I found this week’s games to be very difficult to get a beat on. All of the lines feel like they are right on and I don’t see a lot of value this week.
I think there is an impulse to think that once the playoffs start you should have a strong opinion on every game but I found myself going back and forth on every one of these wild card games. I plan on being very selective in the playoffs but I do think there may be some opportunities with in-game bets whether live or 2nd half bets or other exotics.
*Futures – Back in week 12 I bet futures on the Steelers and the Seahawks to win their conferences and win the Superbowl so I will obviously also be tracking those
2015 Reg Season ATS: 57-35-3
Game 1: Pit @ Cin Under 45.5
Bet%: Over 65% Under 35%
When these 2 teams played in Week 14, the total closed at 49 and the game finished over with a total of 53 yet this game opened up at 46 and has been dropping despite 65% of the bets on the over.
When we look at the differences obviously the injuries are big, Andy Daulton was hurt in that Week 14 game and as a result we have AJ McCarron starting for the Bengals this week. For the Steelers, they will be without DeAngelo Williams this week and will start undrafted Fitzgerald Trousant who has a total of 18 carries this year for 42 yards.
The Steelers have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, but minus a credible run defense we should see the 6th rank Bengals Pass defense be able to slow down the Steelers. In week 14 the Bengals held Pittsburgh to 6.6 yards per pass att, in week 8 they held them to just 5 yards per pass att. *It should be noted that Week 8 game was Big Ben’s first game back from injury.
On the flip side, the weakness of the Steelers defense is their secondary, Steelers have given up 7.2 yards per pass att (24th) but I don’t see McCarron really being able to or even given the opportunity to take advantage. Below we see the way that McCarron has been used over the last 3 games and also how much the Bengals have used the run.
While the Steelers pass defense is a weakness, I do not believe that Marvin Lewis and Hugh Jackson will feel comfortable using their back up QB as the focal point of their attack, they haven’t done it over the last 3 weeks and I don’t think they will here.
The Bengals run game averaged only 3.8 yards per rush but as we see above that didn’t stop the Bengals from using a run heavy offense with McCarron at QB. The Steelers run defense was very good over the season giving up only 3.8 yards per rush so I don’t see the Bengals offense having a very efficient game.
I do expect this game to be very close, so as long as it is close I don’t think we will see the Bengals take a lot of chances but rather try to shorten the game with the run and steal it late.
Game 2: GB +1 @ Wash
Bet% GB 50% Wash 50%
Washington is clearly the hotter team right now, they won their last 4 games of the season, 5 of the last 6 and finished 12th in Weighted DVOA (15th overall). The Packers lost their last 2 games, including the division showdown in week 17 vs the Vikings, lost 3 of their last 6 games overall and finished 19th in Weighted DVOA (10th Overall).
Complicating matters is the level of competition Washington played in their recent run. On the season, Washington beat 1 team that was .500 or better, the 8-8 Buffalo Bills. They played 3 teams that finished above .500, (NYJ,CAR, NE) they went 0-3 and lost by an average margin of 20 points
In the end I am going with GB because I think the matchup favours them and my hope is that the playoffs offer a bit of a reset for GB.
In a matchup of strength vs strength we have the WSH pass offense vs GB pass defense. Washington is led by their passing game, on the season they rank 6th in Avg Passer rating and 9th in yards per pass att (7.2) and both those numbers have trended up the last 6 weeks. Pass defense is the strength of the Packers defense, they rank 7th in avg opponent passer rating (81.3) and have been better than that in the last month. Washington is a very 1 dimensional offense as their run game produced only 3.6 yards per rush good for 29th overall so if the Packers pass defense can hold for they should be able to control the game.
The Packers pass offense has been well below levels we are used to seeing them play at, they are 30th in yards per pass attempt (6.1) but over the season they still rank 12th in passer rating.
The last 2 weeks the Packers pass game struggled vs the Vikings and Cardinals but both those pass defenses rank much higher than the 22nd ranked pass defense of Washington and both those teams can pressure the QB they rank 6th and 7th in total pressures. The Packers have struggled vs pass pressure all year, but Washington only ranks 23rd in pressure plays so Rodgers should have an opportunity to make plays vs the Washington secondary.
I know Washington is the hot team and the Packers looked terrible closing out the season but the Packers Pass defense is the strength of the team and Rodgers is facing a weak pass defense that doesn’t get a lot of pressure. This felt like the best value on the board.