NFL Playoffs: Betting, odds in football postseason


Playoff time is when NFL betting gets trickier, offerings become more expansive and things in general get well more interesting. We’ve seen certain outcomes 1,000 times before: The favored team gets ultra-conservative, a minor mistake in the fourth quarter leads to disaster, the plucky underdog with loads of youngsters goes further than anyone expected (and the sportsbooks rake in the losing bets) – chaos ensues so often … except when the New England Patriots are steamrolling the AFC again.

But can these random elements of chance be overcome? Are there trends in NFL playoffs betting lines that bettors may exploit? NFLbets answers a few FAQs directly below…

What can you bet on in the NFL playoffs?
The great news about betting during the playoffs is that so many more offerings per game are made available. With just two or four games played for week, even the most minimal of online sportsbooks expands its NFL playoffs betting line to include plentiful player props and interesting NFL playoffs odds.

What’s the point spread for the NFL playoff games?
In any given game in the NFL playoffs, odds are the point spread will fall between 1 and 4: This was the spread in 86 of the 190 playoff games played following the 2000-2018 seasons, or about 45.25% of the time. In 190 playoff games, the highest spread was 16 points, but just 17 of the 190 games (or a bit over 8.9%) went off with spreads of 10 points or more, however. The most common point spread seen in NFL playoffs lines during the span was – wouldn’t you know it? – 3 points. This was the case in 34 of the 190, happening about 17.9% of the time. Interestingly enough, no NFL playoffs betting line has included a “pick ‘em” spread.

What teams are in the NFL playoffs?
Several measures may be used here, but we’ll use that old chestnut: 61% of teams which start the season 2-0 make the playoffs, and about the same number who start 0-2 miss the playoffs. Just one team has ever made the NFL playoffs after starting 0-4: The 1992 San Diego Chargers. And in the playoffs following the 2010-2018 seasons, an average of about 5.55 teams drop out/enter the playoffs from season to season.

Is homefield advantage bigger in the playoffs?
Yes – but not necessarily for betting purposes. In fact, while homefield advantage increases throughout the playoffs, the underdog plus the points in the average NFL playoffs betting line is still right around a 50/50 bet. The breakdown looks like this for the aforementioned 190 playoff games:

Overall: 122-68 SU, 92-86-2 ATS
Wild card: 44-32 SU, 38-37-1 ATS
Divisional: 53-23 SU, 35-40-1 ATS
Championship: 25-13 SU, 18-20 ATS

I know, right? This is just another reason why NFL playoff betting lines are so challenging…

What are the odds of a wild card going to the Super Bowl?
Since the installation in 2002 of the divisions and postseason we still use today, just three wild card teams have made the Super Bowl: the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2007 New York Giants, and 2010 Green Bay Packers; that’s a tiny 4.44% success rate. And we know that this is a tiny sample size, but note that these three all killed the NFL playoffs betting lines, each going 4-0 SU/ATS.

Can I bet on the NFL playoffs online?
Absolutely! Just check the pages of NFLbets.com for quality online sportsbooks with all the NFL playoffs spreads, over/under bets, futures, odds, player props and lots more. All NFLbets-partnered websites have been quality-tested for fairness and customer service, and all are accepting bettors from the U.S.


AFC East over/under win totals, proposition bets

Saturday, 31 August 2019 08:36 EST

NFLbets again takes on over/under win totals and proposition betting on another division's worth of teams for the 2019 season. This time out, we're prognosticated with an eye to betting on the AFC East. All odds posted here are based in NFLbets-partnering sportsbooks. Click on the link for these offerings and much more, plus get an exclusive NFL sports betting promo codes for up to $1000 in bonuses on your first deposit.

Once again, contemplating the opportunities for betting in the AFC East next to drudgery. One of the downsides of the 21st-century New England Patriots dynasty is the sheer predictability of this division – though to be fair much of the gut-wrenching incompetence from the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills emanates directly from the front office and sidelines.

For the record, the last time the Dolphins won AFC East was the year Bill Parcells joined teh front office there (he only lasted one more season) and Tom Brady helpfully had his ACL torn in week 1 in 2008. The last time the Patriots were eliminated in the playoffs by a division mate was by the Rex Ryan-coached New York Jets in 2010. Other than this, these franchises off the field have been revolving doors at best, shitshows at worst.

For example. Brian Flores is the new head coach in Miami; he’s the team’s sixth HC since 2010 and résumé showing 15 seasons of mostly assistant and position coach jobs in New England. (Red alert!) In Buffalo, Sean McDermott got to keep his job for a third season despite following a weird backing into the playoffs with a 6-10 mark – good thing, too, because he’s the sixth Bills HC since ’10. Finally, the Jets welcomed in Adam Gase (except ousted Mike Maccagnan, one supposes), who comes over from the Dolphins, where he followed up a 10-6 rookie season by going 13-19 over the next two seasons.

If ever there is a need to strip away history and forget the names of these teams, it’s the AFC East. The table of basic prop bets is listed below.

AFC East O/U wins to win division to win Super Bowl (current)
New England Patriots -500 +650
New York Jets 6/1 65/1
Buffalo Bills 19/2 to 10/1 80/1
Miami Dolphins 5/1 200/1

Easy part first: The Miami Dolphins will be bad

NFLbets joins the consensus in acknowledging that the most likely way for the Dolphins, 7-9 at just 5.2 Pythagorean Expectancy wins in 2018, is down. This may just be part of the downward spiral that was last season in Miami, going from 3-0 SU to 4-4 to 6-6 to 7-9.

Last year’s Dolphins couldn’t wait to flee the burning tank, with 17 of 18 potential free agents opting not to re-sign deals; gone are name players (e.g. Danny Amendola, the apparently immortal Frank Gore) , team leaders (Cameron Wake) and major contributors (Ja'Wuan James). Gone is Ryan Tennehill (42-46 in six seasons as a Miami starter), in are Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Poor Rosen is out of the Arizona pan and into the Miami fire, while Fitzpatrick has been inexplicably surviving in the NFL for years on brains and borrowed time – and both of last year’s OTs left in free agency.

So yes, the Dolphins will be bad, but four wins or fewer bad? Sue, go ahead and take the Dolphins to go under 4½ wins, particularly since we like the chances of…

The New York Jets: Surely good enough for a winning record

NFLbets admits it: We’re bullish on the Jets this season; we even marked ‘em down for a Super Bowl longshot. Despite Gase and loads of unknowns, chiefly that of Sam Darnold making The Leap, which may even be limited as the dude continues to resemble Vinny “Vinterception” Testaverde 2.0. Questions remain about the viability of LeVeon Bell (though we’d strongly hedge with the philosophy that Bell’ll rip shit up for the Jets in 2019) and the effect of losing Avery Williamson from last year’s 29th-“best” defense. Geez, these guys went 4-12 in ’18.

But the truth is this roster has a serious amount of talent. In addition, the Jets was one of five teams which managed to land the league’s second-easiest schedule – and that includes two games against the Dolphins at 7-9. Take the New York Jets to go over 7½ wins.

The Buffalo Bills: Nope, sorrry, can’t do it.

Nah, no way. Can’t bet on Buffalo, over or under. We know McDermott ain’t great and could be the first head coach fired. Or they could back into the playoffs at 8-8 again. NFLbets would just rather not pay attention to the Bills in 2018.

And the elephant in the room

New England Patriots – defending champions. Again. Belichick and Brady ready for another run. Again. With an reassembled receiving corps (including even the re-resurrected Josh Gordon) and a revamped defense led by a big-name free-agent acquisition (in this case, Michael Bennett). Again.

On top of this, reports from Patriots land on draft picks RB N’Keal Harry and DE Chase Winovich are little short of gushingly delirious. Insane.

So what’s the most likely scenario for this edition of the New England Patriots? The obvious choice is that they’ll top that 11½-win mark, Brady will experience a Brees-like slowdown in the second half of the season, but they’ll regardlessly have more than enough talent, experience and guile to advance through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl, where they’ll probably squeak by the, likesay, Los Angeles Rams.

Again.

On the other hand, we’re not going to see the ending of Brady’s glory days coming. And this particular edition of the Patriots, even with Brian Hoyer at quarterback, could easily have enough to still have a winning season without Touchdown Tom altogether – but NFLbets believes that the belief in Brady as a transcendent football leader could well be enough to sink the team after a Brady injury.

In the latter scenario, too many unquantifiables are involved for the proper NFL bettor to take a chance, while with the former, well, life just doesn’t have guarantees. Even for the New England Patriots. We’re staying away from all bets regarding the Patriots and, as the man says, take these games one at a time.

Play AFC East proposition bets and enjoy week to week NFL betting at an NFLbets-partnered sportsbook –


Super Bowl LIV winner proposition bet odds

Wednesday, 21 August 2019 13:15 EST

Ah, yes – the incredible, inexorable and irresistible pull of the preseason NFL team proposition bet! Particularly alluring is the siren’s call of the Super Bowl winner prop, which all but the sharpest of sharps should admit is essentially gambling. Who can resist throwing a few moneys at one’s favorite team or a nice longshot that banks a great return and potentially viralizes the story? After all, some NFL bettors covered the Philadelphia Eagles at 40/1 and even 50/1 prior to the 2017 season…

So, sure, NFLbets’ll be wagering on the Super Bowl LIV winner, but you damn skippy we won’t be betting the house on any team. The odds table running below lists odds from leading online sportsbook My Bookie and odds offered at the average Las Vegas sportsbook, respectively. Note that Vegas offerings are far less fluid than their online counterparts’: Lines on the Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns have all seen noticeable shrinkage since these odds first dropped in February. (Odds up-to-date as of August 20, 2019.)

Odds to win Super Bowl LIV

Super Bowl LIV winner prop betKansas City Chiefs, 6/1; 6/1
New England Patriots, 6/1; 8/1
New Orleans Saints, 9/1; 8/1
Los Angeles Rams, 12/1; 8/1
Cleveland Browns, 12/1; 20/1
Indianapolis Colts, 12/1; 20/1
Philadelphia Eagles, 13/1; 20/1
Los Angeles Chargers, 15/1; 14/1
Chicago Bears, 16/1; 14/1
Dallas Cowboys, 20/1; 16/1
Green Bay Packers, 22/1; 16/1
Pittsburgh Steelers, 25/1; 14/1
Minnesota Vikings, 25/1; 16/1
Atlanta Falcons, 30/1; 40/1
Houston Texans, 33/1; 20/1
Carolina Panthers, 35/1; 60/1
Seattle Seahawks, 37/1; 30/1
San Francisco 49ers, 40/1; 50/1
Baltimore Ravens, 45/1; 20/1
Jacksonville Jaguars, 50/1; 40/1
New York Jets, 70/1; 80/1
Tennessee Titans, 90/1; 60/1
Denver Broncos, 100/1; 60/1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 100/1; 80/1
Buffalo Bills, 100/1; 100/1
Detroit Lions, 100/1; 100/1
Oakland Raiders, 125/1; 100/1
New York Giants, 145/1; 40/1
Arizona Cardinals, 150/1; 100/1
Washington, 150/1; 100/1
Cincinnati Bengals, 180/1; 100/1
Miami Dolphins, 200/1; 300/1

Onto the takes – and tips!

Kansas City Chiefs: Best hedge on the board

NFLbets begins the wagering with MyBookie’s co-favorites and Vegas’s odds-on favorite. Normally, we’d eschew the top pick on the Super Bowl table because a) the odds are too short and b) examples of underdogs taking the title are rife.

In 2019, however, the top-dog Chiefs are going off at 6/1, more than reasonable for a team that appears to be on the classic ’Bowl-winning trajectory. RBs Spencer Ware and Kareem Hunt are gone, taking 1096 yards rushing along; after a fairly brutal 2018, Carlos Hyde joined Kansas City this offseason and … ah, never mind – we’re talking about Patrick Mahomes’s team here and the Chiefs ranked just 16th in rushing attempts last season. And check this out: How many changes did the Chiefs make on the offensive side this past offseason? Zero.

Meanwhile, the new defensive coordinator is apparent upgrade Steve Spagnuolo (formerly of the New York Giants), though quite honestly Mike Pence would have been a certain improvement for a D ranked dead-last or dead-penultimate by most key statistical measures.

With an average rushing attack and a pretty bad defense, Andy Reid still got Mahomes & the boys to the AFC championship game. If one contender doesn’t regress in 2019, this is likely that team. We’ll say take the Kansas City Chiefs at 6/1, thereby allowing us five other bets with the opportunity to still break even on K.C.

Chargers, Saints, Cowboys: Don’t lose money on these three

Beyond the top two, the NFL bettor considering the Super Bowl LIV winner prop soon lands upon the New Orleans Saints at 9/1 (or 8/1 in Vegas), Los Angeles Chargers at 15/1 (14/1), and the Dallas Cowboys at 16/1 (20/1) – bad bets one and all, simply put.

First up are the Saints, whose darling status twice crested last season, first when 173-year old QB Drew Brees broke some individual record on Monday Night Football and later when a blind referee screwed them in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game. But just take a closer look at some of the stats as 2018 wore on…

In his final seven starts last season including the two playoff games, Brees passed for over 300 yards just once and couldn’t manage to break 200 in four more; in those game, New Orleans managed to win five SU while going just 2-5 ATS. Note that Brees will be taking snaps from a new center, i.e. free-agent signing Marcus Henry from the Seattle Seahawks and, while TE Jared Cook and RB Latavious Murray *might* make an impact, the clever bettor will definitely expect regression to the mean from this team.

As for that on-again/off-again defense of ’18, some 10 signings in free agency spun forecasting this side of the ball in New Orleans the purview of chaos theorists. We’ll be staying away from the Saints.

Did we say “regression to the mean”? The 2018 Los Angeles Chargers were statistically freakish in many many ways, but off-the-charts bananas was their home-away split. In games played outside Los Angeles, the Chargers were a ridiculous 9-1 SU, including wins at Seattle, Kansas City, Denver and Baltimore. And who knows what might’ve happened in the divisional playoff in New England if the team hadn’t jetted from East Coast to West and back inside of a week after playing the Ravens. Can the Chargers be expected to reproduce those particular results? Unlikely to say the least.

On the plus side for Chargers backers is an easier schedule than in ’18: Beyond getting four ((((wins)))) games against the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders and the Denver Broncos, NFLbets figures these guys are looking at four (or five, depending on how you feel about the Houston Texans): vs Indianapolis in the opener, at Chicago in week 8, and the two games against Kansas City – L.A. could even win the AFC West with a week 17 upset, but home field means little to these Chargers. We’re not feeling it.

As for the Dallas Cowboys … come on now. Yes, NFLbets realizes that the Ezekiel Elliott holdout melodrama is exactly that; Zeke will surely rejoin the Cowboys in due time, he’ll be productive barring an early injury due to lack of offseason training and will do amazing things. The promotion of Kellen Moore from QB coach to OC might even prove a boon to Elliott et al in getting Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper to play all-star seasons – but who outside of Cowboys fandom believes that’s enough?

Bears, Colts, Rams: Three bets we like more than the Chiefs

Odds on the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams at 12/1 (8/1), Chicago Bears at 12/1 (20/1) and Indianapolis Colts at 12/1 (20/1) all make NFLbets ask the same question: What are we missing here?

Okay, we’ll admit betting on the Colts at 12/1 is a bit dodgy, what with every month bringing news of a brand new injury to QB Andrew Luck; on the other (hopefully uninjured) hand, newly-acquired Chandarick West and WR Devin Funchess certainly can’t hurt an offense that was top-10 overall in passing yardage and overall yardage. Improvements to the skill positions plus losses of no full-time starter in free agency would be enough for a good value bet, but let us not forget that this team finished last season on a 10-2 SU run. Take the Indianapolis Colts at 12/1 – and absolutely definitely positively at 20/1.

And the Bears at that same 12/1 (20/1)? Bizarre. How did everyone forget Cody Parkey’s double doink to cost Chicago a deep playoff run after a 12-4 SU regular season with no losses of more than seven points. In the offseason, the Bears lost one key player – FS Adrian Amos – of a potential six from 2018’s world-beating, record-threatening, straight-up scary defense. And if you think a potential all-time great Khalil Mack can’t help win enough games in the days of point-a-minute offense to at least get his team to the Super Bowl, just ask Aaron Donald what he thinks.

And speaking (writing?) of Aaron Donald and his L.A. Rams, shouldn’t the conference defending champs be getting slightly more respect, particularly in Vegas at 12/1 odds…? Bettors at My Bookie have dragged down those odds from 10/1, but nevertheless in both spheres the, likesay, overhyped and downward-trending Saints are outdoing the Rams.

So … it’s all about Jared Goff, right? And sure, after that 105-point game against the Chiefs on MNF in week 11, the Rams offense got criminally low-watt in managing just 17.5 ppg in five games against playoff teams. Fair enough, but Goff’s favorite target Cooper Kupp is back after missing the last half of ’18 – and regardless of public perception of their QB, the Rams offense was top-3 in overall scoring, rushing TDs, first downs, yards per pass attempt, yards per rushing attempt and points per drive.

For 2019, the Rams defense looks just as impressive, as in-season acquisition Dante Fowler was extended and again disappointing Ndamokung Suh was not. We’d advise simply forgetting the name of the Los Angeles QB and take the Rams at 8/1 or longer.

Seahawks and Jets: A longshot and a really longshot

A tsunami of gushing about Bill Belichick has apparently swamped Pete Carroll’s reputation: Carroll fairly well rose to the consensus rank as no. 2 among head coaches after his Seattle Seahawks dismantled the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII – and he’s still got his Lombardi-winning all-star QB at the top of his game. Indeed, Carroll and Russell Wilson have made the Seahawks, even in the post-Legion of Boom era, a model of consistency in the NFC. In Wilson’s seven seasons at the helm, Seattle’s yet to have a losing season, making the playoffs six times.

The Seahawks have been undergoing something of a slow roster churn a la Belichick’s Patriots over the past four seasons or so; the departure of Earl Thomas represents the last of outgoing all-stars. Last season’s abominable 51 sacks allowed has got to improve with newly acquired guards Mike Iupati and Marcus Martin on the OL for 2019.

Now, Carroll & Co. still have the L.A. Rams and San Francisco 49ers to contend with before 37/1 odds to win Super Bowl LIV, while the playoffs have proven a stumbling block for Carroll’s ’Hawks since losing to the New England Patriots and the departure of Marshawn Lynch, with just a 2-3 SU/ATS postseason mark.

But say the Rams regress and the Niners aren’t quite up to the hype, so the Seahawks take the NFC West. Seattle’s famed homefield advantage – Carroll ‘n’ Russell are 5-0 SU/ATS in home playoff games – get them through one round, even two. (Heck, 12-4 could easily bag the no. 1 seed in the conference this season.) Imagine the season culminating in Carroll vs. Andy Reid with two minutes remaining. At 37/1 odds, we’ll take the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl and live that fantasy for a couple months at least…

Meanwhile, those wanting a serious stretch might consider covering the New York Jets at 70/1. NFLbets realizes such a wager is made in the face of loads of unknowns, chiefly that of Sam Darnold making The Leap, which may even be limited as the dude continues to resemble Vinny “Vinterception” Testaverde 2.0. Questions remain about the viability of LeVeon Bell (though we’d strongly hedge with the philosophy that Bell’ll rip shit up for the Jets in 2019) and the effect of losing Avery Williamson from last year’s 29th-“best” defense. Geez, these guys went 4-12 in ’18.

We’re not nutty enough to suggest covering the Jets to win the AFC East, mind you, but NFLbets will definitely be covering these guys to make the playoffs and you know what they say about anything happening during said playoffs; for confirmation consult last year’s Bears. Or Saints. Or Chiefs. Or…

So go ahead and join NFLbets in throwing a few moneys at a longshot – take the New York Jets at 70/1.


Browns land Odell Beckham Jr.; let's not get nuts betting them to win Super Bowl LIV just yet

Wednesday, 13 March 2019 12:47 EST

On February 10, the odds on the Cleveland Browns in the proposition bet “To Win Super Bowl LIV” were at 20/1. Two days later, the team more-than-somewhat controversially signed disgraced and waived RB Kareem Hunt; this budged the lines on the Browns little. But ink Odell Beckham Jr., one of the league’s most explosive, dynamic and beloved wide receivers? That’s shorten those odds.

Within an hour of the Cleveland-New York Giants trade announcement, the Browns’ odds to win the Super Bowl and the AFC Championship were experiencing more shrinkage than George Costanza in the pool, dropping to 14/1 in a hurry. As of this writing approximately 16 hours after the news broke, the odds on Cleveland have stabilized there but have dropped to an incredible 7/1 in the “To Win Conference” prop.

But as awesome as OBJ is, does his mere addition to a team with a looooooooooooooooooong history of mediocrity automatically better the Browns’ chances by 33%? Are the Browns really getting the *third-shortest odds* to win the AFC after the Kansas City Chiefs (now at 10/3, down from 3/1) and *freaking NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS?!?!??!???!?*

Welllllll, yes, actually. Why not? Even without Hunt – and, if this splashy trade is factored into the NFL’s consideration to return the halfback to active, Hunt and Cleveland will be united later, if ever, rather than sooner – the Browns have one serious-looking offense, with QB Baker Mayfield, RB Nick Chubb, WR Jarvis Landry and TE David Njoku awaiting OBJ’s plugging-in. The offensive line is middling at bets, but free agency and the draft have yet to go down; plenty of time to improve this area.

Despite the departure of Jabril Peppers in the OBJ trade, teh Browns defense should be just as good as last season’s top-10 passing D with the addition of Pro Bowl LB Olivier Vernon joining the likes of CB Denzel Ward, LB Jamie Collins and DE Myles Garrett (who looks scarier every game, it seems).

33 days ago, NFLbets noted: “The 2019 Cleveland Browns going over on wins? NFLbets’ll make that wager. To win the AFC North? Quite probably. To win the AFC? You miiiiiiiiight convince us. But to take the Lombardi Trophy? Come on now.

Today, we’ll update this to state that Cleveland should be a 10- or even 11-win team, so bet the over/under wins accordingly. We’ll also cover the Browns to win the AFC North, as we honestly believe that they’ll go a solid 5-1 against the North’s teams in rebuild and/or decline and should be getting three wins against the AFC East. By dint of their third-place finish in 2018, the Browns get The Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos, this far out both looking like wins.

As for those odds to win the AFC, 7/1 may be too short. The NFL may be in a period of revolution, with younger talent (and teams) taking over for the old guard, but it’s tough to depend on a team like Cleveland with so much youth at key positons plus two mercurial WRs – if anything, we’re even more bearish on the Browns in the “To Win Conference” and “To Win Super Bowl LIV” post-Beckham trade. We’d stay away from these two props.

Now, covering the Browns in a “To Win Super Bowl LV” proposition bet? *That* would be worth serious consideration.


Here’s the official NFLbets Pick of the Week for Super Bowl LIII

Thursday, 31 January 2019 17:43 EST

NFLbets will say (write?) this from the go: Our Pick of the Week for the Super Bowl and most subsequent recommendations on the game are the result of backward logic. The premise is simple: The betting opportunities on the New England Patriots just aren’t that interesting or lucrative.

Without further ado, here’s NFLbets’ Pick of the Week for Super Bowl LIII: Take the Los Angeles Rams +2½/+3/+3½ vs the Patriots.

We’re also advising NFLbettors to take the Rams money line (ML), currently fetching from +115 to +130 and only going up before kickoff. Here’s why: Since ballooning from Rams -1 to Rams +2 on January 21, the point spread hasn’t moved since Rams +2½ in most Vegas sportsbooks as of Thursday evening before the game, and only now is Rams +3 beginning to show its face at the bigger online sportsbooks. Some 75% to 80% of the money continues to come in on the Patriots, which to NFLbets implies that the bookmakers still consider this more or less a pick ‘em, anyway.

In short, if you’re covering the Rams at +2½ or less for a -110 payout, you may as well cover that ML and put the odds on your side. (See what we meant by the lucrative and interesting bets on the Rams’ side? And by backward logic?)

So what needs to happen for the Rams to pull off the upset in Super Bowl LIII and bring things full circle back to 2002?

The Rams defensive line needs to dominate the Patriots offensive line. Tom Brady has been tormented in Super Bowls before – recall how the line on the 18-0 New England side gave up five sacks (and, essentially, the game) against the Giants in XLII – and we daresay the Patriots haven’t faced a front like that of Donald-Suh-Brockers in years, certainly not in 2018-19.

The Patriots OL has been middling this season, allowing an OK 21 sacks, but it doesn’t seem to matter to Ndamukong Suh, who loves blowing up New England lines: In eight career games against Belichick-and-Brady, Suhs destroyed the middle for nine QB hits. And Aaron Donald is Aaron Donald, the best player in this Super Bowl right now.

C.J. Anderson must continue producing – but more importantly, wearing down the middle. Recall that the Patriots have faced just one A-list running back in 2018-19: Kareem Hunt in week 6, who torched them for 185 total yards and a TD. Anderson’s unimpressive-looking 44 yards in New Orleans did not indicate the punishment he doled out on his 16 carries, mostly in the second and third quarters, that softened that Saints D enough to allow Jared Goff three lead-changing scoring drives late.

And just imagine if the Rams running game looks more like that of the divisional round game. Against the Dallas Cowboys, the combination of Todd Gurley and Anderson went for 38 carries for 238 yards and 3 TDs against a run defense that was statistically and reputedly better than the Saints’. This is the kind of attack that is indefensible, even if the opposition head coach somehow knows what’s coming.

Of course, the question of whether the Rams can win without a big day from Anderson may soon be moot; if Gurley isn’t playing or clearly can’t go, Los Angeles absolutely positively *needs* a *monster* game out of one of the great NFL late-season pickups in quite some time.

Three words for the defense: Bend, don’t break. A Belichick staple! At their best, e.g. in most of the Saints game, the Rams defense can stop anyone inside or just outside the red zone. A dude like Corey Littleton (a safety disguised as a linebacker) has the correct skills to flourish in a short field and has done so lately, and the shortcomings of Marcus Peters are greatly reduced.

Plus, just in the simplest terms, i.e. our kicker and punter are better than yours, Sean McVay would kill to turn this game into a punty-punty field position battle determined by a late long-ass field goal. We believe the longer the Rams keep a Patriots touchdown off the board, the likelier their chances to win.

And NFLbets really likes their chances: The Rams will win Super Bowl LIII.


Super Bowl LIII MVP prop betting: Seven intriguing bets and Tom Brady

Monday, 28 January 2019 12:38 EST

Of the Super Bowl bets traditionally offered, NFLbets’ favorite has got to be the MVP proposition bets. Covering a Von Miller or a Deion Branch has saved our bacon on Super Bowl Sunday in the past (we’re still not talking about Santonio Holmes or Nick Foles, however), and a solid winning wager on this prop can wipe out a lot of losing.

NFLbets will post our formal Best Bets recommendations for these later in the week, but right now, we’re deciding how to divvy up our cash stash on the following eight players. Since the longshots are getting wildly variable odds, each candidate has two possible payouts listed; the first represents the odds given at a leading online sportsbook, while the second are the numbers given at the Belaggio sportsbook in Las Vegas.

• Tom Brady – 9/10, 2/1. Brady is the clear default pick and should swallow up the majority o betting money in this prop from those NFL bettors looking to hedge on essentially any other player. The prevailing thinking goes that, if the Patriots win, Brady is hands down the choice, as has been the case in four of five New England Super Bowl Ws (including in XXXVI, when either Ty Law or Adam Vinatieri would have been a better choice). It’s a solid starting point, considering the lack of (statistical) firepower on the Pats’ side.

• Julian Edelman – 40/1, 25/1. Edelman seems like the (best bet) literally among Patriots not named Tom Brady. In the sole instance of a Patriots win without a Brady MVP nod, the trophy went to Branch, a WR. Had the Patriots won last year, Brady’s favored target Rob Gronkowski (9 receptions, 114 yards, 2 TDs) might’ve bagged it. Add in the Rams’ ability to better stop the run than the pass, and you must like Edelman at these odds if you’re betting the Patriots.

• Jared Goff – 2/1, 3/1. In a true year of the quarterback, a Rams upset will likely translate into a Goff MVP award. And though the talking heads will love the narrative of Goff’s early career arc (without mentioning how much success Jeff Fisher’s former Rams QBs are enjoying since his departure from the league for some reason…), we’re thinking that a Goff MVP selection will likely be an uninspired choice – a bit like how Brady took his first with a line of 16-for-27 for 145 yards and 1 TD.

• C.J. Anderson – 16/1, 25/1. Seriously, isn’t Anderson’s narrative potentially even greater than Goff’s? Dude gets cut by two teams, signs with a flailing contender whose play-action game has disappeared despite their franchise HB, and goes for an average of 115.5 yards and 1 TD per game in the clutch. And while Anderson didn’t look unstoppable against the Saints in the NFC Championship, New Orleans entered that game with the NFL’s no. 3 defense against the run; the Patriots rank just 16th. Additionally, New England has faced just one A-list running back this season: Kareem Hunt in week 6, who torched them for 185 total yards and a TD.

• Aaron Donald – 16/1, 10/1. What is NFLbets missing here? Sure, defensive players have only taken the MVP award in eight of the 52 Super Bowls thus far (as opposed to 29 quarterbacks), but it’s happened in two of the past five, and in both instances did the MVP (Malcolm Smith for the Seahawks, Miller for the Broncos) play for an all-star defense. If Donald gets, likesay, a sack or two and/or a forced fumble in a low-scoring game with two Brady turnovers, voters could very well consider rewarding the prospective two-time NFL DMVP another trophy for the mantelpiece.

• Aqib Talib – 66/1, 65/1. Now, NFLbets admits we’re deep into longshot territory here. Hell, to bet on Talib at the Belaggio, you’ll have to take “any another Ram” at 66/1! No cornerback has ever taken the Super Bowl MVP (though, again, Ty Law certainly had a case), but if any Rams player is going to jump a route to snag a pick off Brady, it should be the former Patriot. Yes, Belichick will certainly want Brady to stay away from Talib – particularly given how beatable Marcus Peters has been this season – so we’re counting on Sean McVay’s second-half adjustments here.

• Andrew Whitworth – available upon request, 65/1. We don’t actually prescribe making this bet, as this is merely NFLbets’ fantasy, although since our online sportsbook lists Austin Proehl as the longest shot in this prop at 750/1, a tiny throw at those odds won’t hurt too much. In the meantime, NFLbets continues to hope that, some year in a low-watt Super Bowl, an offensive lineman gets his due and takes home a Rozelle Trophy. Someday, this bet will come in. Maybe even in our lifetime.

• Johnny Hekker – 500/1, 65/1. Admittedly, a bet on Hekker is wacky-unto-insanity, particularly since Belichick is certain to be on red alert in any potential fake-punt situation, but note: If betting in Vegas (and thus Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey or New Mexico), a wager on “Any Other Ram” will cover Hekker, Talib and the entire OL. I like those odds…

• Greg Zeuerlein – 125/1, 100/1. Did you hear the way Joe Buck and Troy Aikman during the NFC Championship Game broadcast, plus just about every talking head on FOX, CBS and ESPN thereafter (when the subject under discussion wasn’t the no-call, that is) has been taking up “Greg the Leg.” If we didn’t know better, we’d be thinking building conspiracy here. On the other hand, if they didn’t give it to Vinatieri in 2002…


If you believe in conspiracies and/or game-fixing, you’re betting on the Rams in Super Bowl LIII

Friday, 25 January 2019 09:15 EST

NFL betting conspiraciesAll but the most rational of NFL fans and bettors have wondered just how much in-game tampering has been ordered by league higherups in a game here or there, i.e. “The fix is in!”

NFLbets would say that at least 29 of the league’s 32 teams – we figure the Texans’, Lions’ and Browns’ woes are utterly self-inflicted – can point to specific instances when an entire game was stolen in order to present one narrative or another. The New Orleans Saints can now join the ranks of the screwed, “thanks” to the infamous no-call in the waning minutes of the 2019 NFC Championship Game.

Said no-call was certainly damn egregious, maybe even the worst non-call of all time and all that, but suspiciously bad calls have tuned games to the benefit of the league. Patriots haters and Los Angeles/Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders fans can cite the Tuck Rule Game (and ignore the phantom “roughing the quarterback” penalty of the 1976 AFC Divisional). The Seattle Seahawks have Super Bowl XL as an exemplar of league favoritism toward the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Deflate-gate Game presents an interesting example in which both sides could argue victimization by conspiracy.

So if you believe that game-fixing – or, likesay, game result-influencing – exists in the NFL, you’ve gotta love the narrative building around the Los Angeles Rams just in time for Super Bowl LIII.

Start with the pass interference call itself. From the perspective of the NFL bettor, the last quarter perhaps even more of a rollercoaster ride than for fans. As the Saints drove the ball for their last chance at the endzone in regulation time, the score was 20-20; not only would a New Orleans touchdown have flipped every ticket reading “Rams +3½” and “Saints -3½”, but bets on under-56½ would become extinct with a subsequent Rams TD. Instead, we get the no-call, an overtime, and just 9 more points scored.

Why is this relevant? Because you can bet (so to speak) that the majority of the money at the sportsbook was on the Saints; the 3-point spread for the AFC game didn't budge, so the balance of bets was certainly not radically far from 50/50.. As for the Super Bowl, the line of Rams -1 shifted to Patriots -2 wihtin about six hours of its release; guess where most money is on this game, and how much the bookmakers stand to gain from a 3-point Rams SU win...

We can also consider the current situation of the Rams franchise. The Generation X-aged fans of Southern California returned to Rams fandom immediately upon the team’s return to Los Angeles, but the Rams reamin at very best a second-favorite to the Raiders in L.A. and southward. Meanwhile, franchise owner Sam Kroenke is footing the bill for construction of a reported $1 billion dollar stadium facility, and he certainly wants assistance for saving a money-losing NFL franchise. The team’s appearance on Hard Knocks garnered some interest locally, as has the performance of boy wonder head coach Sean McVay.

But this is Los Angeles, man! The world’s largest entertainment factory and second-largest football market, as we were reminded constantly in the years leading up the Rams and Chargers relocations. This team needs more mass media coverage than a freakin’ Chunky Soup commercial with Todd Gurley in it; they need Nick Foles and Aaron Donald and Johnny Hecker to be trading witticisms with Jimmy Kimmel and his ilk. Lemme tell ya, as a resident of South California, a single appearance on the Tonight Show might go further than an NFC Championship Game win with these far-weather fans.

And the opponent for this team, franchise and city to vanquish on the path to glory? Who better than that force of EEEEevil themselves, the New England Patriots?

NFLbets will be detailing later what we believe to be the Rams’ roadmap to victory over the Patriots , but we’ve been saying since the matchup was set that every neutral without a betting stake in the Patriots will be backing the Rams in Atlanta. For the first time this season, the Rams will play before something resembling a home crowd.

And if you think the NFL digs on narratives, how utterly karmically perfect would a Los Angeles Rams victory over the very same coach-and-QB combo that went from plucky underdogs to merciless dominators be? Indescribably so – that’s how much.

And how about the stealth commissioner himself? After getting put in embarrassing and over-complicated positions by the New England franchise since that very first Super Bowl win and Spygate, how much do you think Roger Goodell wants the Patriots to win this game? (Answer: What’s less than zero?)

Finally, consider this. The term “franchise fatigue,” typically applied to another sort of franchise such as Star Wars or Star Trek, has entered fandom’s vernacular in 2018 in reference to those New England Patriots. If such a thing even exists – NFLbets isn’t entirely sure it does in any real sense –

It all seems to add up to a pretty convenient narrative now, doesn’t it? The conspiracy is all in favor of the Los Angeles Rams.


Note to Michael Thomas, Saints: You’re not getting a do-over because you f#*&#*&ing lost

Tuesday, 22 January 2019 14:25 EST

NFLbets couldn’t f*&#*&@ing believe the headline over at Yahoo Sports this morning: Michael Thomas cites NFL rule book, calls on Roger Goodell for a do-over of NFC championship.

Come on, now, seriously?

For one thing, yeah, surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre. Goodell is too busy employing the best practices of How Not To Be Seen By The Media, lest he find himself having to answer for another case of domestic violence, franchise relocation or deflated balls, to address this little piddly issue. Besides, when was the last time an NFL game result was overturned? (It may or may not have involved the Pottsville Maroons…)

Secondly, you, Michael Thomas, your guys the New Orleans Saints and your coaching staff – not any member/members of an NFL officiating crew – lost the 2019 NFC Championship Game. Your team scored on its first three possessions, one of which started nearly inside the zone, dominated the first quarter completely and took an early 13-0 lead. And lost.

Your Saints defense, in two drives bookending the fateful non-call, allowed the Rams to run off 18 plays for 130 yards while notching zero tackles for a loss. Jared Goff – a guy who your coaching staff was apparently daring to lead the Rams downfield for the win; why else pass on first down with 1:58 remaining? – complete passes to five different receivers, not one of which has the ball-catching skills as you do, Michael. Goff ended up going 8-of-13 for 133 yards after the third quarter.

And what about Michael Thomas himself? Just nine days ago, pundits were tripping over themselves to label Thomas as The Greatest Wide Receiver in the Game Including Odell Beckham while NFL bettors like yours truly were trying to figure out just how the hell Marcus Peters – who has been brutally bad most of the season – and Aqib Talib were going to handle the man without letting every other Saints WR loose.

Instead, Thomas disappeared in Rams’ zone coverages and somehow became even less relevant when a nickel package was out there. Thomas’s long, a reception of 19 yards, came about 11½ minutes into the game when Drew Brees found him single-“covered” by Peters. After that catch, Thomas caught a whopping two passes.

As though an important game has never been decided on a bad call. All you righteous New Orleans fans can surely recall Robert Meachem dribbling the ball off the Superdome turf in the 2010 NFC Championship Game, yet ultimately credited with a catch that put Garrett Hartley in position to kick the game-winning field goal. Did the Saints and their fans ascribe this win to an unfair call? Of course not! They were instead far more (justifiably) likely to bring up the Vikings’ three lost fumbles, for example.

Thomas’s argument is based on NFL Rule 17, Section 2, Article 1:

“The Commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in an NFL game which he deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game.”

And Thomas reckons that the “appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures” are to replay the game at some point before Super Bowl LIII kicks off.

(Incidentally, NFLbets believes that Thomas was given the idea by way of either that morning’s Bill Simmons Podcast or ESPN’s afternoon airing of Pardon the Interruption, both of which mentioned the given rule.)

A replay would be quite the extreme measure indeed and would be utterly unprecedented in NFL history, if not all of American sports history. The closest such instance that NFLbets can recall would probably be Major League Baseball’s so-called Pine Tar Game of 1983 between the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees; but that was a regular-season game and for the “replay”, only the final out of the top half of the ninth was required for the replay.

Thomas’s case for a full-on replay seems quixotic at best, beginning with the argument that somehow *this* call in *this* game truly was The Worst Call of All-Time in an age of incessant hyperbole – Geez, what about the Dez Bryant catch/no-catch? How about the 2005 Seattle Seahawks? We can hardly imagine this complaint even getting to an official level. Soon, no one outside the greater New Orleans area will give a damn anyway, and that’s fine.

Why? NFLbets has a go-to line in situations like this, which happen incredibly often and are even more common among the NFL bettor crowd. It goes like this:

If you don’t want to lose because of a bad call by an official, don’t put the game’s outcome in the hands of the officials.

In other words, if you can’t win by two scores and/or give the opposition multiple chances to stay in the game, you should be prepared to lose a close one on a referee’s call. If you go up 13 points on your home field with a top-5 offense led by the most accurate QB of our time, yet that game can still ultimately be decided on a single play, well, you shouldn’t be surprised to lose.

And the record will forever show the New Orleans Saints lost the 2019 NFC Championship Game. Which they did.

Too bad.

(Besides, you can't just re-shoot all those “Saints fans react” clips on YouTube...


Shall we talk about the weather and/or the AFC Championship game?

Sunday, 20 January 2019 09:48 EST

Since everyone else is talking about the weather, why can’t NFLbets? We’re gonna slaughter some sacred cows about professional football here and we may not even have to resort to “Come on, we’re talking about Belichick and Brady and the New England Patriots here.”

Betting on snow gamesNow NFLbets’ll admit it: We often get way too obsessed factoring the weather into our bets – and subsequently get burned (so to speak) by this silly tendency; admittedly, the assumption served us well for the Colts-Chiefs divisional, but not as much as Indianapolis just not showing up. as recently as the Chargers-Patriots divisional last week. Well, it never too late to turn over a new leaf and we believe we’re about to.

And so to paraphrase R.E.M., “Shall we talk about the weather?

Since 2001, the home team is 30-20-1 SU in games played at temperatures of 20° or lower – but check this out: The regular season mark for home teams in such frigid weather is an incredible *23-12-1* SU. That’s right: Home teams are 7-8 SU (and 5-10 ATS!) in the cold in the playoffs. Here are the numbers.

In these 15 games are a range of scores running from 10-9 (Seahawks at Minnesota in 2015) to 45-42 (Jaguars at Pittsburgh last year), the average score works out to right around 29-20½; an over/under of 49½ is hardly outrageously high or low at any point over the past two decades. Six of the 15 game results would have paid on a bet of over-49½, including four of the seven such games played after 2012 and therefore more indicative of modern-day rule changes.

Not exactly germane to this discussion but of interest (and what the hell, we trawled through the numbers anyway): The Belichick/Brady Patriots are 3-1 SU – but just 1-3 ATS – in such games, with the sole SU win coming in Pittsburgh in 2004; incidentally, the Patriots were favored in all four games. Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has played in one such sub-20° playoff game, winning SU/ATS against the Atlanta Falcons on the way to his only Super Bowl appearance and you know how things went there.

Factor in the case studies of the Patriots and Chiefs, tiny-ass sample sizes included, if you like, but clearly simple win-loss records SU/ATS are enough to demonstrate that cold weather has no discernible effect save to hurt the weaker team. Naturally, this becomes clear only in hindsight.

Snow? Purely empirically speaking, snow randomizes stuff but good. Recall some easy examples like the Tuck Rule Game that birthed the current New England monstrosity or the aforementioned Seahawks-Vikings wild card game or the 2017 Grey Cup. The good news is that the snow has ceased falling in Kansas City and a low probability is reported for precipitation tonight, so we don’t need to worry about this X-factor.

Snow games make NFL betting difficultOkay, so how about wind? Certainly Patrick Mahomes & Co., who favor the loooooooooooooong aerial attack to YAC (so *that’s* why they were so hot for Sammy Watkins), would be affected by craziness here?

Possibly.

A blogger over at Pinnacle.com studied the affects of wind in games between 2003 and ’15, turning up data that, well, you’d probably expect. The Pinnacle numbers show that “Wind would appear to be of little consequence to points totals until it reaches speeds of 15 mph and above.”

Further, “In the 50 or so such games [considered], average totals were set on the low side at 38½, but actual match totals averaged even lower at 35.3 and consequently, under bets were successful in 64.6% of games.”

In order words, blindly taking the under in games when wind speed is 15 or more does on average some 4.6% better – or a little less than one game per season – than a profit-making NFL bettor. Significant enough perhaps, but guess what: The forecast is calling for winds to top out at 10 mph today/tonight, and who’d believe that Mahomes-to-Kelce wouldn’t be good for two touchdowns in the middle of tornado?

So, nope. NFLbets ain’t buying the weather as a factor in the AFC Championship Game. After all, this here is the NFL playoffs and we’ve got two hardcore offenses ready to play. And we’re sticking with our bet on over 56 points.


NFL playoffs betting: Try not to consider history and cover Kansas City (maybe)

Saturday, 19 January 2019 15:06 EST

New England Patriots +3 at Kansas City Chiefs, over/under 56 points

The most difficult part about betting the AFC Championship Game is separating the real numbers and trends from the reputations and histories – not to mention the endless noise about the Teflon excellence of the NFL’s version of Anakin and Luke Skywalker.

And there’s good reason for obfuscation caused by history: The Patriots – and Andy Reid – have great gobs of the stuff, spread throughout the NFL record books of the 21st century. Stuff like the Belichick/Brady Patriots are a crazy 27-10 SU (22-16 ATS) in all playoff games including Super Bowls, but they’re just 3-4 SU/ATS in away playoff games (on the other hand, all four such losses came at Denver and/or Peyton Manning’s teams).

Despite all the young talent on the Chiefs, Kansas City too has playoff history. Well, Reid does, anyway, and it doesn’t look great. With the win last week – which a cynic could ascribe to the coach’s 21-4 SU record when coming out of a bye at any point in the season or post-season – Reid’s teams are now 12-13 SU in the playoffs and are on a 2-7 SU/ATS “run”.  

So how about the weather? Considering that both teams play ball in the cold and that forecasts all week have stated that no precipitation of any sort is expected, we’re calling this one neutral. The football itself gets hard and heavy when the temperature is in the 20s, you say? Mahomes has shown that he could probably chuck a cinderblock 50 yards downfield (and complete the pass!), while Brady won’t be lofting long bombs regardless and he’ll be certain to have those pigskins deflated to the exactly appropriate pressure.

(That’d make a great proposition bet: Over/under 12.75 ppi on the pressure of Tom Brady’s balls. Wait, that came out wrong…)

As excruciating as dogma like “You’re gonna bet against the Patriots?!?!?!?” is, two decades or so of history cannot be ignored altogether. Fine. We’ll submit this for consideration, then: On a talent level in the passing game, these Patriots are the weakest since 2006, the season prior to the Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth signings – no coincidence there. And one may argue the impressiveness of the Patriots running game recently, but the truth is that the ’06 team had Corey Dillion, arguably the greatest Pats RB ever, and he was simply stuffed in two playoff games despite a gaudy four goal-line TDs socred.

Andy Reid’s game-clock management “skills” are well documented enough elsewhere so that NFLbets needn’t go into the minutiae here, but if we’re talking history here, the Chiefs have a huge advantage in that future Hall of Famer Travis Kelce will be able to dominate an improved but still ho-hum Patriots secondary.

Round and round goes the logic, but everything comes back to the Patriots having some advantage or another in the abstract, whereas the hard realities favor the Chiefs. After all, consider the apparent contradiction of talking heads and fandom insisting Belichick ‘n’ Brady can’t lose, yet the line of Patriots +3 has remained stable since Sunday night; this tells NFLbets that the sharps’ money is balancing out hyped-up NFL bettors willing to bet on continuation of the Evil Empire just because we can’t imagine the other possibility.

NFLbets is therefore going to play this one a little differently. First off, we’re advising to take the over on an over/under of 56 points. That’s right: We’re not swayed by impressive defensive performances of last week, low temperatures or even windy conditions. All the best skill players are lining up against the Patriots, while the Chiefs are the most penalized and among the most porous defenses in the NFL. Points will be scored.

We’re also playing conservative and advising to take the Chiefs ML at -165, but keep the online sportsbook site open. If the Patriots get the ball first – especially if they’ve won the toss and elect to receive – click away and take the Patriots +3 immediately before the odds decrease.

You know that horrible cliché, “Whichever team has the ball last is going to win this game?” It’s an insipid, meaningless observation; think about it: no matter what teams are playing or at what point in the game you declare this nonsense, you have an exactly 50% chance of being correct. Well, Belichick at some point before last week decided that the far more reasonable assertion is that “Whichever team gets the ball *first* is going to win this game.” Particularly when outgunned, first possession allows a thinking side with a veteran über-QB the potential to set the pace for the entire game and at best kill half a quarter of playing time.

Do the Dark Lord and Jedi Master have one more sequel in ’em…? This could be tense.

NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018-19: 39-32-2.


NFL Playoffs Betting: This may be crazy, but NFLbets loves Rams +3½ in NFC Championship

Thursday, 17 January 2019 15:19 EST

So thanks a lot, NFL. Go ahead and leave us with the four teams we thought would be in the conference championship games all along. Thanks to the Chiefs, Patriots, Rams and Saints as well for having terrific, point-scoring offenses which defy statistical analysis and great opposition coaching alike And thanks most of all to the bookmakers, for setting both the AFC and NFC Conference games with the Oddsmaker’s Tie, i.e. a 3-point spread favoring the home team.

Make it easy, why don’tcha.

While the fans are certainly in for some fun (or, in case of blowout, simply fascinating) games this weekend, NFLbets and NFL bettors are certainly sweating a bit over wagering on these things. But let’s see if NFLbets can’t scope out a couple of bets worth making – gods know we could use some, with our shaky performance thus far in the playoffs…

We begin with

Los Angeles Rams +3½ at New Orleans Saints, over/under 56½ points

NFLbets starts the thinking with the premise that the coaching edge will more or less cancel out. Look, few folks are in a position to estimate the relative football intelligence of a Sean Payton versus a Sean McVay, and we ain’t among them.

Beyond this, three key matchups should determine this game.

• The Saints pass rush vs the Rams OL (and Jared Goff). If the Saints can rush the too-frequently checking-down Goff like they did Nick Foles last week, Rams backers get the proverbial long day on the field. But after 17 games of the same five guys playing on nearly every single offensive snap in 2018, the L.A. OL is playing peak football at the right time, i.e. right now: In the past two games, they’ve allowed zero sacks and the offensive has committed zero turnovers in the past two games.

Keeping the Saints at bay and/or getting the ball out of Goff’s hands really quickly will be imperative for the Rams. After all, despite all the protection his line gave him last week, the L.A. QB was just 15 or 28 for 186 yards.

• Todd Gurley and (yes) C.J. Anderson vs the Saints run defense. Here’s a way for Goff to get rid of the ball: Lots of running plays! Against the Dallas Cowboys, the ratio of run to pass was 48:28, which is where NFLbets is guessing that McVay wants those numbers in New Orleans in order to control the clock and exploit the (big!) absence of DT Sheldon Rankins.

Folks who don’t believe that McVey’ll call for Anderson to get 20-25 touches again hasn’t been paying attention – this dude with a fullback’s sensibility and halfback’s speed has been breaking down defenses, freeing Gurley up and re-enlivening the play-action. In short, the no. 2 the Rams have so sorely needed since drafting Gurley.

And that New Orleans turf surface can only help…

• Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. vs Marcus “Gumbo” Peters and Aqib Talib. Thomas has been playing at otherworldly levels, and how can the Rams stifle this weapon? Peters has been, likesay, extremely underwhelming at best without Talib in the lineup:

          -- In all 17 Rams games: 240.5 yards per game passing
          -- In 10 games with Talib: 230.5 ypg
          -- In 7 games without Talib: 266.7 ypg
          -- In the past 6 games, i.e. since the bye: 209.9 ypg.

Note, too, that Talib’s statistics include the game against the Kansas City Chiefs in which Patrick Mahomes et al ran up 448 on Talib and Peters. Thomas may be tough to stop – even for Talib – but, just as with the offensive line and the running game, the Rams have been waiting a long time to get this aspect of their game to this level of play.

Additionally, Los Angeles may not even need Talib and Peters to play perfect ball (and Rams fans can attest to the fact that Peters has played far from perfect ball in 2018-19). Double teams have proven to be the only method of stopping Aaron Donald this season, and the Saints currently have two offensive linemen (Ryan Ramcyzk, Max Unger) listed as “questionable” on Thursday afternoon plus Andrus Peat, who will be playing with a broken hand.

NFC Championship Game: NFLbets’ Best Bets


NFLbets actually had no idea that the Rams had such a strong case to win this football game before beginning this piece. We won’t prescribe a Rams money line (ML) bet at +150, but we will be covering this. For official Best Bets for the NFC Championship Game, we’ll saying take the Los Angeles Rams +3½ at the New Orleans Saints.

We’re also betting (literally) on a run-heavy, ball-control game here. A 30-27 or 30-26 final score would imply at very least nine scores and more likely 11 or 12, which feels like way too much. Take the under on an O/U of 56½ points.

NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018-19: 39-32-2.