2018 Record ATS: 49-33-3 (59 percent)
In the regular season, I gave you (usually) five plays a week. During the NFL playoffs, I’ll be breaking down every game on a weekly basis…telling you what to play and what to punt.
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans -1
The Saturday morning game to me is a punt. If wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was not playing, that would make me lose some confidence in what the Indianapolis Colts could do in the passing game (without turning the ball over), but he’s currently listed as probable with the odds in his favor for suiting up for this game.
Based on ANY/A Value, the Colts are roughly 200 yards better than the Texans on the season between their offensive and defensive passing games, which goes hand in hand with them only being one-point underdogs on the road. This means that they would be (roughly) a two-point favorite on a neutral site. Everything about this line checks the boxes.
I will say, the Colts’ path to losing likely comes from Andrew Luck interceptions while the Texans’ path to losing likely comes from Houston’s offensive line giving up sacks. If you can tie in some nice props to sides, that could be the best move here.
Seattle Seahawks +2.5 @ Dallas Cowboys
I’ve written about this plenty of times this season, but there really are few better spots in the sport than fading an average Dallas Cowboys teams when people buy into them out-matching a better team at home.
In ANY/A Value, Seattle’s pass defense is roughly 20 yards better than Dallas’ this season…a push. In the offensive passing game, Seattle has a more than 500-yard edge on the season. The Cowboys are the overall 18th-ranked team in the stat while the Seahawks are ranked 12th.
You have to remember that Dallas is playing well above their talent right now based on their close game record, something that is almost never sustainable and tends to pop bubbles either in the playoffs or the next season. The Cowboys aren’t a playoff team on paper. The Seahawks are. That matters. This game should be a pick.
Los Angeles Chargers +2.5 @ Baltimore Ravens
Despite all of the recent history, is my dumb ass still going to pick Philip Rivers in the playoffs? Yes.
Remember, Rivers’ struggles come primarily against AFC West opponents. Against the division, Rivers has posted 40 touchdowns and 29 interceptions since 2015. Against non-divisional opponents, he has 83 touchdowns and 28 interceptions.
Throwing an interception on literally the first play of the game against the Ravens earlier this season set up a poor game script for Rivers for the whole game. Unless you believe that this is going to happen again, expect a slightly different result.
According to ANY/A Value, the Chargers this year are the third-ranked team in the NFL. The difference between them and the Ravens is roughly the difference between the Ravens and the average NFL team. Using the logic of this line, the difference between the third-best team in the NFL and an average NFL team is just one point (+2.5 implies the Chargers as a half-point favorite on a neutral field.) That just doesn’t match up with reality. We’re rooting for Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Chicago Bears -6
Say what you want about Nick Foles, but he still has just 35 passing touchdowns and 26 interceptions since 2014. We pick and choose which games we want to remember him by.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears defense has been incredibly consistent throughout the season. Two months ago I mentioned how dominant their run started. Using ANY/A Value, you can call this defense one of the five best ever. Of the four defenses better than the 2018 Bears, three of them won Super Bowls.
If we could rewind a year and say that Foles, potentially playing through an injury, would be less than a touchdown underdog to a top-five pass defense ever…we would take that be every time. Foles won a ring. Cool. So did Eli Manning (twice!) and Joe Flacco…but no one got excited about their playoff potential over the last half-decade.
We’re going with Chicago. Probably next week, too.