The Stage is set for Wild Card weekend, and we have some intriguing matchups. Home field in the NFL is a focal point in the gambling world. Teams with an exceptional home field are bestowed anywhere from 2.5-3.5 points, which are factored into the spread. Teams with moderate influence from the crowd and no advantage in weather, are deemed to have less effectual of a home-field advantage than others where the off-field elements serve as a boost. If playing at home in the regular season holds a true value, then what’s it worth in the postseason?
Titans vs. Chiefs 4:35 pm ET
Arrowhead has served Kansas City as a haven, where the home team has fared well all year. The Chiefs, are 6-2 ATS at home this year and much has to be credited to the defense. No road teams surpassed the 20 point mark in Arrowhead all year, a number that’s relates to their last 14 visiting opponents. Tennessee falls right into the scheme, as the Titans have also struggled offensively on the road only averaging 17.5 points compared to the 24.3 they tally at home. In the regular season, the Titans failed to score more than 20 points in six of their eight games while traveling. The Chiefs rookie Kareem Hunt came out of the gates blazing but hit a midseason plateau, this could serve as a good thing for the Chiefs as he seems fresh to end the season and the workload he’s received proves he’s in top late-season form.
Hunt’s touches his last three games excluding week 17 are 28, 31, and 33 on snap rates of 68%, 65%, and 68%. Tennessee’s defense thrives off its front 7 and the ability to limit the run. No running back has scored a touchdown vs. the Titans since week 12. The home team will need to find ways to get Hunt the ball in open space and through the passing game they will be able to achieve that. The Titans gave up the NFL’s second-most catches (99) and a league-high 967 receiving yards to running backs this season. On the offensive side, Mike Mularkey will look to feed a heavy dose to his primary back Derrick Henry with DeMarco Murray ruled out.
The Chiefs run defense was vulnerable to end the season giving up five rushing touchdowns in weeks 13-16. Kansas City allowed 100 plus yards rushing in 12 of its 16 contest this season. I fully expect the Titans to lean on the ground game to control the clock and keep the game close. The factor that will be pivotal will be Marcus Mariota’s home-road splits where the play caller holds a 5 to 11 TD to INT ratio as a visitor. With these numbers, Mariota may have to lean on his legs of old to extend drives, and that is something we have yet to see this season where he is averaging a career-low 5.32 yards per carry. Games like these are decided by the team that makes the fewest mistakes, and I see the Chiefs forcing a few turnovers building separation on the scoreboard.
Chiefs 26 Titans 17
Picks: Chiefs -8.5 under 44.5
Falcons vs. Rams 8:15 ET
Fresh, is what we expect Rams Todd Gurley to be after sitting out week 17. Efficient, is what he will need to be vs. an Atlanta defense that allowed opposing running backs a wretched 3.42 yards per carry yielding only four scores to the position in the final ten games and 6 all season. Gurley, has been versatile in 2017 and served as an all-purpose back the entire year where he finished fifth among backs in receptions (64), second in receiving (788), and first in receiving touchdowns (6). Strenght vs. weakness is what we will see Saturday night as the Falcons have allowed league highs in receptions to the running back position the previous two years.
The Rams play-caller Jared Goff has thrived in high scoring matchups vs. sub-par defenses defending the pass ending the season with five consecutive multi-score games. The Falcons will need Devonta Freeman to be as close to 100% as possible facing a team that struggles vs. the ground game. Over their final six contest, the Rams defense allowed an average of 4.63 yards per carry and conceded five touchdowns to the position. Look for Atlanta to keep the Rams team honest and off balance with Julio Jones and the skilled wide receivers requiring extra attention from the LA defense prohibiting eight-man boxes to hide their flaws vs. the run. The Rams carry the NFL’s highest-scoring offense averaging 29.9 points per game, a stat that serves well for the high total as we have seen the previous seven meetings between the two teams go over the total.
Atlanta has had trouble historically as visitors in the postseason where they are 0-4 straight up and ATS since their last road victory in 2003. The Falcons played a very tough schedule finishing the year playing 4 out of 5 teams that made the playoffs. In those games, Atlanta was in must-situations to keep their postseason hopes alive after their shaky start, bringing a sense of fatigue to the roster. “Needing” to win, takes a toll on teams physically and mentally. Do the Falcons have anything left in the tank? I believe the spread is too high and I could see the Falcons keeping this close enough to have a chance to win outright.
Falcons 24 Rams 27
Picks: Falcons +6 over 48.5
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