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For The Win: Wild Card Weekend

NFL Picks Against the Las Vegas Lines

Here I am again this year, back for more NFL picks. Just like last season I will still be picking all of the NFL games each week, but I will try and help some of you with some confidence and rankings of the selections - which also may assist those of you with Las Vegas trips. I tend to rate games that I like (and some extras like Over/Unders) with 1-3 "Stars", which basically highlight my best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars I don't truly like one way or the other, but will select to help those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools or other contests that they may be participating in either this week or this season.

Well, I had another mixed bag in Week 17.  Overall I went 8-6-2 on the week and 6-4-1 in my Picks of the Week, but the teasers really bit me.  I tried to finish with a bang for the year, but my teaser picks really fizzled out and I finished below .500 overall in the Best Bets.  My overall record was strong (131-113-12, 53.7%) and the Picks of the Week were also very good (75-56-5, 57.3%), but I want all three categories at least 50% and hopefully better than the Las Vegas cash minimum (52.4% to beat the house).  Two out of three are not bad, but I set a high bar for myself.

Now comes the postseason, and for those of you who have stuck with me for years know that I tend to do very well in the playoffs, so hopefully that trend continues.  So let’s end this on a positive note, shall we?  Let’s get started:

Note that the lines and Over/Unders are taken from VegasInsider.com.

 

(Saturday, 4:35PM Eastern, ESPN) KANSAS CITY (-8) vs. TENNESSEE  (Over/Under = 44-44.5)
The Chiefs are heading into the postseason rested and ready to go against a Titans team that had to win against Jacksonville just to get in last Sunday.  I first thought that all of the matchups would tend to favor Kansas City, but I see a few paths to success for the Titans.  The Chiefs have given up 15 rushing touchdowns this year, tied for fourth-worst in the NFL, and are giving up 4.3 yards per carry.  Back in October, the Chiefs were graded as the defense that played man defense more often than any other team and I do not think that has changed.  That will favor Marcus Mariota to take off and run, much like he did against the Jaguars last week (10-60 rushing).  Derrick Henry struggled last week against Jacksonville, but he will again carry the workload (along with Mariota).  Even though I just wrote up plenty on the Titans, the Chiefs are still the much better team and Alex Smith should be able to pick apart Tennessee’s defense with Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.  Kansas City 27, Tennessee 17.  PICK:  Chiefs

(Saturday, 8:15PM Eastern, NBC)  LOS ANGELES RAMS (-6) vs. ATLANTA  (Over/Under = 48-49)
Paging Ryan Hester to the red courtesy phone.  Todd Gurley is the epitome of what you want against Atlanta - a talented pass-catching running back against the Falcons.  He has been nearly unstoppable of late with six touchdowns in Weeks 15 and 16 (the Rams rested him in Week 17).  Atlanta will look to run the ball as well with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, but Freeman appears to be at less than full strength this week.  The Rams are susceptible to the run game the most as they have allowed the second-most touchdowns to running backs and fifth-most yards on the ground.  This could be a run-heavy game but Julio Jones can beat any matchup as an elite receiver.  I actually like Mohamed Sanu more as he is more versatile and has more touchdowns, plus he is always in play for a gadget play call.  This is probably the toughest game to pick, as the Rams are new to the playoffs and Atlanta has the experience (and who can forget their Super Bowl collapse).  I expect a close game with the Rams winning it, and I hesitate to give the points, but I will take the Rams by a touchdown as I expect them to win a close contest.  Rams 27, Falcons 21.  PICK:  Rams

Sunday, 1:05PM Eastern, CBS)  JACKSONVILLE (-8) vs. BUFFALO  (Over/Under = 39-40)
Jacksonville has so much to offer in this game against the Bills.  A strong defense and a solid ground game against a Buffalo team likely to be without their star player.  LeSean McCoy has an ankle injury that he is likely going to try and play through, and I think he does suit up and play but he will not be 100% by any stretch of the imagination.  Jacksonville's weakness, if any, is against the run, but I think they will key on McCoy and also TE Charles Clay and force Tyrod Taylor to find a different way to put up some offense.  I think that Buffalo will struggle all game and Leonard Fournette will feast against the weak Buffalo run defense (4.3 yards per carry and a league-worst 22 rushing touchdowns against).  I expect a low scoring contest that Jacksonville will be happy to grind out and win in an old-fashioned football way, 23-6 with very little passing offense for either side.  PICK:  Jaguars  

(Sunday, 4:40PM Eastern, FOX)  NEW ORLEANS (-6.5) vs. CAROLINA  (Over/Under = 48.5)
The Wild Card Weekend closes on FOX with the third matchup of the Panthers and Saints for this year.  The Saints won both prior matchups (34-13 in Week 331-21 at home in Week 13).  Several trends come out of analyzing those two clashes, and the first is that Drew Brees had his only three touchdown game of the year against the Panthers back in September.  He did not need to light it up in the second contest with more support from his run game, and that is the second thing to note.  Alvin Kamara had 126 yards in the second meeting with two scores on just 14 touches, and he was a bigger part of the offense than back in September (which was still a good game for him, 42 yards and a touchdown on just five chances).  Mark Ingram II was solid in both games (14-56 in Week 3 with 2-30 receiving, followed by 14-85-1 and 6-37 in the second).  Lastly, Michael Thomas scored a touchdown in both matchups and led the Saints in receiving for both games (7-87-1 then 5-70-1).  I like all four (Brees, Thomas, Kamara and Ingram) to lead the Panthers to a lot of production.  As for Carolina, well, Cam Newton threw three interceptions in the first game with no touchdown passes but did manage two touchdowns in the second matchup.  Newton was better as a rusher, with a combined 9-67-1 rushing (the touchdown came in the first clash).  Devin Funchess and Jonathan Stewart had pedestrian production, but the only standout for the Panthers was Christian McCaffrey, who had a big receiving day in the first game (9-101) and found the end zone (5-33-1) the second time around.  New Orleans is better on defense overall and offers superior offensive weapons, making this a relatively easy call.  Saints 34, Panthers 17.  PICK:  Saints

BEST BETS

Once again this year I will give not only the "Best Bets" but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 "Star" scale. The more stars, the more I like that side of the game.

Before I delve into the picks, I will say this time of the year is when you can really use Las Vegas against themselves.  The sportsbooks spend extra time analyzing these four contests, and the lines they set are usually rather strong.  To use this, it is a great time to use teasers and pair up teams you expect to win and take the leverage that those teasers give you.

In addition, the spreads this week are set up perfectly for several Wong Teasers in play.  These are teasers that target margins of victories of 3 and 7, so point spreads at -7.5 to -8.5 are perfect targets as a 6-point teaser moves across both 3 and 7.

* ONE STAR *

  • JACKSONVILLE vs. BUFFALO  (Under 40)
  • NEW ORLEANS vs. CAROLINA  (Under 48.5)
  • ATLANTA “FOR THE WIN” (+260) at LOS ANGELES RAMS (Good odds)
  • 7-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (8.9-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ORLEANS (-0.5) vs. CAROLINA 
    • JACKSONVILLE (-2) vs. BUFFALO   
    • KANSAS CITY (-2) vs. TENNESSEE 
    • NEW ORLEANS vs. CAROLINA  (Under 54.5)
    • JACKSONVILLE vs. BUFFALO  (Under 46)
    • KANSAS CITY vs. TENNESSEE  (Under 50.5)
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS vs. ATLANTA  (Over 42)
  • 8-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (12.75-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ORLEANS (-0.5) vs. CAROLINA 
    • JACKSONVILLE (-2) vs. BUFFALO   
    • KANSAS CITY (-2) vs. TENNESSEE 
    • NEW ORLEANS vs. CAROLINA  (Under 54.5)
    • JACKSONVILLE vs. BUFFALO  (Under 46)
    • KANSAS CITY vs. TENNESSEE  (Under 50.5)
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS vs. ATLANTA  (Over 42)
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (EVEN) vs. ATLANTA
  • 9-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (18.25-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ORLEANS (-0.5) vs. CAROLINA 
    • JACKSONVILLE (-2) vs. BUFFALO   
    • KANSAS CITY (-2) vs. TENNESSEE 
    • NEW ORLEANS vs. CAROLINA  (Under 54.5)
    • JACKSONVILLE vs. BUFFALO  (Under 46)
    • KANSAS CITY vs. TENNESSEE  (Under 50.5)
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS vs. ATLANTA  (Over 42)
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (EVEN) vs. ATLANTA 
    • ATLANTA (+12.5) at LOS ANGELES RAMS

** TWO STAR GAMES **

  • KANSAS CITY (-8) vs. TENNESSEE 
  • 6-POINT TEASER:  KANSAS CITY (-2) vs. TENNESSEE  (Under 50.5)
  • 6-POINT TEASER:  JACKSONVILLE (-2) vs. BUFFALO  (Under 46)
  • 6-POINT TEASER:  NEW ORLEANS (-0.5) vs. CAROLINA  (Under 54.5)
  • 4-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (2.65-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ORLEANS (-0.5) vs. CAROLINA 
    • JACKSONVILLE (-2) vs. BUFFALO   
    • KANSAS CITY (-2) vs. TENNESSEE 
    • NEW ORLEANS vs. CAROLINA  (Under 54.5)
  • 5-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (4.10-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ORLEANS (-0.5) vs. CAROLINA 
    • JACKSONVILLE (-2) vs. BUFFALO   
    • KANSAS CITY (-2) vs. TENNESSEE 
    • NEW ORLEANS vs. CAROLINA  (Under 54.5)
    • JACKSONVILLE vs. BUFFALO  (Under 46)
  • 6-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (6.1-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ORLEANS (-0.5) vs. CAROLINA 
    • JACKSONVILLE (-2) vs. BUFFALO   
    • KANSAS CITY (-2) vs. TENNESSEE 
    • NEW ORLEANS vs. CAROLINA  (Under 54.5)
    • JACKSONVILLE vs. BUFFALO  (Under 46)
    • KANSAS CITY vs. TENNESSEE  (Under 50.5)

*** THREE STAR GAMES ***

  • JACKSONVILLE (-8) vs. BUFFALO   
  • NEW ORLEANS (-6.5) vs. CAROLINA  
  • 3-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (1.65-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ORLEANS (-0.5) vs. CAROLINA 
    • JACKSONVILLE (-2) vs. BUFFALO   
    • KANSAS CITY (-2) vs. TENNESSEE

PICK(S) OF THE WEEK:  Kansas City, New Orleans, Jacksonville

RESULTS

Last Week

  • OVERALL: 8-6-2 (57.1%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 11.7-33-3 (26.2%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 6-4-1 (60%)

Regular Season

  • OVERALL: 131-113-12 (53.7%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 260.49-285-7 (47.8%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 75-56-5 (57.3%)

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com.