NFL Betting, DFS Angles for Championship Sunday

NFL Betting, DFS Angles for Championship Sunday article feature image

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Let me just get something off my chest … I’m a Patriots fan. Week 1 for New Englanders kicks off on Sunday. We don’t even get out of bed for anything less than the AFC Championship Game.

With that said, I’m a wee bit concerned that hidden underneath Tom Brady’s red glove is a JPP-esque mangled mess of broken bones and nubby fingers.

Don’t play with fireworks, kids.

But hell, what do I care? I’d personally rest him this week just so you can add Brian Hoyer to the list of mediocre QBs playing in the title games.

Hoyer! Bortles! Foles! Keenum! Talk about a sign of the apocalypse … — Mark Gallant

All info is as of Sunday morning. For live spreads and bet percentages, check out this page. Follow the latest injury info on our industry-leading news feed.

Jaguars at Patriots (-7.5) | O/U: 45.5

3:05 p.m. ET | CBS

Betting market: This one has been a bit of a roller coaster. Around midday on Wednesday, the Patriots were 9-point favorites across the majority of the betting market, including some sharper books. By Thursday evening, amid speculation surrounding the severity of Tom Brady’s hand injury, they’d dipped all the way to -7 at those same sharper shops. And on Friday morning, one book took the line off the board entirely, before re-opening it at around 10 a.m. at Patriots -7. By Saturday morning, the line moved to at least -7.5 across the board, where it’s stayed since. The public is taking the Pats at nearly a 2-to-1 rate. — Mark Gallant

Injuries to watch: Questions surrounding Brady’s health may have caused havoc in the betting market, but he’s expected to play through his questionable tag and suit up Sunday. RB Rex Burkhead (knee, questionable) should return to the team’s crowded backfield, meaning RB Mike Gillislee (knee, questionable) could find himself as a healthy scratch, even if he’s ultimately able to suit up. RB Leonard Fournette (ankle, not listed) was involved in a minor fender bender earlier in the week in addition to his ankle injury sustained against the Steelers, but he practiced all week and will look to take advantage of a Patriots defensive line that could again be without 6’5″ 325-pound run stuffer Alan Branch (knee, questionable). The Jaguars defense finds itself almost fully healthy, as only FS Tashaun Gipson (foot, questionable) is at risk of missing Sunday’s game. — Ian Hartitz

What the metrics say: The Jaguars’ strengths match up pretty well with a few key Patriots weaknesses. Their No. 2-ranked pass-rush will have an edge against New England’s average pass-blocking unit. Leonard Fournette should have plenty of room to run against the Patriots’ 31st-ranked defense in yards per carry allowed. But don’t discount the edge New England’s offense will have on the ground: They rank No. 3 in rush DVOA thanks to their top-ranked O-line in Adjusted Line Yards. Jacksonville’s defensive front comes in at 28th in the same stat. — Stuckey

Trend to know: Brady has covered the spread in 59.9% of games since he entered the league, but the future Hall of Famer’s performance is dependent on pressure. When TB12 gets sacked once or less, he is 90-43-2 (67.6%) ATS. If he gets hit two or more times, his ATS record drops to 77-67-9 (53.5%). — John Ewing

Did you know? This will mark the fifth time Brady has played a playoff game against a defense that compiled 50 or more sacks during the regular season. Here are Brady’s numbers in those games:

54.9% completion rate
4 TDs
5 INTs
13 sacks
2-2 record (SU and ATS) — Evan Abrams

Player prop we’re eyeing: Leonard Fournette over 75.5 rushing yards. The FantasyLabs Props Tool currently assigns a Bet Quality of 9 out of 10 to this prop. The Patriots allowed a running back to have at least 14 carries in eight games this year. Those eight runners racked up 99.9 yards rushing per game on an average of 17.5 carries. Fournette has hit 14 carries in every game but one, and since returning from his ankle injury nine games ago, he’s averaged 20.4 carries per game. The Patriots defense is 30th in rush DVOA. It seems probable that the Jags will have a run-heavy approach in order to control the clock, keep the Patriots offense off the field, and minimize the role of quarterback Blake Bortles. As long as Fournette gets his opportunities, he has a good chance of surpassing 75.5 yards on the ground. — Matthew Freedman

Sneaky storylines: The Jaguars have the league’s best first-quarter offense in terms of rushing yards and total yards. Sticking with the Pats early should allow Jacksonville to stay committed to the run and call aggressive plays on defense.

When you look at the Patriots’ defensive metrics, they don’t quite add up. They rank 31st in yards per play allowed, but fifth overall in points allowed. The reason? They also have the fifth-best red zone defense. But believe it or not, the Jaguars had by far the league’s top offense inside the 20, scoring a TD on nearly 68% of red zone possessions. And Jacksonville has been lights-out in their past three games (85.7%). On the other side of the ball, New England’s third-ranked red zone offense will face Jacksonville’s fourth-ranked defense. How these strength-vs.-strength matchups pan out will go a long way toward determining Sunday’s winner. — Stuckey

DFS nugget: Brady’s 337 yards and three touchdowns against the Titans marked the eighth time he threw for multiple touchdowns in his past nine playoff games and the seventh time he surpassed 300 yards. The Jaguars secondary has two of PFF’s top eight cornerbacks in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, but they’re fresh off surrendering 469 yards and five touchdowns to Ben Roethlisberger & Co. Brady isn’t a stranger to taking on top-ranked defenses in the playoffs, and he could look to utilize weapons Rex Burkhead (knee, probable) and Rob Gronkowski to attack the league’s 15th- and 20th-ranked unit in DVOA vs. receiving running backs and tight ends, respectively. — Ian Hartitz

Which way are you leaning, Stuckey? I played the Jags +8.5 and under 46. Anything over a touchdown is good by me for Jacksonville. I expect both teams to lean on their run game, given how the matchups align. That means the clock should be racing throughout, hence the play on the under. — Stuckey

Editor’s note: The opinion on this game is from the individual writer, and is based on his research, analysis and perspective. It is independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

Vikings (-3) at Eagles | O/U: 39

6:40 p.m. ET | FOX

Betting market: I was quite surprised to see this number drop from an opener of Vikings -3.5 down to -3 (-105). If I had to make a prediction, I’d say Vikings money will push this number back up to -3.5 or a juiced-up -3 as kickoff gets closer. But contrary to popular belief, I have been wrong before! — PJ Walsh

Player prop we’re eyeing: Nick Foles under 20.5 completions. The FantasyLabs Prop Tool currently assigns a Bet Quality 10 out of 10 to this prop. In his four starts this year, Foles has completed just 59.8 percent of his attempts. The Vikings defense (which ranks fourth in pass DVOA) has held all opposing quarterbacks to a completion rate of 58.7 percent. It goes without saying, but many of those passers are better than Foles. The Vikings have allowed 20.53 completions per game this year; adjusting downward for Foles’ relative lack of talent and the Eagles’ likely run-heavy game plan puts us nicely on the under. Last week Foles attempted only 30 passes. If he has the same number of attempts this week, he’ll need a 70 percent completion rate to surpass 20.5. Only twice this year have the Vikings allowed a quarterback a completion percentage that high in a game. — Matthew Freedman

Trend to know: In low-total games (<40 points) where wind is a non-factor (<5 mph) the over is 161-112-4 (59.0%) since 2003 including the playoffs. Total for Vikings-Eagles is 39, and the forecast calls for average wind speeds of 3 mph during the game. — John Ewing

Sneaky storyline: Remember the Eagles’ All-Pro LT Jason Peters? His absence will be very much felt on Sunday against the Vikings’ Pro-Bowl RDE Everson Griffen. When these two teams played last year (21-10 Eagles win), Peters held Griffen in check all day long. Philly won’t have that luxury this weekend. I fully expect Griffen to make a game changing play on Sunday. — Stuckey

Injuries to watch: Vikings WR Adam Thielen (back, questionable) is reportedly expected to suit up Sunday. He’ll likely be joined by CB Mackensie Alexander (rib, questionable) and S Andrew Sendejo (concussion, questionable), while C Pat Elflein (shoulder, not listed) and S Anthony Harris (knee, not listed) are already good to go. The Eagles also find themselves mostly healthy, as only LB Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring, questionable) enters Sunday at risk of missing the game. — Ian Hartitz

Fun fact: These teams are mirror images in many ways. To wit …

Eagles: 14-3 SU, 11-6 ATS, 8-1 SU and 6-3 ATS at home, 6-3 SU and 5-3 ATS away from home and 8-9 to the over.

Vikings: 14-3 SU, 11-6 ATS, 8-1 SU and 6-3 ATS at home, 6-2 SU and 5-3 ATS away from home and 8-9 to the over.

Eagles: They started two and played three different QBs this season and have a 56-year championship drought.

Vikings: They started two and played three different QBs this season, and in 56 completed seasons, they’ve never won a championship. — Evan Abrams

What the metrics say: It’s tough to compare a lot of the advanced metrics between these teams because the Eagles have been such a different team without Carson Wentz, and I hate to pull too much from a sample size of only four games. But you don’t need numbers to know that Wentz’s absence has been devastating to Philly’s third-down and red zone offense, two areas where they led the league prior to the QB’s injury. The Vikings, conversely, have the best third-down defense in NFL history (25.1% conversion rate), and also led the league in third-down offense. — Stuckey

DFS nugget: The Vikings’ sensational playoff win over the Saints saw the offense continue to utilize Latavius Murray as the go-to back with Jerick McKinnon working in a change-of-pace role. Murray has racked up at least 15 carries in all but one game since Week 5, while McKinnon has fewer than double-digit rushes in five of his past six outings and more than four targets just twice during that span. Things won’t be easy for either back against an Eagles defense that ranks among the top-five defenses in fewest rushing touchdowns, yards per game, DraftKings PPG, and Plus/Minus allowed to opposing running backs this season. Both backs will need to take advantage of every opportunity they get behind the league’s 19th-ranked offensive line in Adjusted Line Yards vs. the Eagles’ league-best unit. — Ian Hartitz

Which way are you leaning, Stuckey? I played Vikings -3. As detailed above, third down will be so huge in this game, and the Vikings have a big edge. A few conversions and a few stops will help dictate field position in a low-scoring game, ultimately helping the Vikings prevail. — Stuckey

Editor’s note: The opinion on this game is from the individual writer, and is based on his research, analysis and perspective. It is independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.