Wild Card Weekend Sunday Previews; Dolphins @ Bills, Giants @ Vikings, Ravens @ Bengals

What a night of football to kick off Wild Card Weekend! The 49ers had a minor scare with the Seahawks leading at the half, but their class shone through in the second half and they ran away with a 41-23 win in the end, once again covering the spread. The scorers were pretty much expected, CmC got his TD, Deebo was involved in the run game from the start, he finished with a score and my boy Elijah Mitchell scored at a tasty price as well, DK Metcalf got a couple for the ‘Hawks lining up on Lenoir for a lot of the game and taking advantage of the weak spot in the Niners defense. They move on to the next round, although with the other two NFC games in the balance on paper their opponent is tough to predict for now.

The AFC opening game was a stunner, I woke up on the sofa at 3am, saw that Lawrence had thrown FOUR interceptions, saw the “he’s thrown more completions to Asante Samuel than his own team mate” tweets and thought how correct I was about him falling apart in crunch time, luckily I didn’t tweet anything as waking up to notifications of one of the largest comebacks ever was a stunner. Lawrence once again found each of his receivers for a TD in a remarkable comeback which may well see the end of Brandon Staley as Chargers coach. Gerald Everett did find the endzone for the Bolts though, which brought home the double on TD scorers recommended on my post yesterday.

The Jaguars will PROBABLY now move on to face the Chiefs as the spread on the Bills and Bengals suggests home wins (I’m not quite as confident, but there we are)

The regular season rematches continue tonight with two divisional games sandwiching the Giants and Vikings who faced each other in the regular season just under a month ago.

Dolphins +13.5 @ Bills: 43.5

The largest post-season spread since just 2017, apparently not as rare as I expected, the Patriots were 13.5 faves vs. the Titans in that season. They split the regular season with both games settled by under 3 points, the Bills winning 32-29 at home and the Dolphins 21-19 in Miami, although Buffalo dominated the stats in that game early in the season.

Skylar Thompson did not look very good against the Jets last week. He’s starting again here though and that’s pretty much the end of the handicap. The Bills should stroll through this game.

The lack of any history on the 3rd string QB for the Dolphins makes it tough to judge anything on their side of the ball, you’d expect them to try and lean on the run game but that took a hit this week too after Raheem Mostert had surgery on a thumb injury meaning they’re down to Jeff Wilson and Salvon Ahmed as the main guys on the ground now with Alec Ingold probably getting a look in a well.

The passing game was beaten up in the season finalĂ© as well with Hill and Waddle both having time off the field with injury, they’ll both play this week and you’d think any QB would be able to find them on 5-yard slants over the middle. Thompson had to mix the targets up last week with the injuries, Gesicki led the team with 6 while Hill and Waddle had 5 each and 2nd TE Durham Smythe got 5 targets as well.

Dolphins defense is fine.

The Bills exorcised some demons with Nyheim Hines running back the opening kick off last week to get them off to a remarkable start as they returned from the postponed games vs. the Bengals, and the good news here is that Damar Hamlin is expected to attend the game in person as he continues his recovery from the events of that Monday Night game.

Josh Allen is arguably the best QB in the game, he flicked his wrist to lob a 49 yard TD to Diggs last week, looking like he might be over his elbow injury which has hampered him from mid-season, but he is still throwing red-zone interceptions which cost his team. His mobility on the ground tends to come to the fore in big games, his rushing line this week is down to 48.5 from 50.5 in mid-week, under was my lean as they should be in enough control for him to not have to rush the ball in this one.

The run game for the Bills is split between Singletary as the lead and James Cook who had more touches throughout the season, and Hines gets a couple of attempts per game as well. 46.5 and 37.5 the lines for those two, in theory, with the game in hand overs should be the look on either of them as the Bills control the ball and time of possession.

Stefon Diggs is excellent, he’ll have a fun game against the better coverage, Gabe Davis is incredible unreliable for anything this season, Isaiah McKenzie has done well in the mid-passing game and Cole Beasley is back on the active roster as well, oh and Smokey Brown scored for the Bills, another player returning for them to bolster their passing game late in the season. Dawson Knox has a TD in 4 games in a row now including against the Dolphins a month ago.

Bills defense is fine, you can get at them but I don’t think Skylar Thompson can.

Bills obviously win comfortably, and I have to lean to them covering the spread, but I can’t take it at nearly two TDs. Dawson Knox 23/10 (Unibet) 2/1 most others – seems like the obvious TD scorer at the odds, Diggs at Even money is fine too. Salvon Ahmed an interesting look for the Dolphins at 9/1 on Skybet but I don’t think they’ll score more than once so it’s a little risky, Durham Smythe catches the eye at 14s as well if you want a random punt.

Giants +3 @ Vikings: 48

The most interesting game of the weekend sees a re-match of Christmas Eve where the Vikings won on a 61-yard field goal. The Giants were 4.5 point underdogs and having rested all their starters last week the betting market seems to think they’ve got even more chance to pull off an upset in this one.

Daniel Jones has surely earned himself a new contract with the Giants this year, or at least a franchise tag as he’s helped his team to the playoffs, his mobility has been key for him and he’s been very safe with the ball with just 5 interceptions this year, finishing the regular season with 91 and 2 TDs on the ground as well as 2 TDs through the air for his best game of the season. He should be able to move the ball against this Vikings defense.

Saquon Barkley will be looking for a big game as well, he was rested in the final week, finished the year with 1,312 yards good for 4th in the league, it did look like he’d worn down a little so the chance for a week off should see him back to his explosive best and he gets a good matchup. He and Danny Dimes over on rush yards will be my lean on the ground – 72.5 and 40.5 for those two players.

The passing game is, on paper, one of the least talented in the league, Richie James, Isaiah Hodgins, Daniel Bellinger? All no-names, but they’ve been able to move the ball surprisingly well this year a true credit to the coaching staff. Darius Slayton is the one player you may have heard of as the deeper threat for them, oh, and Kenny Golladay who scored with the 3rd stringers last week, he’s been an utter failure for this team. James is the one I’d be looking at, his line is up at 48.5 though so I’ll probably be staying away. Darius Slayton over 22.5 for his longest reception is one I’ve been interested in for a lot of the year – he’s hit it in 8 of 13 games where he’s had a reception.

They’re a good defense as well, Kayvon Thibadeoux seems like a dick, but he’s been putting in good performances as has Dexter Lawrence up front.

Kirk Cousins is arguably the most critiqued QB in the league and he is who he is, I guess he’s like Trevor Lawrence on the other side of the league, capable of putting up huge games, capable of giving away games single-handedly as well. He finished the season 4th in yards and TD, 2nd in interceptions, and a QBR of 23… a very Kirk Cousins season – 3 TDs on 299 yards against the Giants when they played.

Having Justin Jefferson at WR definitely helps him, he led the league in rec yards and had 12 for 133 and a TD against the Giants. He’s a sensation and will undoubtedly become the highest paid non-QB in the league when he gets his contract. TJ Hockenson blew up in the regular season game too with 13 receptions for 109 yards and 2 TDs, he has been a good trade for them. Adam Thielen may be relegated to third target now with KJ Osborn having some big games this year, I definitely trust Osborn more than my Thielen these days.

Dalvin Cook has dropped off a little this year but is still capable on the ground, he left part of last weeks game with a knee injury but returned and had it not been a dead game probably would have played more, it allowed Alexander Mattison to come in and score twice, one of the best backups in the league.

Vikings defense has got better towards the end of the season but it is not a good unit.

A closely matched game, obviously with a 3 point spread that goes without saying, but I can’t call it either way, it will be very interesting. The “Tri-bet” market was made for this game though, either team to win by 7 points is 10/11 at Paddypower (All Markets, Tri-bet) and either by 5 or fewer is 9/5 on Bet365 (Main props, Tri-bet)

Props? Daniel Jones o40.5 rush yards, and I am a sucker for TE so over 2/1 for Hockenson is fine with me.

Ravens +8.5 @ Bengals: 40.5

The Bengals are used to being the early Saturday game, the one the league just want to get out of the way, so it’s a sign of how Burrow has changed the franchise that they’re the Sunday Night Football game, great for them, terrible for fans on this side of the pond.

A direct re-match of last week where the Ravens rested their offense with Anthony Brown playing, Tyler Huntley, JK Dobbins, Mark Andrews all got the night off in preparation of this week. The Bengals were in control by half time and controlled the second half to even the series on the year.

The Ravens are again without Lamar Jackson, probably should have given him a contract… so Tyler “Snoop” (apparently) Huntley gets the start for the Ravens who average just under 20 pts a game on offense with him at QB. It’s an upgrade on Brown who gave the Bengals good field position constantly last week but it’s not good for a playoff team.

JK Dobbins has looked very good since his return from injury (averaging over 6 ypc) and with Gus Edwards out of concussion protocol they have their top 2 RBs available against a very good Bengals run defense. You’d imagine they’ll try and lean on the run game a lot tonight and it will be an intriguing matchup. Kenyan Drake has been a decent pickup for them as well to add a third to the ground game.

Mark Andrews 10+ targets int he passing game? He got the week off last week and Isaiah Likely went over 100 yards so he’ll probably get a little more attention for them as well in the middle of the field. It was the 3rd quarter before a WR caught a pass from the backups last week, Demarcus Robinson the de facto one on a terrible roster with Sammy Watkins returning to the team last month. It’s Andrews and Likely and probably not too much else.

Defensively they have been brilliant since trading for Roquan Smith who received a huge contract extension this week and they will cause Joe Burrow issues especially with the Bengals missing their starting RT and RG, they’ll target that side of the line.

The Bengals are looking to make the Super Bowl for the second year in the row and this is not an easy start for them, there’s familiarity between the teams and typically they do struggle on offense against this Ravens D. I am probably around 60% confident on them progressing, much lower than I’d want to be.

Joe Burrow has been excellent this year, his calmness no matter what the game-script shines through and he’s dealt well with pressure on the whole, finished the year 2nd in passing TDs, although has still thrown too many interceptions especially against the AFC North where 9 of his 12 came, although just 1 vs. the Ravens. He threw a passing TD in each and every game this season, extending the longest streak of any QB in the league.

Ja’Marr Chase had a big game last week mossing defenders for TDs and he’s stepped up in the biggest games, Tee Higgins has been a stud this year, should have scored last week but was over-thrown when wide open, he looked a little off but hopefully last week knocked off the cobwebs a little and gave him some confidence to play like normal after his hit caused the Hamlin incident, and Tyler Boyd typically does well against the Ravens, his TD a few years ago kick-started the Bills resurgence. Trenton Irwin is interesting, his line is 6.5 on Bet365 – Will he get one catch? Probably, and 39/10 for 25+ yards is tempting too. To round out the passing game Hayden Hurst has been a good signing for the Bengals at TE as well.

The run game has not been great though, Joe Mixon has been fine but ranks low in broken tackles and most other metrics, although he is capable of big games and they’ve used him increasingly in the passing game, an area he may get more here with the issues on the right side of the offensive line, and Samaje Perine has run well when called upon.

Defensively the Bengals have matured into one of the best units in the league and the return of DJ Reader has made their run-defense very reliable, they’ll be called upon a lot tonight.

I can’t take the Bengals giving up the points even though Joey is 19-4 ATS over his last 23 games, I think they win but I think it’ll be close so I’d be on the Ravens getting 8.5 if I was betting a spread, and with defenses probably on top I’d lean under, but it’s always a risk with the Bengals offense.

Props-wise I’m taking that Trenton Irwin line, over 6.5 (7.5 on PP is fine) – I think he gets a couple of receptions, also like Hurst o3.5 recs, he’s nearing 3/1 to score against the team who drafted him again as well. Even with Dobbins and Edwards back I’m surprised Kenyan Drake is 10/1 at PP, I’ll have a nibble of that.

The Bengals haven’t allowed a 1st quarter TD for 10 games, so getting them at -2.5 on the 1st quarter spread is a bet.

Good Luck if you’re betting tonight, not the most interesting games on paper, the Bills game may well be my targeted Nap time as I need to get up at 1am for the Bengals and want to watch the middle game as the most competitive of the evening.

Hopefully I’ll carry on from the 13/1-ish double of Everett and Mitchell last night.

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