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Written Wednesday January 20th, 2021 at 9 a.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed) After going 2-1 against the spread (ATS) in the NFL Wildcard Round, we went a perfect 3-0 last week! The playoffs have been very profitable to us so far with a 5-1 ATS record. Now, we have two great matchups on the menu for the Conference Championship games. I’ve got one official pick, and one lean for you. Also, I will conclude this article by telling you my plan regarding the Super Bowl proposition bets this year. Remember that I crushed Vegas bookies last season by coming back home with more than $8k in profit. Without further ado, let’s dive into this week’s picks for the NFC and AFC Championship games! CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME #1: TAMPA BAY BUCS VS GREEN BAY PACKERS (-3) As I was watching the second half of the Bucs versus Saints game last week, I was thinking that neither team was very impressive. Both teams had ups and downs, especially on offense. In my mind, the winner would probably end up losing in Green Bay in the NFC Championship game. I love anticipating what the point spread will be on each game. In this case, I was expecting the Packers to be 4-point favorites, and that’s exactly how the line opened. At that price, I was comfortable betting Green Bay. Now that the line has dropped to 3.5, and then 3 (as of Wednesday morning, which is when I wrote this article) I am definitely siding with the team from the frozen tundra. Here are four arguments favoring Green Bay in this spot: Argument #1: The rest factor. The Packers will be at home for the third straight week, while the Bucs will be traveling for the third consecutive week. Argument #2: The revenge factor. Do you really want to face Aaron Rodgers a second time after you have crushed him earlier in the year? I don’t think so. Back in Week 6, Tampa hammered Matt LaFleur’s team by a 38-to-10 score. That’s the only game all season where Rodgers did not throw a single TD pass. Oh man, he will be super focused to get some payback! Argument #3: The matchup. Tampa’s defense ranked number one in the league against the run. That’s great, but they finished 18th in terms of passer rating allowed. That’s very bad news when facing Rodgers and company. I know that they held them in check earlier this season, but it’s not going to happen again. Argument #4: The extra day. Green Bay gets an additional day to rest and game plan after playing last Saturday’s first game of the day, while the Bucs played the late game Sunday. I could have added the cold weather, as it is expected to be -6 degrees Celsius at Lambeau Field. However, Tom Brady has played many games in the cold with the Pats, but the rest of his teammates might not enjoy the weather too much, though… So I guess that could be argument #4B! I do like the Packers enough to put some money at risk. Official pick: Packers -3 CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME #2: BUFFALO BILLS VS KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-3) Here is how my point spread prediction went for this matchup: I was expecting the Chiefs to be favored by 6 points if Mahomes plays, while I anticipated K.C. to be 2.5- or 3-point favorites if Chad Henne is the starter. For this reason, I was shocked when the line opened at 2.5 since, in my mind, Mahomes had a 50-50 shot of suiting up for the AFC Championship game. Since then, the line moved to 3, but it is back at 2.5 with some sportsbooks. That completely changed my strategy. If the Bills had been 6-point underdogs, as I expected, I was going to put my money on them. But with such a small point spread, I believe the value lies on Kansas City. Don’t get me wrong: I believe Buffalo has enough talent to beat the Chiefs, even with Mahomes on the field. However, the Chiefs’ QB holds a 25-1 record since November 2019. That cannot be ignored. K.C. players also have more playoff experience. I wouldn’t mind betting Buffalo +6, but I don’t think putting money on Buffalo +3 is a good idea, let alone +2.5. Still, there are quite a few things going Buffalo’s way. First, they post a 7-1-2 record against the spread (ATS) as road underdogs. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are just 1-7 ATS in their last eight games as favorites (including 0-4 as home favorites). Also, don’t forget the famous revenge factor. Back in Week 6, Kansas City topped Buffalo 26-to-17, thanks to 245 rushing yards. The Bills simply couldn’t stop the running game. They have improved since then (as shown last week against the Ravens!), but that is still concerning. So, my final decision is to stay away from this game from a betting perspective due to conflicting arguments. However, if I was forced to bet, I would go with the Chiefs -3. At the time of writing, Sports Interaction has the Chiefs -2.5 at -112 odds, which is pretty tempting. Lean: Chiefs -3 CRUSHING SUPER BOWL PROPOSITION BETS Do you remember last year’s “Crushing Super Bowl Proposition Bets Project”, where I flew to Vegas a few days before the big game, so that I could place bigger bets and shop for the best lines? I had posted a series of seven videos where I detailed my adventure and showed you my betting tickets. Just to refresh your mind, I ended up making 11 bets; four of them were favorites, while seven were underdogs. In other words, my expected record on those plays was 4-7. Things played out almost perfectly as I finished with a 9-2 record, while racking up $8,330 USD in net profit. Some of you have already emailed me to ask whether I was going to do it again this year. That was the plan without a doubt, but COVID-19 will prevent me from making the trip, unfortunately. Do I really want to spend 3-4 days in Vegas without my girlfriend and kids, and then having to isolate myself for 14 more days without seeing them? Sports betting is a passion to me, but my family is important too. That being said, in terms of proposition bets, the Super Bowl is like Christmas to me. There are so many things you can wager on that sportsbooks cannot keep odds that are accurate on each bet all the time. Every year, there are TONS of weak lines that can be exploited. It’s pretty common that when the kickoff of the Super Bowl comes, all of my online sportsbook accounts are empty because I have wagered all of it on numerous proposition bets. And to be honest, I don’t remember a Super Bowl where I ended up with losses on those bets. Even though I won’t be headed to Vegas, I will still be keeping track of the lines from many online sportsbooks on all prop bets. I always use an Excel spreadsheet where I enter the lines from 10-20 bookies, which allows me to estimate accurately fair odds. It is then easy to spot lines that are out of whack, and therefore exploitable. Those are the lines that we want to hammer. I will find plenty of bargains for sure again this year. I will share a few of them via YouTube videos (maybe 3-5), while also offering the option of subscribing to a package where you receive ALL proposition bets that offer amazing value, as soon as I find them. I cannot promise a specific number of value wagers, but it should be at least 15-20. If you’re interested, you can sign up now by following this link: https://www.professormj.com/products/super-bowl-lv-proposition-bets Have fun this weekend! Professor MJ https://youtu.be/PQvZiu6Z-6o
Written Thursday January 14th, 2021 at 11 a.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed) Last week in the Wildcard Round I made three official picks against the spread: the lone losing bet was the Bills -6.5, while the other two were winners (Ravens -3 and Saints -10). Many people have asked me to recap my preseason win total predictions. Remember that I previewed each of the 32 NFL teams, while making a pick on the over/under for their win total. Those plays were largely based on the simulation of one million seasons using the projected point spreads on all 256 regular season games. It turned out that 20 picks were right versus 12 that were wrong, a nice 62.5% win rate. I ended up racking up more than $8,000 on those bets. I wanted to go to Vegas to place larger bets, but COVID-19 prevented me from making the trip, unfortunately. It’s now time for my Divisional Round picks against the spread. Buckle up, here we go!!! DIVISIONAL ROUND GAME #1: LOS ANGELES RAMS VS GREEN BAY PACKERS (-6.5) When the line opened at 7, I was clearly leaning towards the Rams. Early money agreed with me and went heavily on Los Angeles, so sportsbooks had to drop the line to 6.5. Since then, I have heard that bettors are hammering the Packers. After analyzing the game in-depth, I am now betting Green Bay as 6.5-point favorites. Most of the time, I go against the public, but not this time. The Packers are the number one seed and coming off a bye week. As mentioned several times this season, getting additional time to heal and gameplan has produced a much bigger advantage to great teams, as opposed to weaker squads who do not seem to make good use of this extra time. I believe we all agree Green Bay is a solid team. On top of that, the Packers will be facing a banged up team. Jared Goff, John Wolford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald are all hurt. They will likely suit up Saturday, but won’t be 100% for sure. Also, L.A. is not used to playing in cold weather. We are expecting below-zero temperature, a situation where Aaron Rodgers is 29-7 straight up. The Rams defense has been very impressive this season, but here is a jaw-dropping statistic: they have allowed an average of 13.5 points per game at home versus 23.5 on the road. That’s a huge difference! They haven’t been nearly as stifling as visitors this year. I do believe Rodgers and company will find a way to move the ball, especially if Aaron Donald is slowed down by his injured ribs. Green Bay is a perfect 6-0 ATS in the last six meetings with the Rams. They are 11-6 as home favorites since Matt LaFleur took over as head coach. Rodgers and Goff did face off against each other in 2018, a game in which the Rams won 29-27 in Los Angeles. Rodgers will get the victory by at least 7 points this time around. Official pick: Packers -6.5 DIVISIONAL ROUND GAME #2: BALTIMORE RAVENS VS BUFFALO BILLS (-2.5) Born in Florida, Lamar Jackson said it would be his first time playing in the snow, if the forecast is right about getting close to an inch of snow this Saturday in Orchard Park, NY. That would make the field more slippery, and therefore more difficult for him to shake and bake as a runner. That’s one of the reason why I’m going with Buffalo as 2.5-point favorites. The Bills will also be at home for the third straight week, while Baltimore will be traveling for a third consecutive time. Also, the Ravens lose one day of preparation after playing last Sunday and now playing Saturday. That’s not a huge blow, but still worth mentioning. Some things are scaring me, though. Baltimore is 6-0 ATS as an underdog in the playoffs. They also match up fairly well against Buffalo since they led the league in yards-per-carry, while Buffalo’s run defense finished 25th in that category. Also, the Bills pass the ball often, which happens to be Baltimore’s strength on defense (they were much softer against the run this year). Still, I’ll go with Buffalo, whose offense has been much more convincing. The Ravens were struggling against a bad Titans defense last week, until Lamar scored on a 48-yard scamper that completely changed the game. Despite a recent surge by Baltimore, the Bills seem to be the stronger team and they will be at home on a cold day. They have been one of the hottest teams in the league during the latter portion of the regular season, and they have what it takes to win their first Super Bowl ever. Official pick: Bills -2.5 DIVISIONAL ROUND GAME #3: CLEVELAND BROWNS VS KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-10) This won’t be an official pick since I don’t have that much confidence, but if I were forced to bet this game I’d bet Cleveland as 10-point dogs. However, I do not like the fact that the Chiefs are coming off a bye. Under such circumstances, Andy Reid is 20-3 in his career, an astounding record! Kansas City will also be at home for the fourth straight week, which means they didn’t have to travel and will be well-rested. Still, I am leaning towards the Browns due to their strong running game facing the Chiefs’ front seven that has been soft at times. Cleveland will be looking to control the clock and leave Patrick Mahomes on the sidelines. After throwing 7 interceptions over the first 7 games of the season, Baker Mayfield has thrown just one in its past 10 matches! He has significantly improved, and he seems to be playing better since Odell Beckham went down to an injury. The Chiefs have beaten the spread in 5 of their past 6 matchups at home against a team with a winning record, but they are just 1-6 ATS as favorites recently. One more thing prevents me from pulling the trigger on this one: was Cleveland’s win in Pittsburgh last week their Super Bowl? Their subconscious might feel like they’ve already accomplished something great, and they may not be as hungry this week in K.C. Lean: Browns +10 DIVISIONAL ROUND GAME #4: TAMPA BAY BUCS VS NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-3) You know how much I love the revenge factor. Beating the same opponent three times within the same season is very hard. That’s the challenge the Saints will be facing this Sunday. And that’s one of the reasons I’ll put my money on Tampa. Am I super confident the Bucs will advance to the NFC Championship Game? No. The Saints might win a close game. If you back New Orleans, your ticket will be a winner only if New Orleans wins the game by 4 points or more. To me, that’s less likely to occur than Tampa either winning the game or losing by less than a field goal. Sure, the Bucs are 0-5 ATS in their last five meetings with Sean Payton. They were also 1-4 ATS as road underdogs recently. However, since their shameful 38-3 loss to the Saints in Week 9, Tampa has scored an average of 34 points per game. It took them more time to develop chemistry on offense, and they have since added Antonio Brown to the mix. New Orleans has beaten the spread the last four times they were home favorites, but they post a disappointing 1-5 ATS record as playoff favorites over the most recent years. I expect a very tight game that could go either way, in which case I prefer to side with the underdog. Official pick: Bucs +3 Enjoy the games! Professor MJ https://youtu.be/uiKo-YKjgok
Written January 9rd, 2020 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed) The picks went 3-1 last week. Let's stay on the winning track! Minnesota Vikings +7 or San Francisco 49ers -7 ? The 49ers got a much-needed bye week, thanks to a goal-line stand in the final moments of last regular season game against the Seahawks. The additional rest will allow San Francisco’s defense to get a boost, with the return of Kwon Alexander, Dee Ford and Jaquiski Tartt. Let’s face the reality: the Niners defense did not dominate nearly as much in the second half of the season. In the first seven games, San Francisco’s defense allowed an average of 11 points per game. That number exploded to 26 points per game during the final nine contests. Part of this steep raise can be attributed to the strength of opposition, but we’re still talking about a huge spike! The weakest link on the Niners defense is when it comes to stopping the run. They finished 17th in the NFL in terms of rushing yards allowed per game. The bad news is Minnesota excels at running the ball. Dalvin Cook looked fast and fresh last week in New Orleans after sitting out the last two regular season games. Both quarterbacks finished with similar passing completion rates, passing yards and TD passes. The one difference lied in the number of interceptions thrown: 13 for Garoppolo versus just 6 for Cousins. I was impressed with Minnesota’s defensive line last week. They pressured Drew Brees all game long, and pretty much shut down the running game (except some unconventional runs by Taysom Hill, which is unlikely to happen against the Niners). Both teams have a well-balanced attack and a stout defense. I expect a hard-fought game, where the Niners will come on top by a close margin. For this reason, I’m taking the Vikings +7 points in San Francisco. Tennessee Titans +9.5 or Baltimore Ravens -9.5 ? The Titans defeated the defending Super Bowl champions last week by beating the Patriots 20-to-13. The line for this game opened at 10, but dropped to 9.5 since then. Let me tell you right away that I’m going with the Ravens laying 9.5 points. It’s easy to get excited over the great win by Tennessee last week, and the amazing performance by running back Derrick Henry. However, don’t forget the Titans got a 9-7 record this year, compared to 14-2 for Baltimore. Tennessee lost games against the Jaguars, the Broncos and the Panthers this season. They can be great at time, and bad at others. I’m betting it will be an off day for the Titans this weekend against a Baltimore team that is riding a 12-game winning streak. Did you know Ryan Tannehill led the league in passer rating? Still, for some reason I don’t trust him too much. Against a stingy pass defense last week, he struggled quite a bit. He completed just 8 passes out of 15 for a total of 72 yards. That’s not reassuring. The Ravens will focus on stopping the run, and dare Tannehill to beat them. I don’t think it’s going to end well for the Titans. These two teams met in Tennessee last season. I know the rosters were fairly different, but the Ravens won 21-0, a game in which Derrick Henry rushed for just 21 yards on seven carries. The Ravens finished the season with more than 200 rushing yards per game on average, a feat that had never been accomplished before. Lamar Jackson showed he can throw too; over his last eight games, he threw 25 touchdown passes versus a single pick. That’s impressive! One final telling statistic for you: the Ravens beat their opponents by at least 10 points in eight of their final 10 games. That included meetings with some very strong teams. I’m betting Baltimore -9.5 points. Houston Texans +9.5 or Kansas City Chiefs -9.5 ? The Chiefs seem to be peaking at the right time. After starting the season with a 6-4 record, they concluded with six straight victories. All of them occurred with a margin of at least 7 points! Meanwhile, it seems difficult to trust this Texans’ team. They are very inconsistent, as shown by their playoff win against Buffalo last week. They started slow by trailing 16-to-0 and rallied to win in overtime. Also, their negative point differential of -7 during the regular season is a shame for a division champion! The revenge factor goes in favor of K.C. since Houston pulled off the upset at Arrowhead back in Week #6. The Chiefs led 17-to-3 after one quarter in this game; they won’t let them off the hook this time around. Both QBs threw for exactly 26 TD passes. However, Watson was the victim of 12 interceptions versus just 5 for Patrick Mahomes. Another key argument is the defensive side of the ball. Houston’s defense was not very good; they finished 28th in terms of total yards allowed per game. As a comparison, the Chiefs defense finished 17th in that category, but they improved dramatically over the second half of the season. Indeed, they allowed just 11.5 points per game during their last six games. Therefore, I’m going with the Chiefs -9.5 points. Seattle Seahawks +4.5 or Green Bay Packers -4.5 ? The final meeting of the weekend involves two fierce competitors at quarterback: Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. Based on the point spread, it should be the closest game of the weekend. The Seahawks have been plagued with injuries at the running back position, and also on the offensive line. However, they might get a couple of guys back: Duane Brown and Mike Iupati. With “Beast Mode” getting accustomed to being back on the field, Seattle will try to mimic what the Lions did to the Packers a couple of weeks ago, a game in which they racked up 171 rushing yards. I’m going to take the Seahawks and the points in this game, even though Seattle is 0-5-1 in their last six meetings at Lambeau Field. To me, the Packers passing offense relies too much on Davante Adams. Seattle seems to have more weapons with Tyler Lockett, Jacob Hollister and the emergence of rookie D.K. Metcalf, who looked like a beast in Philly last week! On Green Bay’s side, Lazard, Valdes-Scantling and Jimmy Graham are too inconsistent. The Packers have the better defense, though, especially with the Smiths (Preston and Za’Darius). Still, we’re talking about evenly matched teams. I can see this game ending on the final drive with either team moving on to the NFC Championship game. Under this setting, I’m taking the underdogs: Seattle +4.5.