NFL Tipsheet Week 20: Two bets on the LA Rams' trip to the Saints

LA Rams players celebrate
The LA Rams face a tough trip to New Orleans on Sunday

It's the final weekend of the play-offs and Mike Carlson is having two bets on the Rams trip to New Orleans, as well as one on New England's trip to Kansas...

Best Bet: Los Angeles (+3.5 at 20/23) at New Orleans

Here's what this one depends on: the Rams being able to get to Drew Brees, and stop Michael Thomas, while at the same time containing their run/pass options to Alvin Kamara.

Sometimes the business of picking games is a frustrating one, especially when you are trying to pick the actual winners in one place, and suggest winning bets in another. In the Wild Card round of the playoffs, my straight-up picks, in my Patreon.com column, were not very good: 1-3 for the weekend. But my advice here was pretty much spot on.

Last week, in the Division Round, I went 4-0 straight up at Patreon, but I had my absolute worst week of the season here, just two weeks after having my best. This relationship between straight up and against the spread results is not so much inverse as perverse, and I almost hesitate to recap the ways in which I was mistaken here last week.

My best advice was taking Dallas and 7.5 points; the Cowboys lost by eight. Otherwise the Chiefs and Colts were under where I thought they'd go over; the Patriots and Chargers were over where I thought under (the Pats beat the first-half under all by themselves) and the Eagles-Saints went under as well. That is the one which, in retrospect, I should have seen coming, though it was the Eagles' D which surprised me.

This week is another tough one, not only because the games themselves are tough to pick, but the spreads are set pretty sharply in order not to disturb the closeness of the match-ups. For example, the Chiefs are giving three at home to the Pats: that's pretty much calling the game a toss-up, with KC getting the homefield advantage. Which, at Arrowhead is usually a big thing. But that's without considering the fact that the Pats were 3-5 on the road this season, and in the Belichick-Brady era are 20-4 in the post-season at home, but only 3-4 on the road.

And remember, had the Pats not suffered that freak loss in Miami in December, they'd have had the same record as the Chiefs, and having beaten them 43-40 (in Foxboro) during the season, have had the home field advantage Sunday!

The Rams must keep it tight against the Saints

Best Bet: Los Angeles (+3.5 at 20/23) at New Orleans

Here's what this one depends on: the Rams being able to get to Drew Brees, and stop Michael Thomas, while at the same time containing their run/pass options to Alvin Kamara. The first part of the equation is doable, because they can get rush from Aaron Donald and maybe from Donte Fowler, but the second part will be harder. If the Saints keep extra blockers in to protect, the return of Aqib Talib means the Rams can cover those receivers sent out more effectively. I think they keep this one close enough to deliver.

Your money is in safe hands with White

Value bet: James White over six catches (at evs)

I don't really care that the Kansas City Chiefs know that New England Patriots' James White will be a weapon, and that when he's in the Pats are likely to get him the ball. They may well cover him, so I am not taking his yardage here, but I think it's a pretty safe bet he catches the ball more than six times and evens is a good value. I also think we will see Rob Gronkowski more involves in the passing game, especially as I see the Chiefs thinking about White, so Gronk over 3.5 catches (at 11/10) is value as well.

Woods might offer value out wide

Outside bet: Robert Woods over six catches (at 11/10)

Woods will probably see Marshon Lattimore a lot this week, which makes life difficult, and Alshon Jeffrey managed only five catches last week. The Rams also mix the ball up a lot, and Woods had only six catches against the Cowboys. But he's the guy they look for at the sticks, so if the Saints can force third and longs, this may be the way to go. It is an outside bet but the odds reflect that.

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