I had some moderate success picking the “mosts” during the regular season in terms of rushing, passing and receiving yards and highest-scoring teams each week. But I will have no excuse for not hitting at least two of those each of the next two weeks during the NFL playoffs with only four games each weekend.
On Bovada, the favorite to have the most passing yards this weekend is Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers at 12/5 at home against the Vikings. Minnesota’s pass defense ranked No. 24 this season, allowing an average 244 yards per game. Rodgers threw for a season-high 365 yards last week against the Vikings in the Metrodome and for 286 yards in Green Bay’s Dec. 2 home win over Minnesota. The Green Bay running game is essentially non-existent, so Rodgers will be throwing all night Saturday. However, he actually threw for less yards at home than the road this season, and it will be quite chilly on Saturday night.
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Colts rookie Andrew Luck is the 7/2 second-favorite as Indianapolis visits Baltimore. The Ravens’ defense ranked an uncharacteristic 17th against the pass this year in allowing 228 yards per game. That defense should get Ray Lewis back Sunday and likely will be fired up because it’s probably Lewis’ last home game. But Lewis doesn’t really help all that much against the pass and has lost a step or two. As good as Luck has been, he has been better in the confines of his home dome. And I don’t think you can take a rookie quarterback making his first playoff start at one of the toughest places to play in the NFL.
I actually like Houston’s Matt Schaub at 11/2 against Cincinnati as the best value. For one, weather obviously won’t be a factor in Houston’s Reliant Stadium. It is Schaub’s first playoff start, but he is a veteran. I know the Bengals ranked No. 7 against the pass, but I believe their defensive game plan will be to stop Arian Foster and make Schaub beat them. I think Schaub will, even though he didn’t have a touchdown pass, threw three interceptions and had a QB rating of just 69.0 in Houston’s three losses in its final four games. Schaub has generally been excellent at home this year. But, really, this is the pick because Schaub is the only home QB playing in a dome (assuming the roof will be closed as there’s a 30 percent chance of rain in Houston on Sunday) while the other three will be playing outdoors in the cold.
On the receiving yards, Houston’s Andre Johnson is the 2/1 favorite. In the Texans’ finale, he was one of the few players to show up with 141 yards in a loss at the Colts. And he is averaging nearly 122 receiving yards at home this season. I can’t really argue against Johnson here. Cincinnati’s A.J. Green is the 3/1 second-favorite, but with top Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis less than 100 percent with a hamstring injury, I believe Houston double-teams Green and dares Cincinnati to run.
On the rushing yards, to no shock, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson is the 8/5 favorite. The incomparable Peterson fell just nine yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record this year and he destroyed the Packers, averaging 204.5 yards against them in two games this season and “only” 120.6 against everyone else. Peterson had seven carries of at least 20 yards against the Pack. I will be absolutely stunned if the Packers don’t bring at least one extra safety into the box on first and second downs. According to ESPN, Green Bay brought an extra man down to the line of scrimmage on only 24 percent of Peterson’s rushes (13 of 55) against them this season. The rest of the time it was a standard front seven (or fewer). Incidentally, Bovada lists Peterson’s yardage total as “over/under” 125.5, with the over a -130. I like under.
My value pick this week is Baltimore’s Ray Rice at 11/2. He faces a Colts defense that ranked No. 29 in the NFL in allowing 137.5 rushing yards per game, by far the worst of any playoff team. I don’t believe the Ravens will put their fate in the hands of inconsistent Joe Flacco. Last year in two playoff games, Rice got 21 carries in each. It wouldn’t surprise me if he got 25 on Sunday and finished with 125 yards to win the week. Bovada lists his total as over/under 90.5, so obviously I like over there, which is the -125 favorite.
On Sportsbook.ag, the favorites to be the highest-scoring team are the Packers and Ravens at +300. I am shocked the struggling Ravens are a favorite, frankly. They have topped 28 points once since putting up a franchise-record 55 in a Nov. 11 blowout of Oakland. I see no reason not to pick Green Bay. The Pack just put up 34 last week on that Viking defense, although it was held to 23 in the first meeting at Lambeau. Believe it or not, the Packers exceeded 30 points only twice at home this season – vs. Cardinals and Titans – but I believe they will be the only team to score at least 30 on wild-card weekend. The Vikings allowed 28 or more in half of their road games.
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