Jimmy McGinty previews the weekend NFC and AFC Championship games and he likes the Steelers to beat the Patriots and is playing Touchdown scorers in Packers v Falcons.
Divisional Round recap
On Saturday the key, for those following the preseason bets, was a Falcons win. The 66/1 outright (SEE HERE) rolls on with a home NFC Championship game. We also collected on the Falcons -5pts and Sanu anytime TD. Then the Patriots covered the spread after Dion Lewis scored the first TD. A terrific Saturday’s punting (self-praise is the best kind)
On Sunday I thought the Cowboys would win, but Aaron Rodgers made a mockery of anyone who thought the same. Luckily we collected on the Dez Bryant yardage bet. He had a big outing against a bad Packers secondary. We also got the Steelers win bet correct but misread how they’d use Bell as a receiver.
NFC Championship Game
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons
I’ve completely flipped on this game during the past few days. Initial thoughts were simple enough – Aaron Rodgers, the best QB in the League at the moment and one of the greatest ever, is playing out of his skin and his Packers get a 5pt head-start on the spread. What’s not to like?!
Well it’s the Packers defense and the ability of the Matty Ryan led offense that made me flip sides. Ryan just destroyed the much heralded Seattle defense so he’ll have no problem shredding the Packers time and again. Over the past five games the Packers gave up season best passing yards to Sam Bradford and Matt Moore whilst Dak had his 2nd highest total last weekend, Stafford had the same in week 17. It’s a real porous passing defense. The NFL’s highest scoring offense, at home, will cut loose.
In addition both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are running really well for Atlanta and the Packers have been somewhat vulnerable against the run. Meanwhile Green Bay still lack a real potent running game.
I felt Atlanta would struggle to contain Doug Baldwin last week and he went for 80yds and a TD. This was despite the pressure the Falcons generated up front rather. The Packers have a good offensive line protecting Rodgers so he’ll have loads of time to test the Falcons secondary. Cobb is likely to have the biggest outing from the slot. The issue is the Packers receivers are not at full strength so Atlanta should cope on a few drives.
I give Atlanta an advantage in passing and rushing attack whilst rating both defenses similarly. I just don’t see either team not scoring regularly. The 5pt spread is probably about right so I’m looking to a few specials instead.
Dez Bryant destroyed Ladarius Gunter last weekend so it’s a sensible assumption to think the Packers will sell out to help Gunter cover Julio Jones. As they did when the sides met earlier this season. The Falcons have seen this all year and the rest of their receiving team are more than happy to pick up the pieces. At a price Austin Hooper is the one I like on Sunday. He played only 50% of the snaps last week when returning from injury so should have a bigger role on Sunday. The talented rookie TE has 3 TDs to his name from limited action this season. And most importantly of all is the Packers have been giving up big yardage to TEs in the playoffs so far. Both Witten and Tye had big games for the Cowboys and Giants respectively.
1pt win Austin Hooper anytime TD at 4/1 with William Hill
As mentioned above the Packers aren’t great against the run and they face a running back, Devonta Freeman, who has scored 13 TDs in the past 9 home games. In what looks a real high scoring game it’d be astonishing if Freeman couldn’t punch in another TD in front of the home crowd.
2pts win Devonta Freeman anytime TD – 4/5 Skybet
I mentioned it briefly last week that the Falcons are not good when it comes to stopping pass catching running backs. In Thomas Rawls they faced a running back whom traditionally is not a strong catcher but TY Montgomery is of course a converted wide receiver. And the Packers have injury issues with other receivers. It’d be no surprise to see TY had a big role as a receiver in the Championship game.
2pts TY Montgomery receiving yardage overs – no price available yet??
Randall Cobb receiving yardage overs 66.5yds at 10/11 with BetVictor– no bet if Jordy Nelson is going to suit up.
AFC Championship Game
Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots
The Patriots have looked really good lately. Then you read the last 8 QBs they’ve faced were: Osweiler, Moore, Goff, Siemian, Fitzpatrick x2, Flacco and Kaepernick. Many of them are so bad they shouldn’t be starting in the NFL. Maybe the Patriots aren’t all that. On paper (since Gronk went down injured) they don’t look like a league dominating team. No scary talent at wide receiver like the Steelers do for instance. Facing Big Ben, Bell and Brown (despite Ben’s mediocre road record) will be a proper challenge.
The Patriots actually had a good matchup against the Texans where the Pats usual short quick passing game would help nullify the Texans superb pass rush, yet still the Pats were workmanlike at best. Brady completed less than half of his passes as the Texans forced him to go deep. Lewis scored a kick-off return to open a 14-3 scoreline early on, yet they let the Texans back into the game. The Texans also dropped a certain TD in the second half that would’ve made things a little nervier. The Steelers have the firepower to punish a similar mediocre performance from New England. Lamar Miller ran well against the Pats so LeVeon Bell should be a dominating force (as per usual).
I really like the Steelers here. The Patriots may be overrated on their regular season results against bad teams and they weren’t very good last weekend despite the final score suggesting an easy win. Meanwhile the Steelers dominated in Kansas City last Sunday but didn’t put it on the scoreboard. They won the total yards, yards per play and time in possession stats by wide margins but consistently had to settle for field goals. This just understates how good the Steelers are. If their offense clicks in the red-zone they’ll have a Super Bowl appearance on the horizon.
1pt Steelers to win by 1-10pts at 11/4 with Paddy Power
2pts Steelers +6pts at 10/11 with Betfred and Stan James
Malcolm Butler shadowed Antonio Brown twice before and it’s definitely the talented receiver who came out on top. 20 targets turned into 14 receptions, 200yds and 1 TD. Butler will need help. Brown went for 108yds last week despite it being quite a defence game, unsurprisingly when the Chiefs are involved. 124yds and 96yds the two previous weeks.
1pt Antonio Brown over 99.56 receiving yards at 10/11 with Skybet
The Steelers have been strong against the rush recently but have shown a weakness against pass catching running-backs. This would suggest a bigger outing for Dion Lewis that LaGarrette Blount. Also, the Steelers secondary is strong, giving up the NFLs second fewest catches to wide receivers this season so I’ll expect Brady to lean on Lewis regularly rather than test the Steelers with deep balls.
1pt Dion Lewis first TD at 12/1 with Skybet, Paddy Power and Stan James
2pts Dion Lewis rushing and receiving yards over 60.5 yards at 17/20 with Ladbrokes