NFL fan Joshua Jones (@JoshuapsJones) oversees Saturday night's action from the Divisional Playoffs.
LA Rams @ Green Bay Packers | Saturday 16th January 2021, 21:05 | Sky Sports
The NFL’s divisional round of play-off games gets underway Saturday evening as the NFC’s #1 seed Green Bay Packers host the #6 LA Rams at Lambeau Field.
The Rams beat the Seattle Seahawks 30-20 last weekend to book their slot for this match, whilst the Packers enjoyed a week off on account of being the top side within the conference.
This game gives us one of the most intriguing match-ups of the weekend, with MVP frontrunner Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay offense taking on Aaron Donald and the league’s top ranked defense (per weighted DVOA).
It’s truly the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object, and the immovable object is going to need to have one hell of a game to even stand a chance given what the Rams’ situation is on the other side of the ball.
You could genuinely make a case for LA having the worst quarterback situation in the NFL, and that’s saying something for a season in which the Denver Broncos had to start a wide receiver they picked up off the street in a game earlier this year.
It looks as though Jared Goff will start this one, with John Wolford officially out and Blake Bortles backing him up.
Goff struggled a little against the Seahawks last weekend, which was unsurprising considering he played with pins in the thumb he fractured in Week 16.
He was visibly wincing after hitting the ground and handing the ball off, threw several wobbly passes that he was lucky weren’t picked off and, at one point, had to pop it back into place after dislocating it.
Add to that the fact NFL Weather estimates the temperatures could dip below freezing at Lambeau and it might be a rough night for the California native.
With that in mind, I’m taking Jared Goff Under 215.5 Passing Yards and Green Bay Defence 1+ INT.
Surprisingly Goff has gone over this line in 10 of his 16 games this season, but he’s only done so once without at least 30 pass attempts.
He had 19 attempts for 155 yards last week, and I don’t expect he’ll be wanting to throw it much here. He’s also facing a Packers defense that allows opposing QBs an average of just 189 yards per game at home and has 6 interceptions in its last five home ties.
My second pick ties into what I think will be a reluctance from Goff to throw the ball and it’s Cam Akers Over 14.5 Receiving Yards at 4/5 with Sportingbet.
Taking into consideration Goff’s limited capabilities, if the Rams are going to have any chance at winning this game, their offense is going to have to run through Akers.
Since becoming the true leading man in the backfield against Arizona in Week 13 the rookie has hit this line in four of the five games he has played, averaging 28.2 receiving yards per game in that stretch.
It’s also somewhere the Packers are weak, with linebackers that struggle in coverage. Green Bay has allowed an average of 47.8 receiving yards to opposing running backs per game, at almost 8.5 yards per catch.
My final play for this game is a bit of a long shot, but I think there’s value in it when accompanied by the underlying metrics. I’m backing Marquez Valdes-Scantling Under 0.5 Receptions at 6/1 with SkyBet.
Now there’s every chance he catches a fifty yard bomb on the first play of the game and we end up looking very silly, but I’m optimistic that that won’t happen against this Rams defense.
They are the top-ranked defense against ‘explosive deep balls’, allowing a 24% completion percentage, 38.0 passer rating, 2 TDs and 5 INTs. Per DVOA, when a quarterback passes deep to the right side against LA, they are 98% worse than average. 98%!! The next best defense against this type of pass makes QBs 3% worse. It’s a hell of a gap.
MVS himself has been held catchless in his last three home starts, with Rodgers not even looking his way last time out against the Titans.
His snap share has steadily decreased down the stretch too. He was on the field for 93.2% of offensive snaps against Jacksonville in Week 10, but hasn’t seen 90% since and was only involved in 55.8% against Chicago in Week 17 – running just 14 routes.
Baltimore Ravens @ Buffalo Bills | Sunday 17th January 2021, 01:15 | Sky Sports
Lamar Jackson leads his Baltimore Ravens side into Orchard Park to take on Josh Allen’s Buffalo Bills, in a postseason matchup that pits two first round picks from b I ib the 2018 draft against each other.
The #7 overall pick in that draft, Josh Allen, has been imperious under centre for the Bills this year, but his Buffalo team may consider themselves lucky to be here after a very testing outing against Indianapolis last weekend.
The Bills won 27-24 but the Colts had a plethora of chances to at least force overtime that they didn’t take and that can’t be very encouraging when preparing for a Ravens side that has been exceptionally ruthless down the stretch.
In their last five matches, Baltimore has had more rushing yards than any team has over a five-game stretch since 1949 – after racking up 236 in their 20-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans last weekend.
That win was important for more reasons than just their postseason hopes, and helped to dispel a lot of narratives surrounding Lamar Jackson and his ability to play from behind and in the play-offs.
In fact, whilst Baltimore’s defensive efforts were a hugely important factor in the win, it was the plays he made with his legs that ended up making the difference. Last year’s MVP had 136 yards and a 48-yard touchdown on 16 carries, taking off when sensing danger to get his side out of trouble
He could be due for another big game here too, against a Buffalo defense that has spent most of the season inviting sides to run against them and playing soft coverage to prevent the deep ball.
It’s worked for them more often than not this season, but Baltimore are probably the one side you don’t want to do it against – where rushing the ball has actually been more productive than passing it. That’s why I’ll be taking Lamar Jackson Over 75.5 Rushing Yards at 91/100 with Coral.
Jackson has gone over this total in five of his last six games, averaging 94.3 yards per game in that span. He’s also scored five touchdowns in those games, and I’ll be pairing him to get another with his opposite number to get one too. Back Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen Both to Score a Touchdown at 9/2 with Betfair.
Whilst not on the same caliber as Jackson, Allen is an exceptional dual threat quarterback in his own right and has the ability to escape the pressure the Ravens are undoubtedly going to bring and make plays with his legs.
He’s the centre-piece of this offense and the Bills have done a fantastic job surrounding him with incredible talent, especially the league’s leader in receiving yards Stefon Diggs.
He’ll be going up against an exceptionally tough tri of cornerbacks that have allowed just 235 yards per game through the air.
That being said, they’ve played some weak offenses and in their last three regular games against top 10 passing offenses – Kansas City (2), Tennessee (4) and Cleveland (10) – they allowed an average 330 yards through the air per game, and that is a recipe for success for Allen and Diggs.
It’s why Diggs makes up one half of my final play for this game, which is Stefon Diggs 7+ Receptions and Mark Andrews 5+ Receptions at 2/1 with SkyBet.
Diggs has hauled in seven or more catches in eight of his last nine and should get his no matter what.
On the other side, Andrews should be able to have a field day with this Buffalo defense – as have tight ends for the entire season.
The Bills have allowed a league high 92 receptions to the position (5.75 per game), as well as allowing FOURTEEN to the Colts’ trio of tight ends in the wildcard game.
Here is a list of how tight ends have performed against them, with their receptions per game rank amongst tight ends; 13 receptions to Mike Gesicki (15th, over two games), 7 to Jack Doyle (45th), 8 to Noah Fant (9th), 7 to Hunter Henry (5th), 5 to Jacob Hollister (47th), 5 to Travis Kelce (1st), 5 to Jonnu Smith (25th), 9 to Darren Waller (2nd) and 6 receptions to Chris Herndon (39th).
Andrews himself ranks 8th in that list and has had five or more catches in five of his last seven – he had four in the other two – and is arguably one of the best tight ends in the league so should be able to feast here.
LA Rams @ Green Bay Packers – Jared Goff Under 215.5 Passing Yards and Packers Defense 1+ INT (13/8 SkyBet RequestABet)
LA Rams @ Green Bay Packers – Cam Akers Over 14.5 Receiving Yards (4/5 Sportingbet)
LA Rams @ Green Bay Packers – Marquez Valdes-Scantling Under 0.5 Receptions (6/1 SkyBet RequestABet)
Baltimore Ravens @ Buffalo Bills – Lamar Jackson Over 75.5 Rushing Yards (91/100 Coral)
Baltimore Ravens @ Buffalo Bills – Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen Both To Score Rushing TDs (9/2 Betfair)
Baltimore Ravens @ Buffalo Bills – Stefon Diggs 7+ Receptions and Mark Andrews 5+ Receptions (2/1 SkyBet RequestABet)