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Just eight teams and two more playoff rounds remain until Super Bowl LV. There were a bunch of great games in the Wild Card round, but not a ton of winning for bettors. Did anyone profit last week? I know I didn’t.
All that means is we’ve got to bounce back this week, and I’ve got two bets that’ll hopefully help us do so. As I mentioned last week, I’ll be sure to briefly touch on each playoff game in my write-up, even if I don’t have a strong bet to share. Let’s start in the frozen tundra, shall we?
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Packers/Rams Under 45.5
This opened at 47 and immediately got bet down to 45.5. I bet it at 46, so if you feel more comfortable buying an extra half-point, I wouldn’t be against it as long as you’re not laying more than -125 to do so. This total of 45.5 is the lowest number I like here, as well. If it drops to 45, it’ll turn into just a lean.
Unders haven’t been the most profitable wagers that I’ve handicapped this season, and I know I sound like a broken record, but I think we’re getting a lot of things breaking our way in this game. First and probably most importantly: Jared Goff is officially starting for Los Angeles. He’s just three weeks removed from a broken thumb, and it’s going to be Green Bay cold on Saturday – snowy, windy, temperatures in the low 30s, and “feels like” temperatures in the mid-20s. No problem for Aaron Rodgers of course. Big problems for Jared Goff, though.
Goff didn’t really look comfortable throwing or gripping the football last week in Seattle, which is completely understandable given the condition of his thumb. But this week, it’ll be even colder, the ball will be wet from the snow, and the Rams may be without their top underneath option in Cooper Kupp. There’s a lot stacking up against Goff in this one. Plus, he played at the University of California and now plays in Los Angeles. He’s not a cold weather quarterback, and this isn’t a cold weather team. They’ll have trouble moving the ball on offense.
Remember, the Rams/Seahawks game was 6-3 just before halftime last week, until a pick-six, a big pass to D.K. Metcalf, and a huge kick return near the end of the second quarter accounted for 17 points and blew the scoring open. Outside of that six-or-so minute window, that game was leaning under all the way. The Rams are going to approach this game the same way they did the last: run the ball on offense, play great defense. Both great signs for the under.
I mentioned earlier that the snow is no problem for Aaron Rodgers, and while this doesn’t exactly sound like a good sign for the under, consider that the Packers lead the league in time of possession. Add in bad weather, and I think the Packers will play even slower on offense. Fewer chunk plays, especially against the top defense in the league, and perhaps a few more run plays sprinkled in seem likely.
Speaking of long drives, the Rams are actually second in the league in time of possession, behind Green Bay. These two teams are the only teams in the NFL to average over 32 minutes of possession in the league. I expect long drives in bad weather, so I’ll take the under.
Saints (-3) vs. Buccaneers
Fading Tom Brady is usually a recipe for disaster, especially in the playoffs, so this one pains me a bit. I just feel like we’ve been making excuses for the Bucs all year long. Not that they’re a bad team, they’re actually a really good one, I just feel like every negative point about Tampa Bay is countered with a “yeah, but…” excuse.
Meanwhile, the Saints lost their running back due to COVID, their quarterback with 11 broken ribs, their top wide receiver due to injury and suspension, and last week lost their best pass rusher due to injury. Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and Alvin Kamara have only played together, wire-to-wire, in three of the team’s 17 games this season. Like it or not, the Saints are a really good and deep team, and they just continue to overcome their deficiencies and win.
Let’s start with what I like about the Saints this week, and then we’ll finish up with what I don’t particularly like about the Buccaneers. On more than one occasion this week, I’ve heard about how hard it is to beat the same team three times in one year. That’s actually a myth. In the last 21 similar games, the team who won the first two matchups of the season is 14-7 in the third meeting (thanks to the Pregame.com guys for that stat). And the Saints dominated both of the previous meetings, scoring 34 and 38 points, while winning both by double-digits.
New Orleans also looks like they will welcome back Trey Hendrickson, their top pass rusher, and we all know the way to knock Brady off his game is to get pressure on him. That’ll be much easier with Hendrickson in the fold. Finally, taking the last three weeks off worked wonders for Michael Thomas. He looked refreshed last week, catching five passes for 73 yards, and a touchdown on a team-leading seven targets.
On to what is keeping me off the Bucs. Mike Evans wasn’t 100% last week, and he said he “hopes to be close to 100%” this week. He’s their top receiver, and if he’s less than 100% against a defense as good as the Saints, that could spell issues in the pass game. Ronald Jones also missed last week due to a quad injury, and Tampa Bay isn’t going to find any success on offense without a run game against the Saints. If Jones is out again, or if he plays in a limited capacity, that’s a significant downgrade for the Bucs.
I also was just very underwhelmed by the Buccaneers defensive performance last week against Washington. They made Taylor Heinicke look way better than Taylor Heinicke actually is. Remember, this is a quarterback who was behind Dwayne Haskins on the depth chart just a few weeks ago. Getting Devin White back will help, but it won’t magically turn this defense back into what it was at the beginning of the year. Especially against such a balanced Saints offense on the fast Superdome track.
Feel free to buy this one down to Saints -2.5 if you wish; I wouldn’t lay more than -125 to do so, however.
Best of the Rest
Ravens (+2.5) @ Bills (O/U 49.5)
Everyone is on the Ravens this week because the Bills can’t stop the run and the Ravens run game is officially back. I understand the logic, but the Bills are really good. And the Ravens, who are apparently back, only managed to score 20 points on the Titans terrible defense. Baltimore’s defense has really pulled it together of late, but Buffalo has shown time and time again that they really don’t care who they’re playing. They’re capable of finding ways to score points. I’m not going to lay the points, I’ll just do what I did with the Ravens last week and slightly lean with the Bills on the moneyline instead.
Lean: Bills Moneyline (-135)
Browns (+10) @ Chiefs (O/U 57)
Ten points is a ton of points for a playoff game. I can absolutely see Andy Reid finally opening up the real playbook and the Chiefs blowing Cleveland out, but I’m not laying 10 points in the playoffs. I do see a real opportunity to bet Kansas City live in this one. They came out of their bye last year a bit sluggish as well, so if Cleveland takes an early lead, especially if they’re still leading in the second quarter, I’d look to jump on the Chiefs live at under a touchdown.
I also can’t believe I’m actually typing this about a Chiefs game, but I actually lean towards the under. Again, just a lean, but if you’re betting it, you can probably wait until close to kickoff to pull the trigger. The public will probably continue to drive the number up as they bet the over. The Chiefs can score as slow or as fast as they want, especially against a bad defense like Cleveland’s. With how poor Kansas City’s rush defense is combined with how strong Cleveland’s rushing attack is, I’d assume the Chiefs will opt for longer, more ball-controlled drives.
Lean: Under 57
Mike is an avid sports bettor and fantasy football player, and has been writing since 2013. He previously worked for NBC Sports Philadelphia and Alliance Football Focus, and currently contributes to BettingPros as a featured writer. Mike is a resident of New Jersey, a graduate of Rider University, and currently works as a research analyst. When he isn’t searching for his next wager or watching the New Jersey Devils, Mike enjoys spending time with his wife, his dog and his two cats.