored more points than anyone else, more points per play and more points in the redzone than any team this year. It’s been a brilliant coaching job by Harbaugh and Greg Roman who saw what they’re QB could do and built a team around him. Why the hell doesn’t everyone else do that?! So when people are complaining/laughing because a team overlooked Lamar Jackson in the draft, everyone did. And he wouldn’t have been this good at 90% of the teams in the league who would have probably tried to make him a pocket passer.

Lamar Jackson. Not had a bad season has he. 1st in TDs created (passed and rushed) 1st in QBR, 1st in QB rush yards which put him 6th in the league overall, youngest QB with 2 perfect passer ratings in a season (only he and Big Ben have achieved it) and a whole host of other things (I can’t find the fucking image which had a massive list on!) Oh, and obviously the most rushing yards by a QB in history taking that record from Michael Vick. He’s been amazing in this system and definitely isn’t an easy man to stop. For this game specifically he’s got the benefit of having a playoff game last year and the fact that the Titans haven’t previously faced him. The only way he was stopped last year was by a team playing him twice in a month. I don’t think the Titans will be able to.

The run game has been historically great this year setting the all time rushing record for a team. A lot of that has been down to Lamar obviously but Mark Ingram has been brilliant for the Ravens and his enthusiasm has been good for the dressing room, he finished the regular season by getting a calf strain late on in week 16 which he’s clearly still feeling. The news isn’t great for him, it sounded like he could have played last weekend if needed by seemingly he’s had a set back and missed a couple of practises this week, now listed as a game-time decision by the look of it. He finished the season over 1,000 yards, 10 rush TDs and 5 receiving TDs. IF he misses out, which reading between the lines I think could be 50/50 then it would be a lot of Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. The two of them aren’t a huge downgrade from Ingram but it does indicate play-type as Gus isn’t great catching the ball. Hill will be the 3rd down back. I have recommended Justice Hill to score a TD tonight, he’s still available at 4/1 but scored as many in the final two games of the season as Gus did all year.

The passing game is mainly through the tight ends, they play a lot of 3 TE sets with Mandrews the main man there. He’s been a beast for most of the season finishing with 10 TDs this year and being the main man in many of their drives down the field – He is listed as questionable with an ankle injury, I think he’ll play though. Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle both mix in regularly. The wide receivers are tough to judge though. Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown is explosive but constantly dogged by injury so it’s been a hit and miss season for him, meaning I can’t trust him on yards/TD scorer in this one. Willie Snead does his bit, Seth Roberts as well, but again there’s nothing really trustworthy in any of it, so no bets for me on any of them.

The defense has been great since they brought in Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith returned from injury, they blitz more than any team in the league as they have the belief in their secondary to deal with players back there. The fact that Matthew Judon led the team with 9.5 sacks while second on the team was just 5 shows how well they work as a unit as whole.

Oh shit, yeah, they’ve got the best field goal kicker in history.

Summary

I think it’s fairly obvious the Ravens will win this one, and I think they’ll cover the spread despite it being 10 points.

I think the Titans will try to work the same game-plan as last week, run the ball a lot and keep it out of the hands of the Jackson and the Ravens. But that won’t work against a team who are actually able to score points on offense.

The Ravens are the best team in the league in the first quarter this season o6.5 first quarter points is 8/13, short but likely imo. So I’d expect them to get out to a lead which hurts the Titans likely game-plan.

Bets;

  • Justice Hill anytime TD – 4/1 (365)
  • Justice Hill 2 or more – 50/1 (365) – 0.5 pt

If Mark Ingram is announced inactive then double the stakes on them


Wow, 3,200 words, well done if you get through them all. Should be a cracking weekend of football!

Good Luck with whatever you’re on, hope it all goes to plan!

Let’s go football!

Adam.

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