#NFL Divisional round; Best weekend of the year; Saturday previews

Rams +6.5 @ Packers: 45

The Rams won the longest game in the history of the world last week against the Seahawks as their defense stifled Russel Wilson and they played fairly safe to as not turn the ball over, it was all that was needed to get the win and progress them to this game where they get to travel up to the frozen tundra of Wisconsin to take on the Packers.

The Packers are fully rested after their bye week and as there’s nothing to do in the local area the team have managed to avoid any covid restrictions on their players. Which is nice for them.

LA Rams

It wasn’t a great performance from the Rams, as a team they completed just 12 passes, 9 of them by Jared Goff who played most of the game after John Wolford was knocked out of the game by Jamal Adams… he knew what he was doing. Goff was in as backup after having surgery on his thumb recently and it looked like it in his passing. I think he knew he might be fluttering a few balls and was playing it safe throughout, in fairness it was all he needed to do and the defense and Cam Akers took care of the rest of the game. It’s a worry coming into this week though with him under center and Blake Bortles as backup. Goff has played 4 games in temperatures under 35 degrees (as expected tonight) and he’s lost all 4, missing the spread cover by nearly a TD each time. The cold won’t help his thumb either.

Cam Akers has blown up in recent weeks and carried on that form with 131 yards from 28 carries and a score last week. He’s also been getting involved in the passing game with 44 last week and at least 22 yards in 3 of his last 4 games for them, that’s relevant as a) I think they might be chasing the game tonight and b) his receiving line is now 15.5 (was 13.5) on Skybet at 5/6, it’s up to 18.5 on Bet365, so look like it will rise again before kick off. Malcolm Brown gets a few carries still as mainly the third down back, but Akers owns this backfield now.

The passing game was obviously limited last week with Goff under center, and the way the game went, but it’s still fairly tough to figure out how they’re going to get that area of the game going. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods have been one of the better duos this season and Kupp injured his knee last week, it wasn’t as serious as expected and he’ll play but it’s hard to think he’ll be at 100%. That could mean more for Woods, but there’s a chance he’s shadowed by Jaire Alexander who’s been one of the better CBs according to PFF this season, he is coming off a TD last week though. A lot depends on Kupp, if he’s less than fit then it could mean more for Josh Reynolds who’s their usual WR3. Could be more for Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett though. I thought Everett was a good look last week but the Wolford injury basically took him out of the game, Higbee had far more snaps after Goff came in.

Defense is where they will win this game though, Jalen Ramsey restricted DK Metcalf when covering him and he’ll be asked to do the job on the best WR in the league this season in Davante Adams this week. That matchup is the key to the game. They’re also good at stopping explosive plays so should be able to hamper MVS on the downfield shots as well. Oh, and their a very good run D too. Aaron Donald will play with an injection after officially injuring rib cartilage last week. He’s the best defensive player in the league, arguably the best player and is immense fun to watch, he should have fun against the Packers without their starting LT.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers earned the 1 seed and home-field throughout and the advantage of that could show quickly here with a warm weather team coming into sub-zero conditions. They’ve got a fantastic regular season record with LeFluer who’s won 13 games in each of his two seasons in charge of the side, but he’ll be hoping to go one-game more than when they got fucked over by the 49ers run game last year. The worry is that they’re here on the back of an easy schedule, they’ve only won 2 games against teams with winning records this season.

Aaron Rodgers is the MVP-elect after a fantastic season based entirely on him being pissed off with them drafting Jordan Love to sit on the bench for a few years behind him. He led the league with 48 TDs, just 5 INTs and was the best according to QBR as well. He’s been protected well having only been sacked 20 times. I’ve been critical of him as he hasn’t been great for the last few years and I think his reputation precedes him, but he’s been great this year.

It helps having the best wide reciever in the league in Davante Adams who has seemed incoverable at times this year, even with 2 or 3 defenders following him. He led the league with 18 receiving TDs, the 3rd best record in NFL history, he’s got a good postseason record too with 6 in 8 games, as above, his matchup with Ramsey is the key to the game here, if Ramsey can keep him quiet then the Packers will struggle to get into the endzone, 14 of Adams’ TDs this year have come within the redzone where despite missing a couple of games he led the league with 25 receptions from 32 attempts. They will force-feed him there. Allan Lazard had a couple of big games with Adams out of the team, but only has 4 of 10 games with 50 or more yards this year, while Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the downfield threat, he either scores or does nothing. He’ll be targeted, he may get one big one, but expect him to let one through his arms too, 24.5 yards for him is tempting as it’s probably 1 catch. Robert Tonyan is the other man the Rams need to watch in the middle of the field, he led tight ends with 11 TDs, and he’s got 6 in their last 7 games, he doesn’t get a whole lot of receptions or yards though so I’d avoid his props. Lewis, Sternberger or even Dominique Dafney could find the endzone, but they’re all shots in the dark.

The running game will be mainly Aaron Jones who has 2 TDs in each of his two playoff games for the Packers. To me, he’s not been the same since returning from a knock earlier in the season, but I am matching him to high standards as he’s been very good for them during his career. He’s been involved in the passing game a little more recently, I’d have taken over 2.5 receptions for him but minus money at o3.5 isn’t for me especially with Jamaal Williams expected to be back. AJ Dillon had a big game in relief of Jones against the Titans a couple of weeks back but didn’t get much of a go in their final game… just 1 carry vs. the Bears. I’d still have a stab at 12/1 on him though, if Jones goes down he’s the goal-line back.

Defensively the Smith brothers didn’t hit the heights of last season but Za’darius Smith finished 4th with 12.5 sacks on the season and 3rd with 4 forced fumbles this year. Jaire Alexander has been very good in the secondary and DVOA ranks them around middle of the pack on that side of the ball.

Any chance for the Rams?

Stat stuff…

  • Rams – 9-7 ATS, 4-12 unders (last 4 of reg season, over last week) – +76 margin, 372 pts. scored. Won 14 2nd halves (15 with last week). Won all 9 games when leading at the half (10 with last week).
  • Packers 10-6, 7-9 overs, +122 margin, 509 scored. 219 pts in the second quarter. Won 12 1st halves, 11 of those games. Haven’t lost a first half since week 6. Over 30 points in all but 1 of last 7 games.

As I’ve said a couple of times, the key to the game is the Ramsey vs Adams contest, that should be a cracker. The worry for the Rams is that Adams plays a lot in the slot, 40% of his scores have come there, while Ramsey has only had 11% of his snaps in the slot this year, so it makes sense for the Packers to continue doing that and keep him away from the main coverage.

I don’t see the Rams putting up enough points to keep up with the Packers, and it will be all on their defense. That might be good enough, but I think the Packers win, and I’d lean their way on the spread. Can’t see a huge amount of points, but this line has come down a lot. I’d still only take the under if I was forced one way.

All Rams WRs at 2/1 or above is good if you fancy one of them, I’ll be passing there, long shot of Dillon at 12/1 on William Hill isn’t terrible. Total pass yards UNDER 520.5 on Bet365 seems like a great bet though, they’ve got Goff at 215, Rodgers at 256… 470 in total, so to get an extra 50 yards on top of that in an expected low-scoring game looks good at 4/5 (1.80) on there.

Ravens +2.5 @ Bills: 49

The Ravens eased past the Titans last week in a far lower scoring game than most of us expected, they restricted Derrick Henry and were fine in the secondary while running all over the Titans on the other side of the ball and using Marquise Brown well, he steps up in big games it seems. The Bills probably should have lost vs. the Colts who had more yardage than them and left a lot of points on the field to go down by 3 points in the end. They’ll have to be better this week.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens like to run the ball, we all know that, but it is tough for anyone else to stop them as shown by the Titans last week who allowed 236 on the ground, a little over their average of 194 per game during the regular season. Lamar had 136 of those including that brilliant breakaway TD to tie the scores before half time. The Titans did a good job of containing him before that, they rushed well and sealed the edge, but it’s tough to keep a good man down. His passing wasn’t bad either, he found Marquise Brown on the sideline a number of times and made some key passes in the middle of the field, although his INT was a terrible throw with a touch of pressure in his face. You can’t moan with 17 of 24 though.

JK Dobbins is the main man at running back now though, he’s had a TD in his last 7 games including last week where he squeezed in so it’s tough to ignore plus money on him to score again (6/5 on Skybet and Hills) His 6 yards per carry in the regular season had him ranked 3rd in that aspect, he’s explosive and despite them sharing the ball around puts up some big numbers, he’s one to watch here. Gus Edwards is part 2, or 3… of the triple-headed monster, he’s usually the north-to-south runner and gets work at the goal line but even that has gone to Dobbins in recent weeks as he’s failed to score in his last 4. Ingram has been a healthy scratch for the last month and probably will be again.

Marquise Brown had a big game last week finishing with 109 yards, his second playoff game, and his second playoff game with over 100 yards receiving. After a few drops and crying about not getting targeted he finished the season strong having 6 TDs in his final 6 regular season games, he may well get Tre’Davius White tonight, but White can be killed with speed. Outside of him the WR Corps is a bit of a mess, Willie Snead may get more targets in the slot, Myles Boykin is average, Devin Duvernay may get some jet sweeps and short yard catches with the idea of getting YAC and Dez Bryant got himself a TD this year, which was nice. Wouldn’t it be fun for the game to end with him not catching a ball near the endzone again.

Mark Andrews is probably going to be the most targeted player at Tight end and he gets a good matchup as the Bills allow a lot of yards to the position including 136 and a TD to the Colts trio last week. He’s not actually had a big season by his standards, just the 7 TDs (coming in 5 games) and at 21/10 on Paddypower is nicely priced to find the endzone. If it’s not him then I guess Patrick Ricard may be used as the big man again after 3 catches for 26 yards last week, a 311lbs man shouldn’t be able to move as he does, it’s brilliant to watch.

Defensively they had their run-stuffers back last week and it worked well, they hit Henry in the backfield more often than not and restricted him to just 40 yards, but it’s the passing game they’ll have to stop today against the Bills. Marcus Peters likes an INT, but gives up big plays, Marlon Humphreys is decent and will probably be on Diggs, they rank 10th vs the Pass, 12th vs. the Run on DVOA. I do think Peters will get an INT on Allen.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills got through last week with arguably the worst performance they’ve had in the second half of the season, but it was the first playoff win for Allen and a monkey off his back after throwing the game away against the Texans last year.

Josh Allen has been great this year, he’s always had the arm, and despite failing the K-metric (SGP nod…) has come on well this year as they’ve chosen him as the franchise future and built well around him. He completed 75% of his passes last week (well, 74.3) including a lovely flick of the wrist 36 yarder to Diggs in the corner of the endzone. He’s good on the ground as well rushing in for a TD last week on his 11 carries, making it 9 rushing TDs this year.

Unsurprisingly Stefon Diggs had the best game of the pass catchers last week with another 100 yard game and a TD, to add to his 7 100 yard games during the regular season, he will get free a few times in the game and the opposing team has to hope it doesn’t cost them. After John Brown did absolutely nothing last week, the big twat, they’ll be happy that Cole Beasley stepped up once again catching 7 of his 7 targets. There was a 3.5 on Beasley earlier in the week at 8/13 but I’m still happy to take o4.5 at plus money. Gabriel Davis has been good this season too in his rookie year, he caught 4 of 4 for 85 yards last week and should get a decent matchup here.

The running game… well, Zack Moss is out which hurts them, he was probably the better of the two between him and Singletary, so you’d expect more for Singletary, but I think it’s more likely that Josh Allen runs more or they just pass it more. TJ Yeldon will probably get mixed in, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Antonio Williams who was promoted from the practise squad this week. He finished the year with 2 TDs vs. the Dolphins, and they did sign Devonta Freeman although I’m not sure he’ll have passed Covid protocol.

They’ve been fine on defense, Tre’d White is highly thought of, and Tremaine Edmunds made the pro bowl in his third year in the league. DVOA has them 12th vs. the pass, 17th vs. the run. They can be beaten over the middle of the field though.

Who wins?

Numbers.

  • Ravens – 10-6 ATS (last 6 of reg season + last week), 7-9 Overs (under last week) +165 margin, best in league. won 10 1st quarters, 12 first halves, won 10 of them, scored every qtr in 10 of 16.
  • Bills 11-5 ATS, 10-4-2 Overs, +126 margin, 2nd and 4th good. Won 13 first halves (+1 last week), won 12 of those games. Slow starting in recent week, 10 pts in final 5 1st quarters of the season, 7 last week, scored every quarter, gave up 136 and a TD last week, 9 in total

This should be a cracker, but then, we thought that last week where the Ravens killed the Titans. I don’t think they’ll be able to slow the Bills passing go though. It’s actually a good matchup for both teams, the Ravens matchup well against the Bills run defense, and the Bills passing game is well matched.

I think the Ravens pull out the win though, I think they’re the better team, OVER on the total too, I wouldn’t be shocked to see an Allen INT, but my favourite bet of this game has to be Mark Andrews anytime at 21/10 (Paddypower) would also be interested in Dobbins anytime, so Dobbins and Andrews at 11/2 isn’t horrible on Sky. I like Beasley o4.5 as mentioned, and I know the lads in the prop chat like the over on Allen rush attempts, which I agree with.

Good luck if you’re on anything tonight, it’s a shame for UK fans that they’re both so late, and that probably the best game of the weekend is the 115am game. I’m hoping the Pack get up early and I can sleep during that one to get up for the later game.

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