2018 NFL Playoff Picks – Conference Championship Edition

0-8!

Oh and eight!

0 and $%#^@&^ 8!

So, how did your divisional weekend end up? I will admit it takes some serious skill to go all “Golden Sombrero” back to back days. And to make matters worse, I lost this prop bet, “Divisional Weekend wins by Colin Wynner vs. Total Hits in the World Series by Manny Machado.” I thought that was a lock after Machado mustered just four hits (by the way, enjoy South Side of Chicago, Manny)!

There is some good news – I won a prop bet last week, in fact I won four props bets! Unfortunately, that was out of 18 total prop bets. So, for those non-mathematician’s that was 4-14 or 4-22 on the weekend. BTW, if my “man” asks about me, please don’t tell him where I am.

Enduring a weekend of suck like that had Colin on the brink of posting one final tweet – “Goodbye cruel world . . . ”

“. . .of handicapping.”

But the sun came up on Monday, and on Tuesday and by Wednesday I had enough excuses in my quiver that I was making a case that I should have been 8-0. Well, maybe not 8-0 but I had at least rationalized the losses to keep me from the ledge.

Well, what exactly went wrong? The following were the main stories that dominated my thinking and formed my opinions, and ultimately led to my picks last week:

  1. “Prove it to me” and “I will pay to see it” – Mahomes and Goff. After being burnt by first time QB’s the week before, I needed these two quarterbacks to prove they were ready for the pressure. Both guys absolutely proved they can handle the moment, albeit with a lot of help from teammates, the refs and the other team. Oh and I did in fact pay to see it!
  2. “The Pats are done” – I am sticking to this, they are done and this version is seriously flawed. They did absolutely nothing different than what I expected – short passes and a lot of running. The problem was the Chargers scheme to stop the Pats was a joke, as if Belichick sent Anthony Lynn a recommended game for beat the Pats and Lynn implemented every bit of it. You know like a Jedi-mind trick.
  3. “This miracle run by the Eagles was over and over in a big way” – A huge part of that thinking was the wear and tear they endured over the last six “all-in” weeks would leave them emotional spent and hit them hard in Nawlins. The fact is it did, but the Saints were incapable of putting them away (missed field goal, touchdown called back for bogus holding and three lousy Brees throws that should have been touchdowns). Think about this – if Brees hits a wide open Ted Ginn Jr on the first play, does that game end closer to 41-20 or 20-14? Exactly.

Obviously, the above made me feel better that I was the victim of two teams not showing up, some bad luck, plenty of bad calls, both refs and coaches (PI on 4 and 3 in LA; McVay going for the touchdown on 4th from 1, up 8?!?). However, you don’t post a big, fat zero without some serious flawed logic that includes overlooking some obvious things:

  1. Winning back-to-back playoff games on the road is tough (teams off a road win, back on road now just 15-37 since 2002). The reality is I only picked one (Chargers) of the three teams in that situation last week to win. I completely ignored the sacred playoff rule of “pick the winner.”
  2. Speaking of the “pick the winner” rule. I got too caught up in the disparity of the divisional round SU results versus ATS results. Since 2002, 16 out of 64 divisional games the SU winner did not cover the spread, meaning 75% of the time the winner covers the spread. I picked both the Chiefs and Rams to win but not cover based on that notion. In hindsight, one of those I would have either outrighted the underdog or picked the favorite to cover – if I could climb in Doc Brown’s Delorean so I could tell my last week self one thing, it would be “pick the winner, fool!”
  3. I committed the “Cardinal Sin” of handicapping – I let my personal feelings sway my picks. I wanted the Pats to lose, I want them to be done, I am sick of them, I am sick of the AFC East and it’s utter incompetence at every level – players, coaches and management – for 18 years now; likewise, the 2018 Eagles are a trash team with a couple of really unlikable players (Michael Bennett), no way I wanted this miracle run to continue; and as a man of faith, I like Nick Foles and what he stands for, but I was done with the “Nick Foles” magic show. I built a case based on those feelings and ignored glaring facts that would have refuted my feelings, and no, I have never worked for the Ada, Oklahoma prosecutor’s office!

Conference Championship Team Rankings – things are tight, really tight, I mean the WWE has gotten exactly what they wanted, any of the remaining teams could win this thing. As a twist, I turn back the clock to look at what could have been for the historical team for each of the remaining teams.

1.New Orleans Saints (+225, +240, +195)

Historical Team: 2009 New Orleans Saints. Remember the 2009 Saints needed Favre be the “oh no” version of Brett Favre to pull that game out. Also, in 2018 the Saints would have had to scored a touchdown in overtime to end it or the Vikings would have gotten a chance.

2.Kansas City Chiefs (+475, +500, +260)

Historical Team: 2001 St. Louis Rams. You know if you put the 2001 Rams in 2018, they beat the Patriots silly. Can you imagine the number of penalties on Ty Law and Otis Smith would have incurred in that game? Even if Tom Brady “fanboy” Clete Blakeman was the ref.

3.Los Angeles Rams (+600, +500, +400)

Historical Team: 2001 Chicago Bears. Given the win over the Cowboys, I think their historical team is closer to the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But for fun let’s imagine the 2001 Bears beat the Eagles to advance to the play the Rams. Thinking the Rams win that game against the regular Bears 31-10, against mini-Bears with regular size Ditka coaching 49-7 and 91-0 against mini-Bears, with no Ditka. #SuperFans

4.New England Patriots (+600, +600, +375)

Historical Team: 1993 Buffalo Bills. The most interesting thing about the future odds this week is the significant drop for the AFC teams. Like suddenly, the AFC teams are better because the Chiefs and Pats beat two teams that didn’t get off the bus! For the 1993 Bills, let’s imagine Scot Norwide makes that field goal against the Giants, or maybe Levy doesn’t play for a 47-yard field giving the 1990 Bills the win. Does that spark four straight Super Bowl wins? Doubtful, but they might have pulled off 2-2 and beat the Cowboys in 1993.

Geaux Saints! Emotional Hedge week!

Conference championship round notes (since 2002):

  • Home teams have won the last 10 conference title games, 8-2 ATS; Overall home teams are 26-10 and 20-15-1 ATS. (Chiefs and Saints)
  • Home teams winning but failing to cover in the divisional round are 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS; 1-6 to the Over (Saints)
  • The Pats have been an underdog in the conference title game just twice, 0-2 ATS

My playoff rules (you know the ones I didn’t bother following last week or the week before) can be read them here.

The back of Colin’s player card:

Note: Lines are courtesy of 5dimes.eu

Patriots @ Chiefs (-3 -115, 55.5)

Girl (Tomi), don’t go away mad, just, for the love of God, go away.” – Motley Crue (1989)

Oh boy, you’re thinking, here we go again . . . Colin’s letting his personal feelings get in the way of the “right” pick! Not so fast, keep reading.

Did you know – the last time Tomi Brady won on the road in the playoffs, most of the Pats roster was in school – high school, a handful in junior high. The year was 2006, the opponent was the Colts, the score at one point was 21-3 in favor of the Pats, final score was 38-34 Colts. Can you believe the GOAT, Tomi Brady, choked that game away? Or the greatest coach in the history of the world, blew an 18-point lead to Peyton Manning of all quarterbacks?

The thing is that 2006 Pats team was seriously flawed, a team that was forced to play a WR at DB, a team with zero deep threats, a team that won the divisional round against the Chargers by sitting back and letting the Chargers, well be the Chargers. Sound familiar? Compare that to this year, serious flawed team with no deep threats and beat the Chargers in the divisional round by the Chargers being the Chargers, ill-prepared to play football on the biggest stage.

Given that, this Pats team is beatable, the question is – how do you go about beating them Pats? Well, it starts with defense, and hey, I am no defensive coordinator but scheming to the beat pats doesn’t seem like rocket science. Here are three simple things I would do:

  1. Hit Tomi early, even if you have to take a 15-yard penalty. Dirty? Yeah, no doubt that is cheap and dirty, but isn’t that what is missing from this kumbaya, soft-ass league right now? Chiefs defender, ask yourself this question, “Do you want to win the Super Bowl?” Or you would rather hope to get Tomi’s signed “game used” jock after he dispatches you? For reference on how to treat a quarterback in this scenario, re-watch the 2009 NFC Title game between Saints and Vikings, where the Saints, albeit being the “bountygate” game, repeatedly hit Favre and it had an impact on him. And if that had an impact on a tough guy like Favre, imagine the impact on the soft, Ugg wearing, underwear model, Tomi. Think about the first passing play of this game and Brady gets nailed, he won’t be comfortable the rest of the game. Can the Chiefs get to him? Well they rank 7th in adjusted sack rate, which is very comparably to the Steelers, who gave the Tomi fits in the final month of the season. Uh, so YES they can.
  2. For the love of God, you do not sit back in a zone, attempting to take away the one thing the Pats cannot do – throw the ball deep. The good news is the Chargers provided the blue-print for what NOT to do against the pats. It’s physical man coverage with creative blitzing or DIE against the Pats. Sure, Edelman is hyper quick off the line and may beat man coverage initially, so maybe you bracket him and take your chances with Phillip Dorsett or Chris Hogan. Even if Edelman is able to shake loose, if the Chiefs accomplish point #1, the ball is likely to come out too quick or fall at Edelman’s feet because Tomi will be rattled.
  3. Punish the receivers on these short passes. I think this was the Chargers game plan as well, but like the Chargers do, they failed to execute. This all about energy and effort, something the Chargers lacked from the opening kickoff, I have to believe the Chiefs will bring max effort.

Now can the Chiefs do these three things? Yes, I believe they not only can but will. And, yes, I thought the same about the Chargers, however, here are the differences:

  1. Chiefs are not road weary;
  2. The Chiefs have NFL plus-level linebackers;
  3. As mentioned several times the Chiefs will not sit back in a zone and let Tomi dink and dump them to death;
  4. It seems like everyone made a huge deal about the Chargers D-Line based on their play against the Ravens – that had more to do with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens ineffectiveness. The reality is the Chargers D-line is average, the Chiefs D-line is above average; the Chargers linebackers would struggle to earn starting spots at Ala . . ., uh, I mean Clemson, the Chiefs linebackers are much better. The Chargers do have an advantage in the secondary, of course, they negated any advantage by sitting in a zone.

All that said, I still expect the Pats to put up points, therefore, the Chiefs offense will have play more like their first half against the Colts. Oh, there is some good news, the Chiefs have the number #1 offense in the NFL.

I have no doubt Billy B will have a plan but that plans breaks down when Mahomes gets out of the pocket. What happens then? Mahomes will make plays, big plays. The Pats area better against statuesque quarterbacks, and not the Greek God statue, but rather the inability to move statue.

Look both of these games this weekend are tight, they obviously could go either way, in fact the best play of the weekend might be to play the +500 on the prop that the game is decided by exactly three points.

But, I am tasked with making a pick, and at the end of the day, Jim Nantz will ask Andy Reid what the difference was this year, Reid will respond, “It was just our time, Jim, just our time.”

One final thing that is incredibly annoying – the Pats playing the “nobody respects us” card. That is unbelievably weak. I appreciate the three other teams in the final four have not resulted to such tactics to create motivation for themselves, honestly Pats act like you have been there before, because you have. This week, Julian Edelman told America to “bet against us.” Done.

Chiefs 35 Patriots 31

Prop Bets:

Game is decided by exactly 3 points (+500)

Sony Michel over 75.5 Rushing Yards (-110)

James White over 5.5 Receptions (-110)
Julian Edelman over 6.5 Receptions (-120)
Patrick Mahomes over 13.5 Rushing Yards (-125)
Longest Completion by Patrick Mahomes Over 44.5 (-120)
Longest Reception by Tyreek Hill Over 37.5 (-120)
Sammy Watkins over 58.5 Receiving Yards (-110)


Rams @ Saints (-3 -120, 56.5)


“The shapes up to be the best game of the weekend.” – Captain Obvious

Let’s walk through how Colin sees this game playing out:

  1. Though the Saints have an advantage in special teams, much of it is due to FG/XP but keep in mind the Rams were without Zuerlein for a fair portion of the season. Both teams do have excellent ST coaches, therefore, I would not rule out a special team play factoring in the outcome of the game. In a tight game like this, a blocked punt or big return can flip the outcome. Therein lies the unpredictability of football – if you can find a “blocked kick” prop, play it. Should be a pretty decent chunk of change.
  2. Much like last week, the Rams game plan will to run the ball a ton and use play-action to setup big plays down the field. The loss of DT Sheldon Rankins for the Saints should not be discounted as he is a run stuffer and pocket mover, the Rams will have an easier time with the interior line of the Saints. That should allow the Rams to control the clock, take the crowd out of the game and wear the Saints down – at least that would be my plan.
  3. The Rams defense is hard to gauge as they played much better last week than the regular season numbers would have indicated they would. Of course, that was Dak Prescott and not Drew Brees. Still, it seems like Suh was saving himself for the playoffs, even Corey Littleton showed up and the secondary was solid as Talib makes a big difference in what they want to do. It even seemed like Wade Phillips was alive last week, which is also good news for the Rams.
  4. If I am a Saints fan, I am a little concerned about Brees’ arm and that something might be wrong. He missed three deep balls last week, that should have been touchdowns; he got by last week, but he won’t this week with a better overall opponent. Granted some of that might be time off and working out the rust, but I am more inclined to believe his arm is dead. Not good news for the Saints.
  5. The good news for the Saints is they have Taysom Hill, who looks like he wakes in the morning and immediate head butts a brick wall. Hill hit Kamara with a perfectly thrown rope on a post route for a touchdown last week on a trick play that I am guessing Payton was hoping he wouldn’t have to use until the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, it was called back by a ridiculous holding call, but I have to say, as a Rams fan, I hope Wade Phillips saw that on film as I am sure there is a variations of that play that will be in the game plan. FWIW, that would have been a touchdown against the Rams had Payton been able to hold onto it for this week.

It would be a major disappointment if game was not highly entertaining, but not “NFL 2018” entertaining, where no one is stopped but rather this should be an old school game, every possession is precious with players playing at a high, high level.

I honestly do not see the shootout we witnessed in the regular season, given that, I would make the under the play of choice. Again, I can see this ending on an exact 3-point victory

Here is the deal, every Super Bowl winning team, save the 1972 Dolphins, has had a loss at some point in the season, some of those losses have looked ugly, so ugly that if you just watched that game you might wonder how that team could ever hoist the Lombardi. The Rams had a couple of those games down the stretch, and, for me, as noted a pessimistic fan, I felt like they had no chance of advancing in the playoffs. Last week they showed me they were a lot closer to the team early in the year than the team in December. The Rams had one goal this year – win the Super Bowl or the season would be a bitter disappointment. It is not stretch to think this team saved it’s best for playoffs. And their best this week should be good enough win their fourth NFC title.

Rams 27 Saints 24 (Rams +3.5 -125)

Prop Bets:

Game is decided by exactly 3 points (+500)
Alvin Kamara Over 40.5 Receiving Yards (-115)
CJ Anderson Over 45.5 Rushing Yards (-110)
Gerald Everett scores a TD (+380)
Gerald Everett Over 2.5 receptions (Even)
Gerald Everett Over 23.5 receiving yards (-115)
Mark Ingram Under 42.5 Rushing Yards (-115)
Taysom Hill scores a TD (+333)

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