Let’s not break our arms and pat ourselves on the back. Yes, 4-2 was nice. But we needed to go undefeated in the playoffs to make up for the regular season.
Betting lines are especially difficult this week. We think the number of Eagles – favored by the 7.5 – is pretty low. The Eagles were 8-5 against the spread despite being an all-week favorite before Jalen Hurts was injured. Then they lost their last four ATS games, with Hurts getting the kinks at the end.
They play their home and offensive line and the running game, with the Hurts and Miles Sanders, is no joke. The Eagles have rushed for at least 130 yards in 10 games, and they will do so again on Saturday. Our best bet is the Cowboys to cover the spread against the 49ers. Again, their offensive line is a great cause. Small talk is enough.
last week: 4-2 on the spread and 2-1 on the best bets.
Regular class: 127-139-5 ATS; 26-27-3 on best bets.
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With eight NFL playoff teams left, who has the best chance of winning it all?
The Chiefs being home after a week off – Andy Reid is 27-4 after a bye – seems like a no-brainer. Not to mention, Patrick Mahomes made the Jaguars look ridiculous in a 27-17 win in November, completing 26 of 35 passes for 331 yards and four touchdowns before turning over the ball in the fourth quarter.
So…just like we all got back in debate class 30 years ago (don’t get me wrong), I tried to find the opposing argument. The Jaguars play a hot streak playing home money, and their defense plays better than it has at the time – they have a forward seven and Roy Robertson-Harris is the real deal. Trevor Lawrence has taken his game to the next level… not to worry.
Last week, I picked the Chiefs to beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl and that should be a relatively easy first step in that direction. The Jaguars gave up 40 and 34 points, respectively, to the Lions and Cowboys, the two good offenses they faced in December. And last week’s comeback win was probably more about the Chargers, if we’re being honest.
The Jaguars are already struggling to cover tight ends and Travis Kelsey is the best on the field. Jacksonville ranked 32nd in DVOA pass defense against tight ends, allowing a leading 58 receptions or a touchdown during the regular season and third highest receiving yards/receptions on TE targets (13.1).
I imagine they’ve practically focused on that this week, but playing chess against Reed isn’t much fun. He’ll have a lot of other things planned and have other hot hands he can count on. Kadarius Toney is an X factor, and Jerick McKinnon leads all players getting six TDs outside the red zone 13-18 (NFL.)
Jaguars were also prone to slow starts, which is a bad idea at Arrowhead. Mahomes is 4-0 in the divisional round and has never thrown an interception, and is 3-2 against the spread (4-1 overall) when favored by seven or more points in the playoffs. Make it 4-2.
Check: heads -8.5
like the athleteIt’s hard to look for clues in the two games for these two teams this season, Dan Duggan said. The Giants rested everyone at the end of the season and then came back in a 48-22 loss to the Eagles, and they didn’t have Leonard Williams, Landon Collins, Jarrad Davis, Adore Jackson or Xavier McKinney.
The Giants are well coached, Daniel Jones plays with a lot of confidence, Saquon Barkley is one of the top five players in the playoffs, and Dexter Lawrence took over the game last week, pushing the pocket against Minnesota QB. Kirk Cousins.
I tease like this. I take eagles. Mischief appears to be healthy and takes on Lynn Johnson again for what is still truly an underrated offense. Sanders ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries in that first game and has been sleeping all season. He averaged 5.53 pre-contact yards per carry in that game, his second-highest of the season, bested only by his Week 8 performance against the Steelers, but that was Sanders’ only nine carries.
Meanwhile, the Eagles defense has two shutouts — overkill against New York receivers — and shut out the run in the second half of the season. This spread should be higher, but everyone has Brian Dabul and Danny Dimes fever, and while they were great, the Giants are in the playoffs a year ahead of schedule and we’ll see why Sunday.
Pick: Eagles -7.5
NFL Playoffs Expert Picks, Odds: Predictions for every game in the Divisional Round
I still don’t know why this game is not on a neutral site. The Bengals picked up the final game of the season and Joe Borough was tearing through the Bills defense before the game was called off after Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest (a tip to Hamlin’s continued improvement in his recovery). Burrow is very comfortable against the Bills’ heavy defense—the Bengals are third in success rate against five or more DBs during the regular season (46.4 percent). Burrow is patient, as this success has come despite the fact that Cincinnati ranks 23rd in explosive play rate against five or more DBs (10.5 percent).
Now, I don’t know if he can be patient given all the injuries the Bengals have had on the offensive line. They were already missing La’el Collins and Alex Cappa before Jonah Williams fell last week against the Ravens. Neither Capa nor Williams trained on Thursday.
The Bengals barely beat the Ravens last week, and their offense faltered, but I give credit to the Ravens for that. The Bills without Von Miller aren’t a great passing team, and they’re prone to defensive lapses.
I think the Bengals defense is more balanced than the Bills defense and they will have Josh Allen. The Bills simply don’t beat teams with a lot of points winning records this season, and the main reason for that is Allen’s generosity. Allen tries to do too much and led the NFL with 19 turnovers this season and caught three more last week, when he nearly lost a playoff game to Skylar Thompson.
Allen is great, and if he’s dealing on a Sunday, we’ll take L and Pvt. Of the 34 qualified QBs including the postseason, Allen has the lowest off-target rate on throws over 15 air yards (14.6 percent) and ranks seventh in the EPA/DB on such plays. The Bengals defense finished the regular season ranked 11th in success rate (58.5 percent) and sixth in the EPA per opponent for throws over 15 aerial yards.
But we’re dealing with Boro and the Bengals defense. Give us the points.
Check: Bengals +5.5
We flew too close to the sun last week, and we chose Dak Prescott as our featured image to go along with our Cowboys best bet. Duck was a tackle, enough so that he would have to give those 49ers that the 49ers have chosen to trade through the NFC some downtime. Per the EPA’s EPA running back, it was the 10th-best playoff performance by a QB since 2010. It was the 6th-best performance of Prescott’s career (regular season or playoffs) by the EPA/DB.
The 49ers are confident because they beat the Cowboys this time last year, but their glaring weakness seems to be cornerback, so Prescott and Sir Lamb could make things interesting. They’ll have to, because it’s hard to see Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard do much against the 49ers defense.
One thing we have to mention about Prescott’s performance last week – in numbers, the 49ers’ Brock Purdy was better. Purdy has the fifth-best playoff performance QB by EPA/DB since 2010.
One question worth considering (credit to the athleteAaron Reese): Is Purdy stirring up the 49ers offense or is Kyle Shanahan hitting on all cylinders?
The numbers refer to the latter. Purdy finished the regular season with a higher-than-expected -2 completion percentage. On the wild round, his CPOE was -0.5.
Brock Purdy’s playoff debut for the 49ers was good, but not as good as his QB stats would suggest
It’s still amazing to think about how good Purdy has looked since he was the last player selected in last year’s draft. He especially shines as he moves into the pocket and extend plays. Including playoffs, Purdy has 85 touchdowns this season in which he took three seconds or more to throw. Jimmy Garoppolo had 93 such before he suffered a foot injury. Here’s how they stack up. (Note: All numbers/rankings in this note include qualifiers):
Purdy: 61.1% completion rate, 10.78 YPA, 10.78 yards/attempt, success rate of 47.1% (which ranks fourth), first pass rate of 40%, sack rate of 7.7%.
Garoppolo: 51.3% completion rate, 7.27 YPA, 11.44 yards/attempt, 35.1% success rate (24), 25.8% first pass rate, 13.3% sack rate.
This should be a close game, as the Cowboys’ massive offensive line holds its own against the 49ers’ passing tackle. And the National Theater is poised for Micah Parsons to star in the role. Dallas underestimated their opponents all season, but I think the Cowboys are in a great place to at least lose by a field goal Sunday night. Give us the points.
Choice: Cowboy +4
– TruMedia research provided by NFL Editor Aaron Reese.
(Photo: Sean Riley/ the athlete; (Photo by Miles Sanders: Mitchell Lev/Getty Images)