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Saturday, January 16, 2016

NFL 2015 NFC Divisional Round (Packers vs Cardinals)

The Green Bay Packers are battle-tested. During the regular season, they played 6 of the 12 teams that qualified for this year's NFL playoffs. They won 3 and lost 4 of these games. They won 7 of their other 9 games.

Tonight the Packers face the Arizona Cardinals, one of the playoff teams that beat them. It was the Packers' worst loss of the season, a 38-8 drubbing where neither team bothered to score in the fourth quarter. This late season game further convinced people the Cardinals could come out of the NFC, and made more doubters for the Packers.

NFL 2015 AFC Divisional Round (Chiefs vs Patriots)

Kansas City At New England (-5; 43.5) is an intriguing matchup because the Kansas City Chiefs have won 11 games in a row. Not only are the Chiefs getting the customary hedge of roughly 3 points for being the Away Underdog, they're getting an extra 2 points. These factors alone make this an easy ATS (against the spread) pick. Or, does it?

The New England Patriots have not looked dominant since Week 10, a last second win over the New York Giants. Their record since then is 3 Wins, 4 Losses. Of these losses, the one in Week 13 against the Philadelphia Eagles standout the most. Faced with various injuries, the outlook going into the game was the Patriots could beat the Eagles even when not at full-strength.

After leading early by 14 points, the Patriots faced a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Though they mounted a comeback, it fell short. Since that time, it seems as if the Patriots packed it in for the season, in order to take care of injuries and dare I say to position themselves not to play one specific team (Pittsburgh Steelers) in this round of the playoffs.

I do not put much stock in the Patriots' last two losses of the season. At this point, five of the AFC six playoffs spots had been determined. The Patriots controlled their own destiny and they basically chose the second seed.

Injuries will be a big part of the story, mainly Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) and Jeremy Maclin (Chiefs). Both are listed as Questionable, with Gronkowski more likely to play. Without him, the Patriots offense is not as explosive and consistent. Without Maclin, the Chiefs do not have a passing game.

Already ranked near last this season in passing yards, this will put more pressure on the defense. The Chiefs defense has held the last 12 of 13 opponents to under 21 points. This sets up a great battle between one of the NFL's top secondaries and pass rushing defenses, and Tom Brady.

Brady led the NFL in Pass Attempts, Passing Yards and Passing TDs. He was pretty much New England's entire offense. The Patriots were ranked 30th in Rushing Yards and 5th in Passing Yards. Brady threw 2 or more TDs in 13 out of 16 games, so one can basically start the Patriots off with 14 to 21 points on the board.

The Patriots scored, at least, 20 points in 15 of their first 16 games this season. So, can the Chiefs score 21 or more points to edge out a victory? The Chiefs scored 21 points or more in 12 games this season.

With New England giving 5 points, the numbers favor the Chiefs (.789) because the Chiefs scored 17 or more points in all but two games this season.

So, I take the Chiefs (OVER), seeing this as well-balanced game on both sides of the ball, with the victor making the least costly turnover. Pick wisely, and check out the pick for the other playoff games.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

NFL 2015 NFC Wild Card (Packers vs Redskins)

This NFL Wildcard matchup comes down to whether the Green Bay Packers can score 24 points. In the last 8 games, Green Bay's opponents have scored 23 or fewer points in 7 games. The Packers are 4-4 during this stretch.

In the first 8 games of the season, the Packers were 6-2 and scored 24 or more points 6 times. Their only loss when scoring over 23 points was to the Carolina Panthers.

The Washington Redskins performed along these same lines. In the last 8 games, Washington's opponents have scored 23 or few points in 5 games. The Redskins are 6-2 during this stretch.

For the Redskins, the defensive turnaround coincided with that of the offense, specifically Kirk Cousins. In the first 8 games, Cousins threw 10 Touchdowns and 9 Interceptions. He threw 19 TDs and 2 INTs in the last 8 games.

Can the Packers defense contain or rattle Cousins to get the much needed Interceptions? This matchup is a classic "pick them" -- Green Bay At Washington (PK; 47).

Though the numbers tilt to the Redskins (.947), the Redskins lost 5 games to non-playoff teams. The Packers lost 2 games to non-playoff teams.

So, I take the Packers (OVER). Pick wisely, and check out the pick for the other playoff games.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

NFL 2015 NFC Wild Card (Seahawks vs Vikings)

The Seattle Seahawks lost six games this season. Two of these losses were to the St. Louis Rams, a division rival that seemed to have Seattle's number.

The other four were to teams that made the playoffs. In three of those four losses, the Seahawks led or tied going into the fourth quarter. In the other game, division rival, the Arizona Cardinals dominated the Seattle for most of that game. The Seahawks returned the favor in Week 17.

This playoff matchup is a repeat of a Week 13 contest where the Seattle Seahawks demolished the Minnesota Vikings. The final score was 38-7, and justifies the outlook for this meeting: Seattle At Minnesota (+4; 39.5).

The Vikings defense will determine this game. The Vikings have lost five of six games when they gave up 20 or more points. In their other 10 games, all wins, the opponent scored less than 20 points.

Minnesota also led at the half in all these games, except once when they were tied with the Chicago Bears. This was their only come from behind victory -- they trailed at the start of the fourth quarter.

The Seahawks have scored 29 or more points in 7 of 8 games, and have not scored less than 17 points in a loss. So, can the Vikings offense support its defense with 21 points?

The numbers favor the Seahawks (.737) because they have the defense to match their explosive offense.

So, I take the Seahawks (OVER). Pick wisely, and check out the pick for the other playoff games.

NFL 2015 AFC Wild Card (Steelers vs Bengals)

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Heading into their Week 14 matchup, these two teams were my choices to come out of the AFC. With them facing each other in a Wild Card game, this lessens that likelihood. The next key factor is the injury, during that game, to Quarterback Andy Dalton which has caused the Cincinnati Bengals to be the underdog at home. 

Pittsburgh At Cincinnati (+3; 45.5) is an early referendum on AJ McCarron. Since McCarron replaced Dalton during the game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Bengals have won two and lost two. The loss to the Denver Broncos is why they did not earn a bye.

As a starter, McCarron's play has been steady but his lack of experience and big strike capability will likely hinder the Bengals in these playoffs.

Even with Dalton starting, the Steelers have had success against the Bengals -- a record of 6 Wins and 2 Losses coming into this season. Early this season, the Steelers lost to the Bengals in a low-scoring affair. Since that game, Pittsburgh has scored 28 or more points, on way to a 6-2 record.

For Cincinnati, its defense has been the steady force since that game. The Bengals defense has held opponents to under 21 points in 7 of 9 games. To beat the Steelers, the Bengals will need to score 24 or more points.

Against the Spread (ATS) this game is a toss-up - a battle between Bengals defense and Steelers offense.

So, I take the Steelers (OVER) because the Steelers defense is not likely to give up over 21 points to AJ McCarron. Pick wisely, and check out the pick for the other playoff games.

Friday, January 08, 2016

NFL 2015 AFC Wild Card (Chiefs vs Texans)

Early this season, I was optimistic on the Kansas City Chiefs and their chance to win the AFC West division. Though that did not occur, the Chiefs showed  great resiliency by winning their final 10 games of the season. This is after losing 5 games in a row.

The Chiefs opened the season by beating the Houston Texans - score of 27 - 20. Though I felt that the Texans were facing desperate times as a franchise, I must admit my surprise in how they turned their season around. The Texans won 7 of their final 9 games to win the AFC South division.

Houston played through controversy and injuries at the quarterback position but it was their defense that righted the ship.

In the final 9 games, the Texans held opponents to under 18 points for 7 wins.

The Chiefs did the same in 8 of their final 10 winning games. Knowing we will witness two formidable defenses, what are the key points? The Chiefs defense is more explosive, particularly when it comes to the pass rush (Sacks) and Interceptions.

Brian Hoyer threw 7 INTS in 11 games, which on a percentage basis places him in the middle of the pack for starting quarterbacks. Where he does excel is that he throws nearly 2 TDs per game, which places him at the top third for starting quarterbacks.

Level of competition faced and performance against top teams do matter in determining which offense is more potent. Statistically the Texans offense rates better than the Chiefs, except in two key areas: points scored and rushing yards.

With the matchup being Kansas City At Houston (+3; 40) the numbers favor the Chiefs at .789.

So, I take the Chiefs (UNDER), either looking at a Chiefs blowout, or a grind out defensive struggle. Pick wisely, and check out the pick for the other playoff games.

EvenMoney’s NFL 2015 – End of Season Rankings

Playoff Teams in Red

Composite Rank = average rank, across four categories

Position Rank
Composite Rank
Carolina Panthers
Arizona Cardinals
Cincinnati Bengals
Seattle Seahawks
New England Patriots
Kansas City Chiefs
Pittsburgh Steelers
Minnesota Vikings
Denver Broncos
New York Jets
Green Bay Packers
Houston Texans
Washington Redskins
Buffalo Bills
Atlanta Falcons
Oakland Raiders
New York Giants
Detroit Lions
St. Louis Rams
Philadelphia Eagles
New Orleans Saints
Indianapolis Colts
Chicago Bears
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jacksonville Jaguars
Miami Dolphins
Baltimore Ravens
San Diego Chargers
Dallas Cowboys
San Francisco 49ers
Tennessee Titans
Cleveland Browns