Last season’s wild card weekend turned out to be all chalk, as all four home favorites covered and won easily – by an average of 19 points.
by Don Bleeker – Wannamakeabet Staff Writer
This season’s slate looks to have one live underdog in Atlanta(+6.5) at the Rams, and three home favorites in Kansas City (-8.5) vs. Tennessee, Jacksonville (-8.5) vs. Buffalo, and New Orleans (-6.5) vs. Carolina; which could be mixed and matched in 6 point teasers.
Of those three, Jacksonville seems the most likely to win if LeSean McCoy cannot go or is less than 100 % for the Bills. Buffalo is 3-2 straight up and against the spread in games McCoy has missed, but that was in past seasons with Mike Gillislee and Karlos Williams as his backups – who each averaged over 5.5 yards per carry. Mike Tolbert (3.7 YPC) is his backup this season, and would be the worst starting running back in recent playoff memory if McCoy doesn’t dress. Jacksonville has the #1 DVOA on defense per football outsiders, while Buffalo had the #26 offense (and #15 defense) with a healthy Shady all season. They have below average receivers, and will struggle to move the ball on the league’s best passing defense. This game features a total below 40 points, and should be very defensive. Jacksonville will also have a lively home crowd, and will be the key team in my 6 point teasers against a Buffalo squad that just feels happy to be there.
Kansas City has been on a roll since Andy Reid gave up offensive play-calling, scoring 31, 26, 30, 29, and 27 points in their past five games. They also haven’t given up more than 20 points at home this season, and have averaged 16 points against on their home field this year, despite grading out as the #30 defense per DVOA. The Titans come into the game off of three straight losses followed by a 15-10 win at home in a must win game against Jacksonville’s backups in the second half. They are average across the board, although they do limit the big play on defense.
Pick: If I were to pick a side, I’d take Tennessee and the +8.5 points as the line feels inflated and they can keep it close – but the Chiefs can also roll at home, and I expect them to win in a low scoring game that also goes UNDER 44.5.
Carolina and New Orleans have already played twice this year, with the Saints winning 34-13 and 31-21 (after being up 31-14 late). The old mantra is that it’s tough to beat the same team three times in one year – but throughout NFL history, teams have swept the third game about 66% of the time. This game will be decided in the trenches when New Orleans is on offense, as the #1 defensive and offensive lines in adjusted sack rate will go head to head. The Saints should also win, but division rivals always make for tougher games.
In the Saturday night slot, Atlanta and the Los Angeles Rams should have the best game of the weekend. Both teams feature high scoring offenses and superstar talents, including Julio Jones and Aaron Donald. The Rams are perfectly capable of covering at home, and rolling all the way to the Superbowl. Some advanced stats grade them out as the best team in football, and the eye test seems to tell the same. Wade Phillips with the Rams defense against Steve Sarkisian and Atlanta’s offense seems to be a coaching win for the Rams; but you cannot count out the talent on this Atlanta team – or their hunger after blowing last year’s Super Bowl.
This should be an excellent game, and I would lean towards Atlanta (+6.5). But I will stay away from picking it with the Falcons possibly spent from playing their way into the playoffs, and going against a rested and well coached Rams squad.
THE PICK (Against the Spread: 8-3; Moneyline: 1-0; Totals 0-0) (6-2 Favorites; 3-1 Underdogs)
- Kansas City / Tennessee (Under 44.5)
- (1)6 Point Teaser: Jacksonville(-2.5)/Kansas City(-2.5) ; and/or
- (2)6 Point Teaser: Jacksonville(-2.5)/New Orleans(-.5); and/or
- (3)6 Point Teaser: New Orleans (-.5)/Kansas City(-2.5)