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.
Author's Note Back to Carl: Now that we've eclipsed 5 years and 300 bets since you've been tailing me, it's time for Daddy Ropes to leave you with a blazing run to close the season. The time is now.
Dope Ropes' NFL Career Record ATS: 160-141
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Vikings (10-6) @ Niners (13-3); Saturday 3:35pm CT
Pick #1: First Half Under 21.5
Action: 58% of bets on the Over, 51% of money on the Over
The Vikings are stubborn in sticking to the run game. They don't care if they're inefficient, and they don't care if they're down. They would rather lose a First Half slowly on the ground than take a risk with Cousins early through the air. Minnesota's WR injuries this week aren't helping Kirk's case either. Thielen's ankle cut was a freak accident, while Diggs' flu came as no surprise because I've read studies that the flu virus targets people who whine like a bitch about not getting the ball while their team is leading in a huge road playoff game. And given that San Fran's weakness is stopping the run, there's no reason for Minnesota to deviate from what they've done all season. This will keep the clock running.
On the other side, the Niners D is getting healthy at the right time. They are returning key defenders at literally every level (Ford at DE, Alexander at LB, Tartt at S). We'll likely see the lights-out 49ers D that we saw in the first half of the season instead of the somewhat-shaky version we saw in the second half. There's a chance that the Vikings may find some success with first down runs, but the Niners will be expecting it. When San Fran inevitably stuffs an early-down run and Minnesota finds themselves in a 3rd-and-long against the Niners' elite pass rush and secondary, the Vikings might as well take a knee and punt.
I anticipate the Niners to move the ball well, but it may take a little time. It's Jimmy G's first playoff start, so we'll have to see if he's jittery or if he comes out with the confidence to shoot his shot like he did with Kiara Mia and Erin Andrews (to clarify, two very different scenarios). Either way, I think it may take him a series or two before he gets up to speed.
Kyle Shanahan has the most versatile and inventive offense in the game, but we know Mike Zimmer will throw a defensive rubik's cube at him early. To quote Booger McFarland, look for Minnesota's defensive ends to "come inside" of the Niners O-line and attack their back-up Center. Shanahan will adjust and the Niners will begin to sustain long drives, but they'll still need to contend with the Vikings' Top-5 red zone defense. Long, run-heavy drives resulting in field goals? Giddy up.
And lastly, we have the Under's best friend: double-digit winds. How could I forget?
You may be looking for fireworks, but I'll be rooting for punts like the goddamn lunatic I am.
Texans (10-6) @ Chiefs (12-4); Sunday 2:05pm CT
Pick #2: Chiefs First Half -5.5
Action: 53% of bets on Chiefs, 64% of money on Chiefs
With a narrow victory in Buffalo, the Texans have delayed the annual "Texans get blown out" playoff game by exactly one week. Time's up.
In one sentence, Andy Reid is at home off of a bye hosting Bill O'Brien.
Reid is one of the greatest game-prepping coaches of all-time who scripts out his first 15+ plays, while Bill O'Brien has an offense that ranks 26th in First Half points per game (9.5) despite having fucking Deshaun Watson as his quarterback. In Watson's two career playoff games under Bill O'Brien, the Texans have scored a grand total of ZERO points in the First Half. Get the picture?
Aside from the coaching disparity, I just love this spot for the Chiefs because it's been a while since we've seen the best they have to offer. While the Ravens were shit-pumping teams on Lamar's MVP campaign this season, last season's MVP (Mahomes) was flying under the radar en route to a 12-win season. Mahomes' injuries (hand, ankle, knee) prevented him from putting up video game numbers, and the fact that his team had the AFC West pretty much wrapped-up by Week 13 gave him no reason to put on a show in the final weeks. Well now, it's go time.
Houston's run D is below average and their pass D is atrocious. KC will gain traction on the ground with a revitalized Damien Williams to make Houston respect it, but then it's just gonna be a fuckin' laser show through the air. KC's receiving options present mismatches all over the field, but there's none greater than Tyreek Hill vs. Vernon Hargreaves in the slot. If you see the Cheetah lined up across from a guy who was waived by the Bucs two months ago, six points is literally a possibility on any play. Deuces.
As for the Kansas City defense, they've improved significantly from last year, and they match up very well against Houston. The Chiefs are still susceptible to the run, but it's partly by design. They lock you down on the outsides, take away explosive passes over the top, and funnel you into playing small-ball over the middle of the field. If you're a QB like Drew Brees who lives for quick and precise passing, you can incrementally march the ball down the field against KC. If you're a QB like Watson who holds the ball too long in search of the big play, you're in trouble. The KC defense found their identity during Mahomes' mid-season absence (i.e. "we can be the reason for a win"), and we'll see more of it here.
Much credit to Steve Spagnuolo for turning around this defense in his first year with the Chiefs. Spags sure can coach, and I bet he would write a body-positive blog about Rihanna on Barstool if he had the chance.
Look for Mahomes to remind us why he's the best QB in the league, and look for Watson's desperation to result in turnovers instead of highlights. Just in case Watson pulls any shit in garbage time, let's make this a First Half bet.
Seahawks (11-5) @ Packers (13-3); Sunday 5:40pm CT
Pick #3: No Bet
This game is like a series finale of The Bachelor - two frauds that won't last another week.
I hate that these "worse than their record indicates" teams are playing each other. Coming into the playoffs, I firmly placed both of them on my "bet against" list, and now of course I can't get an edge because they're in the same goddamn game.
I've been telling you about the Seahawks' luck with opponent injuries and wins in one-possession games. Add last week to the list (Wentz concussion, won by 8).
Seattle pretty much just fucks around for 3 quarters then lets Russ be a soulless killing machine in the 4th. After beating the Eagles, the weirdo robot had no clue the Packers would be his next opponent:
"I didn't even know who we were playing, to be honest with you," Wilson said. "I didn't look all day. I just didn't want to look. I guess we're going back to Wisconsin."
"Just toss me into a shipping container and unload me at my next destination. Plug me into a wall and update my software before kickoff so I know where I am. Quick question - what are feelings?"
- Also Russell Wilson
The delay to activate Russ is why I took the First Half Under last week in Philly (winner). Seattle's 17 RB carries for 19 yards was fuckin poetry. This week, the Seahawks should probably come out with deep shots to test a Green Bay secondary that ranks 24th in explosive pass rate despite playing weak QB competition, but with Brian Schottenheimer at OC, they'll probably pound Marshawn while he gasps for air like Biggie Smalls.
Switching to Green Bay, they're about as unremarkable as a 13-3 team can be. They rank 18th in yards/play offensively and 19th in yards/play allowed defensively. Rodgers isn't even the best Aaron on his team (I don't actually believe this but it's fun to say), and this offense has been reduced to a "dink-and-dunk, lean on the run game, don't turn the ball over" style. Yawn. Credit to Rodgers for doing what it takes to get W's, but this is not a Super Bowl caliber team.
If you think you have a feel of how this game will go, you're a maniac. Save your money.
Enjoy this game, hope one team blows out the other, then bet your life against that team next week.
With a couple wins this weekend, the president of "Who the fuck is this guy?" nation keeps rollin'.
Have a good one - see you next week.