Sunday Divisional playoffs: Betting Blake, Ben, Brown, Bell, Brees, Barr…

Saturday, January 13, 2018 1:00 PM

Pittsburgh Steelers babeRight. So for Sunday’s NFL divisional round playoff games, NFLbets is employing the keep-it-simple, anti-overthinking philosophy in the wake of the 4-0 underdog sweep ATS in the wild card round which more of us really should’ve anticipated.

Pittsburgh Steelers -7 vs Jacksonville Jaguars
On one side of the logical balance is Blake Bortles. You’ve heard the statistics, and the brain’s natural tendency to suppress traumatic experiences has likely gloriously erased Bortles’s futile attempts to complete a damn screen pass last week from your memory. Video makes for a great reminder, but the NFL has apparently gone through great pains to erase all evidence of Bortles’s suckitude. However, there is still this preseason highlight out there, and little suggests Bortles is improved.

Those making it difficult are espousing the virtues of that awesome Jaguars defense, that which picked off Ben Roethlisberger passes five times in a 30-9 week 5 beatdown in Pittsburgh. Of course, at that point in the season, Alex Smith was odds-on favorite for MVP, and the Dallas Cowboys were still considered competitive.

NFLbets would also point out here that the Jaguars earned their reputation in part in 2017 thanks to playing the league’s second-easiest schedule. (Jacksonville’s division mate Tennessee ultimately drew the easiest, for reasons that are about to become clear.) Among the Jaguars’ 2017 opponents were the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts twice and the Houston Texans with QBs not named DeShaun Watson twice.

Jags backers will also happily tell you that the Jaguars are one of two NFL teams against which Roethlisberger has a losing record (go ahead, take a wild guess who the other is). Media gawker types will point out that Mike Tomlin and the Steelers appear to be looking ahead to New England and/or the offseason, ostensibly creating perfect trap game conditions.

But come on. Blake Freakin’ Bortles, man. The quarterback we’ve been waiting to see all season. Defense may win championships yadda yadda yadda, but NFLbets would argue that a quarterback capable of reliably leading an offense to, likesay, 20 points a game is also kinda necessary. Take the Pittsburgh Steelers -7 vs Jacksonville, because the Jaguars’ll have trouble getting to 7.

Similarly easy picking: Take the under on an O/U line of 41 points. Winter storm Hunter – dumping gobs of snow and expecting to take Sunday temperatures down to a “high” of 19⁰ F – plus two stingy defenses multiplied by Noodle Arm Bortles equals, likesay, less than six TDs’ wroth of scoring.

New Orleans Saints -5 at Minnesota Vikings
It is essentially impossible for NFLbets to stick to the “don’t overthink things” and yet analyze this game. Thanks to a ridiculous running game provided by Pro Bowl*ers* Mark Ingram and rookie sensation Alvin Kamara, Brees has thrown fewer passes than any season since 2009 (yes, *that* year) and leads the league in yards per attempt with nearly a career high mark of 8.1.

The no-name Saints defense, meanwhile, entered the season with many reckoning they’d be the NFL’s dead worst. New Orleans has proven instead to sport an above-average group on the defensive side and ranks third in interceptions.

On the other side, throwing interceptions is not something Case Keenum has done in 2017. His ratio, assisted by a top-five offensive line (remember how good they were supposed to be in ’16 before injuries took out four starters?) is better than 3:1 – In fact, at 22 TD passes against 7 picks, Keenum’s ratio was fifth-best in the league (behind Tom Brady, Alex Smith, Russell Wilson and Jared Goff, top 10 QBs statistically all).

This from a guy who was drafted in the 6th round and went expertly unused by Jeff Fisher for two seasons – These Vikings appear to be riding a tide of destiny and Keenum is not only captain but poster boy as well.

Did NFLbets really drop that cliché “defense wins championships” in earlier? Well here’s a repeat: If that axiom is so, Minnesota has no fears in this regard. Simply put: Damn, is this defense awesome. Just to scratch the surface statistically shows Purple People Eaters 2.0 to be ranked no. 2 in passing yards allowed and no. 2 in rushing yards allowed, plus tops in total yards allowed, passing TDs allowed and, most importantly, total points allowed.

Watching Vikings games (particularly with the secondary intact, which hasn’t always been the case in 2017) is virtually an instructional video on how to play defense. That dudes like Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Xavier Rhodes aren’t household names is a shame, but it may not stay so for much longer.

But if anyone can neutralize that weaponry, it’s Brees and his HBs in 2017, right? And so on and so on and around in circles.

Finally there is the one stat that really does NFLbets’ head in: The Vikings are a league-best 11-4-1 against the spread, whereas the Saints have gone 9-8 including last week’s playoff game, placing them among the middling 21 teams with 7 to 9 wins ATS . NFLbets figures that we were not alone in thinking the opening line of Saints +5 was a tad high – Those 11 ATS wins explains why.

So we’re hedging: NFLbets is wagering on Saints +5 and Vikings win SU, a play that’s gone 4-0 for us this season, including in last week’s Panthers-Saints wild card game.

And if you’re thinking about playing either side of the 46½-point over/under, you’re on your own. The gut instinct with two dome teams playing in a dome is to go over, but those defenses are both turnover-happy, but both QBs are not, but the Vikings bring a lot of pressure, but the Saints running game…

– written by Os Davis