Niks Picks NFL Playoff Divisional round
What a serving of matches we have on the platter this week.
What a serving of matches we have on the platter this week. Last week went as expected. Houston v Oakland was average viewing; Seattle dominated the Lions and unluckily for Detroit, racked up a score courtesy of a number of missed calls and dropped passes. Green Bay rolled the Giants after Big Blue curiously decided to change their tactics, which had been working so well in the first quarter and Pittsburgh rolled Miami in our play of the week.
Looking ahead we have some value on the board here. Keep in mind, in the NFL Playoff Divisional round the margin of victory has only exceeded 13 points twice in the last 3 years, with one of those margins being 14 courtesy of a missed PAT.
Time to dive into this week’s slate of games!
Written by Nik Hatzi
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots
Here we see one of the biggest mismatches in NFL history with the Texans travelling to Foxborough to take on the Patriots.
Osweiler making the divisional round of the playoffs is an absolute indictment on the quality of the AFC South this year as well as the injuries to Oakland last week. What a shit show Osweiler is as a quarterback and a $72,000,000 rated one at that.
New England comes into this one with a week of rest and extra time to game plan for the Texans. Bellichick is a master when given an extra week to prepare for a team and also taking away their strength. No doubt the Texans don’t have many strengths apart from their defence but give me Tom Brady against any defence in the league every day of the week.
The Texans are 2-6 on the road with both of those wins coming in their division at venues they’re used to playing at. The last time the Texans played in New England they lost 27-0… to the Pats 3rd string quarterback in Jacoby Brissett.
I don’t want to slam Houston too much, but the Texans are averaging 15 points per game on the road. With the lack of offence they mustered up earlier in the season, combined with the fact the weather will be much colder this time around (see our prediction of Pitt-Miami last week) I think Osweiler will be buoyed to have gotten a W last week, and fall flat this week against an opponent who is an utter gulf in class.
Play: New England-15
Lean: Under 44.5
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons
Whichever way you slice it, Seattle won last week in the most unconvincing of fashions. At home, against a quarterback who’s hand was clearly hurt (I thought Stafford was healthier), a number of dropped passes by Detroit receivers and a bevvy of missed calls on Defensive pass Interference plays from Seattle’s secondary. Detroit was even in that game till late.
This time round, Seattle’s patchwork offensive line will come up against two of the better sack artists in the game today. Dwight Freeney and Vic Beasley have the ability to put any offensive lineman on skates as they make their way to the sack.
Atlanta’s defence is not highly rated by any stretch of the imagination. However, they have the chips to cause Seattle some headaches. More so, Atlanta’s high-powered offence will test Seattle as to whether they can keep up the scoring pace.
Atlanta boasts the least turnovers in the NFL thus far. This is an interesting stat given that high-powered offences have the propensity to cause errors. Atlanta has managed this with a sound ground game, which will be huge in this one. I see Coleman and Freeman catching many short passes just behind the Seahawks defensive line and gashing them up the middle.
Seattle’s road record has been abysmal as could be seen by their performances at Tampa, Green Bay and San Francisco late in the year.
What I will say about Seattle is that they are a quality underdog winning 14-5-1 ATS (against the spread). They have lost their last 8 as underdogs in the playoffs though.
These two teams played earlier in the year with Seattle winning at home by 2 points. That game was marred by a missed defensive pass interference call, which negated a massive play late in the game. That play would’ve put the Falcons in position to win the game with a field goal. With that said, Atlanta has openly spoken to the officiating crew about defensive pass interference from Sherman and co. There is no way, with the amount of eyes on these refs, they’ll let many defensive pass interference calls go.
The only way I see Seattle winning this game is if they find a way to stop the Julio Jones/Matt Ryan connection or the referees allow them to implement illegal tactics in the secondary. Other than that, they just don’t have what it takes to outmatch the firepower Atlanta has on offer.
Atlanta is the better team and Seattle is poor on the road. However, Seattle in the playoffs has that edge, that experience that hardened playoff contenders need to have. I like the Falcons to win this but I can’t see a blowout occurring.
Play: Atlanta Falcons 1-13
Lean: Over 51
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs
This matchup is likely to be the hardest to pick, as the line would suggest. Pittsburgh were our play of the week in the Wildcard round, dismantling the Miami Dolphins is a slightly fulfilling fashion.
There were signs of poor play from the Steelers as Big Ben got intercepted twice and was seen in a walking boot after the game. Matt Moore was making his fair share of yards against that Steelers defence. That is slightly concerning for Steelers fans given the overall advantage the Black and Yellow had over their opponents.
Kansas city on the other hand has just come off their week of rest and is a great proposition in this spot with Coach Andy Reid going 19-2 straight up off a bye and 15-6 ATS.
I have no doubt that Kansas City still remember the absolute drubbing that got laid on them by the hands of the Steelers earlier in the season. Pittsburgh won 43-14. With that said, I’ve always known the Steelers to be an inconsistent side. That victory was after they were beaten 34-3 by Philadelphia, on the road I might add.
This spot is setting up perfectly for a Steelers letdown. Kansas City has Alex Smith whose playoff touchdown to interception ratio sits at 11-1. That’s the type of quarterback I want in the playoffs with dynamic receivers in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
Granted, Bell is a beast and the Steelers offensive line is a legitimate force. This is the one concerning aspect of this game. This combination has proven time and time again to not be the same unit away from home. I’m happy laying my money against these types of quality squads until they show some semblance of consistency. Steelers are 0-5 SU and 0-4-1 ATS in their last five games after consecutive home games.
This game could truly go either way, but the Chiefs are 11-2 straight up at home. I like Kansas City and Andy Reid here to nab the win.
Play: Kansas City-1.5
Lean: Under 44
*For those who want extra value, take Kansas City 1-13.
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys
Hands down the game that holds the most excitement this week. The Red-Hot Rodg dog up against the upstart rookie led Dallas Cowboys.
Rodgers is on a historic run leading his team with 22 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in the last eight games. However, the Packers have lost Jordy Nelson for this one with fractured ribs. This will hurt the Packers’ offence because Dallas actually has a semi decent defence ranking 15th in the league.
I really have a hard time liking Green Bay’s defence. They’re banged up all over the shop and have slotted in a wide receiver to corner because of how thin they are in the position.
Green Bay just doesn’t excite me when they play on the road. We faded Green Bay often when they were on the road this year. They lost to Minnesota, Atlanta, Tennessee, Washington and almost lost to Chicago.
I don’t see the Packers being able to lift again for yet another seemingly must-win game, not to the levels required to outclass a Dallas team who knocked them off 30-16 in their last encounter. With that said, Rodgers was quite poor and I don’t expect that margin to be repeated but it’s the way Dallas beat Green Bay that has me concerned for Green Bay’s defence. Dallas just straight rolled them. They punished Green Bay’s defensive line, they dinked and dunked through Green Bay’s secondary and Green Bay has absolutely no answer on the defensive end.
My view on this one is that Aaron Rodgers needs to have a perfect game for the Pack to win. He is well capable of putting on a show but I think the Cowboys have the recipe to negate his greatness.
Play: Dallas 1-13
Lean: Over 52
Well that’s the rundown folks. I think taking a look at matchups, thinking outside the numbers and considering the intangibles in these games is the best way to make some coin.