Mike Handzelek's NFL Wild Card Games Analysis/Review

By: Point Shaver Handzelek     Date: Jan 8, 2018

Sunday, January 07, 2018 Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints (NFL) - 4:40 PM EST Premium Pick Pick: Point Spread: 7.0/-120 Carolina Panthers Pick Title: 9 Star Third Time Is A Charm Play (WIN) Hopefully yesterday's KC debacle is not indicative of how the playoffs will run. When the home team (Chiefs) topped 20 points in the 1st half yesterday, they fell into a 17-year trend that had a wild card SU winning rate of 35-1! Let's make that 35-2. Let's move forward to this matchup where both teams meet for the 3rd time in a playoff game where a team swept the regular season meetings (Saints). This has happened just 20 times the past 47 seasons with the sweeping team winning SU in 13. Healthy personnel looms BIG for the playoffs & the fact that New Orleans (11-5 SU) is missing 5 defensive starters (since opening day) is just that - BIG! On the flip side of that coin, it's the Carolina (11-5 SU) defense that's more healthier. In fact, getting LDE Charles Johnson back from suspension is crucial to a DC Steve Wilks' 4-3 alignment that's generated excellent pressure on QB's getting 50 sacks (ranking 3rd) this season & was led by DE's Mario Addison & 16-year vet Julius Peppers with 11 apiece. It's also a gigantic plus having their defensive signal-caller healthy in MLB Luke Kuechly & WLB Thomas Davis patrolling the middle. What many people aren't realizing about the running game is this. Even though the Saints have 2 great RB's in Mark Ingram (1,124 rushing yards & 12 TD's) & Alvin Kumara (728 rushing yards & 8 TD's), the Panthers had 32 MORE rushing yards than N.O. for the season. My bottom line says momentum is on the side of Carolina who have won 7 of the last 9 compared to New Orleans coming in losing 3 of their last 6. The past month, the Saints have averaged less than 24 PPG with the Panthers averaging just about the same. I'm NOT reading into last week's 3 INT's by Cam Newton as being the norm since that game was after they clinched a playoff berth. Remember, Newton went to AFC's top seed New England & won plus earning a December win over NFC's 2nd seed Minnesota. Coming into this matchup, Newton has thrown 1 less TD pass (22) than Drew Brees. Let's now crunch some startling numbers. Home teams in games on Wild Card Sunday have gone just a vanilla @ best 11-11 SU & 10-11-1 ATS. But when we look @ Wild Card Sunday away clubs from the NFC, we find they have gone 9-6 SU & more important 10-4-1 the last 15. This is way more successful than all "Wild Card Roadies" which are 7-5 SU & ATS the last 12. Defenses that give up less yardage have been winners as well going 26-12 SU & 25-12-1 ATS in the WC round with Atlanta & Tennessee winning SU & ATS yesterday AND Jacksonville & Carolina holding that edge today. Taking into account time of possession, those holding the ball more have gone 32-14 SU & 30-14-2 ATS with Tennessee & Atlanta winning & covering yesterday. In conclusion, I feel the Panthers' "D" can generate a turnover or 2 here against an offense with declining numbers. This "D" forced 19 TO's in their 11 wins but generated just 2 in their 5 losses. I also like the fact that Carolina has more post-season experience of late making the playoffs for the 4th time in 5 years compared to New Orleans whose making their 1st playoff appearance since 2013 when they lost in the NFC Semi-Final Round @ Seattle 23-15. With the combination of double revenge, getting some good points (since N.O. has covered 6 straight versus Carolina) & having Newton EAGER to erase his last playoff loss (Super Bowl 50 to Denver 24-10 as 4 1/2-point favorites), I LOVE our chances! Let's make way to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Louisiana to play the CAROLINA PANTHERS (buying to + 7 1/2) as my 9 Star Third Time Is A Charm Play! Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs (NFL) - 4:35 PM EST Premium Pick Pick: Point Spread: -8.0/-115 Kansas City Chiefs Pick Title: Mike's Strongest NFL Game On The Saturday Board (LOSS) Wow! this series dates all the way back to 1960 when it was the Dallas Texans (now KC) & the Houston Oilers (now Tennessee) played against each other in AFL competition. For this their 1st playoff matchup of the series, it seems on the surface that 10-6 SU Kansas City is your typical hot & cold club that's hard to zero in on. However, look for the hot to surface this afternoon. Yes, KC had its cold spell going 1-6 during their mid-term exams. But what have they done down the stretch? Try a perfect 4-0 SU with 4 convincing wins over Oakland, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami & last week @ Denver with Mahomes. When the Chiefs were on, so was QB Alex Smith (4,042 passing yards, 67.5% completions, 355 rushing yards & a 104.7 QBR) who has accumulated 26 TD passes against just 5 picks. On the flip side, it's hard not to say that Marcus Mariota's 13/15 TD/INT ratio & 79.3 QBR was largely due to playing hurt since he represented the only chance @ the Titans making it to the post-season. Now combine Mariota's health status with RB DeMarco Murray's being injured/out & I believe we have something brewing! I also believe HC Andy "The Walrus" Reid is no dummy. He's been to the post-season several times & also took the Eagles to the Super Bowl in seasons' past. He's played it like a "sly dog" resting his starters in Week 17 (knowing that Tennessee had to battle hard) so they would be fresh as well as home for the wild card round. Looking into the numbers finds that the OUTRIGHT winner in the wild card round has been pretty dominant ATS with a 35-2-1 record the last 9+ seasons. Digging a little deeper reveals that wild card home favorites of a TD or more have been a lights-out 10-0 SU & versus the number the past 12 seasons. Furthermore, it looks like wild card road teams with 6 days rest (Saturday games) have struggled far more than those with 7 days rest over the past 5+ seasons. Those 6-day rested wild card roadies have gone 7-15 SU & 6-15-1 ATS during that span while 7-day rested wild card travelers were a toss-up going 11-11 SU & 10-11-1 ATS. When we take turnovers into the mix this round, we see that teams that forced more regular season turnovers (KC was also a +15 in TO differential ranking 2nd) have gone a window-cashing 21-11 SU & 20-11-1 versus the number over the past 8 seasons. Teams with defenses yielding less yardage than their opponents have been equally profitable going 24-12 SU & 23-12-1 ATS over the last 9 years in the wild card round. My bottom line says even though Titans' squads have been victorious the past 2 visits to this venue, they were made when the Tennessee franchise were running on all cylinders. This season, we've seen the Titans go a ticket-ripping 2-6 ATS on the road. Look for the home team with the BETTER playmakers (RB Kareem Hunt with 1,327 rushing yards, 8 TD's, 455 receiving yards, 3 more TD's; WR Tyreek Hill with 1,183 receiving yards & 7 TD's; TE Travis Kelce with 1,038 receiving yards & 8 TD's) to gain separation in the second half for a 10-point win. It's tough to side with HC Mike Mularkey (no great HC post-season history) & a team (only beat Cleveland 12-9 in OT) that will predictably rely heavily on RB Derrick Henry to move the chains throughout. Let's go Arrowhead Stadium in Missouri to play the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (buying to a key - 5 1/2) as my Strongest NFL Game On The Saturday Board! NOTES: We had to settle for a weekend split in the NFL after KC blows a solid 21-3 halftime lead. I'm stupified how DC Bob Sutton of the Chiefs couldn't stop the Tennessee running game with 2nd-string RB Derrick Henry (202 rushing yards) since that was their obvious game plan with QB Marcus Mariota NOT 100%. TE Travis Kelce going down with an injury & rookie Kicker Harrison Butker (took over for the injured Cairo Santos)missing a 48-yard FG didn't aid our cause. I also felt the Titans' QB throwing a TD pass to himself off a deflection was the miracle Tennessee needed to make it happen. In the later game, it was status quo for us as Carolina + 7 1/2 got the job done. The Panthers out-gained New Orleans, had 3 more first downs, out-rushed them 107-41 & held the ball for over 6 1/2 + minutes more than the Saints. A blown coverage early on Ted Ginn & a missed 25-yard FG by Graham Gano were pivotal points needed for the N.O. victory. Get ready! The Eagles-Falcons & Jacksonville-Pittsburgh games should be must watch next week. Stay tuned as the lines move throughout the week determining where we're going. My 2017-18 NFL Overall Seasonal Record: 54-34-----61%---- My NFL Record the Last 14: 12-2-----86%---- My NFL Record Since November 6th: 30-8----79%

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