With the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs in the books that saw two underdogs win outright, New England dominate, Jacksonville shock the world, and possibly the most miraculous last-second play this side of the music city miracle-its safe to say it was a bit unpredictable, so let’s dive in on the past, and apply it to the future.
AFC Divisional Recap
New England Patriots Vs. Tennessee Titans
This game went pretty much according to what everyone thought would happen and truthfully there isn’t much to write about with this one as New England covered the 13.5 with relative ease winning 35-14. One area of note that I do want to touch on is what happened early in this game. When Tennessee went up 7-0 early in the first quarter, the in-game betting line was knocked all the way down to New England -5, which is an 8.5 point correction simply based on the fact that Tennessee scored first. The only quarter/half New England didn’t cover was the first quarter, as they covered pillar to post and essentially put Mike Mularkey in the grave for the final time.
New England rolls on with a date with Jacksvonille next week. Some other notes-Tom Brady’s prop bets of completions were set at 24 and went wildly over, as well as his pass yards which isn’t a big surprise due to Tennessee’s issues in the back end of their defense. This was a workmanlike performance from New England with not much to write home about.
Jacksonville Jaguars Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
This game, on the other hand, played out almost in the exact opposite as most people thought and not just on the scoreboard-but let’s start there. Jacksvonille won outright as 7.5 point underdogs and after beating Buffalo 10-3 the week prior exploded for 45 points on the back of Leonard Fournette, who went for 109 yards on 25 carries. One area to note is that Blake Bortles for the second straight playoff game went under his passing yards prop of 220, although this one was a bit of a sweat with him finishing with 214 after finishing with only 89 in the wild-card round.
As I talked about props to look out for in the divisional preview article here, the initial reaction would have been to get behind that Jacksonville pass defense and take props like Antonio Brown under receiving yards and Ben Roethlisberger under passing yards, however if you any research, even in the first matchup which Jacksonville won 30-9, you would have seen that yards weren’t the issue. The prop way of attacking Bortles under passing yards, Lev Bell over catches, and Fournette over rushing yards all came home, and Jacksonville showed they have some offensive firepower. Jacksonville now heads to New England as 9 point underdogs.
NFC Divisional Recap
Atlanta Falcons Vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Sometimes in this business, you have to eat a little bit of crow, and if you’ve been following my work for any amount of time, you know I was much higher on Atlanta than most. In part due to how much stock I put into the Net YPP stat that saw both Atlanta and New Orleans in the top 3, and Atlanta having the same record they had before going on the Super Bowl run last season and finished off by the fact that I wasn’t ready to put my hard earned money behind Nick Foles. The defense for Philadelphia came to play, and Nick Foles showed just how efficient a game manager can be as it came down to one last play, and Philadelphia held on to win outright as a 3 point underdog. One prop bet that continues to be undefeated is going under on Philadelphia 1H and full game team total since Nick Foles took over, which is now 4-0 (Games Vs. Oakland and Atlanta)
As I stated above, efficiency was key as Nick Foles kept it safe going 23/30 for 246 and no touchdowns, but more importantly no interceptions. The defense did the rest holding Atlanta to 10 points and with their season on the line, held from the 2-yard line. Philadelphia now hosts Minnesota as a 3 point home underdog.
New Orleans Saints Vs. Minnesota Vikings
Let’s start from the end in this one, as it was one of the most miraculous plays you will ever see in an NFL playoff game. The final score of 29-24 doesn’t do this game justice as it was a true back and forth affair with Minnesota jumping out to a 17-0 lead at the end of the first half, yet New Orleans clawed back in the second half outscoring them 24-6 before the final last second hail mary to Stefon Diggs. From a prop perspective, the ones I always try to key in on are Adam Thielen (5.5) and Diggs (4.5) both went over. If New Orleans had held on we would be talking about how much a quarterback means, yet now we are talking about how either Case Keenum or Nick Foles will make the Super Bowl. Do your thing, game managers.
Minnesota has been on a quest for history this season to be the first team to host a Super Bowl and they are the odds-on favorite to do so in the NFC this week, as Minnesota is a 3 point favorite on the road against Philadelphia.
AFC Championship Preview
Jacksonville Jaguars Vs. New England Patriots (-8.5)
As I’ve noted time and time again, the formula for betting on/against Jacksonville is simple-usually. If they get out to a lead early-take a worse number and lay it because that pass defense is next to impossible to come back on. With that being said, they have only come from behind once this season due to the inability of Blake Bortles in the passing game. That being said, New England is the exception to every rule, so if Jacksonville does the same thing Tennessee did-you can essentially get a teaser price on New England straight.
This number has done a bit of dancing with the news that Tom Brady suffered a hand injury during practice, although an MRI revealed no structural damage, which is likely just a minor jam. You don’t make money long term fading New England, however, it should be noted that very real professional money is on Jacksonville this week. From a prop bet perspective, I’m not running to back a Bortles under in passing yards because I do think there is a chance the garbage time king rears his head again in this one, especially late. New England is famous for taking away your best weapon, so if the market is overcorrecting for Fournette’s success, it may be a time to short the stock of the rookie playing in his longest season to date. Another aspect I will be personally making an investment on is going under Jacksonville’s team total, fading what we saw last week.
Not to beat a dead horse, but If Jacksonville is going to pull off the upset-which will be the biggest in franchise history they’re going to have to follow the gameplan laid out by The Baltimore Ravens in the 2012 wild-card matchup. Ray Rice set the tone by ripping out an 83-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage and the defense did the rest, as Baltimore won going away 33-14. If Jacksonville can get out early and hold the lead, that will be the formula. Of course, this is always easier said than done when you’re dealing with a team notorious for taking away your best weapon.
Prediction: New England Patriots 24 Jacksvonille Jaguars 14
NFC Championship Preview
Minnesota Vikings (-3) Vs. Philadelphia Eagles
This may seem a little bit dark or emotionless, but sometimes you have to go to those places if making money is the most important thing to you in sports. The thing is, teams playing for something bigger than themselves are notoriously a great bet. Some of my biggest bets in my career have been backing teams off of tragedy. The Boston Red Sox winning a World Series off the Boston Marathon bombing, New Orleans Saints winning A Super Bowl off of Hurricane Katrina, and lastly, The Houston Astros winning A World Series after Hurricane Harvey. There are countless smaller-scale examples (Isiah Thomas after his sister passing away, etc)
Like it or not, teams playing for something more than themselves have been a great bet. Now (thankfully) there is no tragedy here with Minnesota, but they are playing to be the first team to host a Super Bowl and from an odds perspective, they are favored to do so. As you saw last week, Minnesota pulled one of the most miraculous one play comebacks in the history of the NFL to keep this dream alive, and in every one of the scenarios above, there has been a defining moment, and Minnesota just had it.
This is the lowest total on the board and with good reason, as again, since Nick Foles has taken the reigns he has never gone over a first half team total or full game team total. Minnesota’s defense has been great so I will continue riding that streak in this one going under Philadelphia’s first half and full game team total.
The other prop bet that has been profitable all season is going under on the number one receiver against Xavier Roades and The Vikings. He went out for a bit with an injury which is when Michael Thomas did most of his damage, but he has held Julio Jones to 2 catches for 24 yards, AJ Green to 2 catches for 30 yards, Golden Tate to 4 catches for 7 yards, Jordy Nelson to 60 yards, and Antonio Brown to 62 yards-just to name a few. Roades will draw Alshon Jeffery this week, who just doesn’t have enough of a role (or good enough quarterback) to sniff going over his receiving yard total, so mark me down for my second prop bet in this game.
Philadelphia showed you just cannot run straight at them holding Devonta Freeman to 7 yards on 10 carries, yet did allow the secondary running back Tevin Coleman 79 yards on the same amount of carries which leads me to my next prop bet selection. Latavius Murray may shown a flash or two while employed by Oakland, but we know what he is, and averaged only 2.6 YPC during the matchup with New Orleans, yet Jerrick McKinnon averaged 4.3 YPC (adding 3 receptions for only 6 yards.) This leads me to believe this will be a McKinnon game especially catching balls out of the backfield as I will be taking McKinnon Over yards (Rush+Rec).
Minnesota is on a quest for history, and I’m not ready to get in front of that train.
Prediction: Minnesota Vikings: 20 Philadelphia Eagles: 17