The NFL playoffs are upon us! We took last week off. I was busy accepting my Snap On Franchisee Rookie of the Year award. But I can’t focus on tools 24/7. It’s NFL playoff time. We have had a pretty successful year. You have wavered the ups and downs. But in the end we came out EV positive.
This year we posted a 47-36-2 (56%) record throughout the season. Now it’s time to dominate the post season. This year the playoff format is going to be different. I’ll have a different article for each day this weekend. We will preview every game and I’ll at least give a lean. Hang on, it's going to be a crazy ride.
First though, let's get to some trends
Trend: Teams favored by over a touchdown since 2010 are 9-0 ATS in the wildcard round. Good teams tend to try, and bad middling teams prove to be frauds.
Teams that applies to: Buffalo, San Francisco, Cincinnati
Trend: Road teams in Divisional Rematches are 13-4 ATS
Teams that applies to: Dolphins, Ravens, Seattle
Trend: Teams below .500 are are 8-1 ATS
Teams that applies to: Tampa Bay
Betting Trends for Seattle at San Francisco:
Seattle 30th in EPA when facing top 5 defenses. The Seahawks are 28th in run defense in EPA and 31st in yards per target allowed to the tight end position. Horrible matchup for Seattle. Brock Purdy has a 73% completion percentage when he is not blitzed. Seattle sends rushers the least amount of times among playoff team.
Now, let's get to the Saturday picks.
Seattle at San Francisco
Spread: San Francisco (-9.5)
The opening playoff game starts in the Bay. Pete Caroll has owned the 49ers playoffs in the past. We remember Richard Sherman’s interview with Erin Andrews. The Legion of Boom isn’t arriving for Seattle (although the below video will never get old).
In fact, it’s the 49ers defense that headlines this matchup. DeMeco Ryans' defensive squad leads the NFL in defensive DVOA. Former Iowa State Cyclone Brock Purdy has proven to be a serviceable starter at quarterback with the help of Christian Mccaffrey.
Meanwhile, Seattle is playing with house money. They were projected to finish last in the division. Now they are in the playoffs thanks to the help of a Detroit win Sunday night.
Yet despite playing with house money, Seattle doesn’t have much of a chance here. Seattle’s offense has been great. But they have ranked 30th in EPA when playing top 5 defenses on their schedule. That includes two matchups against these same 49ers. Seattle could have success in the deep passing game. The one weakness in the 49ers defense is their secondary on deep passes where they rank 21st in EPA. Can Seattle protect Geno Smith is the main question. Seattle’s offensive line ranks 22nd in the NFL in adjusted sack rate. The 49ers are the best team in the NFL at getting to the quarterback in the same category.
Seattle does have some playmakers on that side of the ball where they can make things happen. But it’s going to be on their defense whether they can stay in contention. Again, the Legion of Boom is not here anymore. Seattle’s run defense has struggled all year. They rank 28th in run defense DVOA since week 10. They struggle guarding the tight end position ranking 31st in targets allowed to tight ends. George Kittle has scored seven touchdowns in his last four games. In addition, Purdy has been good when facing base defense. Purdy completes 73% of his passes when he is not blitzed- Seattle blitzes the least amount among playoff teams.
I never like giving up a lot of points when the total is this low. There is going to be a lot of rainy weather and wind. But I like San Francisco here. The 49ers are going to get pressure. I just don’t see Seattle stopping the 49ers in this game. The 49ers win in a rout.
The pick: 49ers (-9.5)
Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville
Spread: Los Angeles (-2.5)
By this time, you guys already know… I like the Chargers here. I can hear you screaming at the computer- Austin you damn homer. I’m ready to jump in the Chargers foxhole once again. FYI the Bolts are 4-1 ATS when I have put them in this column. Realistically this is going to be the most entertaining game of the playoff slate. We are going to have Al Michaels back on NBC. Saturday night lights. Both top ten picks at quarterback are making their playoff debuts, and it’s the fourth playoff quarterback matchup since 1950 where they are both under the age of 25. Trevor Lawrence and Justin Herbert under the lights are going to be must watch tv.
The Chargers have been built up from pick'em to a two and half point favorite. The sharps have been on the Jags all year long. The Jaguars have won six out of their last seven games. But only one of those wins came against a team with a winning record. The Jags needed a lot of things to bounce their way.
This Chargers team has battled adversity and injuries all year long. They are going to have to do it again with Mike Williams likely being out on Saturday.
The Jaguars' defense is fraudulent. Jacksonville has faced Houston twice, Indianapolis twice, and Zach Wilson in prime time. Yet their pass defense ranks 30th in DVOA. The Chargers' passing offense is going to feast regardless of if Mike Williams plays. Jacksonville has also allowed the second most yards and receptions to running backs this season. Que up those Austin Ekeler props.
On the other side there has been a huge difference in play with this Chargers defense. They are top 5 in EPA allowed since week 12. Like the Jags, the Chargers have played an easy schedule of offenses. Overall they rank 16th in defensive DVOA and 29th in rush DVOA. It’s going to be a challenge holding their Jags dynamic ground game.
Regardless I’m taking the Chargers. Tail or fade me. Regardless, Justin Herbert is going to make anyone calling him a "social media quarterback" look silly. Chargers by a million. Also lean over. Backing the Bolts here, let’s ride.
The pick: Chargers (-2.5)
You can follow Austin on Twitter - @AMontgomeryLive