Wild Card week was pretty uneventful with a split of the 2 plays and again this week I didn’t see a lot of value, the lines looked right on the card so instead of forcing we have just 2 plays, both on Sunday. This is my favourite football weekend of the year and 3 of the 4 games should be lots of fun to watch.
Andy Reid off a bye can’t be stopped
2016 Reg Season: 53-37-3
Game 1: Pit @ KC -1
Bet% Pit 55% KC 55%
First off, while I do believe this is a spot the Chiefs come out and win< I should mention that I have future on the Steelers and this line provides a perfect hedge opportunity on the Chiefs so that is 1 reason I am on the Chiefs here but not the only one.
This game has been moved to Sunday night from the morning because of ice storms, the weather and night game should improve the KC home field advantage here. Lets start with the fact that the Steelers have just not been great on the road. They finished the year 5-3 on the road but their road schedule was not a tough one, they had wins over Cle, Cin, Buf, Ind and Wash, Washingto is the only one in that group that had a winning record. The struggles on the road really show up in the pass game. At home The Steelers had a passer rating of 108.6, 24TDs to 7 Ints and averaged 8 yards er pass att.On the road, the passer rating drops to 77.9 with just 9 pass TDs to 8 Ints and 6.7 yards per att.
The KC pass defense has been good all year, they are 4th in pass defense DVOA but they are especially good at home. The avg passer rating of Chief opponents at home is just 67.5 and they give up 5.8 yards per att at Arrowhead. With the weather conditions expected on Sunday the Chiefs defense should be able to handle the Steelers pass game.
That leaves the game in the hands of Levian Bell and there is no question this is the concern for Chiefs backers. KC finished 20th in DVOA vs the run and 23rd in yards per rush att giving up 4.4. Bell has been the reason the Steelers won 5 road games despite the pass games struggles and Chiefs will have to slow him down minus Derrick Johnson their best run defending LB.
Despite the issues with Bell I still think this is the spot the Chiefs come up big and the first reason is Andy Reid. For all his detractors, Reid is a coach that has had great success in the playoffs, and was especially good off of a bye in Philadelphia. The Andy Reid bye legend is well documented, 16-2 in the regular season off of a bye and 3-0 in playoffs. What more impressive in that playoff number is that the 3 teams he beat were Bret Favre and the Packers, Mike Vick and the Falcons and Culpepper/ Moss and the Vikings and he held those 3 high powered offenses to a combined 37 points.I think Andy will find a way this week to slow Bell down.
On offense this is not only an efficient pass game 911th in DVOA) but one that has the most fire power the Chiefs have had since Reid got their 4 years ago with 3 legit playmakers in Maclin, Kelce and Tyreke Hill. Hill will be the X factor in this game because he is the type of player that can score from anywhere on the field and in game that will have weather issues it would surprise nobody to see a score on a kick/punt return be the difference.
The Chiefs finished tied for 2nd in turnover differential this year and normally that is a number that means you have been lucky and we expect their to be regression to the mean. The Chief may be an exception to that rule.We know Alex Smith is an extremely conservative QB that does not throw a lot of interceptions and we also know that the defense is full of guys who play for turnovers like Marcus Peters and Eric Berry which helps explain why the Chefs have finished in the top 2 in turnover differential 3 of the last 4 years. In a cold weather game with rain and possibly snow, I expect the Chiefs to come out on top in the turnover battle.
Game 2: GB @ Dal Over 51
Bet% Over 79 Under 21
Dallas finished the year as the 2nd best offense in the league by DVOA and top 5 by virtually every measure, Green bay comes in with the best QB in the league playing his best football of the season and it’s hard to see how these 2 mediocre defenses can do much to slow either of these offences down.
Going into the week 5 matchup, GB had a historic start on defense vs the run, they were giving up a ridiculous 2 yards per rush and in what was the first marquee road game for Ezikiel Elliot he rushed for 157 yards on 28 carries for 5.6 yards per rush. Prescott ws just as good in that game averaging 9.1 yards per pass, 3 TDs 1 Int and a passer rating of 117.4. It should be noted that Prescott didn’t have Dez Bryant in that game and the Packers secondary was in much better shape in week 6 than they are this week.
As for the Packers, there is no question Rodgers is playing at a much higher level in the last 6 games than he did all year. Over the last 7 games he has 18 TDs O Ints, 8.4 yards per pass att and an avg passer rating of 120.1. The Packers will certainly miss Jordy Nelson in this game but against the 20th ranked Cowboys pass defense Rodgers should still be able to make plays against a mediocre secondary.
The Green Bay secondary has been decimated with injuries but last week’s matchup against the Giants was a good one because the NY pass game is based on short throws like slants and crosses and they do not take a lot of deep shots. Eli Manning averages 3.34 Air Yards per pass and 50.4% of his pass yards come on YAC or yards after the catch. Prescott averages 4.65 air yards per att (6th best) and only 41.8% of his yards come on YAC. I expect to see some deep throws to Bryant to be a big weapon in this game.
I think the line is the right number at 4 or 4.5, while I think GB has a shot because they have Rodgers and that alone gets you the shot I am not sure how they stop the Dallas defense. The over feels like the best bet to e as square as it is. Both these offenses have strengths that matchup with weaknesses on the other side. Dallas will need to get a lot of pressure on Rodgers to get him to get rid of the ball early but even though they are 10th in adjusted sack rate, in overall sacks they are 18th and in the 1st game they had only 1. Rodgers is not a guy bothered by pressures and hurries and I can see him having a very big game here against a defense that is not full of playmakers.
Wild Card Weekend: 1 Win 1 Loss
What Went Right: Pit -10.5
- Steelers Front 7 and Levian Bell– In a week where all the favorites cover we were on the biggest fav of the week and got it even though Big Ben was just so so. Rothlisberger had 197 yds 2 TD 2 INT, most of that work was done early as Steelers led 20-6 at half. Bell was once again incredible 167 yards on 29 carries, that’s 5.8 per att, with 2 TDs in an absolute dominant game. The Defense was equally great, especially the front 7. Steelers had to handle the Miami run game and that’s exactly what they did, they held Jay Ajayi to just 33 yards total and owned the line of scrimmage with 5 sacks, 10.5 TFL and 9 QB hits.
What Went Wrong: Oak +4
Conner Cook– This was basically the worst case scenario with Cook. Early on he was not helped by his receivers who dropped some good throws that could have given the offense some confidence but in the end his mistakes were just too much to overcome. 3 INts, including an early one by Clowney that lead to a TD, 3.6 yards per Att and a Passer rating of 30. It was all bad. Houston had 13 pass defended which is kind of a crazy number. It should be noted that Osweiller was fine in this game, in that it wasn’t the regular dumpster fire we are used to from him. 168 passing yards, 1 TD and no turnovers. That’s about as good as it gets for him.