Wild Card Weekend wrapped up without much excitement, and Perry was a mediocre 2-2 ATS. He did hit on his “Pledge of the Week,” though. With better games on the horizon – for the most part – here’s who Perry’s betting in the Divisional Round.
An asterisk denotes Perry’s “Pledge of the Week.” (Don’t call it a “lock”; there’s no such thing!)
Divisional Round Picks ATS
Saturday, January 14
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)
The Seahawks’ inconsistent play has been well-documented, but there is a pattern to it. Four of Seattle’s five blips on the 2016 radar have come on the road, and they barely avoided a major one in Week 17 in San Francisco. It’s not a one-year thing, either. Russell Wilson is now 22-17-1 for his career on the road versus 34-6 in the regular season at home. Wilson’s playoff record away from C-Link is 3-3, compared to 5-0 at home. Seattle’s best performance on the road this season (in New England) came when awarded an 8:30 PM ET kickoff. Unfortunately, that’s not the case this weekend in Atlanta.
Seattle has more than just its own performance to worry about this weekend. In case you haven’t heard, Atlanta’s offense scored a few points this season. Led by MVP front-runner Matt Ryan, the Falcons led the league in scoring and were second in total offense. Ryan posted a career season with an NFL-high 117.1 passer rating and got plenty of help along the way. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combine to form one of the most dangerous backfields in the league and carried Atlanta to the fifth-ranked rushing attack.
Looking back to the earlier matchup between these two teams (Week 6), the difference was two Atlanta turnovers. That was the only time this year that the Falcons turned the ball over more than once; their 11 turnovers on the seasons were a league-low. This will have to stay true to beat a very experienced Seahawks team.
The key for Seattle will be the ground game. At home, the Seahawks averaged 118.1 rushing yards per game, but that number falls to just 88.1 on the road. Thomas Rawls will have to be a major part of the game-plan again as they prepare to face a Falcon defense that allows 4.5 yards per carry (26th).
As bad as they’ve been on the road, this is too many points to lay against a proven playoff team.
Pick: Seahawks (+4.5)
Houston Texans at New England Patriots (-16)
The Texans’ Wild Card victory came exactly as I expected; they leaned on the defense and the ground game. They aren’t going to be able to beat the Patriots with just those ingredients. They’ll need Brock Osweiler – who had one of the better stat lines of the year last week (14 of 25 for 168 yards and a touchdown, plus another TD on the ground) – to have a career game. The Texans signal-caller won’t have the luxury of playing the Oakland defense this week, though.
While Tom Brady and the offense steal most of the headlines in New England, the defense quietly ranked eighth in yards and first in scoring. The Pats third-ranked run defense should be able to slow Lamar Miller, forcing Bill O’Brien to do something he’s not comfortable with: asking Osweiler to throw. When these teams met in Week 3, Osweiler posted a 60.6 passer rating and failed to put any points on the board (27-0).
Houston’s defense may be playing better as of late, but the Pats scored 27 points on them with Jacoby Brissett under center. Tom Brady is 15-3 at home in the playoffs and will assert his dominance against the top-ranked total defense; meanwhile, Osweiler will turn the ball over when he’s forced to put it in the air.
Pick: Patriots (-16)*
Sunday, January 15
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (-2)
Do you remember the 43-14 shellacking the Steelers gave the Chiefs back in Week 4? You can bet Kansas City sure does. In order to prevent that from happening again, the Chiefs will have to slow Le’Veon Bell, who totalled 178 yards from scrimmage on 23 touches in that game.
Those numbers have become the norm for Bell, who is averaging 180.7 yards from scrimmage over his last seven games. The Steelers dynamic back is displaying an unprecedented level of patience, and his offensive linemen are certainly earning their weekly wage. Pittsburgh’s (suddenly) opportunistic defense cannot be forgotten when doling out credit. The unit limited Miami to just 52 yards rushing and forced three turnovers.
Speaking of turnovers, the Chiefs led the league in takeaways with 33, and will have to generate more to help mask their leaky defense. Kansas City ranks 24th in total defense and has struggled against the run all year, ranking 26th. Andy Reid is going to have to reach deep into his bag of tricks this week and continue finding ways to get Tyreek Hill the ball in space.
Kansas City is not going to be able to stop Le’Veon Bell, and Alex Smith won’t be able to put enough points on the board to keep up.
Pick: Steelers (+2)
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys (-4)
This is a much different Packers team than the one that got beat 30-16 by the Cowboys in Week 6. Aaron Rodgers is so hot right now, you could roast marshmallows off his ***. The only thing he’ll be roasting this week is the Cowboys’ 26th-ranked pass defense. Over his last eight games, Rodgers has thrown 22 touchdowns without any interceptions, and possesses a passer rating of 120.7.
Last week, facing the stout Giants, the Packer pivot showed that no defense can stop him for 60 minutes right now.
But what about an offense?
Dallas’ potent rushing attack gives them the ability to keep the most dangerous man in the game on the sideline. When these teams met earlier, Green Bay’s defense ranked first against the run, but that didn’t stop the Cowboys from piling up 191 yards on the ground. The question is whether the kids can handle the bright lights and added pressure the playoffs bring.
I made the mistake last week of betting against Aaron Rodgers; I have learned my lesson.
Pick: Packers (+4)
Photo Credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].