Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 14, 2017 at 2:00 PM
THE NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS – SUNDAY’S SHOWDOWNS
The NFL Playoffs are all about a day like Sunday:
Two monster showdowns, four “name teams” and – we would expect – a whole lotta drama:
AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF
PITTSBURGH (12-5) at KANSAS CITY (12-4) – 1:05pm ET, NBC
The 2016 Kansas City Chiefs lost three games by a combined 11 points – and they lost one other game by 29 points.
See Pittsburgh 43, Kay Cee 14 way back in Week 4 action.
Okay, so maybe this whole revenge angle is being played to the hilt in Chiefs’ country this week – we could understand that, right? – but the proverbial bottom line here is there really isn’t all that much that separates these two high-class teams and thus the shift in betting odds from Steelers minus a point to Chiefs minus 1½ points … folks, this is toss-up city already!
No doubt that Pittsburgh is banking on another big ground game from RB Le’Veon Bell who patiently waited for holes to open and then – bam! – rambled to a 167-yard rushing performance with two TDs in the 30-12 win/cover against 11½ point pup Miami in last weekend’s AFC Wild Card Round game.
Bell had his way after the QB Ben Roethlisberger-to-WR Antonio Brown tandem struck for a pair of long-distance scores of 50 and 62 yards (forget the fact the Fish defense had zero interest in tackling Brown either occasion) but keep in mind this Chiefs’ defense has surrendered 30-or-more points just once this whole season.
Right, that first game against Pittsburgh on Oct. 2nd.
Roethlisberger (foot) is a go here – and yes we picked up the snarkiness from NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders who hinted “Big Ben” tends to get a bit over-dramatic with his injuries – but the two-time Super Bowl-winning slinger should expect plenty of hot blitzes here and pressure up the middle from NT Dontari Poe.
On the flip side, Kansas City QB Alex Smith simply doesn’t commit many mistakes as he’s thrown only a couple of picks in five prior playoff appearances and the Chiefs believe do-it-all rookie RB/WR/KR Tyreek Hill is destined to bust off a big play at some point during the course of a 60-minute game. Hey, Hill wrecked late-season games against Denver and San Diego and a single special teams score here could be the diff in who wins this battle at Arrowhead Stadium.
Spread Notes – Kansas City is 9-6-1 ATS (against the spread) overall this year and remember the Chiefs are just 5-9-1 vig-wise as hosts the past two years. Pittsburgh enters this playoff tilt at 10-7 against the Las Vegas prices this year and the Steelers are 13-9-4 ATS as underdogs since the start of the 2012 season.
Get the Side & Totals of this weekend’s NFL Divisional Playoff games when you check with us here on game-day mornings at Jim Hurley’s Network.
Cash in with Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots on the Saturday menu; then win with the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers at the Dallas Cowboys on the Sunday card, the rest of the NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl.
And, of course, make sure you’re all aboard for the NBA and NCAA Basketball daily/nightly winners all this week either online with Jim Hurley''s Cashline and his Blue Ribbon Basketball programs at www.VegasSportsMasters.com or at 1-888-777-4155.
NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF
GREEN BAY (11-6) at DALLAS (13-3) – 4:40pm ET, Fox
The NFL rounds out its “weekend of revenge” with this titanic showdown in Arlington … remember the Cowboys went into not-so-frosty Lambeau Field in Week 6 action and dismantled Green Bay 30-16 as rookie QB Dak Prescott completed 18-of-27 passes for 247 yards with 3 TDs and superb rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott busted loose for 157 yards rushing on 28 carries.
Now, nearly three months from that day, the Packers believe that qualifies as ancient history since QB Aaron Rodgers has directed the NFC North champs to seven consecutive SU (straight-up) wins – while going 6-1 against the odds during this time span – and there’s plenty of ammo on hand even if star WR Jordy Nelson (ribs) winds up sidelined for this game after getting clunked early in last week’s 38-13 win/cover against the 5½ point underdog New York Giants. Two receivers – Davante Adams and Randall Cobb each caught in excess of 100 passing yards against the G-men with Cobb snagging three TDs (including that Hail Mary to close out the first half) and Adams grabbing the first of Rodgers’ four TD flings. Can Dallas muster a sufficient pass rush here – and will the coverage downfield stay strong? Remember the Giants’ secondary wilted badly from late third-quarter on.
No magic solutions for this Dallas offense that ranked second in the league in rushing (averaged 149.8 ypg) – that Pro Bowl-filled offensive line must overpower the Pack at the line of scrimmage and count on ‘Boys head coach Jason Garrett keeping to the game plan even if Green Bay takes a 10-point or larger lead here.
Then, the question will be can Prescott deliver the goods if he has to take Dallas from behind? Good/fair question!
Prescott figures to be put in the low-risk situation he’s been thrust into all year, rolling out to throw short-to-intermediate passes with TE Jason Witten and slot WR Cole Beasley important targets but it says here that the Cowboys only win/cover if Elliott rolls for a buck-and-change on the ground and if Prescott delivers a couple of well-timed long balls to the likes of WRs Dez Bryant and/or Terrence Williams.
Spread Notes – Dallas banged out a 10-6 ATS mark this regular season and overall the Cowboys are 8-2 versus the vig when playing non-NFC East foes (that’s after going 2-7-1 ATS against non-divisional opponents a year ago). Meanwhile, Green Bay’s win/cover last week against the NY Giants propelled the Packers to a 10-6-1 ATS log and know this: GB’s covered its last four consecutive post-season games.
NOTE: More NFL Divisional Playoff News/Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.