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Written Thursday January 7th, 2021 at 10 a.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed) First, let’s recap the performance of the NFL picks against the spread (ATS) for the entire 2020 season: 5 STARS: 4-3 record 4 STARS: 9-4-1 record 3 STARS: 10-11-1 record 2 STARS: 4-9-2 record 1 STAR: 9-4 record OVERALL: 36-31-4 record (a 53.7% win rate) If you are betting at -110 odds, you need to win 52.4% of your bets in order to net a profit. When wagering at -105 odds, that figure is 51.2%. In other words, this year’s NFL tips led to a small profit overall (but still a gain nonetheless!). Next week, I’ll show you how my preseason predictions about each team’s win total went. As you’ll see, it did incredibly well and you certainly turned a great profit if you tailed those plays! During the regular season, I did not make a pick on all games. For entertainment purposes, I’ll do it in the playoffs. I will let you know how much confidence I have in each pick. The best part of the NFL season is coming up, so let’s dive right in! WILD CARD GAME #1: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS AT BUFFALO BILLS (-6.5) We are starting strong with my top pick of the weekend: I’m putting my money on the Bills in this matchup. Can you believe Buffalo has beaten the spread in each of their last eight games? That’s unbelievable! Only four teams ended the season by beating the spread on 8+ consecutive games. All of them were winning wagers in their first playoff game. The Colts suffered a big blow in Week 16 when they lost their star left tackle Anthony Castonzo. The team absolutely needs to protect Philip Rivers well because he is a statue in the pocket, and he tends to get bottled up easily. To me, Rivers having no mobility whatsoever is a big factor, as opposed to Josh Allen who can escape the pressure on a regular basis. Also, Indy is great defending the run, but they weren’t nearly as good against the pass where they finished in the middle of the pack in terms of passer rating allowed. Now facing a passing team, that could spell trouble for Indianapolis. The Colts defense overall slowed down as the season progressed. Indeed, they allowed an average of 19.7 points per game through their first nine meetings, while that number increased to 26.4 in the final seven matches. The Bills defense did the exact opposite and seems to be peaking at the right time. They surrendered 28 points per game in the first six contests versus 21 points over the last 10 games. The temperature is expected to be below zero degree Celsius this Saturday. Philip Rivers played his entire career in the warm weather of San Diego and Los Angeles before joining the Colts who play in a stadium covered by a dome. Buffalo wins big and finally gets its first playoff victory since 1995! Official pick: Bills -6.5 WILD CARD GAME #2: LOS ANGELES RAMS AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (-3.5) I am not going to bet this game, but if I was forced to do it I’d back the Rams here. The situation at quarterback is unclear for Los Angeles, but the latest reports suggest Jared Goff should be under center. If he is unable to go, John Wolford will take the field. He did better than expected in a must-win game last week. He’s not as good as Goff as a passer, but he was a threat as a runner. I also like the fact that the Rams are expected to get three key players back this weekend: wide receiver Cooper Kupp, left tackle Andrew Whitworth and defensive end Michael Brockers. Seattle’s defense improved a lot late in the season, while L.A.’s defense was strong all season long. This could be a defensive battle, in which case I prefer to go with the underdog. Still, I am not going to pull the trigger on the Rams. Seattle has won 11 consecutive playoff games when favored. They also post a great 6-1 ATS record in wild card games. Lean: Rams +3.5 WILD CARD GAME #3: TAMPA BAY BUCS (-8.5) AT WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM I won’t put money at risk in this game either, but I am leaning towards the Bucs. Alex Smith appeared even more limited than usual last week in Philadelphia, and he really played poorly. Washington’s running game couldn’t get going all night long, and it led to a bad outing by the offense. Now facing the top run defense in the league, how are they going to score points? I simply do not trust Alex Smith to light up the scoreboard, especially with his top two threats, Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin, being banged up. So why am I not betting this game then? There are a few numbers and trends that scare me. Since 1970, only three teams were road favorites by 6+ points in the playoffs; all of them lost straight up! Also, the Bucs are 0-4 in primetime games this season. They were really awful in such games. Finally, the only other two squads qualifying for the postseason despite a losing record both covered in their first playoff game. Lean: Bucs -8.5 WILD CARD GAME #4: BALTIMORE RAVENS (-3 OR -3.5) AT TENNESSEE TITANS This time we have a pick that I like enough to put money at risk. In this matchup of the two best running attacks in the league, I am betting the Ravens as 3-point favorites. First, how could I omit mentioning the famous revenge factor, which is largely in favor of Baltimore? Not only did they lose 30-to-24 in overtime back in Week 11, but the Ravens were ousted from the playoffs last year by those same Titans by a 28-to-12 score. Both of these games occurred in Baltimore. The Ravens will be fired up to avenge those losses, and they won’t slow down even if they take the lead this Saturday. The Baltimore train has been picking up some steam recently. John Harbaugh’s team has beaten the spread in each of their final six games. They are also a perfect 6-0 ATS over the past six road playoff games and 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games in January. A piece of information that may be flying under the radar is the fact that Tennessee has three offensive linemen listed as questionable: Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones and Dennis Kelly. Even if they all suit up this Sunday, they are nicked up and could struggle against a tough Baltimore front. If you like betting totals, you may consider grabbing the over for two reasons. All five times that the Titans were underdogs this year, the game went over the total. Secondly, this will be just the third time that a wild card game has a total of 55 points or more. In the previous two instances, the game ended with exactly 73 points scored. Official pick: Ravens -3 Lean: Over 55 WILD CARD GAME #5: CHICAGO BEARS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-10) This is the third pick that I like enough to call it an “official” pick: I’m grabbing the Saints as 10-point favorites. The Bears have a fairly weak offensive line, so they are likely to struggle against the ferocious Saints defense. Also, Chicago is likely to miss a key piece of their defense due to injury: linebacker Roquan Smith. He exited the regular season finale against the Packers with an elbow injury. It looks like he dislocated his elbow and probably won’t be available this weekend. Meanwhile, the Saints have a good shot to get both Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas on the field. That should be a big boost to their offense. There are several statistics favoring New Orleans: Since 2011, double-digit favorites are 7-1 ATS in playoff games; The Bears are 0-4 ATS over the last two years as underdogs of 6 points or more; Chicago is 0-6 ATS on the road when facing a team with a winning record; Da Bears have a disappointing 6-18 ATS record after a double-digit home loss; The Saints are 4-0 ATS following a win by at least 14 points. Based on these arguments, I’m taking the Saints but for some reason I remain cautious and won’t go big on this one. I still prefer Buffalo and Baltimore this week. Official pick: Saints -10 WILD CARD GAME #6: CLEVELAND BROWNS AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-6) I am clearly avoiding this game. Way too many uncertainties surrounding this game. The Browns had some COVID-19 cases, which will prevent head coach Kevin Stefanski, star left guard Joel Bitonio and defensive end Olivier Vernon from taking the field. Other guys are uncertain to suit up this Sunday, including three offensive linemen (Tretter, Teller, Conklin) and a couple of cornerbacks (Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson). Who will play and who will miss the game? I prefer to avoid putting money at risk on this great AFC North matchup. The only wager I could consider making is betting the over. Why? The over has gone 9-1 with Big Ben under center in home playoff games. Also, the over is 11-3 when teams meet two weeks in a row. Lean: Over 47.5 This should be a fantastic weekend of football, so enjoy it guys! I’ll be back next week for more betting tips for the Divisional Round. Best of luck with your plays! Professor MJ https://youtu.be/KC2UYTUySLI
Written Wednesday November 4th, 2020 at 11 a.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed) ALERT, ALERT, BIG RED ALERT!!! We have a 5-star pick for just the third time this season! Here is the record of those high-confidence predictions over the past three seasons (I started rating my picks in 2018 – too bad I didn’t do it in 2017 since we had great lucrative year!): 2020 SEASON: 2-0 RECORD Week #1: Cards +7 at 49ers (win) Week #7: Jets +13 vs Bills (win) 2019 SEASON: 2-2 RECORD Week #5: 49ers -3.5 vs Browns (win) Week #7: Bears -3 vs Saints (loss) Week #14: Raiders +3 vs Titans (loss) Week #17: Cowboys -12 vs Redskins (win) 2018 SEASON: 3-0 RECORD Week #12: Ravens -10.5 vs Raiders (win) Week #12: Bills +3.5 vs Jaguars (win) Week #14: Saints -8 at Bucs (win) OVERALL: 7-2 RECORD (77.8% WIN RATE) Again, I feel obligated to remind you an important piece of advice: do not bet your house on a single bet. As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t bet more than 5% of your bankroll on one selection. Before we get going, here is a quick review of the performance of this year’s NFL picks: 5 STARS: 2-0 record 4 STARS: 4-2-1 record 3 STARS: 6-7 record 2 STARS: 1-4 record 1 STAR: 4-2 record OVERALL: 17-15-1 record (a 53.1% win rate) While the overall winning percentage is decent, notice this interesting trend: PICKS RATED 4-5 STARS: 6-2-1 record PICKS RATED 1-2-3 STARS: 11-13 record In other words, the best plays have been hitting at a higher rate. All right, let’s get started! PICK #1 (5 STARS): DENVER BRONCOS +4 AT ATLANTA FALCONS Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. The Falcons will be benefiting from three extra days of rest since they played last week’s Thursday night game. Still, I absolutely love the Broncos in this matchup. I even sent an alert to my mailing list subscribers and my Facebook/Twitter followers as early as Monday to let them know I was taking Denver. At the time, I bet the Broncos +4 points at -105 odds. I was convinced the line would only deteriorate as the week would progress and so far I’ve been right. At the time of writing (Wednesday morning), Pinnacle now has Denver +4 at -113 odds, while many bookies have dropped their line to 3.5. I believe it might even go as low as 3 points. Despite some key injuries on defense, Denver remains very solid on that side of the ball. They have lost Jurrell Casey, Mike Purcell and Von Miller. Still, their 11 starters have an average 2020 ProFootballFocus grades of 68.3, while the league average is 61.6. They have a much better defense than Atlanta’s. On offense, you might want to give the edge to the Falcons, though. However, Calvin Ridley is on the wrong side of questionable due to a foot injury he suffered last week. He is a big part of their offense. The big question is how Drew Lock will perform this Sunday. He had a good first outing against the Titans. He got hurt in Week #2 and had two straight disappointing games upon his return. Indeed, he did not throw a single TD pass versus four picks in those two matchups. Last week, trailing 24-to-3 early in the third quarter, it looked like Lock would finish with another poor performance, but he threw 3 TD passes in the second half to seal a stunning 31-30 comeback win over the Chargers. This game will certainly boost his confidence, and facing a suspect Falcons secondary should also help. A few interesting trends: The Broncos are 4-1 against the spread (ATS) in their last five games as road underdogs; The Falcons are 0-4 ATS over their past four matches as home favorites. Final note: it would help the Broncos if the coaching staff realized that Phillip Lindsay is a superior running back than Melvin Gordon. Give him more touches for crying out loud! Lindsay has rushed for over 1,000 yards both in 2018 and 2019, while averaging between 4.5 and 6.4 yards per carry in each of his three years in the NFL. Meanwhile, Gordon averages 4.2 yards per rush and he doesn’t look as explosive. I know that Gordon was given a fat contract, but you need to put your best players on the field if you want to win! PICK #2 (3 STARS): WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM -3 VS NEW YORK GIANTS First of all, I tend to back favorites coming off their bye week, as they held a 98-60-5 ATS record during a four-year span. Washington will be much more rested than New York. Not only are they coming off their bye, but the Giants fought hard against the Bucs last Monday night, which means they are getting one less day than usual to game plan and to rest for this upcoming divisional matchup. Notice that Washington will be at home for a third consecutive week, and also a fifth time in six weeks! Their lone road game during this time period was in New York, which wasn’t a long trip. Speaking of making a trip to New York, do I need to remind you that I love betting teams that have lost the first meeting between two division rivals? Back in Week 6, the Giants won a close call by a 20-to-19 score against Washington. At times, Daniel Jones looks like a franchise quarterback. He makes good throws and you start thinking he is the future of this organization. And then he makes dumb mistakes that leaves you scratching your head. He just doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes! He is a turnover machine. I like what Kyle Allen has done this year. He has thrown four TD passes versus just one interception. Granted, he faced the Giants and the Cowboys, which are not among the league’s best defenses, but he still did his job. He has also completed close to 69% of his passes, which is impressive. He seems to have a good connection with Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas. The Giants have beaten the spread on five of their last seven matchups in Washington, though. Still, I’m going with Washington. According to PFF grades, Washington has a slightly better defense, and a much better offensive line. PICK #3 (2 STARS): SEATTLE SEAHAWKS -2.5 AT BUFFALO BILLS It is very rare that I bet against the same team three weeks in a row, but that happens to be the case here. I am fading the Bills once again, the team that made me win my biggest wager ever last season (over 6.5 regular season wins). I have nothing against Buffalo; I just go where the value is. In this case, I think getting Seattle to lay just 2.5 points is good value. The Bills defense has been a huge disappointment this season, and they have not done much better than Seattle’s unit. Buffalo has allowed less points per game, but the average PFF grades of the 11 Seattle defensive starters stands at 63.7 versus 58.4 for Buffalo. Based on those figures, it’s hard to claim that the Bills defense is clearly superior to Seattle’s. On offense, no one is doubting the fact that the Seahawks are more powerful. They have the better quarterback for sure. At wide receiver, Buffalo has a good trio with Diggs-Brown-Beasley, but in my opinion Lockett and Metcalf are more dominant. Also, Seattle’s running game has been more convincing, although Buffalo’s ground game finally got going against the Patriots last week. Finally, the offensive lines are fairly comparable; I might even give a small edge to Seattle here. The Seahawks are 7-1 ATS on the road when facing a team with a winning record. However, they have been a losing bet against the spread in their last four matchups on turf. Meanwhile, the Bills are 3-8 ATS in their past 11 games as home underdogs. Even though the Seahawks will be playing an early Sunday game as a West Coast team, I’m taking them as 2.5-point favorites. UNOFFICIAL PICKS Last week, many people told me they appreciated the fact that I added unofficial picks to my weekly write-up. So back by popular demand, here are some leans: Colts +2.5 vs Ravens (I came close from making it an official one-star pick, but didn’t pull the trigger. Philip Rivers scares me a little bit. The Colts defense against the run ranks 2nd in the NFL in terms of yards-per-carry average, which matches up well against Baltimore. The Ravens are 0-4 ATS in their last four trips in Indy, and hold an overall 1-10 ATS record over the past 11 meetings with the Colts. Many players from Baltimore won’t practice this week after being in close contact with Marlon Humphrey, who was diagnosed with covid-19); Lions +4 at Vikings (I love betting weaker teams in a divisional road game coming off a big straight up loss. In this case, Detroit lost by 20 points last week. They are looking for revenge after losing both meetings versus Minnesota last year. Kenny Golladay is out, which hurts Detroit’s offense. The Vikings defense did surprisingly well last week against the Packers, despite fielding seven rookies. They might go back to normal and allow tons of yards/points this week); Saints +5.5 at Bucs (Tampa loses one day of preparation due to playing the Monday nighter, but will be looking to avenge a Week 1 loss to those same Saints. New Orleans beat the spread in the last four meetings with Tampa and you cannot ignore the fact that they are 20-6 ATS in their last 26 games as underdogs and 6-2 ATS on grass. The Saints could get both Emmanuel Sanders and Michael Thomas this week); Cards -4.5 vs Dolphins (We did not learn much about Tua last week since Miami’s defense and special teams won the game for them. Their defense has allowed just 11 points per game over the past three games, but I believe they are not that good and will revert to the mean. The Cards are another favorite coming off their bye week and have not had to travel in any of the last three weeks); Under 50 points Broncos-Falcons (this total seems high considering I expect both offenses to have trouble moving the ball on offense); Over 41.5 points Patriots-Jets (if we pretend like all Patriots and Jets games had a total of 41.5, the over would have gone 8-7. However, if you remove games where Cam Newton and Sam Darnold were out due to injuries, this record shoots up to 8-4. Some might argue the under is 7-1 in the last eight meetings between these two clubs, but I’m still backing the over). Best of luck my friend! Professor MJ Twitter https://twitter.com/DavidBeaudoin79 Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/ProfessorMJ https://www.youtube.com/c/ProfessorMJ/featured