Total Talk – WC SundayuSunday’s betting festivities kick off early at 1:00 p.m. ET as the Ravens and Chargers will meet in a quick rematch, this time the venue will be a tad cooler in Baltimore than the friendly temperatures of Los Angeles. The last Wild Card matchup of the weekend is set for 4:40 p.m. ET as the Bears make their first playoff appearance since 2010 while the Eagles have their eyes set on repeating as Super Bowl champions.
As mentioned in Saturday’s piece, the ‘under’ has gone 17-6-1 (73.9%) in the Wild Card round the last six seasons.
For the playoffs, I’m going to break down every game and offer up my quick handicap and prediction for all the matchups. As always, Press, Pass or Fade but in the end – Good Luck!
Sunday, Jan. 6
L.A. Chargers at Baltimore (CBS, 1:05 p.m. ET)
The Ravens defeated the Chargers 22-10 in Week 16 as four-point road underdogs in a primetime game played on a Saturday from Los Angeles and the ‘under’ (42 ½) cashed easily. And if it wasn’t for a pair of 60-plus yard touchdowns by Baltimore, one from its defense, the final score would’ve been much lower.
opened the rematch (41 ½) a tad lower and its been pushed down to 41 but most other shops are still holding 41 ½ as of Thursday.
While Baltimore was fortunate to connect on two big plays in the first meeting, it clearly dominated the game in yardage (361-198) and it won the turnover battle (3-1) as well with the last mistake putting the game away in the fourth quarter. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked four times, picked off twice and only completed 23-of-37 attempts for 181 yards.
Outside of the long touchdown pass, Ravens rookie QB Lamar Jackson wasn’t sharp from the pocket (12-of-22) but he contributed with 39 of Baltimore’s 159 rushing yards. Since Jackson took over for Joe Flacco as the starting QB in Week 11, the Ravens are averaging 229 yards per game on the ground and the team is averaging 25.1 points per game. That production has led to a 4-3 ‘over’ mark and the Ravens defense (17.9) has done its best to keep those ‘under’ tickets cashing.
After losing at home to Baltimore, the Chargers finished the season with a lackluster 23-9 win at Denver and Rivers was far from sharp. He was picked off twice and only completed 14-of-24 (58%) of his passes against a Broncos secondary that featured more backups than starters. Rivers closed the season with two interceptions in each of his final three games. Which Rivers will show up on Sunday? I wish I knew but how you answer that question will obviously play heavily into your wager.
Make a note that Los Angeles was tied with New Orleans with the best road mark in the NFL this season at 7-1 and it’s arguably 8-1 since it beat Tennessee from London in Week 7. Including that results, the ‘over’ went 5-4 in games outside of L.A. for the club and they did score more on the road (26.9 PPG).
Some pundits believe that travel could play a factor for L.A. and it’s certainly not an easy trip. However, the Chargers went 3-0 in three games played in the Eastern Time Zone this season (Bills, Browns, Steelers) and they averaged 34 PPG in those wins. The ‘over’ went 3-0.
Prior to the recent encounter on Dec. 22, the pair split two regular season games from Baltimore in 2014 and 2015 and the outcomes were decided by a combined four points (29-26, 34-33).
As mentioned above, both clubs haven’t been in the playoffs in a few years but Baltimore’s 10-5 SU and 11-4 ATS postseason record under head coach John Harbaugh is very impressive and only two of those games were at home. The totals were a wash (7-7-1) in those contests but in the lone pair from Maryland, the ‘under’ cashed easily in both as the Ravens allowed 11 PPG in the victories.
The Chargers have gone 4-5 in the playoffs under Rivers but he’s 3-0 in the Wild Card round and the ‘under’ has gone 3-0 in those games.
Fearless Prediction: While the Chargers have put up some crooked numbers on the road, this Ravens defense is legit and I can see them making a run similar to what San Francisco did in 2012 when they handed the ball over from veteran QB Alex Smith to the upstart Colin Kaepernick. Coincidentally, that team was run by Harbaugh’s brother Jim. For those that put stock into playoff trends, make a note that the first game (1:05 p.m. ET) on Sunday in the Wild Card round has watched the ‘under’ cash the last eight years. I’m going to ride the Under (41 ½) for the game and expect another grinder, this time on the East Coast.
Philadelphia at Chicago (FOX, 4:40 p.m. ET)
Of the four Wild Card matchups, this one is expected to be the most lopsided with the Bears listed as six-point favorites over the Eagles. The total (41) could likely be the lowest as well and as of Thursday evening, the number has held steady since it opened.
The best unit on the field will be the Bears defense, which is ranked first in scoring (17.7 PPG) and third in total yards (299.7) allowed. The group also led the league with 36 turnovers, which included a league-high 27 interceptions and nine fumbles. They were tied for third in sacks (50) and all of that production led to six defensive touchdowns.
Despite that domination, the Bears saw their total results (8-8) break even this season but it did close the season with four straight winning tickets to the ‘under’ and both the defense (10.5 PPG) and lack of offense (19.3 PPG) helped that cause.
Chicago’s offense remains a mystery but I believe what we’ve seen in the last quarter is what the unit is and not the one that posted 28.6 PPG in its first 12 games. The benefit of extra possessions and great field position from the defense helped the offense a lot and the numbers prove that. The unit was ranked 21st in total offense (343.9 YPG) yet they managed to convert well on third downs and in the red zone, which led to plenty of points. Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky isn’t going to dice up any secondary but he’s efficient and makes a lot happen with his legs.
The Eagles defense (23 PPG) hasn’t been as strong on the road and the ‘over’ went 5-3 in those games, with one of the ‘under’ tickets taking place from London in a 24-18 win over Jacksonville in Week 8. The unit did shutout the short-handed Redskins 24-0 last Sunday in D.C. but they allowed 33.3 PPG in their three previous away games, all coming to playoff teams too (Saints, Cowboys, Rams).
The X-factor for this total and the game comes down to Eagles QB Nick Foles, who’s up to his old tricks again. Since taking over for the injured Carson Wentz in Week 15, the Birds closed the season with three straight wins and the offense posted 28.6 PPG in the wins. As a starter in second stop for Philadelphia, Foles has gone 9-2 and that includes a 3-0 playoff mark last year.
Are we going to witness another Foles run this January? The ‘over’ went 2-1 for the Eagles in last year’s championship push and he was fortunate to have the Birds defense step up at home (8.5 PPG) against the Falcons and Vikings. In the Super Bowl, he played outplayed QB Tom Brady and the Patriots for the 41-33 win.
Fearless Prediction: The ‘under’ on this game is the most popular total wager of the weekend and it’s hard to argue against it based on the form for the Bears. They enter this game on a 4-0 ‘under’ run and they’ve also covered all four of those games too. My lean on the side is to Philadelphia and when the Bears lose, only four times, they’ve allowed 30.1 PPG and the ‘over’ went 4-0. I'm going to fade the public for the late game and play Over (41) and the Eagles Team Total Over (17 ½) as well.
Chris David can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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