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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 Friday December 18th, 2020 at 8 a.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed) We did not experience a losing week for the fifth straight time. We finished Week 14 with a 3-3 record against the spread (ATS). Most importantly, the 5-star pick was a winner. We grabbed the Titans -7 at the Jaguars, which turned out to be an easy winner. During the regular season, I tend to pick more underdogs than favorites. But when we get towards the final weeks of the year, I feel like the cream rises to the top and we observe great teams imposing their will on less-motivated and less-talented squads. That’s why I’m going with more favorites than usual this week. Oddly enough, we only have three official picks this week, but one of them has the highest five-star rating. Such predictions are 4-2 this year, and an impressive 9-4 since I started this Professor MJ brand three years ago. Let’s rolllllllll!!!!!!! PICK #1 (5 STARS): PITTSBURGH STEELERS -13 AT CINCINNATI BENGALS Both Ryan Finley and Brandon Allen are bad quarterbacks. Plain and simple. Since Joe Burrow got hurt, Cincinnati’s offense has scored 17, 7 and 7 points in their three matches. There is absolutely no reason to believe it will get better against the feisty Pittsburgh defense. They are going to eat them alive. The Steelers have recorded the most interceptions this season. They also have a ferocious front seven that puts a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They are going up against a weak Bengals offensive line, so the result will be catastrophic for Cincy, unless Boyd, Higgins or Green can somehow break a long TD. The Steelers have lost two straight games. It’s never a good spot to face an elite team after a couple of bad performances because you know they won’t take the game lighly. That’s especially true considering this is a primetime game. And they are facing a division rival. Let’s end with an astounding statistic: the Steelers have a mind-blowing 16-3-2 ATS record over their past 21 meetings in Cincinnati. That’s remarkable! In other words, we have all the ingredients for a blowout. There is no way Pittsburgh comes into this game unfocused. I expect them to win by at least 17 points, but it could very well end with a 30-point margin as well. PICK #2 (2 STARS): INDIANAPOLIS COLTS -7.5 VS HOUSTON TEXANS I am a fan of the revenge factor, which would have a tendency to favor the Texans here since they lost 26-to-20 against the Colts a couple of weeks ago. Still, my money will be on Indy this weekend. The Colts have beaten the spread the last five times they faced Houston. Even more impressive is the fact that Indianapolis holds a 12-3-2 ATS record in the past 17 meetings with the Texans, wow! Also, the Texans will be on the road for the fifth time over the past seven weeks. That’s a lot of traveling recently. Running back David Johnson is expected to be back in Houston’s backfield, but he has not been effective this year, nor Duke Johnson. The Colts run D has been superb this season, surrendering more than 75 rushing yards only to Derrick Henry. That included holding in check good runners like Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones and Josh Jacobs. That will make the Texans unidimensional on offense. Meanwhile, Frank Reich’s team will have plenty of ways to put points on the board. The Texans have allowed the most rushing yards per game to opposing running backs. Things will get even worse with nose tackle Brandon Dunn and safety Justin Reid getting hurt last week. Star left tackle Anthony Castonzo made a return from injury last week on a limited basis. He should see more action this week. The mismatch in the trenches will be incredibly in favor of Indy. The Colts running game has been ordinary this year, but rookie Jonathan Taylor seems to have found his rhythm. Indeed, he has rushed for 90+ yards in each of his last three contests. To make matters worse, Houston pass defense is also atrocious. It was already among the league’s worst units, and it got even worse when its top cornerback, Bradley Roby, got slammed with a six-game suspension. The Texans have nothing to play for, while the Colts need this win to keep up with the Titans atop the AFC South division. The only way Houston covers the spread is if Deshaun Watson manages to throw at least 3-4 TD passes to compensate for his porous defense. Even though I like Watson, I don’t believe it will happen, so I’m putting my money on the Colts. PICK #3 (2 STARS): GREEN BAY PACKERS -8 VS CAROLINA PANTHERS New Orleans’ surprising loss to the Eagles, combined with Green Bay’s win in Detroit propelled the Packers to the NFC’s number one seed. Getting the top spot is super valuable since it is the only one providing a bye during the playoffs. For this reason, there is no way the Packers take this game lightly. The weather forecast indicates a pretty cold day in Green Bay: around 0 degree Celsius. Aaron Rodgers is used to this kind of weather, while the Panthers don’t enjoy it nearly as much. Carolina might get wide receiver D.J. Moore back on the field, but they are unlikely to have running back Christian McCaffrey available. There is almost ZERO chance that the Panthers hold Green Bay’s passing game in check. Carolina has allowed at least 280 passing yards to opposing QBs in six of their last 7 games, including big production from average signal callers like Drew Lock and Kirk Cousins. How in the world are they supposed to stop Aaron Rodgers, who has been in MVP form throughout the year (ok, except against the Bucs!!). Donte Jackson, Rasul Douglas and Troy Pride represent one of the weakest coverage trios in all of football, while safety Tre Boston has been awful. It would be surprising if the Packers don’t score more than 30 points, so it will come down to whether Green Bay’s defense can hold the Panthers to a maximum of 20-23 points. I expect the Packers to score a boatload of points, which will force Teddy Bridgewater into passing mode and that will result into a few turnovers. UNOFFICIAL PICKS For entertainment purposes, here are some leans for you: LEAN #1: Patriots +2.5 at Dolphins (Bill Belichick is known for eating rookie quarterbacks for breakfast, Miami’s defense is great defending the pass but New England focuses on the ground game and the Pats get three extra days of rest after playing last Thursday); LEAN #2: Bears +3 or +3.5 at Vikings (Chicago will be looking to avenge an earlier 19-to-13 loss to those same Vikings, Minnesota is 1-6 ATS as home favorites recently and Da Bears have beaten the spread in five of the past seven meetings with Minnesota); LEAN #3: Ravens -13 vs Jaguars (huge difference in motivation between these two clubs, temperature expected to be near zero degree Celsius which the Jags won’t like too much, Ravens have the top rushing offense in football while Jacksonville has allowed 120+ rushing yards to opposing RBs in three straight contests and mobile QBs like Watson and Herbert have enjoyed some success against the Jags this season). It would be awesome if the 5-star pick could hit once again! Let’s beat our bookies, guys!!!!! Professor MJ https://youtu.be/hw0MDZPVmBc
Written Thursday October 15th, 2020 at 10 a.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed) The picks went a perfect 3-0 last week! Let’s keep rolllllling!#D PICK #1 (4 STARS): GREEN BAY PACKERS PICK’EM AT TAMPA BAY BUCS Over a four-year period, road favorites coming off a bye week posted an impressive 17-2-2 record against the spread (ATS). That’s impressive! Granted, Tampa is coming off a Thursday night game, but the Packers still benefit from four more days of rest. Green Bay has been playing at an extremely high level, especially their offense that has been firing on all cylinders despite playing most of the year without one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, Davante Adams. He is likely to be back on the field this Sunday. Aaron Rodgers’ offense has scored between 30 and 43 points in all of their four matchups. Take a look at Green Bay’s margins of victories this year: 9, 21, 7 and 14. In other words, the closest contest was a 7-point game. Meanwhile, I’m not sold on the Bucs yet. They hold a good 3-2 record, but they seem to lack consistency. Their offense looks great at times, but stalls and turns the ball over too often. And did you see Tom Brady last week who thought there was another down left when in fact the game was over? That’s a rookie mistake. The Packers were 2.5-point favorites last Tuesday before the line dropped to 0 on Thursday despite Davante Adams and nose tackle Kenny Clark being upgraded from questionable to probable. Thank you very much for the price reduction, I’ll take the Packers! PICK #2 (3 STARS): DETROIT LIONS -3 AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS You guessed it, I’m backing another road favorite coming off its bye week: the Detroit Lions. The extra time to rest and gameplan for this matchup will be more than welcome for Matt Patricia’s squad. Before the season began, the Jags were projected to be the worst team in the league, according to win totals set by sportsbooks. They surprised many, including myself, by kicking off the 2020 season with a 27-to-20 win over the Colts before losing a close call at Tennessee. Since then, things have been going downhill for Jacksonville. They lost by 18, 8 and 16 points in their next three games. Want to hear a stunning fact? The three teams that beat Jacksonville hold a combined 4-10 record this year. That means that if you remove the wins over the Jags, these clubs had just one win versus 10 losses against the rest of the league! And yet, Jacksonville went on to lose by an average of 14 points against those weak teams. That’s horrendous! The Lions were a team that I thought might surprise NFL fans this season. They have not done very well thus far with a 1-3 record. Their offense is more than respectable with Matthew Stafford at quarterback who has been super consistent from year to year. They also feature one of the most underrated wide receivers (Kenny Golladay), a great tight end prospect (T.J. Hockenson) and an acceptable trio of running backs. Their defense had acquired many players on the free agent market, including Danny Shelton, Jamie Collins and Desmond Trufant. And they also took cornerback Jeffrey Okudah with the third overall pick in the draft. This unit has been a disappointment thus far in 2020 by allowing a minimum of 23 points in each meeting. Considering the offseason was shortened due to the coronavirus, teams with many new faces were at a disadvantage. Maybe that’s why the Lions defense is taking more time to gel. I do believe they could improve substantially until the remainder of the year. For these reasons, I’m taking a team that has performed below its true value so far this year, the Detroit Lions, facing a team that has shown three super bad outcomes in a row. PICK #3 (2 STARS): CLEVELAND BROWNS +3 AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS Yes, my top pick last week was Pittsburgh, but this time I’m fading them. After getting clobbered by the Ravens in their opener, the Browns have rebounded nicely with four straight wins. Their average margin of victory has been 9.75 points. Cleveland’s victories came against teams whose combined record is 7-12-1. While that’s not great, take a look at Pittsburgh’s opponents: the Giants, the Broncos, the Texans and the Eagles. Those teams have compiled an atrocious 3-15-1 record. What makes matters worse is that the Steelers’ largest margin of victory in those four meetings was just 10 points. I especially like the progress shown by the Browns. They are getting more and more comfortable with their new head coach, Kevin Stefanski. I was super impressed with the way their offense moved the ball so easily against the stout Colts defense. Prior to this match, Indy had allowed an average of just 14 points per game. The Browns managed to put 32 points on the board. Granted, 9 of them came from the defense but the offense was able to sustain drives all afternoon. The Steelers defense was supposed to be among the top units in the league. They have performed well under expectations thus far. They allowed 29 points to the depleted Eagles offense last week, after surrendering 21 points both against the Texans and Broncos. In the latter case, Denver needed to replace Drew Lock early in the game and went with Jeff Driskel the rest of the way. One thing worries me about this pick, though: the Steelers will be at home for the fifth consecutive week! They have not had to travel much and are therefore well-rested. Still, I like the Browns to win the game outright, or at least keep this divisional matchup very close. Enjoy football this weekend! Professor MJ (www.professormj.com) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCszNw7lw10C53SurBFmwBVQ Twitter: @DavidBeaudoin79