It’s always easier to make an argument for the favorite, and Buffalo has a strong argument. The Bills went 9-1 in their last 10 games – they only lost in Arizona to Kyler Murray’s Hail Mary – and scored 38.2 points per game during a winning streak in six games to end the regular season. Josh Allen (69.2 percent completions, 37 touchdowns, 10 interceptions) performed better than any quarterback other than Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes. Stefon Diggs (127 receptions, 1,535 yards, eight TDs) has become one of the top five receivers in the league and Sean McDermott could be coach of the year. But enough with the obvious.
A case can also be cited for an 11-win team that was favored in 14 out of 16 games and is now a big underdog. Indianapolis, who had a 24-7 lead of 24-7 24/7 in Pittsburgh in the third quarter two weeks ago, have been 4-1 in their last five games. The Colts are in the NFL’s top 10 for overall defense (No. 8) and total attack (No. 10). Rookie Runs Back Jonathan Taylor rushed 253 yards in the regular season finals, stepping up as a Force and will help Philip Rivers move the ball against a Buffalo Run defense that ranks 17th in the league (120 ypg ). The trend for several years has been to bet on Philip Rivers in the role of the street dog. Two years ago, Rivers was a street dog with the Chargers in a playoff win in Baltimore.
Everyone is impressed with the Allen-led Bills and their explosive offense, and almost everyone expects them to be around that in near-freezing temperatures Mind business at home, but the ravens, led by Lamar Jackson, looked similarly impressive and upset at that point a year ago.
Allen flopped in his only playoff start last year when his late breakdown to a loss in Houston led. The rivers post-season experience should be worth something. Sharp money forced that line from 7 to 6.5, but the public will likely reset the bills to -7 before kick-off. I take the points with the Colts as a slightly opposite game.
Who wants to bet on John Wolford to beat Russell Wilson? Nobody. Luckily for the Rams, this isn’t a one-on-one game between the quarterbacks. Who wants to join an underdog who is number 1 in the league in goal defense (18.5 ppg) and overall defense? I’m going to put my money in a defense led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. The Rams are better than ever when it comes to putting quarterbacks under pressure, and Ramsey has shown that he can include DK Metcalf, Seattle’s top receiver. In the teams’ two meetings that season, the Rams limited the Seahawks to a total of 36 points, while Wilson took 11 sacks and scored a total of one touchdown pass and two interceptions.
The Rams could be without Jared Goff, who is on Had surgery on his right thumb Dec. 28, but Wolford might actually be a better option given its mobility. Wolford will benefit from the return of receiver Cooper Kupp this week, and trainer Sean McVay will tune playcalling to what Wolford can handle. The Rams should be able to keep things close with their defenses and attack in progress. The upgraded defense of Seattle gets good news with the return of security Jamal Adams. Most signs point to a low-scoring brawl that could be decided by a field goal either way.
Tom Brady made big numbers on the track, but he did that damage against soft defenses too. It’s no secret that Washington’s physical defense front is the team’s forte, and Brady’s weakness lies in pass rush pressure. Washington manager Ron Rivera’s plan from the start was to make games ugly and get a chance to win in the fourth quarter, and the plan is no different this week.
Washington left with veteran quarterback Alex Smith as a starter with 5: 1 and with other starters with 2: 8, so this is not a 7: 9 team that has to be written off in the playoffs. Smith hopes to play despite a calf injury. Taylor Heinicke is ready when Smith is injured or ineffective. With the return of Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin, the offense has potential. Washington is a free rolling team with no pressure, and Rivera will be ready to play the role of a riverboat player. Rivera coached Carolina to the NFC South title with a 7-8-1 record in 2014 when the Panthers defeated Arizona, coached by Bruce Arians, in the wildcard round. Arians got Brady this time.
Tampa Bay only defeated one team that had set a record this season: the Packers. In Brady’s last 10 away games with the Patriots, he was 4-6, with a win by more than six points. The Washington defense did not allow more than 20 points in any of the last seven games. The Buccaneers will likely survive and advance – put the favorite on a teaser at -2.5 if you want action on this side – but that may not be easy for Brady.
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