NFL Divisional Playoff Top Seeds
THE NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS - A CLOSER LOOK AT THE #1 AND #2 SEEDS
PLUS WE RE-CAP ALABAMA’S STIRRING 40-35 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP NON-COVER WIN VS. CLEMSON
THE COLLEGE HOOPS REPORT
Last year was an NFL Playoffs rarity … we actually got a Super Bowl matchup pitting a pair of #1 seeds (see New England versus Seattle) and now we wonder if we’re gonna get a couple of #1 seeds or maybe even one or two #2 seeds into this year’s Super Bowl 50.
Let’s face it… NFL Wild Card Weekend was a road warrior’s dream with all four away teams copping SU (straight-up) wins and so now there’s a pair of #5 seeds and a couple of #6 seeds in action this weekend looking to disrupt the “status quo” once again and we’ll preview all the NFL Divisional Playoff games beginning with tomorrow’s jam-packed edition of Jim Sez but first this key reminder followed by a closer/pointspread-heavy look at the #1 and #2 seeds in action:
Your attention, please …
Make sure you cash in big with Side & Totals winners this Saturday and Sunday in the NFL Divisional Playoff Games as the Kansas City Chiefs are at the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers are at the Arizona Cardinals in Saturday games – and they’re followed on Sunday by the Seattle Seahawks at the Carolina Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers are at the Denver Broncos:
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NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
In the AFC, it’s …
#1 DENVER (12-4) – The Broncos famously could have been as low as the #5 seed had they lost that regular-season finale against gritty San Diego back on Jan. 3rd but instead here’s the AFC West champs sitting with the conference’s top seed for the second time in three years. Perhaps lost amidst all the quarterback talk – is it Peyton Manning’s team or is it Brock Osweiler’s club? – that cropped up the past couple of weeks is the fact that the Broncos actually failed to cover three of their final four games and Gary Kubiak’s crew heads into Sunday’s tilt against banged-up Pittsburgh having failed to cover its last three consecutive home games … wow.
This is the fifth consecutive year the Broncos are in the playoffs but did you know that Denver’s a rotten 2-5 versus the vig in the seven post-season games since 2011? Last year’s one-and-done bit – an embarrassing 24-13 no-show loss to 9.5-point underdog Indianapolis – not only got then-coach John Fox fired but it set off all those alarms regarding the aforementioned Manning who was a flop in that playoff tilt and now enters this game against the Steelers with only 9 TDs and 17 INTs on the year.
The Broncos are a modest + 59 in the points differential category this season (355 points scored; 296 points allowed) and remember Denver enters the post-season with a kooky 7-6-3 ATS mark for the 2015 campaign.
#2 NEW ENGLAND (12-4) – Okay, so the Patriots aren’t exactly steam-rolling their way into this year’s post-season action following those regular-season-ending road losses at the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins but this does mark the sixth straight year that Bill Belichick’s crew earned a first-round playoff bye and it’s worth noting the Pats are a composite 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS (against the spread) in the AFC Divisional Playoff Round since 2010. Overall, New England is a sub-par 5-6 versus the vig in all post-season games during these previous five years and that includes failing to cover the 7-point home price a year ago in this round in a wild 35-31 non-cover triumph over Baltimore.
In case you were wondering, this 2015 New England team registered a 9-3 SU mark against fellow AFC teams while going 6-4-2 ATS – the Patriots didn’t play Kansas City in the regular season but did get crushed 41-14 at Arrowhead Stadium in a now-infamous Monday Night Football game where afterwards Belichick mumbled “It’s on to Cincinnati.” P.S., since then the Patriots are 24-6 SU overall and 17-11-2.
Note that the Patriots are a + 150 in the scoring differential category (465 points scored; 315 points allowed) and that’s the best among all AFC teams.
In the NFC, it’s …
#1 CAROLINA (15-1) – The NFL’s winningest regular-season team also happened to be the highest-scoring team in the league and who ever would have predicted that way back in August (especially after star WR Kelvin Benjamin went down for the year)! In fact, the Panthers – set to host 2.5-point underdog Seattle this Sunday afternoon in an NFC Divisional Playoff game – are a + 192 in the points differential category (500 points scored; 308 points allowed) and Ron Rivera’s club also boasts an 11-1 SU and 8-4 ATS mark against fellow NFC teams this year en route to a snazzy 11-5 ATS overall mark.
In terms of recent playoff history, Carolina is making its third straight trip to the post-season but you must go all the way back to the 2005 campaign to discover the last time the Panthers won a Divisional Playoff Round game – then the Panthers lost 34-14 in Seattle in the NFC Championship Game while playing a third consecutive road game but as everyone knows this Carolina crew ain’t playing outside of Charlotte until/unless it gets to Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara early next month.
Overall, Carolina is 11-5 against the odds this year and that includes a spiffy 5-2 spread mark when in the role of home betting favorites.
#2 ARIZONA (13-3) – Toss out that regular-season-ending 36-6 home loss against Seattle as the Cardinals didn’t give a hoot about that one and still the Redbirds are a shiny 30-18-1 ATS since the Bruce Arians Era began back in 2013 (that’s a .625 winning percentage). Dig a little bit deeper and you see the Cards are 14-10 spreadwise as hosts the past three years but worth mentioning the only three times this 2015 season that ‘Zona won/covered as home betting favorites was against New Orleans in Week 1, against San Francisco in Week 3 and versus Green Bay in Week 16 … now here come the Packers back into the “big toaster” looking for major revenge following Arizona’s 38-8 win as 6-point favorites two days after Christmas.
The Cardinals this year are a + 176 in the points differential category (489 points scored; 313 points allowed) – that’s second-best to Carolina among all NFL teams – and remember they’re 10-2 SU against fellow NFC teams with a tidy 8-4 ATS mark in those conference games.
And, of course, there’s only one playoff game the last five years for Arizona – the 27-16 loss at 5.5-point favorite Carolina in last year’s NFC Wild Card Round – but if you wish to go back to the franchise’s 2008 Super Bowl season you’ll see the Cardinals are a collective 5-2 in post-season play against the odds including that 27-23 loss-but-cover against Pittsburgh in Super Bowl 43 … hmm, could we get a long-awaited “rematch” a few weeks down the line?
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT – ‘BAMA WINS AGAIN!
Take your pick as to what was the real “key” to Alabama’s 45-40 non-cover win against Clemson in this past Monday night’s College Football National Championship Game … the onside kick, the 95-yard kick return for a score or the 335-yard passing game from college journeyman Jake Coker. The bottom line is Clemson’s tackling/pass coverage was atrocious and so even a stellar 405-yard passing game by Heisman Trophy finalist QB Deshaun Watson (and don’t forget the 73 yards rushing that often kept alive Clemson drives) wasn’t enough to lift Dabo Swinney’s crew to a 15-and-oh mark and thus we have Alabama’s fourth national championship in the past seven years.
Ho-hum, you say. Okay, we know what you’re thinking (unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool ‘Bama fan, of course) but gotta say Tide head coach Nick Saban has mastered this whole lose-one-game-early-and-then-don’t-lose-again bit but be sure Alabama was there to be beaten by Clemson who unleashed its dual-threat quarterback (something Saban teams have not been able to handle the past couple of years) and you just know the Tigers are kicking themselves for falling asleep in coverage against TE O.J. Howard (208 yards receiving and two TDs) – and we don’t want to hear any injury excuses surrounding hammy hurt CB Mackensie Alexander.
The problem for Clemson is 2015 was a magical year and magical years don’t happen all that often for teams not named Alabama … pin us down right now and we’ll forecast the four-team playoff field for the 2016 season and we’ll say it’s Alabama (of course), Notre Dame, Florida State and Ohio State.
Would you sign for a Florida State vs. Ohio State national title tilt right now?
COLLEGE BASKETBALL UPDATE
Lots of great mid-week hard-court action on the docket for this second Wednesday of the New Year …
#9 Duke is at Clemson in an ACC head-knocker and the question with the young Blue Devils is can front-courters Marshall Plumlee and Brandon Ingram hold the fort with the right foot fracture injury to Amile Jefferson really causing depth issues for Coach K’s squad. Catch it on espn2 at 7 p.m. ET.
And it’s “Bedlam” on the wood floor with #2 Oklahoma trekking to Stillwater for a major Big 12 bash with Oklahoma State. Lon Kruger’s OU Sooners sport the country’s third-highest scoring team behind superstar G Buddy Hield (26.6 ppg and hitting at 52 percent from both the field and from beyond the three-point arc). This one’s on ESPNU at 9 p.m. ET on this Wednesday night.
NOTE: We’ll preview Saturday’s NFL Divisional Playoff games – that’s Kansas City at New England and Green Bay at Arizona – in tomorrow’s edition of Jim Sez.
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