The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs has passed, and we're now down to the remaining four teams that are vying for a Super Bowl championship this season.
HOW ‘BOUT THOSE CHIEEEEFS?!?!? https://t.co/rWt2MIdoP2— Kansas City Chiefs (@Kansas City Chiefs)1610995798.0
The reigning Super Bowl champion, Kansas City Chiefs, squeaked by with a win over the Cleveland Browns 22-17 even though starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes was knocked out for most of the second half with a concussion. The Chiefs backup QB, Chad Henne, was able to scramble for a first down late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for his squad.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers took care of the Rams with relative ease 32-18, as Jared Goff seemed limited while still recovering from a broken thumb on his throwing hand. The league's top defense was unable to slow down the Packers dual threat offense as Rodgers threw for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns, and Aaron Jones ran for 99 yards and a touchdown.
The Bills were able to limit the Ravens rushing attack and ultimately Lamar Jackson's ability to keep the chains moving. The wind played a factor in this game, forcing both teams to miss out on big passing plays and causing missed field goals. The weather certainly forced this game to be a lower scoring affair than we expected, but the result would have been the same. Bills took this one in a defensive battle 17-3.
Bills fans started donating to Lamar Jackson’s favorite charity overnight after he left the AFC divisional game wit… https://t.co/Dd4wVt0a9N— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1610902091.0
The Saints were not able to defeat Tom Brady's Buccaneers for the third time this season. Sweeping Tampa in their two regular season meetings, the Saints weren't able to get the passing game going in this one, which isn't something we're used to saying. Adding to their lackluster performance, the rumors of Drew Brees' imminent retirement makes this one even tougher to swallow if you're a fan of the Saints. New Orleans only lost 30-20, but they never really felt in the game.
AFC Conference Championship Game
Sunday 1/24/21 at 6:40 PM EST
(2) Buffalo Bills at (1) Kansas City Chiefs -3
We are exactly where we should be at this point in the AFC, with the top two seeds in the conference fighting for the chance to head to the Super Bowl. This matchup is a tale of two very different organizations however. The Chiefs are the reigning, defending, undisputed Super Bowl champions with a super hero quarterback named Patrick Mahomes and an offense with more weapons than the Green Berets.
Everyone has that friend who always comes in way too hot... 😂 @Micah_Hyde | @Taronj11 https://t.co/N5D0ami2P7— Buffalo Bills (@Buffalo Bills)1611017220.0
Buffalo is a small market team with a grassroots fanbase that hadn't seen a playoff win since the Clinton administration. Their claim to fame is losing four consecutive Super Bowls during the Jim Kelly era, and most recently they have been a team that's always been just good enough to avoid a top draft pick but never good enough to reach the postseason.
Enter Josh Allen, Brandon Beane, and Sean McDermott. In a few short seasons the Bills have gone from lovable losers to upstart dynasty much in the same vein as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Allen, like Mahomes, put up numbers that should position him as an MVP front-runner. Allen, unlike Mahomes, had to disprove a lot of doubters that had built up over the beginning of his NFL career.
Get you someone who looks at you the way Josh Allen looks at Stefon Diggs 😊 https://t.co/DzID71IYnD— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1610858845.0
Mahomes came out with guns blazing from the start of his career and has never looked back. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that most think if Mahomes continues this level of play throughout his career, he may retire as the best to ever do it. But that's a long way from now, and right now Mahomes has a formidable opponent on his hands.
At this point, there's not telling what can happen. But the prospect of what can happen has us awaiting anxiously for Sunday night. As long as Patrick Mahomes is cleared to play after sustaining a concussion in the Divisional Round game against Cleveland, the Chiefs will feel confident going in to this one.
Josh Allen. Patrick Mahomes. A matchup we have all been waiting for… 👀 “If he flips the table and takes out the Ch… https://t.co/UOKDzBDOUh— NFL Network (@NFL Network)1611000000.0
For Buffalo this is new and unexplored territory. We saw Josh Allen against the Texans last season fall on his face in his first playoff experience. Sure he's been great all year, and they just knocked off Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, but will the pressure of being one step away from the Super Bowl be too much for this untested group?
Prediction: Buffalo Bills 38 - Kansas City Chiefs 31
NFC Conference Championship Game
Sunday 1/24/2021 at 3:05 PM EST
(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (1) Green Bay Packers -3.5
Over the course of two decades, we have seen a lot of great quarterbacks, but possibly no two better than a couple of guys that wear number 12. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers often feel forgotten about for large portions of their careers because other storylines pulled our attention away from the consistent elite-level of play we have gotten from both of them on an annual basis.
Like anything in our lives that seems so basic and intrinsic to the fabric of life, we take players like Brady and Rodgers for granted because we just expect them to be able to continue throwing 40 touchdowns per season into their 40s (Tom Brady passed for 40 touchdowns in the regular season at the age of 43).
Tom Brady now has more playoff wins than all but five franchises 🤯 https://t.co/4xCxNpOmIM— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1610983750.0
The degree of difficulty to maintaining a level of excellence while teammates change, coaches change, systems change, and defenses constantly game plan to shut you down is unbelievably high. No two quarterbacks (in this writer's opinion) have ever done more with less in regard to weapons at their disposal.
If you look at that statement in a vacuum, then it doesn't make sense as both QBs are playing with possibly their most talented respective groups ever this season. But over the course of their careers, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have elevated their teams year after year and made a lot of players, coaches, and front offices look better than they really were (Bill Belichick NOT included).
The best player in the NFL right now.... @AaronRodgers12. https://t.co/FiyDd8N5tk— Stephen A Smith (@Stephen A Smith)1610999364.0
The Buccaneers struggled with consistency during the regular season. While clearly one of the best teams in the NFC even while enduring some bad play, the Bucs took some bad L's including a 38-3 loss to the Saints in early November. When at their best however Tampa is an offense that can run the ball and play defense, allowing Tom Brady to make plays when necessary and manage the game when required.
The Packers will need to focus on stopping the Buccaneer's running attack. Leonard Fournette has had over 100 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in both of Tampa's playoff games so far, and Ronald Jones (who is recovering from injury) chipped in 62 yards on the ground against the Saints last week. Considering how difficult it is to limit the Buccaneers' passing options, Matt LaFleur's best chance to slowing down this offensive attack is to take away the run.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 - Green Bay Packers 24
It's another eventful week in the NFL.
Four teams -- the Jets, Falcons, Saints, and 49ers -- are the first teams to get a bye week. After Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers narrowly escaped Thursday Night Football with a 28-22 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the reigning Super Bowl champs are the first team with five wins in the league. Who will join them on Sunday? We know that we'll get at least a second five-win team since the 4-1 Ravens are hosting the 4-1 Chargers. That is going to be an epic battle, so let's start with that clash of AFC contenders. Welcome to our Week 6 NFL Best Bets.
Playing on the road is a difficult task for any team, but if any team can escape with a victory, it's Justin Herbert and the Chargers. This isn't the Chargers of the last decade. This team is winning the close battles. Herbert is playing at an MVP level this season and already has led this team to big-time wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns -- two of the top teams in the AFC. This L.A. team is deep at the skill positions, can rush the passer, has an improved offensive line and a great young coach. What's not to like?
All that said, Lamar Jackson seems to be playing as he did during his 2019 MVP campaign. Not to mention, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown is actually catching passes. He eclipsed 100 yards last week and scored two touchdowns (including the game-winning catch in overtime). Simply put, this is a tough team to bet against. It did take last-second heroics for the Ravens to beat the winless Lions and a pretty pedestrian Colts team. Overall, Baltimore hasn't faced a test like this yet this season. Take the points and the better overall squad. Chargers may win this game, but if they don't, they are not going to lose by more than a field goal.
PICK: Chargers +3.5
It's been a tough start to the season for the Chiefs. They had great odds to return to the Super Bowl and are now last in the AFC West heading into Week 16 with a 2-3 record. They desperately need this game. This is a great opportunity for the Chiefs to prove they are still elite by defeating a team that made the postseason last year on the road. The Chiefs are going to turn it around against a Washington defense that is allowing the sixth-most passing yards and second-most passing touchdowns this season. Patrick Mahomes is going to blow up. Tyreek Hill is going to dominate. Travis Kelce is going to continue to provide a steady source of receptions down the middle of the field. As long as the Chiefs' offensive line holds against Chase Young, it's going to be a long day for Washington's defense. Betting on Mahomes to right the ship isn't a really difficult choice.
PICK: Chiefs -6.5
Yes, the Texans are one of the worst teams in the league. Betting on them on the road against a divisional rival might seem crazy at first. However, the Texans are 7-3 against the spread as underdogs in their last 10 games. Plus, the Colts are emotional after completely giving away the game against the Ravens in which they blew a 22-3 lead late in the game. This is going to cause a bit of a hangover in that locker room. When New England suffered a terrible loss against Tom Brady and the Bucs, the Texans managed to cover the spread the following week. Look for history to repeat itself. Texans coach David Culley has Houston playing hard in spite of its lack of talent and quarterback Davis Mills appeared to take a step forward last week against the Pats. Houston has played pretty good pass defense, too. The Texans have allowed only seven passing TDs this season.
PICK: Texans +9
Sunday night will be an interesting matchup to watch as Geno Smith will make his first start in four years as the Seahawks travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. I hate betting on Ben Roethlisberger, but it's hard to envision the Seahawks covering the spread without the services of Russell Wilson. And as much as I think Big Ben should hang up his cleats, you have to give him credit for the way he dominated a solid Broncos defense last week. Roethlisberger looked better than he did earlier in the season and was able to get the ball to his playmakers -- Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and running back Najee Harris. Seattle's defense is one of the worst in the league and their secondary is even worse than their front seven. Look for the Steelers to light up Seattle in the passing game.
PICK: Steelers -5
Both of these offenses can put up a lot of points, though they go about it very differently. The Browns are a run-heavy team, and even though they will be without the services of Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt is more than capable of getting the job done. Meanwhile, Arizona's offense runs through electric quarterback Kyler Murray. Murray is able to move the chains with his legs but he isn't afraid to toss the ball either. He loves getting his guys involved and his weapons are elite in DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, and Christian Kirk.
The Browns are coming off an 89-point slugest with the Chargers and hit the OVER in their other game against a high-end offense in a 33-29 loss to the Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have scored 30-plus points in four of five games this year. Smash the OVER.
PICK: OVER 49.5
Week 2 of the NFL was full of breakout performances, thrilling finishes and potentially the start of the Justin Fields era in the NFC North as the Bears' win over the Bengals finds them in first place in the division.
We cap off the week with a Monday Night Football showdown between the Packers and the Lions with the winner finding themselves tied for first in the North. The Packers put up an absolute dud of a performance last week against the Saints in Week 1 while the Lions looked surprisingly effective while playing catch-up against the West-leading 49ers. The expectations for these two teams couldn't have been further apart coming into the season but with matching 0-1 starts on the books, I think there are a couple of interesting props and roster construction angles to exploit.
NFL DFS Showdown Picks
*Prices are from DraftKings
Captain: TE T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions ($9,600) ($14,400)
I'm normally not a fan of playing a tight end in the captain spot, but T.J. Hockenson is not your average tight end. He finished 2020 with an elite 18% target share in the Lions' offense and picked up right where he left off in Week 1, finishing with an 18.2% share on 50 routes run last week. Hockenson has always carried premium TD upside as a red-zone target but what was most encouraging about last week was that he ran nearly 55% of his routes out of the slot, leaving him a matchup against Chandon Sullivan, who's allowing a 67% catch rate in his coverage. In a game where the Lions are projected to be down early, expect Hockenson to get fed once again. His red-zone utilization gives him enough juice to take the captain's chair in my builds.
Core Consideration: QB Jared Goff, Detroit Lions ($10,000)
Two principles I take into Showdown slates apply to this play. Generally speaking, if I have a pass-catcher as my captain, I'm finding a way to get their QB into a flex spot. The second is that your build needs to tell a story. Mine is that the Packers come out with something to prove after getting embarrassed in Week 1 and that we'll likely see upwards of 50 pass attempts from Jared Goff as he attempts to mount a comeback. Goff is a surprisingly effective passer when getting good protection and this unit gave him a clean pocket on 86.7% of snaps last week. Expect that to continue tonight as Goff will continue to feast in garbage time.
Contrarian Play: WR Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers ($2,000)
I still chuckle at the thought of the return of Randall Cobb being on the short-list of demands from Aaron Rodgers in the midst of his holdout. I do, however, think there is something to be said about the importance of chemistry between a quarterback and his receiver and I expect that in a typical game (which Week 1 was not), Aaron Rodgers is going to find his spots to get Cobb involved. In a game script that figures to have the Packers up by a healthy margin, not many are going to look at the tertiary passing options for Green Bay and I think a $2,000 Randall Cobb could sneak in a handful of receptions at single-digit ownership..
Salary Relief: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions ($2,400)
This one fits perfectly into my narrative for the game as well. In a game where the Lions are likely to flirt with 50+ pass attempts and coming off a week where St. Brown ran routes on 75% of the team's passing plays, I will be overweight on Amon-Ra tonight. Lining up in the slot on 74.5% of plays means St. Brown will primarily see coverage from Chandon Sullivan, the most favorable of the options GB lines up in their defensive secondary. Expect St. Brown to see his target volume increase tonight. If Detroit can be more effective in getting to the red zone, he carries decent scoring upside with the way he's utilized in this offense. Plus, who doesn't love the extra motivation of playing against their big bro?
Monday Night Football Best Bets
Taking a look at the wagering side of this game; before we determine anything else we must ask ourselves what we think of these Green Bay Packers. I tend to look at last week's performance as the exception and not the rule. With that being the case, I am laying the 11.5 points and taking GB tonight. Over the past six seasons, oddsmakers have been fairly sharp when it comes to these larger spreads and NFL teams cover double-digit spreads more than 55% of the time. The total for tonight is sitting at 48.5 and given the somewhat surprising ability of the Lions to make up ground last week, I am confidently on the "over" side of that line.
Picks: Packers -11.5, OVER 48.5 points
Taking a look at the prop market, I am again mainly investing in the "GB Blowout" narrative:
D'Andre Swift: OVER 28.5 Receiving Yard
Coming off a 65-yard performance in a very similar game script, this one feels like a no-brainer. Swift averages nearly 8 yards per reception so this really boils down to whether you think he catches more than 3 passes. I certainly do and I'm confidently on the OVER for this prop. FanDuel is currently carrying the best odds at -110.
T.J. Hockenson: Anytime TD
I'm not the biggest fan of these "to score" props, but I'll break from the norm with this one. I am projecting the Lions to at least have a go at it in this game and there simply isn't a scenario where that doesn't involve a score for Hockenson. +220 odds at FanDuel sort of feels like stealing given that I see this game going over the 48.5 total.
AJ Dillon | UNDER 8.5 Rushing Attempts
I know that the betting public is forecasting a fairly comfortable win for the Packers, but let's not get carried away. AJ Dillon would have to nearly double his career average for carries to get to this number. Plus, it's a bit unlikely that this game gets so far out of reach that Green Bay brings in their backups. Even last week when they did bring in the second-stringers, Dillon only saw 4 carries. I'm expecting Aaron Jones to have a monster day on the ground, as evidenced by my Saturday article.
Week 1 is in the books and it's time to move on to the best bets in Week 2.
If you listened to my article earlier this week, you would have started 1-0 for taking the Giants with the points against Washington in that thriller of a matchup Thursday night. Now, let's dive into Week 2's best NFL bets.
Tennessee Titans/Seattle Seahawks Over 54
The Seahawks' offense was high-flying in the first half last week. Because the Colts never really threatened the outcome of the game, the Seahawks were able to take the air out of the ball and finish the game with an easy win while only scoring seven in the second half. While both the Titans' defense and offense looked atrocious, expect Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry to have big bounce-back weeks and make this an epic high-scoring game. This has all the makings for a shootout in which both teams put up 30-plus points.
Cincinnati Bengals +2.5 @ Chicago Bears
Until that Monday night game, the Bengals had the honor of winning the craziest Week 1 game over the Vikings in overtime. The Bears' defense, which is supposed to be their strength, looked awful against the Rams, including one of the most blown coverages you'll ever see on Cooper Kupp's long touchdown. It was simply an awful week for the Bears. I don't think it gets any better until they remove Dalton and promote Justin Fields. If they don't do that prior to game time, the Bengals will run away with this one.
Los Angeles Rams -3.5 @ Indianapolis Colts
Coming out of Week 1 the Rams looked great on both sides of the ball. Matthew Stafford had a great first game, going 20 for 26 with three touchdowns. The Colts... They didn't look that great on either side of the ball. While Carson Wentz's overall numbers didn't look bad, most of the yardage and one of his two TDs came in the fourth quarter as they were chasing from two or more scores back, never actually threatening to win the game. I'm leaning towards the Rams winning this in a blowout and would consider alternate spreads.
Arizona Cardinals -3.5 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Kyler Murray appears to be a man on a mission to avenge last season's bitter ending after absolutely torching the Tennesee Titans in Nashville. The Vikings' defense, who hasn't been as formidable as years past, is going to have their hands full with Kyler. Last week they allowed Joe Burrow to complete nearly 80% of his passes, and Burrow isn't a threat to run nor has a receiver as talented as DeAndre Hopkins. If the Vikings offense doesn't step up and make this a shootout, things could get ugly in Phoenix.
Dallas Cowboys + 3.5 @ Los Angeles Chargers
Dak Prescott looked great in Week 1 and if there were any issues with his shoulder after throwing 58 times, he had 10 days to get healed up again and ready for the Chargers. I can almost guarantee, whenever the Cowboys go to play either Los Angeles team in their stadium, that there will be more Cowboys fans than LA fans. So while they aren't playing in Jerry World, they'll have more fan support. My concern for Justin Herbert and the Chargers is their efficiency in the red zone. His most potent weapons in Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler become less effective as they get closer to the goal line. That leaves Jared Cook and Mike Williams as your bigger bodies in the red zone, which isn't ideal. The Cowboys have a decent chance to win this one outright, but you can take the points for some cushion.
- Cowboys ML (+160)
- Titans +6.5 (-105)
- Steelers ML (-225)
- Rams -3.5 (-110)
Five Props To Consider
- Calvin Ridley OVER 6.5 receptions (+115)
- Tyrod Taylor OVER 34.5 Pass Attempts (-105)
- Aaron Jones OVER 88.5 combined yards (-115)
- Nick Chubb OVER 17.5 carries (-120)
- James Robinson OVER 9.5 carries (-125)
All five of these props have an excellent chance at hitting. I like the idea of wagering a three-leg prop parlay with the last three props listed (Jones, Chubb and J-Rob). Thanks me on Monday.