Wild-card weekend was all about the quarterbacks. Several of the league's young passers were impressive in their postseason debuts. However, even teams that had to rely on their backup quarterbacks (Dolphins and Ravens) were live underdogs that came very close to pulling massive upsets. Historical trends suggested we were in for a long weekend of low-scoring action, with only five of the 12 quarterbacks having significant playoff experience. Still, we learned a new lesson: coaching matters.
Brock Purdy and Trevor Lawrence bounced back after rough first halves, and Daniel Jones was efficient from the opening kickoff, engineering touchdowns on each of his first two drives. Having coaches like Kyle Shanahan, Doug Pederson and Brian Daboll goes a long way and will undoubtedly add a caveat to how bettors view these trends going forward.
We capitalized on Shanahan and Daboll by hitting the over in both games last week, moving our recent run to 11-4 on totals. The NFL is built on offense, from the rosters to the rules. Teams averaged over 55 points per game in the wild-card round, with half the games featuring 60 points or more. So while the perception of high-stakes playoff football driving more conservative, low-scoring games makes a ton of sense, I prefer to bet on the competitiveness bringing the best out of the league's elite offenses. If you are a member of the "life is too short to bet the under" crowd, here is a strong bet to add to this weekend's betting card.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs (Over 51.5)
Let's start with a fun fact. The Jacksonville Jaguars scored 146 points over the season's final five weeks for an average of 29.2 points per game. That's the exact same amount scored by the league's No. 1 offense, the Kansas City Chiefs. Of course, we both know these two offenses are not the same, but it does demonstrate how much Pederson's Jaguars have grown with Lawrence. And more importantly, the Jags proved they can do it in the postseason against a solid Chargers secondary. I wouldn't pencil Jacksonville in for 30 points in this one, but I wouldn't be shocked if the Jags got there, either. The best part about this bet is that we only need them to get to the 21-24-point range with the Chiefs on the other side.
The Kansas City offense is No. 1 across the board, whether it's DVOA, passing DVOA, EPA per play, EPA per drop-back or overall offensive success rate. And if you don't like advanced metrics, the Chiefs scored more points than everybody else. Unlike Jacksonville, they averaged 29.2 points per game the entire regular season. So don't worry about penciling the Chiefs in for 30 points. You can pull out the Sharpie for this one.
The Jaguars have one of the worst pass defenses in the league (30th pass DVOA), struggle to make tackles in space and allow the fourth-most yards to tight ends this season. It's a dream matchup for not just Travis Kelce but head coach Andy Reid, who should be able to scheme guys open all over the field. Kansas City opened last year's postseason by dropping 42 points in consecutive games against Pittsburgh and Buffalo, so I don't foresee them coming out flat in this one. A score of 35-17 makes this bet a winning wager, and that's probably a touchdown short on each side.
Stats provided by Football Outsiders, rbsdm, pff, and teamrankings.