Tom Brady and the Patriots should feast. Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
The NFL divisional round kicks off this weekend. The underdogs dominated last week going 4-0 ATS and 2-2 straight up, but what's in question is how will that translate to this week. Let's dive right in and find angles we can take advantage of.
Using a little over a decade as a measure; in the Divisional round, teams getting points have prospered going 30-22-2 ATS in the last 54 instances. Covering the spread and winning outright are two different things and pulling the upsets has been a tall task for underdogs. Seeding in the NFL started in 1975, but it's wasn't until 1990 that the league was altered into a 12 team playoff format. The change granted all four of the divisional round hosts to come off "bye weeks." The much needed extra time to rest and recover for the top two seeds on each side has treated them very well. Of the last 74 teams that made it to the Superbowl, 59 of them were teams that had bye weeks to start the postseason. Look for the home teams to have the edge in fatigue, something that can be crucial, late in games.
Some would be inclined to believe the postseason would separate the mediocre teams from the elite, but the truth is the second round has brought us plenty of lopsided matchups. In over a 150 playoff game sample, contests ended between 1-3 points 38 times. Games between 7-10, 38 times, but the wondrous number here is on 70 of those occasions games ended in blowouts with margins of 14+ points, the latest edition coming last year when the Patriots hosted the Texans and covered the -16 number. When looking at the board at first glance this week, it's simplistic to lean on the underdogs when you see +7.5 and +13.5 on the board, but don't let big numbers scare you, sometimes teams are just outmatched.
Teams receiving most bets (as of 1/11/2018 7:30 pm)
ATL vs. Phi -ATL getting 64% tickets and 68% of the money
Ten vs. NE - NE getting 74% tickets 72% of the money
Jax vs. Pitt- Pitt 75% tickets but Jax 61% of the money
NO vs. Minn - Minn 71% of the tickets but 65% money on NO
Play action or pass is 51-43-2 on the season. Let’s close out strong. Be selective, by no means do I encourage you to play this many games. I just give you options.
Earlier we spoke of the seeding era beginning in 1975. Since then, no top-seeded team (rated #1), has ever been a home underdog in the Divisional round. NEVER. The look-ahead line to this game before last weeks game Falcons vs. Rams was Eagles +1. Just think about this, last week the Falcons were +6 vs. the Rams. Now the line has somehow managed to swing 9 points? Picture this, give LA a minimal three points for home field in that number last week, what would the spread be this week if the Rams would have won? Rams -6/6.5 in a road game? That's what it would be according to the spread they put on the Wildcard game. Does that make sense to you? The Falcons have now been on the road in four of their last five games in some highly competitive contests, where they needed to win so when does fatigue settle in? Atlanta chose to travel back home after the game in LA. What big event was in the Georgia Dome this week? The CFB Title game! You think these players didn't turn loose a little bit with everyone in town? So they lose a day traveling back home after the game, lose a potential day with the distraction of the National Title game all while adding to the travel in the last month. The Eagles schedule the last month has been hosting the Raiders, hosting the Cowboys, a bye week and here we are, the visiting team might be tired come the fourth quarter. The Falcons are 22nd in overall DVOA. A less than stellar 19th vs. the pass and a 20th vs. the run. Philadelphia, the opposite, sitting at 5th overall In DVOA 7th vs. the pass and 3rd vs. the run. How often do you get that much of an advantage on defense and are granted a field goal at home in a playoff game? This spread is shouting Nick Foles stinks to the public, but who exactly is Foles? Let's take out the outlier, the 2013, 27-2 ratio season under Chip Kelly. Using the rest of his numbers, he has a 78 passer rating; the NFL average is 86.5. Atlanta, on the other hand, must attempt to attack the Eagles secondary with Julio Jones. Defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz's task will be to get Matt Ryan off his spot and make him uncomfortable, two things they are more than capable of doing as the Eagles defense ranks first in quarterback hits and fourth in interceptions. The number just doesn't add up, and I'll be backing the home team getting 3 -- a number NFL games land on 15.38% of the time.
Patriots -13 (-110)
Patriots 1st half -7 (-125)
Patriots Team total over 30.5 (-110)
This game will be based on what the Titans can do on their first few opening drives. If the Patriots win the toss, I would expect coach Bill Belichick to defer and put Marcus Mariota on the field. Tennesse can't afford to fall behind in this game by more than one score. Ideally, keep it within striking distance while leaning on a strong run game that's facing the 30th ranked defense vs. the run. That's the gameplan the Titans would hope to follow, and that's why I say the first few drives have such a big emphasis on where this game goes. If Mike Mularkey's bunch can move the ball successfully to start the game and take the initial punches the Patriots will be throwing, expect them to control the clock behind the ground attack. I just don't see it that way. With all the rumblings going around with the drama within the Patriots organization, expect Tom Brady to come out focused and ready to take it out on whoever they put in front of him. When's the last time we set off "Angry Tom?" Following the 2015 allegations of deflategate, Brady is 36-16-2 ATS. Since the public shaming, he has posted an 11-3 ATS record as a double-digit favorite, the rest of the league, 29-36. Tennesse's run defense had been very good this year ranking 7th; the only problem is the Patriots have the perfect offense to exploit the Titans weaknesses. Look for Brady to break his six-game streak of fewer than 300 yards this weekend as Tennesse has allowed seven of the last ten quarterbacks they faced to surpass the 300-yard mark. The Titans also rank dead last in passes to the running back position and 24th in defending the tight end. Look for Dion Lewis and Rob Gronkowski to feast all night long. This game is all about the script, and I think it gets away from Tennesse quickly, prohibiting the ability to run and exploit the Patriots defense. We've talked about Mariota's struggles on the road and his 5 to 11 touchdown to interception ratio in the regular season. Expect this to haunt the former Oregon standout, in a game where he will be trailing and be relied upon to throw his team out of situations. This year, Mariota has struggled in sub 40-degree weather where he a 2 to 5 TD to INT ratio while holding a 69.1 QBR. This has the feeling of a rout; the Titans are not a good team and Saturday night won't be a good game, at least not for Titans backers.
Steelers -7 (-115) buy.5 if needed
Teasers 6 point
Teasers 10 point
Patriots-3.5/ Eagles+13/ saints+15 (X2)
T.Brady TD passes over 2 (-140)
L.Bell rushing yards over 84.5 no official line yet, Bell will break 100
Dion Lewis to score a TD (-140)
Player to score 2 or more TD's: GRONKOWSKI (NE) (+250)
Lines courtesy of 5dimes as of 1/12/2018 1:00 am
For any questions or comments reach me at @JerryBoKnowz on twitter
It's a new year for the Houston Astros as they return to action for their first game of the spring against the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
Every season we see some adjustments to the roster which means we also see some changes in leadership. As Astros fans, we're all aware of Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker's contract situations. Breggy could be gone after the season, and Tucker could follow one year later.
Which means it's pretty clear who the leaders of the team will be for the foreseeable future. Not only are these guys two of the best players on the club, but they're also under contract for several more years. In Altuve's case, through the 2029 season. For Yordan, he won't sniff free agency until 2029.
While these guys aren't your typical vocal leaders, they are both highly respected and lead by example. Leadership is something that's front of mind for Yordan this season, according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome.
On Yordan Alvarez the leader, one of two constants in a clubhouse bracing for change and the responsibility he wants to shoulder as a result - https://t.co/sZGlI5taBQ
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 21, 2024
Another way to be a leader is to do everything you can to be available for your team. Alvarez changed his diet in the offseason hoping it will help him stay healthy this year.
Manager Joe Espada said Alvarez is fully healthy and he plans on playing him earlier than normal this spring.
Currently, Yordan is trending down in games played for three straight seasons. But he's such a great player that he needs fewer games to put up massive numbers.
He finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2022, and he only played in 135 games out of a possible 162.
So with that in mind, how many games does Yordan need to play this year to win an MVP?
Plus, who's going to protect him in the lineup? With new manager Joe Espada in place, it's hard to know what the lineup will look like.
One thing we do know, Espada immediately named Josh Hader his closer when spring training began. He also told the media that he wants Jeremy Pena to know where he's going to hit every day when he comes to the ballpark.
Espada values players knowing their roles, and getting comfortable in their routines. Something very different from last season when manager Dusty Baker moved Pena all over the lineup throughout the season.
So what does all this mean for Yordan?
Be sure to watch the video above as we break it all down!
Catch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Monday on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel.