This weekend is one of the most interesting Wild Card weekends I remember. There are so many little details in every game that are equally interesting to talk about and take a position on.
Tennessee and Kansas City kick things off. When I first saw the number, I jumped to Kansas City. I believe the Titans are the worst team in the playoffs and I would love to fade them.
It took a historically weak schedule to vault the Titans to a 9-7 finish this season.
The problem with backing Kansas City on the spread is that their defense is among the worst in the league – and they specifically struggle against the rush. This mismatch plays well into Tennessee and Mike Mularkey who prefers his team to run the ball relentlessly.
I think Kansas City wins because the Titans are among the worst tackling defenses in football and will struggle with elusive, speedy Chiefs playmakers. Alex Smith is extremely accurate on the deep ball, something the Titans have difficulty defending. If Kansas City can beat Tennessee early with Hunt and short passes, there will be open shots to score quickly. I think it is going to be very difficult for Kansas City to get off the field and win by double digits, but I like them to win (more on how I am betting at the bottom).
The Saturday nightcap is Atlanta and Los Angeles. This is a game I am invested in with my Atlanta futures.
The Falcons are a team that drives me up the wall.
They finished in the Top 3 of NetYPP and are the 4th most efficient offense (gaining 109% of opponents average allowance per play). They have the most playoff experience of any team in the NFC and are the only team in the conference that made the playoffs both this year and last. I believe they have the most talented roster in the NFC, but, when will it come through and put together sixty minutes? If there is one thing they struggle with, it is covering pass-catching running backs.
Matching up against Todd Gurley is not something the Falcons can do, but, my hope is Atlanta can force Goff to make a play. The Falcons have shown they can bring pressure and Goff has demonstrated a reluctance to get rid of the football, holding it for 2.85 seconds per drop back (27th in the league). Perhaps a few costly turnovers allow Atlanta to get a small edge and come out with a win.
Buffalo and Jacksonville is as crazy of a playoff matchup as there is. I despise Jacksonville. They have performed at an above average level against the weakest schedule and have proven nothing to me. Anytime Blake Bortles is forced to make a play, he crumbles. In one-score games this season, Bortles has led the Jags on twenty-six drives in the fourth quarter, scoring just one TD. If he does not have a lead, his passer rating is in the 70’s. I would love to fade Jacksonville, but, they draw Buffalo, who is possibly the worst playoff team in my lifetime.
The Bills rank 27th in yards per play, 25th in offensive efficiency, 15th in defensive efficiency and 32nd in expected wins (no team finished with more actual wins than their expected wins total suggested). Buffalo also finished with a -57 point differential despite a +9 turnover margin. With McCoy reported to be less than 100%, I am unsure how Buffalo will move the ball. He and Charles Clay at tight end have combined for as many receptions as all wide receivers this season. Whoever leads by seven first is the winner.
The final game of the weekend is the most clear-cut. Carolina has been nothing to me all season. They do not do anything well.
They finished the year 20th in yards per play, 20th in offensive efficiency and 31st in expected wins. I trust Cam Newton as little as anyone in the league under center. He did not rank higher than 15th in any significant statistical rating this season. His accuracy has been as bad as any QB in the league.
I would like to lay the large number with the Saints to take care of Carolina for a third time this season, but, their defense has taken many blows over the final week of the season. New Orleans is missing critical parts throughout at many positions, and after seeing what they allowed Tampa Bay to do last week, I am not confident in their ability to blow out a divisional opponent. This game has the potential to be too competitive for me to lay the big number, but, I don’t see a scenario where Carolina has enough to get a win.
The four prices on the board are quite sharp. I do not think there is an edge against the spread, but I do see value in a money line parlay with Kansas City and New Orleans.
Kansas City ML with New Orleans ML at 1.71