WE’RE into Week 2 of the NFL play-offs and Tom Selwyn (@tom_selwyn) has analysed both Saturday games for us.
Carolina Panthers @ Seattle Seahawks | Sunday 01:15 | Sky Sports 2
Starting with the later Saturday (or Sunday morning as it will be here) game as I feel this pick should be a no-brainer. Keeping it very simple in this one – the last three times that these teams have met there has been an average of 23 points, so give me another game that goes Under 40 points between these two teams.
I’ve written previously about how well Seattle’s defence is playing of late, but despite their losing record going into the play-offs Carolina is a different beast these days than they were at the start of the season. Their defence has been playing very well in the second half of the season – in the last five weeks they are giving up just under 12 points a game.
Seattle duly obliged when I backed Unders in their final game of the season, giving up only six points against the Rams to make it three games in a row in which they gave up a TD or less. They truly have been back to their best since LB Bobby Wagner returned from injury and SS Kam Chancellor regained full fitness.
With both offenses fielding a passing attack that comes across as erratic at best (I can’t see Cam Newton have many passing yards at all against Seattle’s secondary), the offense will come from each team’s respective run games and that should lend itself even further to a low-scoring game.
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots | Saturday 21:35 | Sky Sports 2
This game is a tough one. New England hasn’t looked like the dominant force it was during the middle of the season for a number of games now and you never know what Baltimore team is going to show up from week to week.
A lot has been made about how the Ravens are the Patriots’ nemesis, but I feel that has got far too much airtime – these two teams are completely different to the sides who last met in the playoffs.
With this being said, Baltimore’s greatest strength is their defensive line and New England’s biggest weakness is their offensive line so it could be a long day for Patriots QB Tom Brady if the protection can’t hold up. If the protection does hold up however, the Ravens’ injury-ravaged secondary can be had.
With Baltimore presumably looking to take away the Patriots’ primary threats – TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Julian Edelman – it could give opportunities for New England’s complimentary pieces space to shine in this one.
WR Brandon LaFell has quietly had a very nice first season in New England, collecting 953 yards and seven TDs. I like his matchup against the aforementioned Baltimore secondary and will be backing him to add to the seven TDs with an Anytime TD bet.