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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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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