Vegas veteran Benjamin Eckstein, author of America’s Line, brings three decades of experience to make weekly picks in his “Ecks & Bacon” column.
LAS VEGAS — Green Bay was the only game that stopped me from sweeping the board last week, but as the GREAT MEATLOAF said, “FOUR out of FIVE (80%) AIN’T BAD.” Well, maybe Meat said two out of three!
Quick stop on the NBA hardwood tonight, and we’re heading down to Charlotte and gonna try the Hornets over the Lakers. Air Jordan’s team has been on quite a run since the start of the new year, winning and covering eight of the last 11. And their 158-point outburst on Wednesday against the Pacers was STAGGERING.
LaMelo Ball is becoming the BEST Ball in the NBA, while Miles Bridges and Kelly Oubre Jr. KNOW how to fill up the bucket. Those kids have the Hornets in the mix for the playoffs, while the Lakers are still struggling. The Lake Show is just 24-25 and the King, LeBron James, is listed as questionable with a sore knee. And these older/injury-prone guys in Purple & Gold are coming off a tough matchup last night in Philly against the Sixers, and back-to-back ain’t exactly what L.A. needs. Gonna buzz the Hornets!
And now, Championship Sunday!!!
Cincinnati vs Kansas City
Well, I might take a plane, I might take a train, but if I have to walk, I’m going just the same. I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come. You don’t wanna hear me sing that, NO ONE does, but you might wanna make a few bucks with me.
So, the first stop has to be Week 17 in Cincinnati when the Bengals squeezed out a 34-31 win as a 3.5-point underdog. After scouring the NFL box score, here are a few nuggets.
Joe Burrow was UNCONSCIOUS, hitting on 30 of 39 for 446 yards, four TDs, zero INTs and a 148.0 rating. Doesn’t get much better than that, and that was WITH star S Tyrann Mathieu IN the game. The “Honey Badger” is listed as questionable in the concussion protocol and if he doesn’t play, UH OH!
Patrick Mahomes was not too shabby either, completing 26 of 35 for 259 yards with two TDs and zero INTs for a 113.9 rating. Cincy was lame on the ground with only 60 yards. The Chiefs gobbled up 155 yards in that game, with Darrell Williams (88 yards) getting most of the chunks. However, Williams didn’t play last week and is listed as questionable for this game.
Here are your spread stats for each team. The Chiefs’ overall spread record is 10-9, 10-9 as a favorite, 6-5 at home, with 12 OVERs and seven UNDERs. Cincy’s overall spread record is sitting at 12-7, 7-3 as an underdog, 7-2 on the road, with eight OVERs and 11 UNDERs.
Not saying that you should run to your phone and grab the moneyline, but Cincy does come to the party on a gorgeous SIX & OH run against the spread as well as FOUR & OH on the road. The Ohio Cats are also SIX & OH as an underdog of more than 3 points. But the NINE SACKS last week is an issue for me, so Cincinnati +7, or +7.5 if you shop well, is gonna be just a medium play.
Also got a little prop wager action that is SCREAMING at me, and it’s the Bengals OVER 23.5 points for the game. What am I missing? How is this NOT a tremendous bet? Cincy scored 34 against Kaycee just a few weeks ago and the Chiefs defense AIN’T all that.
Buffalo moved up and down the field with the greatest of ease, and you know that “Jackpot Joey” Burrow has some weapons. You also know that he’s ICE on the biggest stage. It’s a small sample, but he has NOT lost a playoff game, and you remember the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship Game when his LSU team crushed Clemson 42-25.
Gotta tell you that Kaycee’s defense against teams with top-shelf QBs is a SIEVE. They gave up 38 and 36 points in the two games against Josh Allen, 30 and 28 in the two against Justin Herbert and 36 to Lamar Jackson. LOVE this prop, and you can BOOK IT!!!
San Francisco vs Los Angeles
In the late game, the two NFC West rivals played twice this season. You probably read that the Niners are working on a SIX-GAME WINNING STREAK against the Rams, so REVENGE is CERTAINLY on the table. But is revenge enough to carry the day? Is Matthew Stafford enough to carry the day?
Stafford got the “get out of jail free card” when he was traded to L.A. and his results have been ENORMOUS! Especially in the playoff games with a REAL team, NOT named the Lions, he has completed 41 of 55 passes (75%) for 568 yards, with four TDs and zero INTs. WHEW!
In the second game at L.A., the Rams lost in OT and Odell Beckham Jr. had only two catches for 18 yards. Last week against a pretty stiff Tampa defense, they mixed OBJ in way more and he had eight targets, with six grabs for 69 yards. Oh yeah, then there’s the other guy. You might know his name, think it’s Cooper Kupp. All he did was win the TRIPLE CROWN of receiving with 145 catches, yeah ONE HUNDRED FORTY-FIVE, 1,947 yards and 16 TDs. NO team can cover both of these guys.
Here are your spread stats for each team. The Rams’ overall spread record is 10-9, 7-9 as a favorite, 5-4 at home, with 10 OVERs, eight UNDERs and one PUSH. San Francisco’s overall spread record is now 11-8, 4-1 as an underdog, 7-4 on the road, with eight OVERs and 11 UNDERs.
Gonna back the Rams at -3.5 but buy the hook down to -3 and make this a light to medium play. However, we’re pushing a LARGE pile of chips into the center of the table for the Rams at -2.5 to win the first half. And that is my “Fifth Element” Leeloo Dallas BIG BADDA BOOM!
In the last game at SoFi, L.A. blew out to a 17-3 lead at the half, then just shut down as the 49ers won in OT 27-24. And just last week against Tampa Bay, the Rams STORMED out to a 20-3 lead at the half before wilting in the second half but holding on for a 30-27 W. Look for another STORM as this MOB of Rams comes flying out of the chute and runs into the tunnel at the half with a comfortable lead before Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Mary J. and Kendrick Lamar take the stage.
And if you want some winners over the weekend, PLZ hit me on Instagram. I will be doing quick 15- to 30-second picks at www.instagram.com/vegasvigorish!
Benjamin Eckstein is a nationally syndicated sportswriter/oddsmaker. His column, America's Line, with the Ecks & Bacon appetizer, has run in the New York Daily News and over 100 other papers since 1988. You can follow him online at www.americasline.com. He is beloved by most, when he picks winners, and detested by others, when he picks the occasional loser. If you wanna piece of Eck, hit his Email...firstname.lastname@example.org.