Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:06 AM
Total Talk - Championships
Divisional Playoffs Recap
The ‘over’ produced a 3-1 record in last week’s playoff round and while two of the results were clear-cut winners, the outcomes in the Titans-Patriots and Saints-Vikings certainly helped or hurt bettors with the late scores. Through eight postseason games, we’ve seen a stalemate (4-4) with the total results.
Championship Game History
Prior to last year’s outcome between the Patriots and Steelers, the ‘under’ was on a 5-0 run in the AFC title game. This will be the seventh straight appearance in the championship for New England and the defense (15.1 PPG) has had just as much success as the offense (25.1 PPG) during this run.
|AFC Championship Total History (2007-2016)|
The NFC Championship has watched the ‘over’ go 7-3 the last 10 years. Minnesota and Philadelphia both contributed to the high side while scoring 28 and 25 points in the 2008 and 2009 title games respectively.
|NFC Championship Total History (2007-2016)|
Even though I took it on the chin not once but twice last weekend with the aforementioned late touchdowns, I'm not going away and neither are my fearless predictions. As always, Press, Pass or Fade but in the end – Good Luck!
AFC Championship - Jacksonville at New England (CBS, 3:05 p.m. ET)
Of the two matchups set for Sunday, this game has received much more attention and moves according to Scott Cooley of [...].
He said, “We've pulled the Jags-Pats game off the board on Friday in light of the Brady injury. He's going to play, but I think we'll see this total, which has bounced around all week, fall even further. If the plan is to protect Brady, we could see more of the run game as well as short passes that serve as an extension of the run game, which could lend to fewer scores.”
Reports have said that New England quarterback Tom Brady bruised his throwing hand in practice this week and as expected, the answers from the Patriots have been vague. I’m not putting much stock into the injury and I would treat the total with a healthy Brady. As of Friday evening, the number had dropped to as low as 44 with the injury news picking up steam but most shops are holding 45.
After winning a 10-3 slugfest at home versus Buffalo in the Wild Card round, Jacksonville outlasted Pittsburgh in the Divisional Playoffs with an unexpected 45-42 road win. Including those results, the Jaguars have seen their total numbers break even (9-9) in their 18 games played this season.
While scoring 45 was a big surprise for the Jaguars, allowing 42 was definitely shocking considering the club is ranked third in both total defense (299.2 YPG) and scoring defense (17.4 PPG).
While it’s understood that Brady and the New England offense receive all the attention, you better be aware that the Patriots defense has only allowed 14 points per game since Week 5. In last week’s Divisional Playoff game, they dominated Tennessee 35-14 while holding them to 267 yards, which included just 65 rushing yards. Not to mention they rang up eight sacks on a quarterback in Marcus Mariota that’s known for his mobility.
Last week’s game went ‘over’ with the Titans scoring a meaningless late touchdown. Including that result, the ‘under’ has still gone 10-3 in New England’s last 13 games.
It’s hard to imagine Jacksonville scoring in the forties again on Sunday but the result at Pittsburgh was the third time they did so this season. And in the first two instances, they came back with 20 and 33 points in the following contests which resulted in ‘over’ tickets and losses.
One of the setbacks came at San Francisco in Week 16, a 44-33 decision where former Patriots backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo (21-of-30, 242 yard, 2 TDs) had success against the Jaguars defense. Jimmy G also diced up Jacksonville in the preseason (22-of-28 yards, 235 yards and 2 TDs) and while it was an exhibition, you’d expect New England's film study to isolate those games.
As mentioned above, this will be the seventh straight title game for New England and the ‘under’ has gone 5-1 in the previous six with an average combined score of 44.8 PPG.
The Patriots and Jaguars have met five times with Brady under center and New England has gone 7-0 in those games. The ‘under’ has gone 4-3 even though the Patriots averaged 27.4 PPG.
Jacksonville owns a 7-6 all-time record in the playoffs and the ‘over’ has gone 8-5 in those games. Four of those losses came against New England and the ‘under’ went 3-1 in their meetings.
Fearless Prediction: Even before the hand issue with Brady, I thought the Patriots would try to run the ball on Jacksonville knowing the unit is ranked 22nd in rushing yards allowed (115.2). If you can run on the Jaguars, you can win the game and that was evident in their four road losses this season as they surrendered an eye-opening 152.8 YPG. While you may not be aware, the Patriots were ranked sixth in rushing attempts (31.4) at home this season and they were ninth overall in rushing yards per game (117.1). I don’t think it’s going to be a walk in the park for New England and Jacksonville’s defense has responded big after poor outings and last week’s effort against the Steelers was far from great. Including the result at Pittsburgh last Sunday, the Jaguars allowed seven teams to score 20-plus points on them this season. In the following game, the unit held teams to an average of 8 PPG. I’m leaning to the ‘under’ (45) in the game and also the Jaguars Team Total Under (19 ½) and Patriots Team Total Under (26 ½) as well.
NFC Championship – Minnesota at Philadelphia (FOX, 6:40 p.m. ET)
This total opened as low as 38 ½ and as high as 40 last Sunday and was holding steady at 39 for the most part of this week. Heading into the weekend, most shops are back down to 38 ½.
Cooley offered his thoughts on the move at [...] and what he expects before the late game kicks. He said, “We've seen this total slowly creep up throughout the week and it finally hit 39 on Thursday afternoon. It's obvious that this is a very low total, and most bettors are hard-pressed to take an under even if they think it will be a low-scoring game. I could see this inching toward 40 as we get closer to kickoff, but very doubtful it will surpass that.”
It’s hard not to expect a slugfest when you look at the defensive stats for both squads.
Minnesota is ranked first in both scoring (15.8 PPG) and total defense (275.9 YPG). Plus they own the best third-down conversion defense (25%) in the league and that mark is near the best of all-time in the NFL.
The Eagles aren’t far behind with a 32 percent conversion rate on third downs, plus they are ranked fourth in both scoring (18.4 PPG) and total defense (306.5 YPG).
Philadelphia has a slight edge in sacks (38-37) but the big advantage for its defense is the takeaways. The Birds have registered 31 this season (19 INTs) while Minnesota has only been able to produce 19 turnovers.
Another big factor that should help the Eagles on Sunday is Lincoln Financial Field. Philadelphia led the league in scoring defense (13 PPG) at home and that number includes last Saturday’s 15-10 win over Atlanta in the Divisional Playoff round. Since head coach Doug Pederson took over the duties in Philadelphia in 2016, the Eagles have gone 14-3 at home while only allowing 14.1 PPG. Jim Schwartz didn't have a lot of success as head coach in five seasons (29-51) with the Detroit Lions but he's an incredible defensive coordinator.
Not surprisingly, the ‘under’ has gone 12-5 in these games and the low side has cashed in the last four played at the “Linc.”
One of those outcomes came against Minnesota as the Eagles earned a 21-10 win, coincidentally as a three-point home underdog. The QB for the Vikings that day was Sam Bradford, who had a cup of coffee with Philadelphia in the 2015 season before he was traded to Minnesota the following year due to the Teddy Bridgewater injury.
The Vikings have seen the ‘under’ go 9-8 this season and that includes last week’s wild ‘over’ (47) ticket in their 29-24 win against New Orleans at home in the Divisional matchup. On the road, the Vikings produced a 4-4 stalemate with their totals but the ‘under’ was 2-1 in away games when they matched up against playoff teams (Steelers, Falcons, Panthers).
The Eagles haven’t had a total posted in the thirties this season and the lowest number they’ve seen was 41 three times. Meanwhile, the Vikings have had three totals close below 40 and the ‘over’ went 2-1 in those games as they averaged 26.3 PPG albeit against non-playoff teams.
Fearless Prediction: Even though both squads boast impressive defensive numbers, I believe we’ll see points scored in this game. It’s understandable that Eagles QB Nick Foles hasn’t looked sharp and he’s a major drop-off from Carson Wentz. However, the offense did put up 334 total yards last Saturday on a solid Falcons defense and they lost the turnover battle (2-0) as well. At home, Philadelphia has totaled at least four scores in every meaningful game (toss out Week 17) plus they have a very opportunistic defense that posted six touchdowns this season. I’m actually not as sold on Minnesota’s attack, who’s been gifted a lot of yardage with penalties. I try not to put too much stock into historical numbers but Philadelphia captured 26-14 and 27-14 victories in its last two postseason meetings versus Minnesota and I could see a similar score in this game. Play the game ‘over’ (39) and the Eagles Team Total Over (17 ½) as well.
Chris David can be reached at [email protected]