The Divisonal round is my favorite weekend of the playoffs, and next to opening week my favorite week of the NFL season. The Superbowl gets hijacked by non-football media/fans, the conference finals is only 2 games but the divisional round year after year offers some of the most interesting matchups.
Injuries play a major role in this years divisional round and have taken some of the lustre off a couple of the games but I think we do have some good matchups to bet.
We had a couple of crazy finishes in the Seattle and Pittsburgh games last week and an interesting narrative has formed around the Seahawks about them being lucky to be here. They were certainly lucky to get out of Minnesota with a win after Blair Walsh missed the game winning FG but lots of championship teams have escaped games they should have lost with a lucky break, . I have Seattle has the best team in the league and very comparable to the last 2 Seattle teams that went to the Superbowl
2015 Playoffs: 2-0
2015 Reg Season: 57-35-3
Game 1: Sea +2.5 @ Car
Bet% Sea 31% Car 69%
I think this is a matchup of the best 2 teams in the NFL this season but Seattle is #1 and the Panthers are #2 and getting the best team in the league plus points is reason enough to make the play here.
Seattle was extremely lucky to get out of Minnesota last week but Seattle is still the best team in the NFL and this years team is very comparable with the last 2 years.
I give the Seahawks a pass for last week’s game because of the very difficult conditions. Not only was it one of the coldest days in NFL history, it was an early start for the PST Seahawks and they were also playing a team they had just dismantled in Week 13 (38-7). I put much of the poor performance on the cold, there were seemingly a number of opportunities for big plays down the field for Russell Wilson where we saw the ball just hang in the air. Neither team was able to do much on offense but unlike the Vikings Seattle had a number of opportunities that they just couldn’t cash
Being lucky to win that game is different than being lucky to be here. Seattle got off to a slow start this season 2-4 and struggled to find their way on offense and defense due to a number of factors including Cam Chancellor holding out, wholesale changes on the offensive line, and starting Cary Williams at CB. Seattle also underwent a change in offensive philosophy partly due to personnel (Marshawn Lynch being hobbled, addition of Jimmy Graham) as well as Russell Wilsons growth as a passer.
Through 6 Weeks, Seattle was 2-4, 12th in offensive DVOA, 12th in defensive DVOA, they probably deserved better than 4 losses but look how the final 10 games compare with the first 6.
In the last 10 games we saw Seattle play as well as they have at any point of this dominant 4 year run since Russell Wilson has been there and it places this years team amongst the last 2 teams that made the Super Bowl.
The SB winning 2013 team was one of the best defensive teams of the last decade and this team is not playing at that level but we see that offensively this team is much more efficient and like that team, this years team is dominant in all 3 phases. What stands out to me is that over the last 10 games the 2015 team has a point differential that’s 2 full points better than the 2013 team. The Seahawks of 2015 look different and win differently then the last 2 years but they are actually equally as great. If they miss out on the Superbowl this year it will be because the 1st 6 games set them up for a very difficult road (@ Min, @ Car, @ Ari) not because they finished the year as a lesser team.
Carolina is a great team and they beat Seattle in week 6 in Seattle so they are certainly capable of winning this game. The Panthers finished 4th overall in DVOA and 3rd in weighted DVOA ( Seattle finished 1st in both, Cam Newton is the MVP and I love the fact that they lead the league in big play differential.
In a lot of ways this game could be similar to 2012 when the 11-5 Seahawks were #1 in DVOA but had to play @ the 13-3 Falcons and lost 30-28. If the Panthers win I will be on them next week vs Arizona but this is the one team I don’t think they are better than.
I don’t think Carolina has a great home field and the conditions should be about a 1000 times better for Seattle than last week. We saw 4 road teams win last week and I expect Seattle to continue the trend here.
Game 2: GB @ Ari -7
Bet% GB 39% Ari 61%
It’s interesting what a difference a week makes. The Packers were 1 point underdogs going into Washington last week and most of the talk going into that game was about”Whats wrong with Aaron Rodgers”. Now after a 35-18 win most of the talk has been about the Packers righting the ship and possibly making a run in the playoffs. Have they righted the ship?
I was on the Packers last week and the reason for that was that they were facing the #22 pass defense ( 22nd in opp avg passer rating 95.7, 22nd in opp yards per pass att 7.2) and the 30th ranked run defense (4.8 yards per rush). They put up 35 points but Rodgers wasn’t especially great as he passed for only 210 yards on 36 pass attempts, it was really the run game that carried the offense with 141 yards and 2 TDs.
The Packers offense faces a much more difficult defense this week, the Cards finished 3rd in Defensive DVOA and were in the top 10 in yards per pass att and yards per rush att. One of the major problems the Packers have had is protecting Rodgers, Rodgers was sacked on 7.4% of pass plays (24th) on the season but in their last 3 games he was sacked at an even higher percentage 11.2%. In their week 2 game the Cards sacked Rodgers 8 times so they will definitely be looking to take advantage of the Packers line again in this game.
Arizona has been one of the best offensive teams all year, 4th in offensive DVOA, 1st in Points Scored (32/Game) and 2nd overall in point differential +176., +131 better than the Packers who finished +45 on the season
A lot has been made about the injury to Tyrann Mathieu and it it is a big one but this week i think the impact is negated due to the packers injury of Devante Adams. Adams has been a disappointment this year but he is still the Packers best outside threat and without him the Packers really do’t have anyone the Cards have to worry about getting deep. I think his is a near perfect matchup for the Cardinals this week and expect them to win by at least double digits.
Game 3: KC @NE -4.5
Bet% KC 46% NE 54%
There is not a lot to write on this one, I love Andy Reid, so much of what I know and think about the NFL was shaped by Andy and the decade plus he spent in Philadelphia. This has been a fantastic coaching job this year, starting 1-5, losing Jamal Charles and then winning 11 in a row including last week in Hou is something nobody could have envisioned but I think they are just up against too much his week.
Last week the Chiefs played the Texans and had the game pretty much gift wrapped to them by Brian Hoyer who threw 4 interceptions in one of the worst playoff performances of all time. I’m not sure a team has faced a larger difference in the calibre of QBs from 1 playoff game to the next as the Chiefs will going from Hoyer to Brady
The Pats limped into the end of the year due almost entirely to injuries, Edleman, Gronk and 3/5ths of the offensive line missed parts or all of the last quarter of the season. I think those injuries and the late season swoon gives us value here and a cheaper than usual price to bet the Pats. The Pats are expected to have Gronk and Eddleman back this week while the Chiefs will be without Jeremy Maclin. Without Maclin I expect Bellicheck to do everything he can to stop the run and force KC to beat them through the air and I’m just not sure how they can do it.