Handicapper Vegas Vic is jumping on the Rams. Here he breaks down wild-card weekend and is joined by our staff in picking the four games.
Home team in CAPS
Quick hit: The Titans have covered three in a row and five of their last six. Tennessee rallied from a 10-point deficit to win outright at Kansas City at the end of the 2016 season as six-point underdogs.
Titans straight up: 9-7. Titans vs. spread: 8-7-1.
Chiefs straight up: 10-6. Chiefs vs. spread: 10-6.
Vegas Vic's take: Money is flooding the market and it's ALL on Kansas City. The Chiefs opened up at -7.5 late Sunday night, and are now at -8.5 in most places, but we saw a -9 at the Wynn here in Vegas. Looks like it might be on the way to -10, and if so, we're gonna take a small taste of Tennessee.
Looked at Kaycee's 4-0 stretch run, and they played only one team with a winning record, the Chargers. So, not impressed. Also dug into the Chiefs four-game losing streak and noticed that mobile QBs, like Tyrod Taylor of Buffalo and Dak Prescott of Dallas, gave Andy Reid's crew trouble. Say hello to Marcus Mariota, who is one of the MOST mobile QBs in the NFL. Then looked at the Titans last six games, and the record was just 3-3, but they didn't lose any of those by more than four points. Expecting Reid to be his usual conservative avatar, and looking for K.C. to advance, but not by more than a TD.
Quick hit: The Rams are 5-1 against the spread this season when they are favored by more than a field goal. The only "loss" was a four-point win over Tennessee in Week 16 when the Rams were favored by 5.5.
Falcons straight up: 10-6. Falcons vs. spread: 7-9.
Rams straight up: 11-5. Rams vs. spread: 9-7.
Vegas Vic's take: Throw out L.A.'s ugly 34-13 loss to the 49ers last week. Didn't mean a thing, so they didn't play Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald. That's Goff who has the BEST passer rating in the NFL since Week 9. That's Gurley who, even though he sat last week, finished the season with 1,305 yards, second to Kareem Hunt by just 22 yards. Gurley led the NFL in TDs with 19 — 13 rushing and six receiving. Speaking of receiving, Gurley caught 64 balls for 788 yards, which was ONLY 12.3 average yards per catch. WHAT a weapon. And Donald on defense, ONLY an ALL-PRO. They're all back, rested and ready to rumble.
Then please look at Atlanta's suddenly anemic offense, averaging just 17.6 points per game the last five times out, and the ugly record on the road, covering only one of the last six. You know what's coming, and there's only one thing left to say. This IS MY BEST BET BABY!
Quick hit: The Bills went through eight head coaches from the time Wade Phillips brought them to the 1999 playoffs until Sean McDermott brought them back this year. Win some drinks at the local taproom with this list: Gregg Williams (2001-03), Mike Mularkey (2004-05), Dick Jauron (2006-09), Perry Fewell (2009), Chan Gailey (2010-12), Doug Marrone (2013-14), Rex Ryan (2015-16), Anthony Lynn (2016).
Bills straight up: 9-7. Bills vs. spread: 8-6-2.
Jaguars straight up: 10-6. Jaguars vs. spread: 9-7.
Vegas Vic's take: This is all about the Shade, or, Shady. LeSean McCoy. Does he play? Is he out? If he plays, what will his skill level be? Don't have the answers to these questions, which makes this a tough handicap. However, if we find out that Shady is out, then Jacksonville moves up into BEST BET territory. Why? Buffalo had the fourth-fewest total yards in the NFL, and McCoy accounted for more than 31 percent of them via rushing and receiving. My old math teacher tells me that's ONE THIRD of the offense. NO WAY the Buffs would be able to overcome that. Not against this group of Jags that is on a five-game perfecto at home, and has outscored opponents, 148-65. And if you're not familiar with the Doug Marrone factor, here ya go. Marrone coached up in Buffalo for two years. Took over a team that was pathetic, and posted a winning record, 9-7, in his second season. Then he got FIRED. For Rex Ryan. Yeah, that worked out well. Check Shady's status before you open the wallet.
Rookie running back Leonard Fournette (center) helped the Jaguars end a 9-year playoff drought. On Sunday, they host Buffalo, which snapped a 17-year skid. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Quick hit: Saints quarterback Drew Brees is 6-5 straight up in the playoffs in his career and 4-6-1 against the spread. Cam Newton is 3-3 both SU and ATS in the postseason.
Panthers straight up: 11-5. Panthers vs. spread: 9-6-1.
Saints straight up: 11-5. Saints vs. spread: 9-7.
Vegas Vic's take: Where do you stand on the whole beating a team three times in a season? You might like a New Orleans team which posted a 31-21 win at home as a six-point favorite, and a 34-13 W as a 5.5-point dog at Carolina. Is that enough to step up to the counter and buy a ticket on the Saints?
Or, you could look at last year's results. The Panthers won at home, 23-20 as a 3.5-point favorite, and lost 41-38 at New Orleans as a 3-point fave. Is that enough to buy Carolina? Thinking that Drew Brees has enough talent, and enough of a defense to advance, but not prepared to lay a touchdown. Not with All-Pro TE Greg Olsen back. Olsen missed nine games, including BOTH losses to New Orleans, then returned for the final four. That's an enormous plus for Cam Newton and should allow the Panthers to make this a field goal game. With five covers in eight road games, and 11 covers in the last 15 as an underdog, we'll buy Carolina at plus-7 points.