NFL Conference Championship Games: Analysis and Picks
On to this week’s two NFL conference championships games, which are analyzed below.
2018 NFL REGULAR SEASON RESULTS
STARTING BANKROLL: $10,000.
CURRENT BALANCE: $15,194. [+ $5,194.]
OVERALL W-L RECORD: 72 wins / 57 loses / 4 pushes
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 2 — 1 — 0 (+ $270)
Indianapolis / Kansas City UNDER 57 — WON $300
LA Rams -7 — WON $300
New Orleans -8 — LOST $330
THIS WEEK’S ANALYSIS: These two games are easy to analyze, but difficult to handicap. There’s plenty of reliable information and history to guide us. However, both games have many variables and could go any number of directions. Accordingly, I’m not strongly convinced there’s a compelling play on either sides or totals. Nonetheless, I do see some slight edge in wagering on one total and both first halves. Hence, I am recommending three plays for this week’s games.
LA Rams at New Orleans -3 / Total: 57
Comments: New Orleans did not look good last week. In fact, we have to go all the way back to mid-November in a road game at Atlanta when the Saints clicked on all cylinders and truly resembled the characteristics of the top seed in the NFC. In the six games and seven weeks since that week, New Orleans has looked sluggish, especially on offense. Defensively, the Saints have looked very good. This factor, not Drew Brees’ arm and the passing game, could be the tipping point in determining the Saints’ ultimate fate. The bottom line: I think New Orleans will have all they can handle in this game. Their backers must be alarmed about falling behind to a fatigued Eagles team last week, 14-0. Yes, New Orleans came back, won, and advanced. They even should have covered the spread. But that win was somewhat lucky and happened largely due to defense. Remember, it took a 4th down conversion on the final drive, or New Orleans would not be here. The New Orleans offensive line looked lost and played badly. They were outcoached and outplayed. Several ultimately penalties nearly killed the team. The pass protection was horrid. Look for the Rams to have plenty of juicy game film to work with and DC Wade Phillips to come up with a game plan that should slow down New Orleans. Let’s also note that this is no aberration. In the previous six games, the New Orleans offense is averaging just 20 PPG. That’s not championship football. New Orleans has also failed to cover in four straight games. This is not a team to back right now and lay points, espcially versus a talented opponent. Meanwhile, LA Rams are in new territory here, with their entire roster playing what’s undoubtedly the biggest game of their careers. Often, that spells disaster, especially against a far more veteran team with lots of playoff experience. But the Rams have been in this stadium before, losing by 10 points earlier in the season. That score is misleading. The game was tied late, and could have gone the other way except for QB Brees hitting a long pass in the 4th quarter. I suspect LA Rams won’t be shaken by one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. They also have an offense that doesn’t audible as much as the Saints, so I’m giving the home field less weight than usual game situations. That Rams tagged a very good Dallas defense for 30 points last week, in what was an easier game than many predicted. While the Saints were taken down to the wire, LA Rams led most of the way and coasted in the second half. More relevant, Rams rolled over the Cowboys running the ball. New Orleans has a stout defense, as noted. But their rush defense (and high ranking) is likely inflated by most opponents having to abandon the run in most weeks, throw the ball, and play from behind. I’m not convinced this Saints rush defense is a good as the Rams rushing offense. These factors lead me to lean strongly to the Rams at +3. If I was getting +3.5 at -110, I’d play the underdog. But, there’s not quite enough there for me to pull the trigger with a wager. On the total, I’d play the UNDER 57, which has some value. Rams will clearly want to repeat the game plan that worked last week, which means lots of rushing, eating up some clock. I’m also convinced Brees will be pressured and won’t have time to find open receivers going deep. This game should be tight and played somewhat close to the vest. So, UNDER 57 looks to be the right play if you care to fire on the total. Instead, I see far more value in the First Half, taking +2.5 with the LA Rams. This game should be close and there’s certainly a possibility this lands within the +1 or +2 margin (Saints leading 14-13, for instance). So, points are important here. While Saints have one of the best kickers in the game, Rams also have someone equally as reliable, which I like when getting points. Give me the points in the first half. That’s my only official wager, though I do like the Rams +3 and UNDER 57, as well.
Picks: First Half — LA Rams +2.5
Leans: LA Rams +3; UNDER 57
New England at Kansas City -3 / Total: 56.5
Comments: I’m torn right down the middle on this game, which is why I’m not picking a side. First, how often do you get a Belichick-Brady team getting points in a championship game? That’s value, no matter what your opinion of this team or concern about age. Patriots getting a field goal? Where do I sign? Where can I bet it? However, that ugly 3-5 Patriots’ road record is giant mustard splotch on the tuxedo. New England has not played well on the road, losing several games versus clearly inferior opponents. Kansas City won’t be an easy place to play and win, so this only complicates matters for the Patriots. Still, I do suspect New England might sleepwalk through some regular season games and now that it’s crunch time in the playoffs, the beast will roam. Moreover, Belichick versus Reid is a coaching mismatch. Give me Andy Reid at home in any midseason home game against a shit opponent. He’s the best. But in a January playoff game, Reid has not shown yet that he’s in the class of the greats. Obviously, QB Pat Mahomes is the key. The NFL MVP has been stellar. He didn’t appear flustered in his first playoff game. But now, these are the Patriots. The previous game where Kansas City hung on the road at New England every step of the way will certainly give the Chiefs’ much-needed confidence so that just adds another unpredictable dimension to this matchup. Some cappers have noted the Kansas City defense plays much better at home, allowing just 18 PPG on average. Big fucking deal. Look at all those shitty offenses the Chiefs have faced at Arrowhead: San Francisco, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Denver, Arizona, Oakland (and Baltimore, LA Chargers, Indy)……I’m not impressed. Six of those offenses are horrid. Those were the Cardinals and the Jaguars. Now, it’s the Patriots. Accordingly, I’m not sold on Kansas City’s defense, which often got shredded on the road and gave up 43 points to the Patriots and 54 points to the Rams. I’m impressed with, but not sold yet on QB Mahomes as a big game performer. And I’m certainly not confident in this coaching staff. So, my play since I can’t get the +3.5 is to play the underdog Patriots getting +2.5 in the first half. I also believe the total is slightly high for an outdoor, cold-weather championship game. Last week’s game at Arrowhead went under the number by 12. Similar total this week, with similar teams (Luck for the Colts is probably right there with Brady in terms of offensive production), so I’ll go back to the betting well one more time.
Picks: UNDER 56.5; First Half — New England +2.5
Leans: New England +3
FIRST HALF — LA RAMS +2.5: Risking $33o to win $300
FIRST HALF — NE PATRIOTS +2.5: Risking $330 to win $300
NWE /KC UNDER 56.5 — Risking $330 to win $300
NFL SEASON WIN TOTALS [FINAL RESULTS UPDATED – $3,475]:
Arizona Cardinals OVER 5.5 wins -180 — LOST $450
Buffalo Bills OVER 6 wins EVEN — PUSH
Cincinnati Bengals OVER 6.5 wins -170 — LOST $400
Dallas Cowboys UNDER 8.5 wins +110 — LOST $500
Detroit Lions UNDER 7.5 wins EVEN — WON $400
Houston Texans UNDER 8.5 wins +120 — LOST $400
Jacksonville Jaguars OVER 9 wins -145 — LOST $725
Indianapolis Colts UNDER 6.5 wins +170 — LOST $400
New Orleans Saints OVER 9.5 wins -145 — WON $500
Seattle Seahawks UNDER 8 wins -150 — LOST $1,500