NFL Tips: Divisional Round Picks

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Hi all. A great start to the postseason for us last weekend with 2 winners out of 2. The Seahawks and the Packers both obliged on the handicap market to give us a 5/2 double and boost an already very profitable season. In excitement terms the wildcard weekend turned into a little bit of a disappointment with each of the favourites winning easily by double digits. This had led to calls from many to scrap the wildcards or restructure the playoffs.

Personally I feel such talk is premature. Some of the best and most competitive games I have watched over the last number of seasons have come in the wildcards. Imagine if last year’s slugfest between the Steelers and Bengals had never happened? Or what about the Colts thrilling 45-44 comeback win over the Chiefs a few years ago? However you may feel this weekend’s set of games at first glance look like they should be extremely competitive and with just 8 teams remaining in the playoffs I could make a case for any of these to go to the superbowl with the exception of the Houston Texans!

Atlanta Falcons -5 @ 10/11 Vs Seattle Seahawks (NAP) 9.35pm Saturday

The Seahawks were mightily impressive last weekend in blowing away the Detroit Lions and also have already scored a 26-24 victory over the Falcons in Seattle back in week 6. However let’s not get away from the fact that the Seahawks at home and on the road have been completely different entities this season and also just how bad the Lions defence was last weekend. While this Falcons defence isn’t good either it has certainly been playing better of late. Vic Beasley has 15 sacks this season and now faces a Seattle offensive that has struggled all year allowing 42 sacks this year. The Falcons also have one of the highest turnover differentials in the league at plus 11.

 

 

 

 

Atlanta’s running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevon Colemon have combined for 24 TDs on the season and although perhaps no team are better at taking away the run I feel that Matt Ryan will still find a way to get them involved through quick passes. When you throw in the fact that they already have to contend with Julio Jones at wide receiver and they themselves will be without Earl Thomas from that week 6 contest you have to think that the Falcons are going to score point in this one.

Atlanta are the quickest starters in the league at home averaging 12 points in the first quarter. I really can see them making another fast start here and in doing so they will take away Seattle’s biggest weapon, their run game. If Russell Wilson is forced to beat them through the air that will spell danger considering their offensive line issues and the Falcons should emerge as victors here by a touchdown or more.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Evens vs Kansas City Chiefs (1.20am, Monday)

Probably no game will have split opinions more than this one. On one side you have a Steelers team riding a 9 game winning streak and on the other the Chiefs who won 10 of their last 12 including road wins in Denver and Atlanta to pip the Raiders to the AFC west and earn a home playoff spot. All the way back in week 4 the Chiefs visited Pittsburgh and got handed a 43-14 defeat but I can say with certainty that this one will be much closer this time around.

The Chiefs have had an extra week to get healthy for this one and that has thrown up the stat again of Andy Reid’s record in games following a bye week. In his career he’s gone 16-2 after having an extra week to prepare his game plan and also 3-0 in playoff games. His Kansas team have also led the league in takeaways with 33 which will be a big concern for the Steelers considering that Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 8 interceptions over the last 5 games. That said, I still think this Chiefs defence is a bit of an anomaly. Despite their number of turnovers they are ranked just 24th in league in total defence, 26th against the run and can be prone to give up the big play.

That is extremely significant considering the freezing temperatures forecast for Kansas this weekend and the likelihood that this game will see both sides having to lean on their running game. Pittsburgh did a stellar job last weekend in shutting down Jay Ajayi and their underrated defence will look to do the same to Spencer Ware this weekend. On the flip side I don’t think there is a team in the league right now that can stop Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell and as long as Pittsburgh can establish the run early they should open thing up for Roethlisberger to make some big plays in the passing game.

Ultimately for me the Steelers just have too much scoring power with the trio of Big Ben, Bell and Brown and provided they can limit Tyreek Hill in the return game they should overcome the Chiefs death by a thousand cuts offence and emerge from Kansas with a slender victory.

These two combined pay out at a close to 3/1 double and that certainly would be my recommended bet for the weekend. For most of the week I was also going to include the Green Bay Packers plus 4.5points against the Dallas Cowboys. With the news that Jordy Nelson will not play this weekend I’ve left it out of the main bet in the end but honestly I still feel with the way Aaron Rodgers is playing taking Green Bay and the points is the way to go.

Dallas has been impressive all year and they certainly have what it takes to win it all. Nevertheless this is still a team led by two rookies, Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott in their first playoff game. Should Rodgers find himself with a 14 point deficit I’m certain that he will not panic and find a way to get the Packers back in the game. I’m not sure that we can say the same thing about Prescott. This is a Packers team that handled a much better defence in the Giants last weekend without their star receiver for the majority and getting more than a field goal with the way they are playing is massive. Adding them to the aforementioned double boosts things to a 13/2 treble and is definitely worth support at smaller stakes.

Best of luck

Cathal