The first round of the NFL Playoffs threw up some shocks on paper, with three of the four underdogs on the betting line eventually progressing through to the divisional round.
There was heartbreak for Chicago fans as Cody Parkey’s last second field goal was tipped onto both the post and the crossbar before agonisingly falling short. This weekend sees the entry of the big guns to the playoff party, with the one and two seeds in the AFC and NFC looking to make light work of any wildcard entries.
Kansas City v Indianapolis
Kansas City have experienced a historic year with Patrick Mahomes under centre. The second year quarterback threw for 50 touchdown passes and has looked calm and poised in the pocket. Surrounded by a plethora of weapons, and a defence built to sack the quarterback, Kansas have been thrilling to watch this year.
The Colts, however, are resurgent. Andrew Luck has looked unbeatable for long stretches this season, and that Indy team is physical and just plain mean. It is a true matchup of Finesse v Power in this Playoff matchup, and it will be fascinating to see how it plays out.
Kansas are 2/5 to win, but I have my reservations. The Chiefs haven’t had a home playoff win since 1994, and lost in a famous collapse to Luck’s Colts after blowing a 28-point lead only a few seasons ago. I wonder if this team is mentally strong enough with such expectation on their shoulders, and therefore recommend backing the Colts at 7/4, for the upset.
LA Rams v Dallas
Another very interesting matchup, the Rams started the season fantastically, then have really wilted as the winter months set in.
Dallas have been the complete opposite, and QB Dak Prescott really came of age with the eyes of the nation on him last weekend, with his huge third down conversion eventually sealing the game for Dallas. Similar to the Chiefs, the Rams have weapons everywhere, but that Dallas D is exceptional at stopping the run, and shutting down short throws.
If LA are to win, Brandin Cooks will need to have a big game. The Rams are just 3/10 to win here, whereas the Cowboys are 5/2. I would take Dallas on a +6.5 handicap at Evens, and Brandin Cooks over 64.5 receiving yards, at 5/6.
New England v LA Chargers
New England are unbeaten at home this season, whereas the Chargers are unbeaten out of California. Something has to give in this game between two of the greatest QB’s of this century, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers.
Brady and Bill Belichick are notoriously difficult to beat in the cold at Foxboro, and the odds of 1/2 show this. However, something feels different about this Chargers team, with their lightning quick back seven, and tough interior linemen. Much will depend on if Melvin Gordon can shake off the hits he took last week against the Ravens, but that game was a coaching masterclass.
Expect a real battle of X’s and O’s, but if tactical football is your thing, this matchup is made for you. Back the Chargers to win, and for the fairytale to continue at 13/8.
New Orleans v Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia shocked many fans and pundits alike with their upset of Chicago last week, but they face a different beast altogether this week.
The New Orleans Saints have been a juggernaut this year, and Drew Brees looks as good as ever. Inside the Superdome, they are as close to unbeatable as you can be, and Philadelphia just won’t be able to touch them.
The Saints are 1/4 to win, and the Eagles are an outside 3/1, and I think even that looks optimistic. Stud running back Alvin Kamara is just 5/2 to score two or more touchdowns, and Michael Thomas is 4/5 to go over 84.5 receiving yards. Back both of these, as it could be a Saints blowout.