Mike Carlson returns after another successful playoff week but can he keep it going through the divisional round? Find out here...
"Shaky as Tom Brady has looked, especially since they lost Josh Gordon, Philip Rivers has not been sharp in their last three games, including on the road against Denver and Baltimore."
The playoff punts paid off
We had another good week last week. The big three all delivered, Indianapolis to win, the Ravens-Chargers first-half under and Seattle to cover with 2.5 points (just barely). The rest was a mixed bag, but Dontrell Inman over 35.5 yards and the Eagles +6 (or outright) probably got you past DeAndre Hopkins, the Ravens and their over didn't.
On paper, the Division Round of the NFL playoffs should be the easiest to pick. The normal home field advantage, reckoned to be three points most of the time, ought to be automatically increased because all the home teams are coming off an extra week's time to rest, recuperate, and prepare, and of course they are usually the better teams anyway, which is why they won the seeds.
But this year is different, and it's making my straight up picks for my column really tough. Partly because it's hard to argue the Patriots are a better team than the Chargers, and thus the four point spread in that game is really saying it's a toss-up. Partly because the two home teams on Saturday are offensive powerhouses with questionable defenses while the visitors have turned themselves into well-balanced teams with huge improvement in the second half of the season. And partly because of Nick Foles magic and how much you want to believe in it.
With Tom Brady looking rather average this year at 41, and Foles about to become a free agent (assuming he buys out of his contract by paying a £2 million option) how about Foles to the Patriots next year? It would make picking Division week easier.
D will go out the window
I feel pretty comfortable here that both teams can approach 30 points: the Chiefs because their offense remains explosive even without Kareem Hunt, and the Colts because the Chiefs' D will give up big plays: their strength is in the pass rush, where the Colts have allowed the fewest sacks of any team in the league.
I'm less sanguine about the pick, because I think a lot of it is faith in Andrew Luck's ability to rally the team, and in Andy Reid's ability to choke in the big ones. But this is a different Chiefs team with Patrick Mahomes, so I am thinking if you like the Colts take them with the points (+5 at 10/11).
Because I think the Chargers' D is overall good enough to hold the Pats in check, and the Pats' game plan, which will likely be to take Keenan Allen away and control the edges against Melving Gordon and Austin Ekeler, will be enough to slow down LA.
Shaky as Tom Brady has looked, especially since they lost Josh Gordon, Philip Rivers has not been sharp in their last three games, including on the road against Denver and Baltimore. But even more than the game under, I like the First Half Total Points Under 22.5 at 5/6, even though the odds are not as good.
But for two good reasons: New England have been slow starters all season, and were after their bye week, so there is good reason they will start slow again looking to figure out the Chargers. And LA are flying west to east coast for the second week in a row, so their body clocks ought to be spinning like
Cowboys can keep it tight
I like this bet because I think the Cowboys will be able to keep it close by running the ball, and challenging that Rams' front three. You might consider the Under 49.5 (at 4/5) if you agree with me. Otherwise take a look at New Orleans vs Philadelphia Over 51 (at 20/23) which seems pretty good because both these teams can score, although you didn't see it last week from the Eagles, against a very good Bears' D, and because the Saints score particularly well at home.
In fact you might consider New Orleans Team Over 30.5 (at 4/5) if you think the total under might fall short of 51 because the Saints' D plays are better than it's getting credit for.