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 - Before we get to the NFL card, gonna lace up my skates for the first time this season and take a little spin on the NHL ice.
Looking at the Avalanche over the Blues in the second game of the back-to-back that most teams are playing in order to cut down on travel. Everyone is expecting big things from Colorado, which is why the Avs were listed as the favorite to win the Stanley Cup (7/1), the West Division (3/2), as well as topping the list for the most points (77.5).
So, what happens? They go out and get crushed in their first game, AT HOME, 4-1, against St. Louis. Banking on a quick turnaround tonight and a small plate of revenge while singing 'Rocky Mountain High' to my boxer puppy!
NFL Divisional Round Picks
Kick it off with the Packers -6.5 points over the Rams. Gonna start each selection with some vital spread stats, just in case you have not had the time. Looking at the Packers, they were 13-3 straight up and 10-6 against the spread. They were 5-3 ATS at home and 8-5 as a favorite. They went OVER nine times and UNDER seven (4-4 to the OVER at home).
The Rams are 11-6 straight up and 10-7 against the spread. They are 5-4 ATS on the road and 4-2 as an underdog. They went UNDER 12 times and OVER five (5-4 to the OVER away).
Cal vs. Cal. Aaron Rodgers (2003-04) vs. Jared Goff (2013-15). It's also Chico, CA. vs. Novato, CA. And then, it's best friends, Sean McVay vs. Matt LaFleur, who both coached under Mike Shanahan at Washington for a few years. That's where the similarities end. Why? Because Rodgers will be a NO DOUBT FIRST BALLOT HALL OF FAMER, while Goff is five years into a career that is still pretty much of a mystery.
At the age of 37, Mr. Discount Double Check had his BEST year EVER! He completed a staggering 70.7% of his passes (No. 1 in the NFL), gobbled up 4,299 yards, threw 48 TDs (No. 1) with only five INTs (tied for the lowest in the league). With a question mark after Aaron Donald's name, due to some cranky ribs, and Goff coming off a 9-for-19 performance last week against Seattle, we're buying CHEESE!!!
Moving on the Bills -2.5 points over the Ravens. Checking in on the Bills, they are 14-3 straight up and 11-6 against the spread. They are 6-3 ATS at home and 8-4 as a favorite. They went OVER 12 times and UNDER Four with one push (6-3 to the OVER at home).
The Ravens are 12-5 straight up and 11-5-1 against the spread. They are 6-2-1 ATS on the road and 2-0 as an underdog. They went OVER seven times and UNDER 10 (4-5 to the UNDER away).
OH BOY. My fingers are twitching because after three weeks of BEST BETTING Baltimore, I'm switching sides. Also PRAYING for snow. Why? Buffalo QB Josh Allen spent his college years in Laramie, Wyoming, so snow (64 inches per year), cold weather and wind was just another Saturday.
Baltimore's electric Lamar Jackson was born and raised in Pompano Beach, Florida, where the average snowfall is, let's see, ZERO! NADA! NONE! When asked about playing in the snow, Jackson said, “Saturday would be my first time playing football in the snow, if it does. Hopefully, it don’t.”
Not just basing this pick on weather, but also the fact that last season, the Bills limited Lamar to only 40 yards on 11 carries. Not throwing all my chips in, but will circle the wagons, just making it a smaller circle.
Stepping to the Browns +10 points against the Chiefs. Looking at the Chiefs, they were 14-2 straight up and 6-9-1 against the spread. They were 3-5 ATS at home and 5-8-1 as a favorite. They went OVER eight times and UNDER seven times with one push (4-4 to the OVER at home).
The Browns are 12-5 straight up and 7-10 against the spread. They are 4-5 ATS on the road and 3-3 as an underdog. They went OVER 10 times and UNDER seven (5-4 to the OVER away).
Totally understand that everyone is on Kaycee, and why not. They have the MAGICAL Patrick Mahomes at QB. And the RIDONKULOUS Andy Reid record, 18-3 regular season, 5-2 playoffs, after a bye. But, and there are a couple, Cleveland gets its head coach, Kevin Stefanski, back.
And possibly, All-Pro OL Joel Bitonio. And if you're worried about the Browns giving up 501 air yards to Ben Roethlisberger last week, DON'T. The Brownies were up 35-10 at the half, played soft and took their foot off the gas in the 2nd half. The other concern is the Chiefs' work in the second half of the season.
Yes, they won seven of the last eight, but did not, DID NOT COVER A SPREAD, as in 0-7-1. Gonna roll with Cleveland and counting on The Baker to make my DOUGH/BANK ACCOUNT RISE!
Closing with the Saints -3 points over the Bucs. Checking on the Saints, they are 13-4 straight up and 10-6-1 against the spread. They are 5-3-1 ATS at home and 9-6 as a favorite. They went OVER 10 times and UNDER seven times (6-3 to the OVER at home).
The Bucs are 12-5 straight up and 10-7 against the spread. They are 5-4 ATS on the road and 8-6 as a favorite. They went OVER 10 times and UNDER seven (6-3 to the OVER away).
New Orleans has covered eight of the last nine with one push, and anytime you're talking about an 89% cover rate, you gotta pay attention. However, we're paying MORE attention to the two games that these NFC South rivals played this season. They opened the season in the Superdome, and the Saints (-4) posted a 34-23 win & cover.
The shocker was the rematch down in Tampa, when New Orleans (+3) went to the Sunshine State and CRUSHED the Bucs, 38-3. OUCH! In those two games, the 42-year-old outplayed the 43-year-old, by a MILE. Brees, the youngster, completed 44-of-62 (71%), with SIX TDs and ZERO INTs. TB12, the older, completed 45-of-74 (61%), with just two TDs but FIVE INTs.
There's just one thing left to say. This IS my BEST BET BAABBBEEE!!!
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.