04 January 2014

Saturday Wild Card Preview: KC/IND and NO/PHI

By Pauly
New York City

The real football season finally begins after 17 weeks of foreplay and fans praying to the football gods that their QBs and stars fade injuries during 16 regular season games and unnecessary Thursday night shitshows. At the start of the postseason, everyone is banged up, but ready to bust some skulls. It's the NFL playoffs... the greatest show on Earth. With the exception of March Madness, this is my favorite postseason.

There are two Wild card games on Saturday and two more on Sunday. If you haven't seen it yet, check out Buffalo66's take on all four games in his video handicapping series.

SATURDAY NFL WILD CARD GAMES

 
Kicker Ryan Succop is the X-factor
Kansas City (11-5 SU, 9-7 ATS) at Indianapolis (11-5 SU, 10-6 ATS)
Opening line: Indy -2.5 and 46.5
Current line: Indy +1.5 and 46

Talk about a loose line. In six days, the Indy Colts went from a -2.5 favorite to a +1.5 home dog. Just last night, the line had settled on a pick'em, but barrels and oodles of money keep coming in on KC from both wiseguys, sharps, and the public. The line is KC -2.5 at some shops!

The good news is if you liked Indy, you're now getting points. If you like KC, then you snoozed on getting the best number. Disclaimer... I bet the opening number at KC +2.5, but I might pull trigger on Indy of the line jumps to +3.

KC struggled in the last few weeks of the season and Indy whooped them a few weeks ago, yet everyone and their grandma is on KC. Why? Because everyone suspects Andy Reid is pulling a rope-a-dope or playing possum because he rested key guys down the stretch and might have installed a fugazzi game plan in order to not tip their hand in an inevitable matchup against Indy. Then again, KC looked bloody awful in that slippery slopfest with six fumbles (KC finished with a -4 turnover differential). Don't forget that plethora of missed tackles. The way KC's defense played, it seemed like Colts players were covered in lube.

Indy is a team that caused bettors and fans headaches due to their inconsistency for the first 2/3 of the season. They consistently played to the level of their opponent, looking like crap against inferior teams yet appearing superior against great teams. But unlike KC, Indy is peaking at the right time and finished the season on a strong note. Plus, Andrew Luck is 12-4 ATS at home. When Indy wins at home... they win big. But most importantly, Luck is 6-0 ATS as a home dog. In the last two seasons, when no one thinks they can win at home, Luck and the Colts exceed expectations.

Hard to ignore a home dog in the playoffs, but I already committed to KC +2.5. Hell hath no fury than a QB (Alex Smith) with a chip on their shoulder. And nothing is more dangerous than a well-rested and hungry running back in Jamaal Charles. KC will be looking to feed their version of the beast.

Indy wins a shootout, but KC wins a street brawl. The team who can dictate the pace will win the game, but you know KC is going to look to run the ball up Indy's ass. Meanwhile, there's no way KC's defense will look as bad as they did in their loss to Indy.

Here's a strong argument for Indy based on kicking. Yes, kicking. Buffalo66 equates the importance of FG kicking to free throw shooting. KC's Ryan Succop has been suspect and KC's kickers have historically been jinxed in the postseason. Since 1970, KC kickers have floudered in the playoffs missing 13 of 25 FG attempts.Yikes.

KC was a scoring machine this year and had fewer FG chances than Indy (they connected on 22 FGs vs. Indy's 35) but Indy nailed 87.5% of their regular season FG attempts versus KC's 76%. That number bothers me. KC is only 1 of 4 from long distance (50+), versus 4 out of 6 for Indy. The bookies think this game will be settled by a FG and it's pretty obvious that Indy has the better kicker with longer range. If Succop struggles, KC might be in deep trouble.
 
If you like KC, it's too late to back them now that they're giving points. If you dig Indy, grab the line ASAP before late Indy money moves the line back the other way.


Brees vs. Foles in an old-fashioned shootout
 New Orleans (11-5 SU, 8-8 ATS) at Philadelphia (10-6 SU, 8-8 ATS)
Opening line: Philly -2.5 and 55
Current line:  Philly -3 and 53.5

We've seen this story before. A pair of Texas gunslingers meeting at high noon. Whoever is more accurate wins. The loser? Dies a brutal death in the middle of the street.

Nick Foles broke Drew Brees' records at Westlake High in Austin, Texas. Two renown Texas highschool superstars enter the Octogon on Saturday night, but only one pro QB will survive. Brees has the edge just because of experience, but then again he has a huge monkey on his back the size of King Kong. New Orleans struggles on the road and if they want to win the Super Bowl, they have to win not one, but three road games.

Everyone and their deaf grandma knows about the Saints' road woes. The Saints are 3-5 on the road and only score 17.8 points in those games compared to a stunning 8-0 record inside the Superdome where they generate 34 points per game. The Superdome is hexed. Visiting teams can't handle the juju and voodoo nether-world mysticism. But those hokey superstitions don't work on the road.

Turn talk radio or listen to the static coming out of the mouths from the talking heads on TV. They're all saying the same thing... that New Orleans is a dome team and they can't win on the road. The Saints are supposed to lose this game on paper, so why even play the game? Just give Philly the victory and move on, right? But talk is cheap. Paper is supposed to be used to roll spliffs or wipe your bum. In the real world, there's lots of other shit that you cannot control. Like how badly Sean Payton and Drew Brees want to give the NFL the big, fat middle finger, and the fact that Foles looked a little skiddish late in the game against Dallas last week.

Can Brees win a shootout on the road? Unless the Saints' D figured out a way to stop either the league's best passing game or the league's best running game, then the Saints' offense needs to generate at least six TDs to win this game. That doesn't seem impossible when you have Jimmy Graham. Who the hell is going to guard him? Philly's run D has vastly improved, but their secondary is porous and their pass D ranks among the worst in the league. This is the same team that made Matt Cassell look like Joe Montana the other week when a Vikings squad (sans Adrian Peterson) gave them an ass-whooping

Nick Foles emerged as the real deal (Michael Vick, who?), but Foles' ridiculous TD-INT ratio will eventually come back down to Earth. Will it happen this week against a Saints' defense has been inconsistent? Rob Ryan will throw everything including the kitchen sink at Foles to try to get him out of sync, but if the Saints are not careful, Foles will light them up.

Playoff games often play out the exact opposite as you expect, so if you follow that way of thinking, this should be a 17-13 street fight. Yet I have a gut feeling it's going to be a 43-37 final score. Both Foles and McCoy are going to rack up yardage. Since Philly plays so fast, Drew Brees will get plenty of chances to launch an aerial counter-attack.

Yes, I smell an old-fashioned shootout which is why I'm on the OVER at 53.

Can Brees win a shootout on the road? Drew Brees has an outdoor passer rating under 90, which makes him somewhat human. Who cares. I'm just banking on points. A shit-ton. Foles and the Eagles have home court advantage, but how good is that when your team is only .500 at home? The media and public are overemphasizing the Saints inability to win on the road, but then again, the Eagles are beatable in Philly. It's not like the Saints are flying into Seattle this weekend. Besides, Philly's strength of schedule was suspect and their division was one of the weakest in all of football.

Disclaimer... I'm holding a Saints Superbowl futures ticket, so I should fade them in this game as a hedge. I've been debating whether or not I should take Philly -2.5 as a hedge, but I'm definitely on the OVER.

Then again, I like fading the public in certain spots because that's where the moolah is... where the public is not. Everyone is well aware that the Saints can't win on the road, so perhaps it's time to fade both history and the herd?

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