New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs -3 (o/u 54)
Just when everyone, including this handicapper, was ready to retire Tm Brady and the Patriots, they step up and play the team’s best game of the year, a solid 41-28 slacking of the San Diego Chargers in the Conference-semis. The reality is the Chargers scored a couple of late touchdowns to make the score look closer than it really was. Of course, Brady led the way, passing for 343 yards and 1 TD while completing a very nice 77.3% of his passes. In contrast to other games this season, Brady got some good support from the running game with RB Sony Michel rushing for 129 yards and 3 TDs on 24 carries. The Pats have now won 11 of its last 14 games, scoring 31 points or more in 9 of those games. The offense is firing on all cylinders.
The Chiefs came up with a surprising defensive effort in its semi-final game, holding the Indianapolis Colts and QB Andrew Luck to one offensive touchdown in an easy 31-13 victory. It was an impressive victory on all levels over a team that had won 10 of its prior 11 games. In the process, the Chiefs broke a curse of losing playoff games at home. Now, the Patriots come a calling for the AFC title. Patrick Mahomes is the leading candidate for NFL MVP honors having compiled almost 5,100 yards passing and 50 TDs during the regular season. With a normally suspect defense, the talented Mahomes will have to be at his very best to matchup with one of the best QBs in both playoff and NFL history.
Prediction: They are expecting possible bad weather conditions in KC. On a wet or snowy field, a slight lean would have to go with the Patriots as the bad field would slow down KC’s rabbits. Assuming the field is good, there is no way this game doesn’t become a shootout. These two teams played earlier in the season with New England winning 43-40 at home. Play over 54 (score New England 38-31.
Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints -3.5 (o/u 56.5)
The Rams ran into a feisty Cowboys team in the NFC Conference-semis. Los Angeles actually broke out to a nice lead early and then held the Cowboys off late behind the spectacular running of both Todd Gurley II and C.J. Anderson, who combined for 238 yards and 3 TDs on 39 carries. The Rams’ offensive line deserves much of the credit after opening up one gaping hole after another. It was even more impressive given how well the Cowboys’ defense had been playing coming into the game. The Rams defense has been playing really well of late, giving up just over 20 PPG over the team’s last 6 games.
Ever since a November 30th 13-10 loss to Dallas Cowboy, the Saints have really struggled on offense. This was an offense that was scoring over 34 PPG before the Dallas games. Since then, they have only averaged less than 20 PPG. This is a very troubling trend for a team that has won 14 games this season. Even with 3,992 yards passing and 32 TDs against only 5 interceptions, this was by far QB Drew Brees’ worst season since 2005. He started this season off fast with 26 TDs and only 1 int, before fading late in the season. Even with Brees struggling, WR Michael Thomas was lights out, catching 125 passes for 1,405 yards and 9 TDs in the regular season. Against Dallas, he hauled in 12 passes for 171 yards and 1 TD.
Prediction: The Saints enter this game as a slight favorite, but a struggling offense leaves doubt that they are the better team. The Ram’s defense is about average, but they play the pass decent. With that in mind, both of these teams might try pounding the ball, passing the ball off play-action. There’s a good chance this total is a little two high under that scenario. Play under 56.5 (score Los Angeles 30-24)