NFL Point Spread Picks - Divisional
Feeling good after hitting all 3 top picks last weekend. Bucs, Chiefs, and Rams all predicted blowouts. Almost hit the honorable mention in the Raiders but whatev they suck. Also, 4 of the 5 quarterbacks getting their first playoff game lost by a lot. The only one who won? Burrow because he was facing a 1st timer in Carr. Carr, Murray, Hurtz, and Mac Jones all had to go home. Enough bragging, it's time to continue this streak and analyze these games:
LOS ANGELES @ TAMPA BAY -3
The Los Angeles Rams just came out of a huge blowout against the Cardinals and beat these same Bucs in week 3 34-24 and hence we get a 3 point spread. Not even a half point for the Super Bowl champs or the goat.
Don't get me wrong, these Rams are legit. Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr have powered these passing offense. The offense looked much better at the beginning of the season but dropped to 14th on the back half of the season. Some of it may have to do with Stafford's league leading 17 INT, and some with their struggling running game. The numbers tell us that the Rams are now an average offense that depends much on the passing game.
The stronghold for the Rams is Aaron Donald and the defense. They are strong against both the pass and the rush. They are fired up and can put pressure on Brady, which is his only weakness, pressure. They sacked him 3 times in game 3. But as of late with injuries in the secondary it could be trouble. It wasn't against Kyler Murray but Brady can exploit the newcomers' weaknesses.
The other problem with the Rams is that they struggled to beat good teams, teams in the playoffs. They had a win against the struggling Cardinals and the one win against the Bucs in week 3 and that's it. Then they lost against the 49ers (2), Packers, Titans and beat a bunch of bad teams like the Jaguars, Texans, Lions, and Giants. The Bucs on the other hand went 6-1 against playoff teams including the one loss on week 3.
The number one offense in the league are the Bucs and by a lot according to DVOA. #1 passing offense and the #4 rushing offense. They rank #2 in first downs and #1 in late downs. Tom Brady led the league in TDs and passing yards with a top 5 rushing attack. This offense is humming even without Godwin or Brown.
The Bucs defense finished top 10 in the league. It started slow, then it got some injuries but it is healthy and much better as of late and especially at home. They struggled on the road all season so the venue change is a positive sign for this D.
Models: All machine learning models predict Bucs by 7 or close to it. The home team favorite by 3 and a prediction of 7 gives a situational confidence of 56%. Not too high, but it's the playoffs so I prefer to stick with the narrative that all statistical signs point to the Bucs.
Injuries: Fournette and Jones at RB for the Bucs are a question mark, although Vaughn was able to fill in just fine. The worrisome injury are in the Bucs offensive line. RT Tristan Wirfs and C Ryan Jensen are two Pro Bowl linemen that are question marks this weekend but badly needed against the Rams. Watch for their injury updates.
This game for me does boil down to the two QBs. Stafford vs Brady. In that case, I'll take the GOAT.
THE PICK: Bucs -3
For analysis and picks for the other 3 games visit Rokfin.com/NFLpickles