The fun and the games are over – the serious business is underway. The NFL playoffs give us the 12 teams who can beat each other: to this point, the teams who have shown enough variation in scheme and play-calling as well as enough belief in analytics, will now face off, knowing one more loss ends the road for them.
These next three weeks are a road to Super Bowl LIV, and only two sides will be making the flight to Miami to contest it. That all starts with the Wild Card round, where the so-called top-end teams can sit on their couches and study tape on their potential opponents.
But some will tell you they value the momentum more than the rehab. Who’s going to hit next week like a steam train? Let’s find out.
Tennessee Titans (+5.0) @ New England Patriots: -112
4th January 2020 8:15PM
First of all, hats off to oddsmakers. This is the correct line, exactly as I’d draw it up. With that in mind, I still need to find a team who’s more likely to be on the right side of this spread, and for me, it’s just about going to be Tennessee.
This run game is the most sophisticated in the NFL. Here’s a stat for you: if you only considered Derrick Henry’s last six games of the season, his rushing totals would still eclipse the entire season’s yards put up by both Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley.
Given that New England are likely to kick if they win the coin toss, I presume Tennessee get the ball first, which should allow them to run it with their workhorse.
I believe this game comes down to the big turnover, and while AJ Brown’s routes are not enough to completely confuse Stephon Gilmore, I do believe Tom Brady’s arm could give Kevin Byard the chance to swing momentum.
Back to Titans to spring a shock. You can back them (+5) at -111 with CanPlay.
Minnesota Vikings @ New Orleans Saints (-8.0): -105
5th January 2020 1:05PM
The points aren’t what bother me here. This Vikings team was involved in a one-score game in just six of their 16 matchups this season, which is bizarre.
They either click and blow everyone away, or they don’t and get well-beaten.
Coming into this game off the back of two losses isn’t ideal, but their familiarity with the play-action they run means they’re unlikely to fall victim to the Saints’ jump-balls. As you expect them to play a lot of Cover 2 zone, Michael Thomas’ deep threat should be doubled for most plays, meaning the Saints will have extended drives.
There’s enough IQ on the defensive side of the ball to get one third-down stop, especially as the likes of Kendricks, Smith and Barr can all cancel out Kamara and Hill.
Once Waynes can deal somewhat with Thomas when the Vikes bring pressure, I think the Vikings spring a major upset here.
Seattle Seahawks @ Philadelphia Eagles (+1.5): -107
5th January 2020 4:40PM
I cannot back a visiting team in a raucous environment with as many holes on their roster as this Seahawks team has.
From a long way out, the Eagles struggled to punch above the average weight of the NFC East, and with that psychological burden of winning the division off their backs, they can now focus solely on winning the Super Bowl.
They do have the roster for it, of course. That’s not even a question, and there aren’t too many hotter quarterbacks in the league right now than Carson Wentz.
The Eagles were my pre-season Super Bowl pick and I can’t abandon them now. Back the Eagles at +105 with CanPlay.