It's sort of sad that, in a league that prides itself on parity, we're not discussing who will win a game, but by how much. Because I mean, come on man, there is not a snowball's chance in hell that New England is losing this football game. This is New England at home in the playoffs, where they have lost only four times since the 1970s (twice to the Jets and twice to the Ravens). I do believe this one could be closer than most people expect it will be. Houston will not have easily forgotten getting shut out in Foxborough in September and dominated by a third-string QB. So, purely on the back of the Houston defense, I'm going to recommend buying some points and taking the Houston Texans (+17).
Houston Texans (10-7) vs. New England Patriots
Saturday, January 14th --- Gillette Stadium --- 8:15 pm EST
NFL Betting Line: New England -15.5 (44.5)
There can be no comparisons on offense between these two teams. Brady vs. Osweiler. End of story. Blount is a beast in the running game and I'm expecting him to have a big day. But this is the NFL in the playoffs and this spread is simply too high. Here's my guess: the Patriots are going to put up somewhere between 24-28 points. Houston's defense is just too solid to give up any more. Jadeveon Clowney might be one of the best overall athletes in the league and, even after more than a decade, Jonathan Joseph is still a shutdown cornerback. They'll keep Brady and company in check. So, if my numbers hold, Houston just needs about thirteen points to cover. I think they'll come up with enough plays on offense and maybe a big special-teams' play to put up the requisite points. The New England defense has been suspect all year and I think I can count on to put up at least a touchdown each half.
In my humble opinion, Steelers-Chiefs will be the best matchup of the weekend by a country mile. I've had little to no faith in the Chiefs all year and I've faded them consistently. In Kansas City, they've lost to teams like the Bucs and they should have lost to the Chargers and the Jaguars, were it not for some fluky plays and horrendous calls. The Chiefs are not for real, plain and simple. Two things scare me betting against them: 1) Andy Reid coming off a bye week & 2) The health of Ben Roethlisberger. Thankfully, in spite of the importance of coaching, Reid will not be on the field and Roethlisberger will be. You're going to have to drink the juice and buy the hook, but I love the Pittsburgh Steelers (+3).
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, January 15th --- Arrowhead Stadium --- 1:05 pm EST
NFL Betting Line: Kansas City -1.5 (44.5)
The Chiefs have won games strictly on the backs of their defense and special teams. In the modern day NFL, it is simply unsustainable to rely on your defense or special teams for points. Eventually, the well goes dry, but the thirst for victory remains. I just don't see how the Chiefs offense is going to keep pace with the Steeler's offensive weapons. People didn't give the Dolphins defense credit, but they were legitimate. And the Steelers smoked them. My only concern is the inexperienced Steelers' defense, but they looked fired up and ready to give everything they have for this playoff run. They look like they want to try to live up to those legendary Steel Curtain defenses. Wild Card weekend was about the favourites. In the Divisional Round, it's time for some upsets.