New Orleans @ Carolina
Recommended Bet: CAR +13
Cover Probability: 58.69%
Cover Edge: 12.05%
New Orleans Saints: (Week 9 bye)
-CB Eli Apple (ankle) was injured week 16. He is OUT.
-S Vonn Bell (knee) was INACTIVE weeks 15 and 16. He is OUT.
-S Marcus Williams (groin) was injured week 16. He is OUT.
IR: DE Marcus Davenport (foot), DT Sheldon Rankins (ankle)
Carolina Panthers: (Week 7 bye)
-WR DJ Moore (concussion) was injured week 16. He is OUT.
-DE Marquis Haynes (knee) was INACTIVE weeks 15 and 16. He is QUESTIONABLE after not practicing Wednesday/Thursday and being limited on Friday.
-LB Shaq Thompson (foot) was INACTIVE week 16. He is OUT.
IR: QB Cam Newton (foot), LG Greg Van Roten (leg), LT Greg Little (ankle), DT Kawann Short (shoulder), DT Dontari Poe (leg)
Spread Breakdown: The line opened at 10.5 and was quickly bet up to 13, which is where it remains.
Motivation Breakdown: The Saints have an outside shot at the 1 seed, and could fall to the 3 seed if things go truly terrible, so they have plenty of motivation to win this game. The Panthers, naturally, are eliminated.
Matchup Breakdown: The Saints offense is an absolute juggernaut. 40 year old Drew Brees would probably be in the MVP conversation if he wasn’t injured earlier in the year. The passing offense revolves around Mike Thomas, who already broke the single season reception record last week. Brees will also look to Kamara out of the backfield and TE Jared Cook, with some other secondary receivers getting a few looks a game. The line features two of the best tackles in football (Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead) with a below average interior. On the ground, Kamara typically handles about 60% of the carries with Latavius Murray getting the other 40.
The Panthers on defense rank 28th in DVOA, but it sticks out to me that they are far better against the pass (8th) than the run (32nd). They have a solid pass rush between Mario Addison, Bruce Irvin, and Brian Burns on the outside and Gerald McCoy on the inside. Luke Keuchly is having another stellar year at linebacker. Their secondary has a lot of weaknesses — I’d expect James Bradberry to shadow Thomas, with a big advantage to Thomas. The key for the Panthers is to not allow the Saints to get out to a big lead so the Saints can’t just lean on the run game.
On offense, Will Grier will make his second career start at QB. The third round pick out of West Virginia was absolutely dreadful in his first game last week, completing 61.4% of his passes, 5.1 yards per attempt, 0 TDs, and 3 picks. Grier is a third round pick with some definite promise to be a capable pro, and I think one game may be scaring bettors away from the Panthers for that reason. Luckily, the model isn’t influenced by small sample sizes. The Panthers will also be without top WR DJ Moore, who suffered a concussion last game. That will leave RB Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel, and old man Greg Olsen as the top receivers. McCaffrey is a legit animal, and is 67 receiving yards away from topping 1,000 rushing and receiving yards on the season.
The Saints have a middle tier defense, ranking 12th in DVOA with splits of 13 against the pass and 11th against the run. Cam Jordan is a monster pass rusher, but he doesn’t have anyone behind him now that Marcus Davenport is done for the season. The secondary features weak corners (even Marshon Lattimore isn’t having that great of a season, per PFF grade), but excellent safeties in Marcus Williams and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. They also struggle at the linebacker position — where AJ Klein continues to get snaps despite being one of the worst linebackers in football.
At the end of the day, we can’t ignore a 13 point home dog in a divisional game.
San Francisco @ Seattle
Recommended Wager: SEA +3.5
Cover Probability: 54.34%
Cover Edge: 3.74%
San Francisco 49ers: (Week 4 bye)
-RG Mike Person (neck) was INACTIVE week 16. He is QUESTIONABLE after being limited all week.
-DE Dee Ford (hamstring) was injured week 11 and INACTIVE weeks 12 and 13. He returned week 14, but then re-injured his hamstring. He was INACTIVE weeks 15 and 16. He is OUT.
-DT Jullian Taylor (elbow/knee) was INACTIVE weeks 14 – 16. He is OUT.
-S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) was INACTIVE weeks 14 – 16. He is DOUBTFUL.
IR: C Weston Richburg (knee) LB Kwon Alexander (Pectoral), DE Ronald Blair (knee)
Seattle Seahawks: (Week 11 bye)
-LT Duane Brown (knee/biceps) was INACTIVE week 16. He did not practice Wednesday/Thursday.
-LG Mike Iupati (neck) was injured week 16. He did not practice Wednesday/Thursday.
-S Quandre Diggs (ankle) was INACTIVE weeks 15 and 16. He did not practice Wednesday/Thursday.
IR: TE Will Dissly (Achilles), RB Chris Carson (hip), RB Rashaad Penny (knee), C/G Ethan Pocic (back), C Justin Britt (knee), CB Neiko Thorpe (groin)
Spread Breakdown: The line has mostly bounced between 3 and 3.5 If you can get it at 3.5 (that’s the current consensus), do it.
Motivation Breakdown: The winner just gets the NFC West and a first round bye. No biggy.
Matchup Breakdown: The 49ers offense sits at 9th in DVOA. Due to mid season acquisition of Emmanuel Sanders and injuries to some other key offensive contributes, it’s been an evolving offense that is finally fully healthy and put together. Garoppolo is having a solid year — averaging 8.1 yards per attempt, a 68.5 completion percentage, and a PFF grade of 75. He has a solid core of receivers between George Kittle (who is looking to cap off one of the best all around TE seasons ever), Emmanuel Sanders, and rookie Deebo Samuel. On the ground, the 49ers will mix it up between Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Matt Brieda.
On defense, the Seahawks sit at 16th in DVOA. They’re without their top pass rusher (Jadeveon Clowney), leaving Quinton Jefferson and Rasheem Green to pick up the slack. Their linebackers are Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright — two big names, but both have under performed this year. Wagner is still a tackling machine who can help limit plays that reach the second level. The secondary features Tre Flowers and Akeem King at corner, with Delano Hill and Bradley McDougal at safety. None of those names should scare opposing passers.
The Seahawks on offense are a different story. Russ Wilson is a legit MVP candidate (depending on how this game goes, anyway). He’s completing 66.4% of his passes, gaining 8.1 yards per attempt with 29 TDs and 5 picks. His PFF grade of 91.7 is second best in the NFL behind Drew Brees. The line is horrendous, and the receivers are inconsistent, but having a QB of that caliber is everything in the NFL. The running game is also severely injuries — causing the Seahawks to sign Marshawn Lynch away from parking lot tequila shots. Expect Lynch and 6th round pick Travis Homer to get the bulk of the carries.
The 49ers defense ranks 2nd in DVOA (behind New England). They get consistent pressure from Nick Bosa, Arik Amrstead, and DeForest Buckner (Dee Ford is still injures). Their secondary is also insane — Richard Sherman is having one of the best years of his already impressive career, and K’Waun Williams has been excellent in the slot. Their really isn’t a weakness for the Seahawks to attack.
But the better QB at home getting 3.5 points? We’ll take it.
That’s it for now, bitches.