It wasn't a bad Saturday of games, and the teaser treble I suggested came in, which is good. The Colts probably should have ruined it early on, but failed to capitalise on possession and left points on the field in a 3 points loss to the Bills, the Rams vs Seahawks was terrible to watch, but actually quite high scoring in the end with the Rams pulling off the upset while the Buccs beat Washington in the late game despite Taylor Heinicke playing pretty well for someone with so little experience in the league.
Luckily we've probably got the most entertaining game of the day as the early one for us on Sunday, and it should be a cracker if it lives up to expectations.
Ravens -3 @ Titans: 54
These two finished with the same 11-5 record, that was good enough to win the division in the AFC South, but the Ravens finished 3rd in the North and enter the playoffs as the 7th seed.
The Ravens hit form at the end of the season smashing some poor teams and covering the spread in each of their last 6 games. It's what they do, they smash poor teams and struggle against the better ones, their losses this year include on to the Titans where they lost in overtime. It's also a rematch of the divisional game last year where the Titans got out to a lead and kept it.
The run game is the key for the Ravens, JK Dobbins finished the year with a TD in 5 games in a row and should be the lead back, but he shares carries with Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards back there. Dobbins did seem to get more goal-line work at the backend of the year though. The passing game for them isn't exactly great, Mark Andrews is the key man, if they can get him going they'll be able to move the ball but the Titans have done a decent job of taking that option away and making Jackson have to looks elsewhere. Marquise Brown finished the year strong with 6 TDs in his last 6 games and should find space against a poor Titans secondary.
The key for the Titans will be getting out to a lead and just running Derrick Henry into the ground as they did last year, and for most of this season. He became the 8th player in history to hit the 2,000 yard mark and went over 100 yards in 10 of their matches this year including against the Ravens where he won the game in with a breakaway TD in overtime. – The offense works off of his dominance, they use play-action a lot and the mobility of Ryan Tannehill at QB is essential, he's accounted for 40 TDs this year, 33 passing and 7 rushing (5 in his last 3 games) – AJ Brown has been the main man finishing with a third of those TDs while TE Jonnu Smith had 8 himself.
I think the Ravens win and cover, but I thought that last year too and it didn't happen. Should be a high scoring game as the Titans defense isn't good. Probably a whole load of rushing yards.
Bears +10 @ Saints: 48
The Bears are the definition of average finishing the season with an 8-8 record, 8-8 ATS and 8-8 on totals as well. They started 5-1 before moving to Foles and losing a load, they brought back Trubisky to finish the season and he won 3 of the final 4. Trubisky at least makes them a little more entertaining, he started 7 of the 8 games their totals went over.
Trubisky is all right, he's better than Foles anyway and they'll probably have to pay him now after he beat some terrible teams at the end of the season, as above, he is at least a little more entertaining and he's mobile as well so should put up yards on the ground. David Montgomery is their only real running back, he finished the season hot with 7 TDs in their final 5 games (8 total on the year) against poor run defenses. The passing game is mainly Allen Robinson and the young and old tight ends, Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham. Darnell Mooney had done well but misses out.
They're still good on defense, but Roquan Smith missing is a big hit for them.
The Saints haven't had their main offense for most of the year but still put up at least 21 points in every game this year. Drew Brees will be starting, he doesn't excite me, but he does what he needs and is still one of the better in the NFL, 70% completion percentage again this year even with Michael Thomas missing a lot of the season, he's back and he'll probably get double digit targets again. Without him they moved the ball well with Emmanuel Sanders the main WR and Jared Cook getting a bit of action as well, they filled in all right with Callaway, Carr, Johnson, Humphrey all making catches.
Alvin Kamara led the league in TDs this year with 21 and despite missing the final game with Covid he had over 1,600 scrimmage yards this year. He'll likely get a decent workload providing he's not suffering from the illness. Murray will be back as well as he missed as a close contact last week.
The Saints are ranked as the 2nd best defense in the league this year.
Saints should win, but have a habit of losing in hilariously painful fashion in the playoffs. I wouldn't take them to cover the 10, and I'd probably aim for Bears team total under. They have put up points, but that's been against poor opposition.
Browns +6 @ Steelers: 47.5
The Browns have made the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and in true Browns fashion things have gone wrong already. They will be without Head coach (and play caller) Kevin Stefanski and he's not allowed any communication with the team during the game which is ridiculous, they also lose LG Joel Bitonio as well which may hurt the run game.
Baker Mayfield is all right, they try to limit his use by going run heavy which has worked for most of the year, Chubb and Hunt are the only RB duo in the league with over 1,000 scrimmage yards each and have 23 TDs between them. The passing game isn't stellar, Jarvis Landry leads the team with under 1,000 yards on the year, Rashard Higgins seems to get redzone targets, and rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones has been involved in recent weeks with the Browns losing players to injury and covid issues. Austin Hooper is the main TE for them, he's scored 2 in the last 3 games and David Njoku gets a few looks as well.
Myles Garrett is a nuisance in the pass rush, he should get home against a now average Steelers OL, but their secondary is beaten up and not very good, they lost Olivier Vernon last week too who'd had a good season, it's not great that side of the ball for them.
Big Ben Roethlisberger has declined through the season, not unsurprising for an old fat man coming off surgery, he probably appreciated last weeks rest and I have a feeling they'll use the deep ball more after giving him that time off, that means Chase Claypool may be inline for a big game after roasting his opposing CB many times last week. Juju Smith-Schuster is average and Diontae Johnson will probably lead the team in targets in the mid-range game. The Steelers run game has been dismal for most of the season, carries will probably be split between Snell and Conner.
They still rank #1 on defense despite a few injuries hurting them, they welcome back Spillane who is a backup LB, but second string rather than the 3rd string they were forced to play. TJ Watt led the league in sacks and will cause issues in every game.
Steelers should win, and if they do I think they'll win comfortably. I think that week of rest for key players will have helped them greatly.
- Ravens -3
- Steelers -6 (I wouldn't say no to an alt. handicap of double digits tbh)
- Chase Claypool anytime TD and 2 or more.
Enjoy the games. Should be a couple of crackers.