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Super Bowl 55 Game Preview, Part II: Five Thoughts & Prediction

| February 5th, 2021


This might be the most interesting Super Bowl in many-a-moon. A lotta star power. Two jolly, red-faced head coaches. The point spread hasn’t moved off three points, so the game is expected to be tight. The total has fluctuated between 56 and 56.5, so the game is expected to be high-scoring. And if those two things happen, we’re looking at an exciting Sunday evening.

Five Thoughts

  • Something about this game reminds me of those classic Patriots/Giants Super Bowls. A high-powered offense on one side and a big-game quarterback/pass rush on the other. If the Bucs are going to beat Reid and Mahomes, they will need the same Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul that terrorized Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Championship Game. With Eric Fisher out, the Chiefs are exploitable along the offensive line.
  • Early in the season, the Chiefs were not particularly threatening down the field. They dinked and dunked opponents to death. Don’t be surprised if they compensate for their issues upfront by taking a similar approach against the Bucs, especially early in the game. That could mean a lot of quick tosses to Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Todd Bowles better have his boys in good tackling form.
  • Usually you can identify a special teams mismatch in these games but there isn’t one here. Both kickers are reliable. Both punters are effective but used sparingly. The Chiefs are narrowly better in the return games. When games are perceived to be this evenly-matched, it may not come down to which specials unit makes a play but instead which avoids the big mistake at a crucial moment.
  • Watch the weather forecast, especially if you’re planning to place any bets. There is predicted rain in Tampa Sunday but the belief now is that should be cleared out by the 6:30 PM ET kickoff. If it does rain, I tend to give an advantage to the quarterback who has seen everything and the steadier rush attack.
  • One can not underestimate the achievement of Mahomes winning his second title. Rodgers hasn’t gotten to a second title game. Brees never got to a second title game. Peyton Manning went along for the ride to get his second ring. Mahomes is four quarters away from football immortality. Will he recognize that?

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Championship Weekend Gambling Guide

| January 21st, 2021

4-0 last week.

Don’t act like you’re not impressed.

Two more bets for Championship Sunday, as we try and go into the Super Bowl on a bona fide heater. (As always, betting odds come from DraftKings Sportsbook & Casino.)


Sunday 2:05 PM CT – Buccaneers @ Packers

Aaron Rodgers over 2.5 touchdown passes: +145

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Tampa Bay allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns in the sport this season, limiting their opponents to only ten over their first 17 games. So if you expect the Packers to score touchdowns – and I certainly do – you either need to pick his targets accurately or pick his total. The latter seems more appealing and the odds suggest that. (You really wanna lay +115 odds on Robert Tonyan? I don’t.)

Yes, it’s going to be cold but Rodgers has thrown more than two touchdowns in six of last eight games and this does not feel like a low-scoring affair.


Sunday 5:40 PM CT – Bills @ Chiefs

(Note: There are far fewer prop bets available for this contest due to Patrick Mahomes’ concussion/neck/foot issues. He’s going to play, but in what shape will he be?)

Josh Allen to score a touchdown: +135

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Allen looked shaky against Baltimore’s high-pressure approach last week and he should expect more of the same from Steve Spagnuolo’s unit this week. But Allen is a gamer and this feel like an evening where he’ll need to leave EVERYTHING on the field if the Bills are going to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since January 30, 1994. Brian Daboll doesn’t hesitate to call Allen’s number inside the red zone and it could be the perfect remedy to beat an ill-timed Spags blitz.

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Four Lessons From the Final Four, Volume II: Chiefs & Bucs

| January 20th, 2021


Chiefs

“Always Be Adding Weapons”

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No one has embraced the modern NFL more than Andy Reid. He’s never content with the offensive firepower on his roster.

Tyreek Hill was not on most teams’ draft boards. The heinous crimes he committed in college were considered a bridge too far. What did Reid do? He drafted Hill. He took the risk because he recognized Hill’s speed would be indefensible in the NFL. You can rightfully criticize this decision but do you think Reid cares now? Do Chiefs fans?

After winning the Super Bowl in 2019 on the back of his offense, did Reid concentrate his off-season efforts on the defense? Don’t be silly. He used the team’s first round pick on a running back and added Le’Veon Bell mid-season. Reid had spent the previous three seasons stockpiling speed on the outside. Now he’s doing the same in the backfield.

Is Patrick Mahomes going to play in the AFC Championship Game? It would be shocking if he doesn’t but concussion protocols in the NFL are draped in mystery. Yet nobody would rule the Chiefs out of that game without Mahomes. The reason is the roster of weapons assembled by Reid.


Buccaneers 

“Turnovers Leave a Bad Taste”

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Bruce Arians got as much production out of the quarterback position in 2019 as any other coach. Jameis Winston threw for over 5,000 yards. He threw 30 touchdown passes. But Arians did not even consider bringing him back to Tampa and no other team so much as floated the opportunity for Winston to compete for their starting job. Why? Because Winston added 30 interceptions to his tally and Tampa’s turnover differential in 2019 was -13. They missed the playoffs.

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Divisional Round Weekend Gambling Guide

| January 15th, 2021


Saturday 3:35 PM CT – Rams @ Packers

Aaron Rodgers to score a touchdown: +550

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There’s logic here.

The Packers are going to move the ball. They’re going to get the ball into the red zone. And then they’ll have two major issues when it comes to scoring: Aaron Donald disrupting the run game and Jalen Ramsey taking Davante Adams away. Rodgers’ improvisational skills will be on full display when he takes the ball over the goal line.


Saturday 7:15 PM CT – Ravens @ Bills

Total points even: +106

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Five of the the last eight Bills games have ended in even points. So if you’re getting plus odds on that bet, you have to take it. This game was looking like a low-scorer when the forecast called for a snow storm at kickoff but now that forecast has changed and it’s just going to be a typical, cold, blustery Buffalo evening.

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Bears at Vikings Game Preview Volume I: Thoughts on Vikings/Bucs Tape

| December 17th, 2020


One of the strangest games of this NFL season. A myriad of thoughts.

  • Dan Bailey didn’t just miss three field goals and an extra point. He missed the four kicks by a combined hundred yards. This looked like Chuck Knoblauch throwing to first base. Kevin Na not being able to “pull the trigger” at TPC Sawgrass. Mike Zimmer was quoted postgame, “If you guys want me to fire guys for making a mistake here or there, we wouldn’t have any players.” So it seems Bailey will kick again Sunday. And that’s a win for the Bears.
  • Bailey’s missed kicks were essential. Five minutes into the second quarter, the Vikings were dominating the game and had almost nothing to show for it. What should have been a 10-0 lead was a 6-0 lead and it took only one perfectly-thrown Tom Brady pass to Scottie Miller to erase that lead.
  • There’s no reason to write about Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson. They are the two best players on this team and stopping this offense starts with them. But they’ve added a few wrinkles.
    • Irv Smith Jr. was brilliant versus Tampa. He was actually better than his stats because there wasn’t an easy catch in the four he made. Cousins is clearly looking to him as the safety valve option.
    • Seems Gary Kubiak is starting to move to more two-back sets, with C.J. Ham at fullback. And Ham is becoming a weapon in the passing game from that position.
    • Kirk Cousins had five carries for 41 yards against Tampa. But the Vikings actually called a draw for him on 3rd and short and a few times he didn’t wait for the play to breakdown. He just took off. Cousins ain’t gonna be confused for Lamar Jackson any day soon, but his legs are becoming a significant asset for the Vikings.

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