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Red Zone Returns – Divisional Round

We’re into the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs, and while only a four-game slate, there is plenty of value to be found including another Baker Mayfield prop.

Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens

“C.J. Stroud is that guy; the Texans can beat anybody on their day.” NFL Divisional Round Preview

The Texans are $4.40 and +9.5 underdogs heading into their Divisional Round matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. Still, you can’t rule them out of an upset. Not with the way C.J. Stroud has played throughout the year, and in his playoff debut last week.

The rookie quarterback has looked anything but a rookie and is unlikely to be phased by going head-to-head with the probable Most Valuable Player winner, Lamar Jackson.

However, Jackson hasn’t faired particularly well as a home favourite throughout his NFL career.

As a favourite of -3.5 or more at home, he’s 6-16 against the spread. Above -7.5, he’s 1-8 against the spread. Not great…

This is a different Jackson and a better Baltimore. They’re the best team in the NFL with it comes to total DVOA. Importantly, they’re well prepared to deal with Stroud defensively. Add in the questionable weather forecast and Houston’s inexperience in poorer weather, and it’s a game the Ravens should win straight up.

However, +9.5 is too big. If the weather is poor, we can expect a slow and close game. Stroud has made a habit out of keeping games close if he’s not winning them. Given how well he performs in late drives, the back door will always be open.

The Ravens are worthy favourites, but the Texans look good to cover the spread in a close one.

Best Bet HOUSTON TEXANS +9.5 @ $1.90*

Green Bay Packers @ San Franciso 49ers

This feels a little bit too good to be true. The San Francisco 49ers are a top-two team in football at the very worst, nobody has been able to reliably contain the offence all season, and the defence has improved throughout.

The Green Bay Packers, on the other hand, are a 7th seed with a defence ranked 27th in DVOA.

San Francisco is the best offensive team in the NFL. On the ground or in the air, it doesn’t matter. They will find a way to score. With Brock Purdy pulling the strings for Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle to make plays, the 49ers are 1st in average yards, 3rd in rushing yards, 4th in average rushing yards per attempt, 6th in passing yards, 1st in passing yards per attempt.

Meanwhile, the Packers are middling across the board offensively and in the bottom half of the NFL in most defensive metrics.

It seems as though we’re seeing a slight overreaction to Green Bay’s win over Dallas last week, and perhaps some faded memories as San Francisco comes into this one off a bye and a Week 18 game in which they rested a large chunk of the starting team.

The 49ers haven’t forgotten how to play over the last fortnight. Their best players have been given time to rest and recover ahead of this one. Meanwhile, the Packers won’t have miraculously learned how to defend in the last seven days. As well as Jordan Love is leading the offence, this is still a defence that gave 30 points to the Carolina Panthers, 34 points to the Buccaneers and 24 points to the New York Giants towards the back end of the regular season.

It’s Super Bowl LVIII or bust for the 49ers. They’re not going to risk complacency. Instead, expect to see them start fast and keep their foot down to the very end.

Best Bet SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS -9.5 @ $1.90*

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Detroit Lions

Baker Mayfield came up with the goods last week, and the numbers are sending us back to the well as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Detroit Lions.

Mayfield played well last week but was not outstanding. He did what the Buccaneers needed him to do without it feeling as though it came at an unsustainable level. With what we’ve seen from the Lions secondary of late, the opportunities will be there for Mayfield to do similar in this one.

Quarterbacks in Detroit’s last four games:

– Matthew Stafford: 367 yards
– Nick Mullins: 397 yards
– Dak Prescott: 345 yards
– Nick Mullins: 411 yards

The Lions rank a respectable 13th in defensive DVOA, but give up the fourth-most passing yards per game in the league.

Lions defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson added a little bit more fuel to Mayfield’s fire, too.

“If you give that Tampa group a good quarterback, that’s a great group. [Mike] Evans, [Chris] Godwin, [Russell] Gage, that’s a great group. I played against them for real.”

He responded already…

“I don’t think he’s really watched film, because he mentioned Russell Gage. We love Russell, but Russell hasn’t played a snap all year for us. He must have been going off of preseason stuff.”

…but the real response will come on the field.

Expect it to come in the form of Mayfield flinging the ball and for the great wide receiver group Gardner-Johnson mentioned to tick him up to and over 257.5 passing yards. Chris Godwin Over 62.5 receiving yards is worth exploring further, too.


Kansas City Chiefs @ Buffalo Bills

Backing Patrick Mahomes as an underdog has proven a profitable approach throughout his NFL career. It’s the easy bet here as the Kansas City Chiefs head to Buffalo to take on the Bills as $2.20 and +2.5 underdogs.

But this isn’t the version of the Chiefs that has made the trend so profitable. This is the worst offence of the Mahomes era. While they’ve made improvements to rank 7th in defensive DVOA, Josh Allen is playing on another level and the Bills rank 3rd in offensive DVOA. It’s difficult to imagine – with what we’ve seen from the receiving group during the NFL regular season – the Chiefs keeping up with the Bills here.

Defences haven’t been able to solve the Bills offence since Joe Brady became interim offensive coordinator. The only real issue has been the odd moment of recklessness from Allen himself. However, he kept hold of the ball when needed last week and the expectation should be for him to do the same in this one. Provided the Bills generate a fair share of possession, they can comfortably outscore Mahomes and the Chiefs.

At home with the better team right now and an elite quarterback, the Bills should cover and move one step closer to Super Bowl LVIII.

Best Bet BUFFALO BILLS -2.5 @ $1.88*


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