The Titans Die Tonight & Other NFL Wild Card Picks

Editor's note: It's Carl. This is Dope Ropes. He writes NFL gambling blogs for me and has an affinity for Christmas music history. I know you guys are going to be like Who The Fuck Is This Guy? and that's understandable so I'm going to include this note until those comments die down. He's a talented writer and I like reading his blogs. Apologies for dissent but that's my standard. Enjoy.

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Titans (9-7) @ Patriots (12-4); Saturday 7:15pm CT

Pick #1: Patriots -4.5

Action: 54% of bets on Patriots, 60% of money on Patriots

It feels obvious to bet on the greatest sports franchise of the century, but this pick is not obvious, and that's exactly why I love it.

Approaching the playoffs, I really had no plans to bet on the Patriots, but then last week happened. The Titans pounded the Texans, and the Pats lost to the Dolphins in the biggest NFL upset since 1995. Time to fade recency bias.

With the betting action being split roughly 50/50, this is an opportunity to "buy low" on the best QB/coach combination of all-time at home in the playoffs, hosting a QB/OC combo making their first career playoff appearance. I admit I have plenty of concerns based on the Pats' recent performance, but I simply can't give a fuck - I'm buying the Pats.

Remember when the Titans were the most boring team in the league? All it took was a switch at QB (I called it in Week 2), and now we're looking at hotness. This is like when Rachel Leigh Cook went from homely to smoke in the 1999 teen comedy/drama masterpiece She's All That. Tennessee ditched the glasses (Mariota) and slipped on a red dress (Tannehill). With that said, I don't think the Titans are ready for this spot.

The revitalized Titans offense went on a tear in the second half of the season, but they didn't face a single Top-10 defense in that stretch. The Patriots may not have the historically-great defensive unit we originally thought, but it is unquestionably Top-5 this year.

Yes, Stephon Gilmore got torched by DeVante Parker last week, but no one is more aware of it than Stephon Gilmore. This will be a bounce-back statement game from the DPOY candidate, and he'll be running A.J. Brown's routes step-for-step. 

Considering that Tannehill gets sacked on nearly a third of his drop-backs (worst in the league) and the Patriots pass rush is Top-10 in pressure rate, Tannehill will need to quickly air the ball out to Brown on "Ryan Fitzpatrick don't give a fuck" throws with a LOT of trust. All it will take is one dicey pass break-up or INT, and Tannehill will turtle. He'll refrain from making those throws because he won't want to be the reason his team loses - and that mentality is exactly why his team will lose.

Beating the Patriots in the playoffs requires playing loose and taking risks. If the Titans come with a "pound Henry and take what the secondary gives us" script, the Pats D will demoralize them by by halftime. Look for Belichick to leverage his deep knowledge of Tannehill to break his confidence early, and look for the Pats to sell out on interior runs and force Henry to laterally change direction (i.e. come to a screeching halt).

The Patriots offense sucks, but Tennessee's pass D is equally bad, especially against pass-catching RBs. New England's offense will reach deep into the bag of tricks to stay afloat, but it's their defense and special teams that will dominate. The Massholes will survive another week.

Sunday Teaser Alert!!!

Pick #2: Saints -2 (teased from -8) AND Eagles +7.5 (teased from +1.5)

Vikings (10-6) @ Saints (13-3); Sunday 12:05pm CT

Teaser Leg: Saints -2

Action: 65% of bets on Saints, 70% of money on Saints

The Saints are the popular side here, and I'm ok with that.

Pretty simply, Minnesota's defense is worse than years past, and they're particularly weak in the wrong spots against this Saints offense. 

The way to beat Brees is to pressure him up the middle and jump short-to-intermediate timing routes because he rarely takes deep shots (36th in average intended air yards out of 39 qualifying QBs). Minnesota can pass rush on the ends (Hunter & Griffen), but their interior pass rush is weak. Their secondary is great at limiting explosive pass plays, but they can get picked apart underneath. This all favors Brees.

Brees will diagnose outside pressure, stay clean up the middle, and surgically move the ball down the field in 8-yard increments. CB Xavier Rhodes has fallen off a cliff this year, and that's a problem against the best receiver in the league (@Cantguardmike).

And lastly, if this game comes down to a 50/50 ruling, we know which way they refs are going. You can't rob Who Dat Nation two years in a row if you want to leave the Superdome in one piece.

Seahawks (11-5) @ Eagles (9-7); Sunday 3:40pm CT

Teaser Leg: Eagles +7.5

Action: 80% of bets on Seahawks, 66% of money on Seahawks

Pick #3: First Half Under 21.5

Action: 61% of bets on the Under, 76% of money on the Under

Fuckin' everybody is betting on the Seahawks. Here's why:

  • The line is under a field goal and Wilson is terrifying with the ball in his hands at the end of a game
  • SEA nearly beat SF in prime time last week
  • The NFC East is a joke
  • PHI injuries are impossibly bad

When I bet against the Eagles last week, Philly fans gave me concise and constructive feedback like "fuck you" and "you're a fucking moron." These are notes I've taken with me to improve my handicapping and enhance my general outlook on life. I will forever appreciate it.

This week, I'm using my idiotic brain to bet on Philly. Enjoy my mush, you fucking animals.

This game is all about Seattle being slow to adjust. The Eagles have a great front-7, but the Seahawks will stubbornly try to establish the run with sub-par RBs because OC Brian Schottenheimer can't help himself. Knowing that Philly's weakness is their secondary, it would make sense for Seattle to start with a pass-heavy uptempo script, but that's not gonna happen. The Seahawks' wasted efforts on the ground in the First Half will keep this score low and allow for the Eagles to take a meager lead early.

The Seattle defense is bad (29th in yards/play allowed). I told you this when I bet against them last week (winner). Their biggest weakness is defending pass-catching RBs and TEs, and that happens to be the Eagles' offensive strength. Look for massive games from Goedert and Sanders/Scott. Also, the Seahawks can't get pressure, so Wentz will have time to find his guys.

After digging themselves into a hole in the First Half, the Seahawks offense will eventually push tempo and attack with shots down the sidelines. Since Wilson is a fucking robot, he'll close the gap and possibly win this game.

But knowing that Seattle has only won one game this season by more than one possession, I will gladly take 7.5 points with an overlooked Eagles team at home in a playoff atmosphere. Winds will be whipping at the Linc, so this will be the slow-starting grind-out game to put money in our pockets with the Eagles and the Under.

Let's start 2020 off right.