It’s NFL playoffs time. With no Canadian football to watch in 2020 my eyeballs crossed over the border to the American game, which had its most unique regular season in history. Of course, I laid down a couple loonies and toonies and at the end of the day I profited 3.47 units in the regular season and I’m up 1.25 units in the playoffs. Onto Saturday’s games!
Los Angeles Rams @ Green Bay (-6.5)
Even the most casual of NFL fans know what this game boils down to. Aaron Rodgers, DeVante Adams and the Packers’ top-scoring offence against Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and the Rams’ top-ranked defence. Green Bay’s enjoyed the benefit of a first-place finish and resulting bye week. The Rams had to play for their season last week, and are now without quarterback John Wolford (neck), possibly without receiver Cooper Kupp (knee), and deploying a hurt Donald (ribs).
The Packers are undoubtedly the NFL’s best team this season. It’s given Rodgers home-field advantage, causing an uphill battle for any opponent.
Why Los Angeles Rams:
On offence, L.A. does two key things extremely well — both holding true in their win at Seattle last Saturday. First, they control the gameflow. Then they rack up rushing attempts and pass completions. Los Angeles ranked second in both time of possession and passes completed plus rushing attempts per game in 2020-21. Why does this matter so much? Your defence is at its best when they’re on the sideline, especially against Green Bay. An elite defence can still carry a team to a Lombardi, but the Rams have to own time of possession by sustaining drives.
Why Green Bay:
Where do you start? Green Bay was the best team in the NFL in the following categories: points per game, red zone percentage, first half point differential, early down success rate, time of possession, and total QBR. They were second in yards per pass attempt and field goal percentage too. The Packers can exploit a Rams team that ranks 19th in first half point differential, and in the bottom-third in field goal percentage and total quarterback rating. Remember, a hurt Jared Goff was benched last week. How’s he supposed to keep up if an MVP quarterback does his job?
Los Angeles 16 Green Bay 29
Baltimore @ Buffalo (-2.5)
The key matchup Saturday evening is a strength vs. strength battle between Buffalo’s ability to shred man coverage looks, and Baltimore’s knack to line up in man with success. This matchup features two 24-year-old quarterbacks chartering into elite territory, with Josh Allen hosting reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. Allen’s broken play magic bailed out the Bills a week ago, but so did some otherworldly Jackson rushes — both difference-makers in their Wild-Card round dubs.
Jackson’s never played in the snow, which some is being called for in Buffalo. Allen’s college career at Wyoming featured several poor-weather games. Advantage Buffalo?
The Ravens may have the answer to maintaining Buffalo’s man-beating passing game, or could be walking into a season-ending beatdown. Perspective is key. In Baltimore’s favour, they played 208 man coverage snaps, the third-most in the NFL this season. They finished in the top 10 in both completion percentage against (53.37%) and opponents’ QBR (81.45) while in man looks. On offence, no team runs the ball better than Greg Roman’s offence, and only Green Bay was a better first-half team the Ravens. Buffalo’s got some ground-game issues, which play right into Baltimore’s strength.
It’s beating a dead horse, but Allen and the Bills decimate man coverage. The acquisitions of Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley play a huge role too; Buffalo’s biggest non-broken play last Saturday was during a rare cover-1 look from Indianapolis. No pivot had a better EPA against man coverage than Allen (72.6), and his TD-INT ratio against it was 25-2. The Bills counter Baltimore’s top-two first half performance with the third-best point differential, and rank in the top 15 in total QBR, time of possession, and yards per pass. Home field’s likely the difference.
Baltimore 22 Buffalo 27
Note: statistics per Team Rankings & Sports Info Solutions.
Bet of the day
GB -6.5 -109
GB -6.5 -109 1.5u
GB first half over 13.5 -120 1u
BAL-BUF first half over 24 -110 1u
Gabriel Davis longest reception over 15.5 -125 1.5u
Mark Andrews over 4.5 receptions -145 1u