NFL Playoff Picks For Chiefs vs. Bills: An Underdog & Receiving Under To Bet Sunday
Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Bills WRs Jake Kumerow and Stefon Diggs
Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, breaks down his four favorite bets for Championship Sunday. Find his picks below and follow him in the Action app for more.
Editor’s note: Koerner’s picks for Bucs-Packers have been moved below Bills-Chiefs
Bills +3.5 at Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes has cleared the concussion protocol and is set to play in the AFC showdown against the Bills. The toe injury he sustained last Sunday has “gotten a lot better,” according to Mahomes, but there’s a chance it will limit his mobility in this matchup.
The Chiefs are the NFL’s best team when at full strength. But with Mahomes, Sammy Watkins (questionable), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (questionable) and Bashaud Breeland all banged up, it’s created a small window to bet against them.
The Chiefs haven’t beaten any team by more than six points since Week 8. They allowed teams like the Panthers, Raiders, Broncos, Dolphins and Falcons to hang around and escape with a one-score win. Compare that to the Bills, who closed out the regular season with six straight wins of 10 or more points.
The Bills have shot up to No. 2 in my power ratings, and I have them projected as 2.5-point underdogs for this matchup. The Chiefs winning by a field goal is the most likely outcome, so I’m going to lock in the Bills at +3.5 (down to +3).
Travis Kelce Under 96.5 Rec Yards (-112)
It’s usually never a good idea to fade Kelce, but I have to at this number.
For a sense of how high this number is: Kelce — who set the NFL record for receiving yards in a season by a tight end with 1,416 –managed to clear this number in only seven of 16 games (43.8%). The Bills allowed the second-most yards per game to tight ends (62.5), which is an obvious red flag, but it’s mostly a result of their defense allowing teams soft spots over the middle in their zone-heavy scheme.
Head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier do a fantastic job of altering their game plan based on matchup. I expect them to scheme up ways to limit Kelce, just as they did back in Week 6 when they held him to 65 yards (his second-lowest yardage output of the season).
It’s worth pointing out that the Bills didn’t have Matt Milano for that early-season matchup. Now Milano is back in the lineup and could be in the vicinity for most of Kelce’s targets. As a former college safety, Milano has the size and ability to hang with Kelce. The linebacker also played a role in limiting Ravens tight end Mark Andrews to 28 yards on four catch in last week’s Divisional Round.
FanDuel is offering this at 96.5 as of Saturday night, but I would bet the under down to 92.5 yards.
Buccaneers-Packers Over 51.5
The marquee matchup of the Divisional Round was the Packers’ No. 1 offense against the Rams’ No. 1 defense (based on Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA). Green Bay’s offense came out on top, putting Los Angeles away, 32-18. Now we have a matchup between the top two offenses in weighted DVOA — and I’m projecting the total closer to 54.5, three points higher than the current line (compare real-time odds here).
The Bucs defense will get a massive boost with the return of Vita Vea, who should make their stout run defense (No. 1 in DVOA) even more challenging to run on. That will likely force Aaron Rodgers to throw more, which would only enhance this game’s scoring environment.
The Packers offensive line finished the regular season first in ESPN’s pass-block win rate and rankings. And despite losing David Bakhtiari to a season-ending injury, this unit is still elite and will be able to keep the pocket clean for Rodgers.
The MVP favorite should be able to pick apart a Buccaneers pass defense that’s been shaky late in the season, allowing massive yardage totals from Jared Goff (376 in Week 11), Patrick Mahomes (462 in Week 12), Matt Ryan (356 in Week 15), and Taylor Heinicke (306 in the Wild Card Round). The Bucs did hold Drew Brees to 134 yards last week, but as I forecasted heading into that game, his inability to throw downfield played right into the Bucs’ hands. His 5.4 average Intended Air Yards ranked second-lowest last week (per NFL NextGenStats). For comparison, Rodgers 10.1 rate ranked second on the week.
The Bucs will need to drastically change their defensive game plan for Rodgers.
The Packers defense has been heating up. Since Week 12, they rank second in sacks per game with 3.43, although their 33.8% pressure rate is the sixth-lowest over that stretch — a more reliable metric for projecting future sack rates. It’s unlikely that they’ll continue their high sack rate, especially against Tom Brady, who gets rid of the ball fast (his 2.57 time to throw ranked ninth out of 41 qualified quarterbacks).
The Bucs have now scored 30 or more points in five straight games. The Packers defense (14th in weighted DVOA) will be the Bucs’ easiest matchup of the playoffs so far, considering they have now faced the Football Team (third) and Saints (second). I don’t expect the absence of Antonio Brown to impact the offense much, either. Backup wide receivers Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson are more than capable of stepping up as reliable weapons for Brady.
I expect both offenses to be aggressive and put up points as they have all season (the Packers rank first in points per drive while the Bucs rank third). Since I have the total projected closer to 54.5, I would bet the over up to 53.5.
Ronald Jones Over 33.5 Rush Yards (-115)
I’m taking a swing on this over.
Jones was able to rack up 62 yards last week despite playing through a quad injury. Now it seems like he’s closer to 100% considering he was able to get in a full practice on Friday and has been removed from the injury report altogether.
Leonard Fournette should continue to dominate touches this week and will be heavily used in the passing game. However, Jones should see 8-12 carries against a Packers defense that invites teams to run on them.
The market is setting the bar very low for Jones with this number, which you can get at PointsBet as of Saturday night. I would bet the over up to 37.5 rushing yards.