Play action or pass: The Wild Cards are on the table

Play action or pass: The Wild Cards are on the table
The Jaguars defense will be tough on the Bills.

Wild Card Weekend has arrived, and we've separated the contenders from the pretenders, or have we? Although these teams have advanced an "earned" a spot in the postseason, we look to take advantage of teams who may not be so deserving of its credentials.

Play action or pass is 48-38-2 (55.81%) for the season.

Be selective and don't force plays!


Titans at Chiefs -8.5 O/U 44.5

When handicapping a game, a few stats are crucial for measuring teams and the "wise guys" use these numbers to adjust their ratings. Strength of schedule is one of those stats. A great trend that I read about this week: Since 2002, teams with the tougher strength of schedule are 41-19 straight up and 41-18-1 ATS in the playoffs. The Titans are one of two teams in the playoffs with a negative point differential while playing a bottom five SOS. The only problem I see with fully believing in Kansas City is backing a team that has such a bad defense carrying such a big spread. Kansas City's defense has been terrible, ranking 32nd in weighted DVOA. The Chiefs are dead last vs. the run and that will allow Tennessee to be able to move the ball while keeping the clock ticking. When justifying large spreads, one must question how dominant the favorite is over the dog. Although I think the Chiefs can cover, I don't want to fully back them knowing the defense might struggle to get off the field at times and create separation on the scoreboard. The play I like for this game is the under. In Arrowhead, the Chiefs have held 14 straight opponents to 20 points or less. The Titans, only put up 17.5 points a game on the road and I see them having trouble scoring on Saturday. As I mentioned, the Chiefs defense will struggle vs. the run, but I see more of a bend, not break system vs. a team they can stack the box against not fearing a big play wide receiver which the Titans lack.  Marcus Mariota’s road splits have been terrible where he holds a 5 to 11 TD to INT ratio. In situations where he will be asked to move the chains, can he be trusted to not turn the ball over? The total is slightly high, and I see value in the under. Temperatures are expected to be sub 30 with 10 MPH winds.

Play UNDER 44.5

Bills at Jaguars -9  O/U 39.5

How important is LeSean McCoy to the Bills offense? The Bills ball carrier is responsible for 33% of his team's offense, trailing only one other player in the NFL, Todd Gurley. McCoy will be a true game-time decision leaving us wondering how close to 100% can he be? The dropoff to 10-year veteran Mike Tolbert is drastic, as he has failed to surpass seven carries since week 5. The ground game will be critical as Sunday's forecast is calling for 12 MPH winds, favoring the Jags and their 12th ranked rushing offense in DVOA that will be facing the second worse rush defense in the league. If the Bills get behind or fail to have any success running the ball, they will have to rely on their quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The problem with this is he won't have much time to work within the pocket. Jacksonville's defensive line ranks #1 in pass rush on the season while the Bills offensive line ranks 27th in adjusted sack rate (8.6%). Sean McDermott is one of two 1st year head coaches making their playoff debuts in 2017. But this is nothing new for McDermott as he has a good history of coaching in the playoffs as a coordinator. He was the defensive coordinator for the Panthers team that reached the Super Bowl in 2015, and he was the Eagles defensive backs coach in 2004 when they got to the Super Bowl. Although it wasn't as the head coach, this won't be his first rodeo. I see this as a hard fought game that will be won in the trenches. We all know about Blake Bortles and his ability to throw away a game, but let's look further on how that can be expunged. The Jaguars will need a conservative gameplan to limit the pressure and the "need" to make plays from Bortles. The Jaguars play caller has been exceptional in first halves tossing 13 touchdowns to 3 interceptions compared to an 8 to 10 ratio in the second half. With no pressure, Bortles is able to manage the game knowing his stout defense will keep him in the game. His QBR in first halves is 96.0, the closing 30 minutes 72.4. Jacksonville will lean on the defense to set them up with short fields and turnovers while limiting the need for Bortles to create.

Play Jaguars -9


Panthers +7
Falcons/Rams over 48.5
Titans Teams Total under 17.5
Teasers 10 point
Chiefs +1/ Jags+1/ Falcons-Rams over 38.5 (2X)

Money and tickets

Chiefs 60% money  57% tickets
Falcons 51% money 50% tickets
Bills 52% money   49% tickets
Saints 52% 48% tickets

For any questions or comments reach me at @JerryBoKnowz on twitter.


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The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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