Divisional Recap

Went 1-2 last week following a 3-1 Wild Card round. The over never came close in the Browns/Chiefs game but could have had a shot if Rashard Higgins didn’t fumble into the end zone in the second quarter and, of course, Patrick Mahomes didn’t get hurt and leave the game.

The Ravens/Packers tease last week was clearly the most popular tease of the week last weekend and should have gotten there if it wasn’t for that awful pick-6 by Lamar Jackson in the end zone. And even then, backup QB Tyler Huntley still had a golden opportunity to get the cover in the backdoor if he either completes an easy TD pass to Marquise Brown or Mark Andrews was able to hang onto a TD in the back of the end zone. These playoff lines are extremely tight so many of these covers can be influenced greatly by a play or two. And we saw that last week.

A couple of conference championship trends that could be of importance heading into this weekend. Since 2000, underdogs have gone 21-19 against the spread and overs are 24-14-2 (63%). Since 1990, overs have gone 9-5-1 (64%) in games with a total of at least 50 points. Four of the last five conference championship games have gone over with a total of at least 50. Underdogs of under four points have gone 9-6 ats (60%) since 2000.

Conference Championship Bets

Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3.5 -120 vs Green Bay Packers

There isn’t a ton to take away from the first matchup, when Tampa Bay beat Green Bay 38-10. However, the fact that the Tampa defense was able to pressure Aaron Rodgers on 18 of 41 dropbacks (43.9%) opened my eyes a bit to a slightly troubling trend for the Packers this season.

The Packers OL was tremendous this season, ranking first in the NFL allowing only a 15% pressure rate. However, the Packers faced the fifth-easiest schedule of opposing pass rushers in the NFL. They only had to face three defenses that currently rank in the top 14 in pressure rate (New Orleans, Tampa, and Philadelphia). In those three games, Rodgers was pressured on 37.8% of his dropbacks. On 42 dropbacks where he was pressured, he completed 12-of-33 pass attempts (36%) for 168 yards (5.09 ypa), 2 TDs, 0 INT, and 7 sacks.

He was clearly affected by the pressure in those games and for the season, Rodgers ranks 29th in completion percentage, 23rd in adjusted completion percentage, and 13th in ypa. His production with a clean pocket is out of this world, ranked first in TD% and in passer rating. What makes this even more troubling if you are a Packers fan is that all-world LT David Bakhtiari played in that first matchup against Tampa and did not allow a single pressure.

It was the rest of the OL that got beat up, including Bakhtiari’s replacement Billy Turner. Turner played RT in that game and allowed a team-high six pressures. Now he will be tasked with protecting Rodgers’s blindside. If the Buccaneers can pressure Rodgers even close to what he was able to produce in their first matchup, it can limit this great Packers offense enough to keep them in the game.

As a whole, the Packers have faced the easiest schedule of opponents when considering net EPA per play. They have only faced three teams that rank in the top 12 in net EPA (Indianapolis, Tampa, and New Orleans) and went 1-2 with the one win by seven points. Tampa ranks fourth in the NFL in net EPA per play.

Green Bay has certainly been outstanding this year but remember they let a terrible Jacksonville team have the lead in the middle of the fourth quarter at home before scoring a touchdown late to escape, lost at home to the Vikings and had to ward off a Carolina team with the ball and a chance to take the game into OT on the final drive. Jared Goff played last week without his best weapon in Cooper Kupp, missed David Edwards along the OL, and had a dislocated thumb in cold weather yet still moved the ball on this Packers defense and produced a 55% success rate, 61% on early downs. This isn’t some team that is impossible to beat.

We talked about the splits for Tom Brady against defenses that rank in the top 10 in DVOA. In the regular season, the team went 0-4 in those games and Brady struggled, completing 96/163 (59%) of his passes for only 5.6 ypa, 5 TD, 7 INT, and 10 sacks. Those were four of the five worst passer rating games for Brady this season.

If you strip out those four regular season games, Brady was outstanding, completing 68% of his passes for 8.3 ypa, 35 TDs, and only 5 INTs. Although they won, he has only fared a bit better in the two playoff games so far against two more top 10 DVOA defenses in Washington and New Orleans, completing 55% of his passes for 7.9 ypa, 4 TDs, 0 INT, and 4 sacks. The good news is that the Packers defense, while improved in the back half of the season, only ranks 17th in DVOA defense and has generated the seventh-lowest pressure rate in the NFL.

I fully expect Brady to have time to find holes in this defense and certainly enough to cover the 3.5. My model has this game at GB -2 but if you wanted to even add 0.5-1 point for any potential weather concerns, I can still justify taking the 3.5. 

Buffalo Bills team total over 26 vs Kansas City Chiefs

There are just too many variables here to take either side outright at this point. So, I am going with over the team total for the Bills. My model has the Bills at 28 points, so I like getting under the key number of 27 here. Forget what you saw in this first matchup from Josh Allen and the Bills. Yeah, the Chiefs did a good job getting pressure on Allen with exotic blitzes, but he just flat out was too aggressive and missed some wide-open receivers underneath. He generated a poor -6% CPOE in that game, which was totally uncharacteristic from Allen this season.

Allen forced the ball way too much deep and was not very successful doing so. He attempted six deep passes in the game, completed none of them, and threw an interception, although two of the passes did result in a defensive penalty.

I fully expect Allen to take what’s available underneath much more in this game and I also think he will be used much more on designed runs than in the first two playoff games. Against Kansas City, he was effective on designed runs, with 33 yards and an 80% success rate on five designed carries. I believe the Bills will be much more efficient on offense and considering the Bills are top 12 in redzone touchdown percentage while the Chiefs defense ranks dead last in red zone touchdown percentage allowed, the Bills should be able to safely convert opportunities into points.

Playoff Best Bets Record YTD: 4-3 ats (57%)