Written By Matthew Nereim
Happy New Year! The playoffs are upon us...which means let the REAL games begin! To recap Week #17, my “almost all-in” (4-unit) play of the week smashed (Titans -5.5), as predicted! My 2-unit play (Oak vs Den Under 41) came in comfortably under the #. My 3-unit play (Bears -3) were up 18-6 in the 4th before Trubisky pulled a Trubisky (fumbled) and faltered late. And my 1-unit “break every rules play” (Indy -6) were up 10-0, before reminding me of why I should stick to my fundamentals (betting against “Joe Public” if at all). Betting 10-units and winning 6 over time however works just fine - but betting 10-units and winning 9 would have been much better! A win is a win though when it comes to betting.
Back to the task at hand...an always exciting 1st weekend of playoff football! So, let’s dive into the matchups and see if we can find some value with upside?
Bills @ Texans -2.5
56% of the bets are on the Bills and the line dropped a “hook” down from 3 on most books. MGM has it at 3.5 though. JJ Watt is expected to return, but WR Will Fuller is doubtful...which is no small matter as he is a key cog to the offense. Houston has limped home down the stretch, although you can put a line through last week’s game against the Titans. Buffalo lost 3 of 4 to close out the season, but two of those L’s were tough hard-fought contests against the Ravens and the Pats. Losing in Week #17 with Josh Allen (& others) hardly playing does not count as a real loss either. Much has been made of Allen’s inefficiency on the deep ball, but I have seen some tremendous growth in his understanding of the offense and how to manipulate defenses with his eyes and mobility. That spells trouble for a Texans defense that has been leaky at best all year. Couple that with the Bills tenacious D who won’t have to worry about Will Fuller creating space for All World WR Hopkins and the fundamentals of this game work in Buffalo’s favor. My biggest concern is the texture of this betting line, which has the Bills +2.5 at +100 in my book...which looks too good to be true. QB’s in their 1st playoff start have been historically unfruitful. I lean Buffalo...BUT, the “total” opened at 40.5 and has gone up to 43 despite 59% of the best riding the under. That is more in line with the kind of “texture” that I am looking for. Going against the grain, as usual! Bet 2-units: Over 43.
Titans @ Patriots -5
52% of the bets are on the Titans and the line pulled back a “hook”. I am not buying any of the “this could be Tom Brady’s last game” hogwash. This is a fascinating matchup either way as the Titans are not a team that I would like to face. They feature an amazing WR, the “new” A. Brown, rushing champ D. Henry, and an emerging 3rd year TE (#81 Jonnu Smith) who is an athletic freak! Oh yeah, and a Ryan Tannehill who has resurrected his career since leaving Miami. They do have the 25th ranked passing defense, however. The Patriots are historically great on the bounce-back. I could not have been more incorrect last week as I saw them handling the Dolphins with ease and being in position for another Super Bowl run. I don’t see them winning the next 3 games though now, however. But, I can’t wait to watch this game...and I lean Titans. But Brady - Belichick - Foxboro - Playoffs? That history means something! Go Titans but no thanks.
Vikings @ Saints -8
60% of the bets are on the Saints and the line has not really moved. 8 is a huge # in a playoff game and normally this is just the kind of “texture” that I am looking for with the public all over the Saints. But, the Viking secondary is so beat up, and LB Kendricks is too. Trying to beat Drew Brees at home is a little like trying to go surfing in a lake. Pound for Pound there is, nor has there been anyone better, ever! Lamar, yes, you have a shot - but let’s see you do it for a decade 1st! However, a Vikings offense that has Cook-Diggs-Thielen healthy, getting 8 points, with a defense that knows how to create turnovers...it is so tempting. But more things have to go right to cover, then things that have to go wrong to not. Pass!
Note: The Over sits at 50 which the public is all over too. It seems like there should be plenty of points...especially in a dome. I just can’t take a game that “Joe Public” is all over this week, again. It is usually a 50/50 proposition, at best, although I think it goes over.
Seahawks @ Eagles +1.5
71% of the bets are on the Seahawks and the line moved from -1 to 1.5. The Hawks won in Philly in Week #12...Philly also lost the following week in Miami to appear out of it. Say what you want about the skill players of the Eagles who few outside of Philly know...but this offense has put up 400+ yards a game on their current 4-game win streak. Who is calling for Super Bowl winning coach Pederson to be fired now? The Seahawks just lost a heartbreaker against the 9ers Sunday night, literally by inches. That is a knockout blow that is tough to rebound from...especially on the other side of the country (I know they have fared well back east of late). These squads could not have more opposite “mojo” heading into this game...and I am siding with Vegas, who is asking you to please take Seattle. Most are...I am NOT. Bet 3-units: Philly +1.5
As always, if you are going to bet, make it be with $ that you can afford to lose...Happy WC Weekend!