We got off to a 2-0 start in Saturday's Wild Card games and the column is back to preview all the games for Sunday. Playoffs have been good to us at AT Online. We are going to keep the gravy train rolling. There are three stand alone spots. There are multiple ways to handicap these games.
Without further ado, here are the picks. As always they're presented by DraftKings Sportsbook, which has an incredible offer for first time users.
Philadelphia at Tampa Bay
Spread: Tampa (-8)
These teams met on October 14th where Philly came up just short, falling 28-22 at home. However, the game wasn’t as competitive as the score indicated. Tampa jumped out to an early lead and took their foot off the pedal.
Also, that was a different Philly team. At the time Philly ranked 29th in run percentage. Now, Philly ranks first in run percentage and they rank third overall in rushing DVOA. In previous scenarios trying to run the ball on Tampa would be equivalent to trying to punch through a brick wall. But this is not the elite Tampa run defense we have become used to, as they've been just slightly above average against the run (12th in DVOA). Nose tackle Ndamukong Suh will most likely not play. On offense Tampa will also be without running back Ronald Jones. Ke'Shawn Vaughn will fill in for him.
While Philly has been hot I don’t think they matchup with Tampa here. Philadelphia is 0-6 against playoff teams and also 1-5 ATS against those teams. Philly got the benefit of playing the easiest schedule down the stretch. While Tampa will be missing pieces, they are overwhelmingly the better team. Tampa has covered six out of their last eight. I don’t think Philly has the ability to comeback if Tampa takes an early lead. Tom Brady will have the foot on the peddle all the way through in this one. Tampa coasts to an easy win.
The Pick: Tampa (-8)
San Francisco at Dallas
Spread: Dallas -3
This is a game that I teeter-tottered back and forth on. One one hand San Francisco is coming off an emotional overtime game to sneak into the playoffs. They have to travel to face a Dallas offense that just put up 51 points on Philadelphia.
The game is going to come down to which quarterback can throw under pressure. San Francisco sports the second best run DVOA in the league. While Dallas is 16th DVOA against the run and 2nd vs the pass. The key for San Francisco will be to avoid third and long - despite the fact Dallas ranks 27th in success rate on 3 d and 8 or more. San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has the worst QBR in the NFL under pressure, while Dallas fourth in pressure rate (27.8%) and don’t have to bring extra rushers to generate that pressure, as their 27.1 percent blitz rate is the lowest blitz rate for any team with top-six pressure rate.
Meanwhile, Dallas success is really going to be determined how aggressive they are on offense. San Francisco’s D-Line ranks third in adjusted sack rate, but their secondary is incredibly beatable when opposing QB’s are able to get passes off. San Francisco ranks 29th in opponent completion percentage and 16th in DVOA. Prescott is having a big year and he will have advantages with Lamb and Cooper on the outside. I expect Kellen Moore to let Dak loose in this one. This sounds chalky but we will take another favorite here.
The pick: Dallas -3: lean under 50.5
Pittsburgh at Kansas City
Spread: Kansas City (-12.5)
We have taken all favorites until now but let’s switch it a little bit. It turns out, Big Ben’s retirement tour isn’t over yet. Interestingly, Pittsburgh joins Las Vegas as the only teams with a negative point differential to make the playoffs. Pittsburgh ranks 20th or worse in scoring offense and defense. Kansas City has cemented to themselves as the favorite to win the AFC after a 3-4 start.
So why back Pittsburgh here? Kansas City destroyed Pittsburgh in the first matchup. So why take Pittsburgh here. Kansas City will have Clyde Edwards Helarie out. Meaning Pittsburgh will not have to worry about the Kansas City ground game. And also meaning Pittsburgh can deploy two deep safeties with arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL in TJ Watt coming after Patrick Mahomes. Watt was limited to just 38 snaps and a rib injury in the KC game. In games without Edwards-Helaire, Mahomes has completed 63.9 percent of his passes on a 6.7 ypa with a 4.4 percent TD rate. Kansas City ranks 20th in run DVOA so expect Najee Harris to have some room to run here. I think the market has overreacted from their last contest.
I’ll take Pittsburgh as a double digit dog here.
The pick: Pittsburgh (+12.5)
Bonus Prop Bet: Ezekiel Elliott UNDER 47.5 rushing yards
Follow Austin Montgomery on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
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