NFL Tips: Mike Carlson backs Bills to stop Rivers in Wild Card play-off

Philip Rivers of Indianapolis Colts
Mike thinks Philip Rivers is set for a slow day

Mike Carlson recommends three bets for the NFL's Super Wild Card play-offs weekend including a slow day in Buffalo for the Colts' quarter-back...

"The Titans’ D is vulnerable but the Ravens are not the team to take advantage - although with the rebirth of their run game since going to more man-blocking rather than zone, Hollywood Brown has been more of a factor."

In a way, the new Super Wild Card format made calling last week easier. I figured Green Bay would have enough to play for to cover against the Bears, in my best bet, and they did.

My best bet in our Betfair NFL Only Bettor pod was the Chargers and Chiefs to go over 43.5 even with Chad Henne at QB for KC. That also won. And even with John Wolford at QB I thought the Rams +3 was good against the Cards. I didn't think the Raiders and Denver would go over 50.5, but they have both been full of surprises this year and at least Jon Gruden can say he has a better record than Bill Belichick.

I will confess I was looking for an upset, which I why I threw in the Eagles, and in my defense they were in a position to at least make it interesting against Washington Team Football (WTF) until Doug Pederson decided to avoid kicking a field goal to tie the game, and then inserted Nate Sudfeld. Pederson explained he was still trying to win the game and that Sudfeld "deserved" snaps, not noticing that he had created a self-defeating argument. They failed to win, to cover, or to go over 43.5 which hadn't seemed a bad bet.

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So WTF are in the playoffs, and in some ways the most interesting and tempting outside shot here. The one thing Ron Rivera's team does well is rush the passer, and one thing that has been traditionally the best gamble if you're going to beat Tom Brady is to rush him. You have to be able to do it without excess blitzing: if you can generate rush with your core four or five up front, and take away easy match-ups for him to recognise, you can beat him. It's what the Giants did in 2007 and 2011.

WTF will still need luck, and why I hesitate to tip them is that they are more offensively limited than those NYG teams. But I note that since we did the podcast the spread has dropped from 8.5 to 7.5, which indicates some money was coming in on WTF with the points.

Because there are only six games this weekend, there are more betting avenues open to you, and I'm going to get tricky here, and make my best bet a doozy.

Bills defence can contain Rivers

Best Bet: Philip Rivers Passing Yards Under (263.5 at 5/6)

I like the Bills laying (-6.5 at 10/11) in this game, and I lean toward the under (51.5 at 10/11) but if either or both of those bets are going to pay off, Rivers needs to have a slow day. Even better, if the Colts lead or win, it may be because of Jonathan Taylor on the ground. The Bills could stuff Taylor, and Rivers could be forced to air it out, and TY Hilton and Zach Pascal could make big catches. But the Bills' defense doesn't allow many big plays, which is why this smells good to me. Jonathan Taylor anytime second-half TD at 9/4 and Pascal over 3.5 receptions at 11/10 seem pretty good values as well.

Ravens can keep Bulldozer and co. in check

Value Bet: Tennessee v Baltimore Under (54.5 at 10/11)

I know why the over/under is high here: last week the Titans scored 41 beating Houston and the Ravens 38 while beating the Bengals. But when these two teams met in Baltimore in week 11, the Titans won in 30-24, 54 points in OT, which included Tyus Bowser's pick six and AJ Brown's amazing bulldozer TD, which led me to label him Bulldozer Brown, an old-school nickname which somehow has not stuck.

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The Titans' D is vulnerable but the Ravens are not the team to take advantage - although with the rebirth of their run game since going to more man-blocking rather than zone, Hollywood Brown has been more of a factor. In last year's playoffs the Titans won in an upset when the Ravens came out throwing, which is not their game plan. This week their D will be able to hold Derrick Henry in check, will be able to control Bulldozer and Corey Davis, and will not fall for every play-action bootleg Ryan Tannehill runs.

I also think the Titans will control them enough to make this a 28-24 finish. The best bet in this game may be AJ Brown receiving yards (over 69.5 at 5/6) or Lamar Jackson passing yards (under 208.5 at 5/6).

Saints won't blow away Bears

Outside Bet: New Orleans v Chicago Under (47.5 at 10/11)

What people don't seem to realise is that the Saints are where they are because they are a defense-first team, a better D can Chicago's and better than Green Bay's who held the Bears to 16 in Chicago last week. Their offense ought to be better this week, with Michael Thomas likely to play at less than 100% but with Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington and fullback Michael Burton all back in their backfield, but I still see them as controlling, rather than blowing away, the Bears and Mitch Trubisky.

I am tempted to pick them to win laying 9.5, but wonder why that spread should be wider than what Tampa is giving WTF, so I might prefer taking the Bucs (-7.5 at 10/11), or the Steelers (-6 at 10/11) which was my pod best bet. But I may go to DC to take anytime scorers Antonio Gibson (6/4) and Rob Gronkowski (15/8). "Gronk Score Touchdown" is always a good mantra.

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