BUTTE – Falling victim to your own recency bias is a constant struggle in sports betting.
“Team A looked good last week. I bet on them and I won,” is something we’ve all said at some point, probably.
“So why not bet on them again? They’re getting even more points this week!”
Well, you better have another reason.
As exciting as Super Wild Card Weekend may have been, especially if you won, it’s important to remove yourself for that mindset and focus on the new week.
The market makes adjustments and the oddsmakers know what we’re thinking before we even realize it.
Like Vince McMahon once said, “I know what the fans want better than they do.”
Be especially wary of trendy underdogs who won their wildcard games outright, also as underdogs.
Those teams were dogs last week for a reason. If a computer simulation played their wildcard matchups 100 times, the favorite would win a majority of the time. And now those teams must face a better team – a much better team.
The other reason betting the underdog against the No. 1 seed is the favorite has no reason to take its foot off the gas pedal. At various points in the season we saw the Chiefs and Packers coast to victories late in games. They already had a big lead, so why risk an injury before the playoffs?
Now the playoffs are here. Rewind to last season when the top seeds were Kansas City and San Francisco. Even though the Chiefs fell behind by double digits in each of their playoff games, they covered all of them with ease. The 49ers also demolished both of their opponents during the NFC divisional and conference championship rounds.
The divisional round of the playoffs will undoubtedly deliver some memorable moments this weekend, but you should also be prepared for one or two snooze fests.
Rams at Packers, 2:35 p.m. Saturday
According to Pro Football Reference, Jared Goff is 0-4 straight up and 0-4 ATS in weather below 45 degrees, and that was with a perfectly functioning thumb on his throwing hand.
Now, with a recently surgically repaired thumb, he’s traveling to Lambeau Field – where it’s forecasted to be 34 degrees with a 40% chance of snow – to face Aaron Rodgers and the well-rested, top-seeded Packers.
Rams wide receiver and Goff’s third down security blanket Cooper Kupp is questionable with a knee injury. NFL defensive player of the year candidate Aaron Donald left last week’s game with a rib injury, so it’s hard to imagine he will be 100%. And, as we mentioned, Goff’s thumb on his throwing hand appeared very problematic last week. It’s hard to imagine the Rams offense staying on the field long enough to give their banged-up defense enough time to catch their breath.
Finally, the red zone production comparison between the two teams is staggering. Green Bay’s red zone TD percentage is 80%. LA scores a TD when they enter the red zone just 57.4% of the time. Over the last three games, Green Bay has reached pay dirt while in the red zone 91.7% of the time, compared to just 20% for Los Angeles.
When the game speeds up on the most important part of the field, the Packers thrive and the Rams struggle. Los Angeles appears to be overmatched and outclassed.
Pick: Packers -6.5
Ravens at Bills, 6:15 p.m. Saturday
I don’t have a read on a side for this game. I think it was huge for both of these young quarterbacks to get their first playoff wins last week, and I expect them to settle into the game and look more comfortable from the get-go.
I do know this: no one in the NFL blitzes more than the Baltimore Ravens (44.1% of drop backs, according to Pro-Football Reference). In the playoffs, mobile quarterbacks are much more likely to use their legs to pick up a first down when the play is in doubt. If we see Josh Allen flushed from the pocket as much as I anticipate, I think we can expect about 50 rushing yards from the third-year QB.
Pick: Josh Allen 40+ rushing yards
Browns at Chiefs, 1:05 p.m. Sunday
As fun as it was to watch Cleveland get a playoff victory last week against the Steelers, it’s hard to ignore how bad the pass defense was. After the Browns took a 28-0 first-quarter lead, Pittsburgh had no choice but to abandon the run, which meant they were passing on every down. Everyone in the stadium knew it and everyone watching at home knew it. The Steelers racked up 553 total yards with 501 of those being through the air.
If the Steelers only commit three turnovers instead of five, are we sure the Browns win that game?
Now we get to see them try to stop the Chiefs and I don’t need to explain why that’s going to be a challenge for the Cleveland defense.
The Browns offense could also struggle. After facing a depleted and exhausted Pittsburgh defense that couldn’t get pressure on the QB after losing linebackers Devin Bush and Bud Dupree, they must now face a rested Kansas City defense. While KC will give up some yards, I believe that Chris Jones’ ability to get pressure in Baker Mayfield’s face through the A-gap will cause him to put the ball in harm’s way, which will result in turnovers or 3-and-outs. And against the Chiefs offense, a 3-and-out is almost as bad as a turnover.
Pick: Chiefs -10
Buccaneers at Saints, 4:40 p.m. Sunday
I have a hard to seeing the Saints handling the Bucs for a third time this season, but sometimes one team just knows how to beat another team. For that reason, I don’t have a pick on a side.
I do like Antonio Brown to see a lot of targets this game, though. The Bucs will once again be missing part of their offensive line against this New Orleans pass rush. On Sunday it’ll be Alex Cappa who will be out due to an injury he suffered last game.
Another thing that happened during Tampa’s victory over Washington last week was WR Chris Godwin dropping four passes. I'm not sure if Tom Brady will be feeling comfortable going back to that well. So that could funnel some targets in the direction of Brown.
During the Bucs’ two games against the Saints this season, Mike Evans caught a total of 5 passes for 66 yards and Tampa was in comeback mode during both of those games, which certainly favors a more pass-heavy attack. This tells me New Orleans knows how to shut Evans down. Once again, advantage AB.
Finally, the Saints have an elite rush defense. They allow just 91.2 rushing yards per game, third in the NFL. They allow just 3.8 yards per carry, also third in the NFL. So it’ll be in the Bucs’ best interest to embrace a pass-first approach on Sunday.
Pick: Antonio Brown 5+ receptions