I hate to say this after humbly approaching the wild card round with overall success, but I feel really good about the division round this week. After watching the better part of all six games over the weekend, I feel like I have a reasonable pulse on the remaining eight games. However, you may have noticed the title of the column is a spin on the common Latin adaptation: “Let the buyer beware.” In an attempt to stay humble, this week’s picks come with the tag: “Let the bettor (direct translation: dice-player) beware!”
Chiefs -8.5 over Jaguars
Giants +7.5 over Eagles
Kansas City is the team that I feel the worst about backing this weekend, not because they aren’t better than Jacksonville or won’t win the game but because they were horrible against the spread in the regular season. That being said, one of the games they did cover was a home game against Jacksonville. They are the better team and I do have confidence that the Andy Reid-Pat Mahomes leadership understands how to ratchet the team up a notch in the regular season. Also, Jacksonville has essentially won their Super Bowl two weeks straight and I think they are reaching the “just happy to be here” phase in the season. They knocked off the Titans to take the division crown in Week 18, then overcame some Madden shit in the first half of the Chargers game and stormed back from 27 down for a sports movie ending. But that’s the thing, the sports movie ending was last week for them, this is the part of the movie where you get a word scrawl over an emotional musical montage and a picture of Trevor Lawrence and Doug Pederson hugging and looking longingly into each other’s eyes that reads, “The following week the Jaguars lost to eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs by three touchdowns.” There is a still piece in the back of my mind that’s fully prepared to watch the Chiefs build a 24-3 lead and then find a way to win this game 27-21 though.
New York and Minnesota easily played the best football game of the Wild Card round. Danny Dimes and Saquon Barkley had New York’s offense clicking on all cylinders and Minnesota was right there to match. There were only a handful of penalties in the game, although one huge one that kept Minnesota’s hopes alive, and no turnovers. Brian Daboll has proven his NFL head coaching bonafides already and he’s ready to give Philadelphia everything they want and more. Jalen Hurts is still trying to get back to full strength too. This game is going to be a banger and this line is a point too high at minimum.
Bengals +5.5 over Bills
49ers -3.5 over Cowboys
Earlier this week, these lines both sat at four-and-a-half and, surprisingly, both have moved in the opposite direction I would have anticipated. On the one hand, I have to ask myself, “What am I not seeing?” On the other hand, wait until Sunday and see if these lines move to even more favorable positions.
Cincinnati and Buffalo meet again to rematch the fateful Monday night game of a few weeks ago where we all watched horrified as Damar Hamlin collapse to the Cincinnati turf and require resuscitation and defibrillation on the field. This will be emotional for both teams, and that makes this a little bit difficult to gamble on. I think that favors the underdog, but I also think Cincinnati is just the better team right now. There is the possibility of Hamlin providing a galvanizing force for Buffalo to finally reach their potential, but I don’t think it’s a good bet either. The biggest source of concern on the Bengals side of things is their suddenly depleted offensive line with Jonah Williams likely out with a dislocated kneecap and Alex Cappa unlikely to return from his ankle injury this week. If Cincinnati wins this game, they will have to throw the ball often and efficiently. If you like the Bengals this week, can I interest you in a special bet of Ja’Marr Chase 75+ receiving yards AND Hayden Hurst 40+ receiving yards at +350? Either Cincinnati wins, in which case they threw the ball well, or they are playing from behind and having to throw the ball anyway. Hayden Hurst will also play a major role as a safety valve for Burrow with less time to throw the ball.
San Francisco tried to take a page out of the Chiefs’ playbook and play with Seattle a little in the first half, but after falling behind a point at the break they returned to buzzsaw form for the second half and showed everyone why they are the best team in football right now. Dallas managed one road playoff win, against a team that frankly just looked ready to be done, but I think it would be folly to expect a second in two weeks from this team. The 49ers have the defensive talent and ability to force Dak into passing situations, and offensively they have the playmakers and offensive strategy to quickly get the ball north and south to neutralize Micah Parsons’ ability to impact the game. This is the game I feel the best about this weekend, which probably means it will be the miss.
Playoff Record: 4-2
Playoff Prop Record: 1-2
Cover Photo Courtesy of Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports