Last weekend was probably the best I can remember. Two very tight games on Saturday night and an amazing (and amazingly thwarted) comeback on Sunday and a tremendous final two minutes sending us to an overtime thriller.
I say 'amazingly thwarted comeback' because the Bucs, having fought back from 27-3 down (with more than a little help from the Rams) should have been able to play enough defense to stop Matt Stafford and Cooper Kupp setting up a game-winning field goal.
My Betfair NFL...Only Bettor podcast best bet was the under 47 in the Bengals Clash Of The Titans, and that duly came it. In this column last week, I also nudged the Ultimate Outside Bet, Cincy on the moneyline at 29/20 and that landed too. But the column best bet was the Packers -6.
I underestimated the effects of the weather and although I did warn about GB's special teams I underestimated that too. I should've plugged the under here as well.
On Sunday, I thought my value bet of under 53.2 for Buffalo/KC was still in play at the two minute warning, 26-23. Hah! 24 points in the last 1:54, plus six more in OT put paid to that!
Anything can happen on final four weekend
If you think I am using too many exclamations here, you ought to have seen my notes sheet while I was watching it! But I'd already been good with my other outside pick, the Rams +3. In the end they didn't need the three, but maybe they should have. A meltdown like the Falcons in the Super Bowl to Brady would have been too perfect.
On the face of it, this week's Super Bowl semi-finals are more straight-forward: two 12-7 teams against two 12-5 teams, a four seed against a two seed and six seed against a four. But down to the final four, anything probably can happen. But not two weeks in a row, surely?
Sunday 20:07 - Kansas will have too much for brave Bengals
I took this as my best bet at -7 on the podcast, and I'm willing to go with it again. The Bengals don't really match up well, but then they didn't match up that much better when they beat the Chiefs 34-31 in Cinn in week 17 (the Bengals were 5-4 at home, including an OT loss to the Niners) and 5-3 on the road). But that game had three crucial DPI calls, a weird horse collar and a hands to the face uncalled, all in the Bengals' favour.
On the other hand (and this is the only place where I hesitate), Joe Burrow threw for 446 yards and four TDs (30/39passes) with 11 catches, 266 yards and three TDs to JaMarr Chase. They did to the Chiefs what they did to Clemson in the NCAA championship game.
Chase is a rare talent (think of Tyreek Hill but bigger) and has the same ability to square up after the catch and run. But I don't think, in a playoff game at Arrowhead, with Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense functioning well, and Burrow not having the running threat that Josh Allen posed, the Chiefs will let me down again. Especially not if Tyrann Matthieu is playing, as appears likely, having cleared concussion protocols.
Best Bet: Back Kansas City -7.5 @ 1.910/11
Sunday 23:42 - Go-to Kittle to get over the line
This is a bit of an outside bet, in that I really like Deebo Samuel at evens as an anytime scorer, but think the Rams may be better suited, via Jalen Ramsey, to keep him in check close to the goal line. But Deebo could score running or receiving, and maybe even returning a kick, which makes a flutter on him a very strong nudge from me as well.
George Kittle is ideally their go-to guy in the red area, and though the Rams know that, I wonder how they will defend it. Were Jimmy G more escapable in the pocket I'd like Kittle even more, as the longer the play goes on the more likely he is to score. You want a third, outside, scorer from the Niners? Elijah Mitchell's 11/10. There are no odds on a shovel pass for a score.
Value Bet: Back George Kittle for anytime TD scorer @ 2.89/5
Niners and Rams set for close contest
I am tempted to take the Niners on the moneyline, but my gut says that Sean McVay's losing streak (0-6) against Kyle Shanahan has to stop at some point. It won't give him much comfort to know Matt LaFleur (QB coach at Washington when McVay was TE coach and Kyle the OC under his head coach father Mike) lost to that juju last week! But I see this as a field goal game so a safer outside bet is taking that FG cover at 3.5.
The Niners' D is really strong, with the capability of limiting the Rams. Last week I was wondering why the Rams didn't give Sony Michel more carries when they had the big lead - not to punish Cam Akers for his fumbles but simply to leave less time for the Bucs to get back into the game.
When these teams met in LA in week 18 the Rams could have kept SF from the playoffs with a win. They led 17-0 and 17-3 at the half and McVay had never lost a game when his team led at half-time. Guess what? The Niners tied it up and won in OT.
They are not built to chase big scores. Their offense works better on play action than with Jimmy G throwing dropback from the pocket, but they were able to control the Rams' O line, and mostly control Aaron Donald.
The Rams have more rush now with Von Miller taking attention away from Leonard Floyd, and outside rushing is more effective against Jimmy G than, say, Mahomes, so check the injury report and see if Trent Williams is back at LT. He has an elbow injury and did not practice yesterday.
If you want an outside outside bet try a Rams' scorer: Matt Stafford (11/1), Tyler Higbee (23/10) and Sony (10/3) appeal to me in that order.
Outside Bet: Back San Francisco +3.5 @ 1.910/11