The playoffs are upon us, including the first-ever Monday Night Football postseason affair. Of course, it was all fun for those who were tailing the column throughout the campaign, but getting content would be just silly. We want more, like extending this 10-game over/under winning streak that we closed the year on.
Overall Record*: 38-29-1, +11.87 units
*Each over/under graded to win 2 units; everything else for 1 unit. Playoffs are half
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
There are times where the weather can single-handedly dictate a winning wager. This most certainly is one of those times.
Temperatures are being forecasted around 5 degrees with a harsh wind chill that will make it feel even less than that. Typically, Buffalo sports one of the coldest climates around the league this time of year, but this is just a whole ‘nother level.
These two AFC East rivals should already be accustomed to playing each other in unforgiving weather. Their first encounter during the season was a memorable one on Monday Night Football last month — specifically for visibly insane wind gusts. The result was a harmless 14-10 score.
Tonight’s Wild Card bout won’t feature nearly the same heavy windy activity, but the conditions arguably may be tougher. At least in that aforementioned MNF matchup, they got a relatively much friendlier temperature of around 30 degrees.
Yet the linesmakers are basically saying the frigid elements set for this evening are four points easier to navigate through than that first meeting, which closed with an over/under of 40 right before kickoff.
To quote Stone Cold Steve Austin, “Eh eh!” Either way, we’ll take advantage.
Playing in such a glacial environment is obviously really difficult. That’s why Josh Allen, who normally electrifies, has struggled in these conditions despite his upbringing at the University of Wyoming.
According to ESPN’s Bills reporter Alaina Getzenberg, the fourth-year pro has made five career starts in freezing game-time temperatures and amassed a 6-7 TD/INT ratio in those outings while completing just 50.3 percent of his throws.
To put into perspective of how minimal that is, Getzenberg adds that of the 41 quarterbacks to have registered at least five starts with this type of cold across the last 15 years, only Tim Tebow (!) has a lower completion percentage (42 percent)
Not exactly a glowing endorsement for Allen, especially when having to face a very good defense. True, he did lead his Bills to 33 points against the Patriots in a crucial victory three weeks ago, but that came in much easier weather to deal with.
Besides, you know Bill Belichick will devise something to prevent another outburst. Nobody clowns Belichick twice in a row.
Mac Jones, meanwhile, also can provide comfort for under backers here. A Florida native that spent his notable collegiate career at Alabama, Jones simply won’t be in a position to put up big numbers. As it is, in the three games he played this season as a rookie with temperatures of 40 degrees or lower, Jones collectively managed a meager 77.6 passer rating.
Well, you know the Patriots’ coaching staff is aware of this and the fact Jones didn’t look great against the Bills in both 2021 meetings (though to be fair, he only attempted three passes in the Wind Game). The Bills had the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense this year, yielding the fewest yards per game (163) through the air as well as the lowest passer rating (65.3).
Such a mindset lends the belief that New England will deploy a run-heavy game plan — this strategy got them their lone win opposite Buffalo and saw them rush the football a whopping 46 times!
Anything close to that would wholeheartedly be welcomed. The Patriots do possess one of the better 1-2 punches in the backfield with Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris, but so long as the Bills can minimize the big runs, under bettors would be in wonderful shape as the clock continues to tick.
Being so close to 45, the most important number in football totals, I recommend buying a point to have that extra crutch. Pick: UNDER 45 (-130)
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys
Spread: 49ers +3/Cowboys -3
Pretty surprising to see this one from Dallas garner such a low spread; the lowest, in fact, of Wild Card weekend.
I can’t begin to think of the linesmakers’ reasoning. The Cowboys were a legitimate juggernaut throughout the season (most memorably covering the spread in each of their first eight games), en route to easily capturing a division title. San Francisco, on the other hand, barely squeaked by to even qualify for the playoffs thanks to an overtime win in Week 18. It should be clear who the better team is — and assuredly by more than a three-point edge at home.
Thus, we’re going to keep things simple and rely on the Cowboys here to just emerge by at least a field goal. There’s definitely been no signs of wearing down on that sideline, as evident in the 236 points they’ve hung on the scoreboard the last seven weeks. That’s 33.7 per game!
The 49ers, of course, trot out a far superior defense to most of the ones Dallas faced during their current hot streak on offense. However, their strength is getting to the quarterback, illustrated by the 48 sacks they notched to tie for fifth in the league, but that could be minimized by a very stout offensive line.
Where the Cowboys can capitalize is in the turnover department. San Francisco is one of three teams in the postseason that finished the year with a negative turnover differential (-4), and given how “them Boys” tied for the best such mark among all 32 clubs (+14), this has to be an area of interest for those betting the home side.
No matter, I just trust a talented Dallas offense to keep it going — and at Jerry’s World, where they’ve been most lethal. In their eight games this season in front of Cowboys faithful, Dak and Co. averaged more than 36 points, topping 30 in all but two of them. That’s consistency, and they should ride that past a 49ers group only fortunate to be in this current position. Pick: COWBOYS -3 (-110)
Buccaneers -10 —> PK
Chiefs -12.5 —> -2.5
ARI-LAR O49.5 —> O39.5
Teasers have been real tricky this year considering all the massive upsets being conducted by double-digit underdogs.
In the playoffs now, though, let’s hope there’s generally more of a sense of urgency from should-be victors — starting with the reigning world champs as they begin their title defense in the next stage.
That shouldn’t be asking too much. The Bucs have continued to look strong even after losing Chris Godwin (ACL) for the season, and Leonard Fournette (hamstring) and Lavonte David (foot) missed recent weeks as well. Luckily, the latter two appear like they’ll be back. Close to full strength again, Tom Brady looks poised to pad his legendary 34-11 postseason record Sunday afternoon.
In the nightcap, Kansas City hosts the Steelers in perhaps Big Ben’s final game. Actually, scratch that; remove “perhaps” and safely decree this is it for Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh, an unquestionably worse team than some contenders that didn’t advance (such as the Chargers), isn’t going into KC and knocking off the AFC’s No. 2 seed. Remember, the Chiefs have won nine of 10 coming in and are as sizzling as anybody.
If we make it past Sunday, that just leaves the first Monday night postseason game in history remaining. Interestingly, the Cardinals and Rams did collide on a Monday Night Football broadcast just a month ago (thus becoming the first rivalry to share two MNF contests in the same year), and like their first showdown, that featured plenty of action. In fact, their pair of meetings churned out 110 points total between the two NFC West residents. All we’re seeking here is a mere 40 or more.
Odell Beckham Jr. Over/Under 3.5 Receptions
Hard to believe the last time Beckham appeared in a playoff game was five years ago during his New York Giants tenure.
He’s had his ups and downs on and off the field since then, but now it may be safe to ride Beckham as he makes his return to postseason football. The former first-round draft pick is in a spot to succeed.
One, after being jettisoned by the Browns around midseason, Beckham has been on a mission to prove he’s still that same upper echelon receiver so many people fell in love with — or at least close to that.
Beckham took a little time to settle in but now is regularly getting involved again, hence why he’s been on the receiving end of about 6.5 targets on average the past seven weeks. I think he’ll garner more.
As highlighted in our teaser bet, this Cardinals-Rams tilt should feature plenty of offense, just like the first two matchups.
With that being the case, expect Beckham to be considerably involved. If he sees at least seven throws his way like I expect, that should easily translate to four grabs.
Pick: OVER 3.5 Receptions (-120)