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

Well, after getting up at 1am I was sorely disappointed by the Ravens last night, they were thoroughly out-classed by the Bills, and despite moving the ball on a few drives they never really looked like getting there. In the battle of all pass vs. all run, all pass won fairly comfortably despite the wind. There’s obviously a lot of hypothetical’s and you could say the game would have been different had Justin Tucker not hit both posts, but the Allen had Diggs open downfield a couple of times and couldn’t make the pass in the wind. In fact Diggs destroyed Jimmy Smith on multiple occasions, he might be quite good.

The Ravens struggle against good teams and it showed again, they were predictable, but you can’t plan against the mistakes they were making, the drops, the snaps, it was just a very bad evening for them on the field. When every single drive starts with at least one Lamar keeper option well coached teams are going to figure it out eventually and the Bills played zone a lot and managed to get through the usually good Ravens offensive line, it was frustrating for anyone backing the Ravens, or the points. Or I guess for fans of the Ravens.

I’ll admit I didn’t catch the early game, I chose that stinker instead, so can’t say much about the Rams vs. Packers game, but from what I’ve read the Packers were deserving winners, Aaron Donald only made one tackle and took himself off the field frequently, so even that machine can be stopped. It seems Adams did his job against Ramsey, and they ran well against the Rams who’ve been so good defending the run this season. Offensively the Rams were without Cooper Kupp, but Cam Akers looked good again, probably a little late to try and get him in dynasty, but he finished the season very strong. So, one of the best QBs of the last 20 years will definitely be making the playoffs with Rodgers, Brees or Brady in the Superbowl against one of the upstart youths on the AFC side.

On a side note – The AFC North schedule next year has NFC North and AFC West, it is not nice for teams up there. The division is tough and that schedule of out of division is harsh.

Browns +10 @ Chiefs: 57

The Browns

The Browns come into Arrowhead on the back of their second consecutive win against the Steelers in a batshit crazy game that went south for those wonderful Pittsburghians from the outset, leading to a 28-0 first quarter lead for the Browns. They just had to control the game after that and despite losing the other three quarters 38-20 there wasn’t really a chance of them losing the game. The play-calling of former Bengals coach Alex Van Pelt has been praised as they kept throwing the ball and putting up points.

They welcome back all their Covid-related players and coaches this week and for the first time in a while come into a game with pretty much a full roster to choose from, and having been able to actually train during the week. Stefanski will be back coaching and play-calling tonight.

Baker has played well, in fact he’s been one of the better QBs towards the end of the season. I don’t know if i’m miles off on this, but I still think he’s an after-thought in the gameplan, they’re a run first team, they use that to establish the rest of the game, it works well with one of the best O-Lines in the league and he’s shown he’s more than capable of doing it. It’s been a great coaching job and you can’t argue with success.

Chubb and Hunt are a great duo, they work well of each other and the way they’re used seems to work very well, they should have good games tonight against the Chiefs team which ranks 31st against the run according to DVOA. They’re the key to the Browns winning the game, as usual. – It was actually a bit of role reversal last week with Hunt running in a couple and Chubb scoring a receiving TD. Hunt has already bemoaned the fact that the Chiefs “gave up on him” after he repeatedly put himself in a position for them to get rid of him and the video was the final straw, so it’s safe to say he’ll be motivated for this one. – I think he’ll go back to more of a pass catching role as the Browns will likely be having to score a lot to keep up in this one, so I like his receiving yards at 16.5.

The passing game has been better than the sum of the parts, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of talent there, but they get players open and they’re making plays, especially Jarvis Landry who’s been very good as the main man, he’s scored a TD in 4 of the final 6 games of the season and averaged 77 or so per game in that span, and over 6 receptions per game. Outside of him they’re relying on Rashard Higgins, he chips in with the odd TD, the rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones has done all right in his rookie season, he wouldn’t have been expected to play as much as he has, but has had a couple of long TD scores, and they should have Kha’darel Hodge this week as WR3/4. Austin Hooper has done more at TE as the season has gone on, he’s scored 4 in his last 6 games as well and has a good matchup vs. this Chiefs defense.

The Browns defense has been poor, they’ve been hit badly with injuries and that has cost them. They should have Denzel Ward back who’s a great corner, I’m not sure he’ll be able to keep up with Tyreek, as there’s few in the league who can, but he’ll help cover the WRs and it’s better than backups there at least. Myles Garrett is a great pass rusher, but he’s admitted to having issues after suffering from Covid over the summer which must have hampered him this year, although he’s still had 12 sacks this season.

The Chiefs

The Chiefs are coming off a bye-week, you’ve probably heard a lot about their record off a bye with Andy Reid, it’s good, but from a betting standpoint it’s baked into the line, most people have this as the Chiefs around a TD favourite, the inflation on them is probably extra rest for players, the game-planning of Reid and maybe the Browns coming off such a big, emotional win last week. They’re 7-3 SU after their bye in their last 10, but it’s 5-5 ATS.

The key thing in figuring out the Chiefs here is whether you believe they’ve been floating through the season knowing that they’re making the playoffs, or whether them not covering the spread for the last 8 games is who they are. I personally think it’s the former.

Mahomes is great, he’s had a “poorer” year and still sits 2nd in yards and QBR, 4th in TDs, and 5th in INTs thrown with 6, 3 of those coming in the one game against the Dolphins. He’s the best in the league, I don’t think there’s a doubt in my mind about that. There’s not much else to say about him to be honest, I think he’ll be able to tear the Browns defense to shreds.

The run game however is practically non-existent, they’re probably without rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire so it looks like it will be Leveon Bell as the main back and they’ll probably give Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson some snaps after he finished the season with 2 TDs against the Chargers when they rested players. 2/1 on Lev scoring seems too high and I’m already on him. Williams is best priced 10/1 at spreadex (as low as 12/5 at 365) while Thompson is 13/1 at Unibet.

Tyreek Hill is quick and he finished with 17 TDs this year, just one behind Adams during the regular season, he scored in 11 of the 15 games he played this season and finished with 1,276 yards, the 269 yards (mostly in the first quarter) against the Bucs helped that line. He’s another I don’t need to say much about. They’ll be without Sammy Watkins so it probably means a bump up for Robinson who gets targeted most weeks anyway, and more for Mecole Hardman as well as Byron Pringle at the bottom of the WR group. Travis Kelce nearly led the league in receiving yards as a TE, and scored in 10 of the 15 games he was involved in. 8/13 for Kelce and Hill scoring is probably priced right, but not backable for me personally.

Defensively they’re probably better than the record shows, they’re not a stellar unit, but they tend to get the job done and frankly the spreads they’ve not covered have generally when they’ve led and allowed teams back knowing they can score in 30 seconds if they needed. I think.

Browns to cover?

The sensible bet given the second half of the season would be the Browns covering a double-digit spread, and it may well happen, but it’s so tough from a mental standpoint to back against the Chiefs. They trailed in every post-season game last year and won the Superbowl including that Titans game where they were 24 points down at one point and won going away.

The Browns continued their run of winning every game where they won the first quarter, and the first half with the win against the Steelers last week. They won 6 of 17 1st quarters, 11 of 17 first halves this season, and won all those games. They’re generally not high scoring in the first quarter though and last week was a freak result. – Will the Chiefs be rusty after their time off? Probably, they were last season. So the Browns may well get ahead, then it’s a case of trusting the numbers, or trusting the Chiefs.

It seems inevitable that there will be points in this one though, I was looking for a place offering “total points in highest scoring quarter” but I’m not sure it’s anything that’s offered. We know the Chiefs can give up points, and we know they can score 28 points in a single quarter and it’s that stat which I can’t get away from.

I’ve got to take the Chiefs to win. I won’t touch the spread, although teasing the Chiefs down and the Bucs up makes sense, although would have to be a 7 point teaser (might also be why the bookies have it at double-digits, a bit of teaser cover for them) – Obviously have to lean over, but I’ve thought that with both Ravens games this post-season and they’ve bit me in the ass.

Hunt o16.5 rec. yards is good with me, Hooper anytime is best priced 13/5 on Unibet and Lev Bell 2/1 on Skybet is too high to ignore. In fact both players to score will be something I go on, Bell and X player, starting with Hooper (which isn’t on Skybet BPTS)

Oh, I like Mahomes rush yards too, 19.5. Although it’s a little more game-script dependant, he’s shown he will run if needed and a best price of 7/2 anytime is probably a little short for my liking.

Bucs +3 @ Saints: 52

This one won’t be as in-depth as I’m running out of time and have to get on with actual life at some point.

An NFC South clash for the 3rd time this season, you’ll hear that it’s tough to beat a team 3 times in the same season, the stats say otherwise, it’s 14-7 to the team winning the 2 regular season games. Will that be the case tonight? I don’t think so.

Tompa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs dealt with Washington easily enough last week despite the final result being relatively close. They put up a lot of yardage and should have really been out of site.

Tom Brady has won a few Superbowls in his time and is looking for his first with a new team, he’s got the talent around him to do it, and fair play to the old Pharoah he’s been playing very well since the bye week. Turns out a 43 year old QB might appreciate the week break during the season more than other players. He’s had over 348 yards in his last 4 games with 12 TDs and 1 INT in that time, the games against the Saints weren’t good though, 239 2:2 in the opener of the season – fair enough he had no pre-season and the connection with players wasn’t there, and 209 0:3 in the second matchup between the two… not quite as excusable, and it added to the narrative that he’s not great when playing after his usual bed-time.

Ronald Jones was a late scratch last week leaving it on Leonard Fournette to run the ball, which he is OK at, he’ll be starting as the main back again this week although Jones will be available, Lenny averaged 5 ypc and scored a TD last week, also somehow caught all 4 of his targets despite his concrete hands. One of Lesean McCoy and Keshawn Vaughn will probaby be inactive, but McCoy is officially available for this one.

Mike Evans looked fine returning from his knee strain, he led the team with 119 yards last week, but he doesn’t tend to do too well against Marshone Lattimore and the Saints averaging just over 50 yards per game and 4 TDs in his 13 games against them. so look for Godwin and Antonio Brown to get a lot of the ball tonight, Godwin led the team in targets last week and has 2 TDs in his 3 games against the Saints, while Brown has scored in 4 games in a row now. Scotty Miller will probably get a deep shot or two. I’m sure they’ll use Gronk more in the passing game than last week, but they may get him in blocking a lot against a good Saints defense, so might be more Cameron Brate who had a few passes last weekend.

They’re good defensively especially against the run where they rank 1st according to DVOA and they welcome back Devin White tonight who is a big piece in their run-stopping. However they’re not great against the slot or pass catching backs, which may be a slight issue tonight.

New Orleans Saints

I really struggle with the Saints, they just don’t excite me watching them as a neutral, so I know full well my previews are usually biased against them. It’s a lot of the same, and it’s generally short stuff, but it works so well for them I can’t argue with it.

Drew Brees had his 42nd birthday on Friday, he’s been efficient as ever this season, completing over 70% of his passes for the 5th season in a row, he’s ruthlessly accurate, and he’s done it for most of this season without his favourite target Michael Thomas (who returned last week) He will also have the odd QB sneak at the goal-line as he did last week, just a few CMs short of breaking the plane against the Bears.

Alvin Kamara finished the regular season leading the league in TDs and added another last week, he’ll do well to run on the Buccs, but his pass catching out of the backfield is matched by very few and that might be the area they use him more often than not tonight, although the loss of Murray who’s more of a standard rusher may mean more for him on the ground as I can’t see them bringing in Ty Montgomery for many snaps. 10/1 anytime for Ty if you did fancy it.

Thomas returned last week and get straight back into things finishing with 5 for 73 from his 7 targets, I think he’ll have more than that this year, he averages 100 yards per game, and just over 8 receptions against the Bucs in his 9 games against them. His rec line is 6.5 at Evens. Deonte Harris was randomly targeted a lot last week, usually a kick returner, he caught all 7 of his targets, I’ve no idea if anything like that will continue this week but I’d lean no. Emmanuel Sanders has had a good season and will appreciate the softer coverage which Thomas returning gives him and Jared Cook has had a decent enough season at tight end, Josh Hill is always worth a look at 22/1, a DPI stopped him scoring on a goal-line play last week.

They rank 2nd on defensive DVOA, and have got better as the season has gone on. CJGJ is obviously an utter fucking prick, but players should be reacting to him, especially Bears players. Idiots.

Saints again?

Everything seems to suggest that the Saints make it three in a season and sweep their way through Tampa to go to the frozen tundra of Lambeau next week. So I can’t really make a case for the Bucs, other than the fact that I think the Bucs win. There’s no evidence that it will happen, it’s just what I think happens.

Again, that may well be my anti-saints bias showing through and the fact that I find them boring, but it is what it is.

Either way next week will be a struggle for the winner, especially Brees playing out in the elements.

I like Thomas o6.5 receptions, you can get 9/4 on Antonio Brown scoring at Unibet, Josh Hill the obvious longshot for me at 20/1 on Skybet, 22s on Unibet. Kamara o36.5 rec. yards seems sensible too, he had 51 in their first meeting but only 9 in their second (from 5 receptions, so o4.5 recs might be more sensible but it’s a poor price)

Good luck with whatever you’re on today.

There’s a Sunday slate competition in my Draftkings league – Sunday Slate– at 8/20 at time of writing (1400)

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