Two Predictions for the NFL Playoffs Round 1

This weekend is loaded with high-level NFL competition.

We have the Las Angeles Rams visiting the No.1 seeded Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers heading over to NOLA to face the Saints in the NFC. Over in the AFC, we have the Baltimore Ravens flying up to Buffalo to face the Bills in the chill, and the Cleveland Browns get to roll the dice against the No. 1 seeded Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans

I love this matchup. 

This is the game we wanted to see last year, but with the Patriots versus the Saints. Basically, everyone just wanted to see Tom Brady against Drew Brees. Between the two there are more NFL QB records than you can shake a stick at. 

When I handicapped this game earlier in the week I had the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as 5-point road underdogs to the New Orleans Saints. I called it and said that the sportsbooks would open with a soft line due to the Tom Brady factor and open around 3 or 3.5 points instead of 5 or 5.5. 

The Buccaneers dropped both of their regular-season games against the New Orleans Saints this year. The last time they played, it was pretty much a NOLA blowout. I saw one analyst say that the 3-point spread is telling considering how easily the Saints beat the Buccs in both affairs. This also came right after mentioning that the Saints held the Bears to just a 10% third-down conversion rate the week before. Ok, expert capper guy, you are dead wrong. It’s a trap line set below the power ratings intentionally to drive money to back the most famous signal-caller in history. Don’t fall for it. How are these guys going to say, the Saints blew out the Buccs twice and then defensively manhandled the Bears, but then say take the 3 points on the NFL lines for the Buccs? Ok, maybe I could see that if there was a hook, but there’s not. The line is at three flat now. 

The average offensive performance by the Buccs is about one point better than the Saints. The Buccs score 30.76 per game on average while the Saints score 29.59 per game. But defensively, the Saints are two points better. So, one could argue a 1-point spread, but the Saints have the Buccs number. Tampa Bay is going to blitz and Brees will get rid of the ball on short passes that turn into chunk yardage. 

Take the Saints to win this game.

Cleveland at Kansas City

The Chiefs set a record this season for consecutive wins by 6 points or less. On top of that, 6 of their wins this season were by 4 or less. They seem to do just enough to get by with the win. Given that fact, I think that a 10-point spread is pushing it. The Kansas City Chiefs could blow out the Browns by 25 points … but they just haven’t shown that type of dominance this season. Meanwhile, the Browns are hungry. This is their first playoff experience in what, 100 years? The way the Browns played against the Steelers in the first half was incredible. If they play that hard against the Chiefs, Kansas City will find themselves against the ropes. 

The Browns have played better on the road than at home, at least on offense. They score 27.89 per game while on the highway which is great in this situation because the Chiefs’ scoring falls from 29 and change on any given Sunday to 27.5 points per game while at home. 

According to the Power Ratings, the Cheifs should beat an average team on  Neutral Field by 7 points, and the Browns should lose by a half-point. Ok, tell that to their 12 wins. Still, if we give the Cheifs 1.5 points for playing at home –2.5 isn’t relevant this season with barely any stadium attendance– we still end up with a 9-point spread.

I went ahead and placed a wager on the Browns +10.5. I had to buy that half-point for 12 cents, which normally I wouldn’t do, but I wanted that extra little bit of security against the push. The biggest difference here is the defenses. The Chiefs are much more stout allowing 22.25 per game in KC versus the Browns 30.44 per game on the road.

KC will win, but I like the Browns’ chance at covering double-digits against one of the worst ATS teams in the NFL.