If you aren’t sure which side to bet in Saturday’s postseason matchups, thankfully we’ve enlisted the help of expert NFL bloggers to debate why their favorite team covers the spread in the Divisional Round.
Matt Verderame of Kansas City blog Arrowhead Addict stands toe-to-toe with Richard Hill of New England blog Pats Pulpit, and Jason B. Hirschhorn of Green Bay blog Acme Packing Company trades blows with Jess Root of Arizona blog Revenge of the Birds.
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots (-5, 42)
WHY THE CHIEFS WILL COVER
Matt Verderame writes for Arrowhead Addict. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @ArrowheadAddict.
The pass rush
Kansas City has one of the best pass-rushes in the league with Justin Houston and Tamba Hali on the outside. While both have been limited by injuries in recent weeks, the Chiefs can also get to Tom Brady from the gut. Dontari Poe is finally looking like his old self after having back surgery this summer, while Allen Baliey and Jaye Howard are two of the most athletic defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme that you will find.
Ware is a bruising running back out of LSU, making a name for himself after being released by the Seattle Seahawks. Ware is 230 pounds and has been able to use that size to batter some smaller opponents. He’s great at creating yards after contact and running behind a resurgent Chiefs line, he poses a problem for New England’s smaller front.
Smith is always labeled as a game manager, but he has changed his ways toward the end of this season. Smith has been using his legs as much as any quarterback in the league to create additional yardage, but he’s also been dangerous in the pocket. Look for Smith to take some shots downfield to Albert Wilson and either Jeremy Maclin or Chris Conley, who has elite speed.
WHY THE PATRIOTS WILL COVER
Richard Hill is an editor at Pats Pulpit. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @patspulpit.
The Patriots are getting their offensive players back
Not only will New England usher the return of wide receiver Julian Edelman, they will also be sporting a healthier Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, and Rob Gronkowski. These four played together in weeks 7, 8, and 9, where the team averaged 31 points per game. That also includes LaFell’s horrendous first game back with roughly six drops on the day- so this offense should be at the best it’s been since the middle of the season.
Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin won’t be at 100%
The Patriots love to take away the opposing team’s best player, but what happens when an injury does it for you? It means that the Patriots can focus pretty much all of the attention to tight end Travis Kelce and then stack the box to stop the Kansas City rushing attack. The Chiefs are 6-24 over the past three seasons when they fail to post 20 points. Without Maclin, will they be able to reach that point total?
New England doesn’t lose three in a row
Quarterback Tom Brady has only been a part of one three-game losing streak in his entire career- a four game slide back in 2002. The Patriots don’t go on losing streaks, especially not while at home and in the playoffs. Look for the Patriots to right the ship and make a march during the playoffs.
Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals (-7, 49)
WHY THE PACKERS WILL COVER
Jason B. Hirschhorn is an NFL writer for Sports on Earth. He also covers the league for SB Nation and the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Company. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow him on Twitter @by_JBH.
Healthier offensive line
The last time these two teams faced off, the Packers’ starting left tackle David Bakhtiari sat out with an ankle injury, forcing Don Barclay into blindside duty. Though Bakhtiari could conceivably miss Saturday’s game, his practice participation suggests that a return should occur this weekend. Even if he cannot go, the team finally found a reliable backup in JC Tretter, who replaced Bakhtiari last Sunday in Washington. Regardless of how the situation shakes out, don’t expect the Cardinals to rack up eight sacks on Aaron Rodgers as they did in their previous encounter.
The Packers defense has played well most of the year, allowing just 20.2 points per game. Still, the units has performed even better of late, yielded more than 20 points just once over the past five games. That outlier, a 38-point implosion, came against the Cardinals, but turnovers and bad field position worked against Green Bay that day. It seems more likely that the Cardinals won’t enjoy the same success a second time.
Packers found their mojo on offense
Just about everything went wrong for the Green Bay offense against Arizona in Week 16. Rodgers barely completed 50 percent of his passes while the ground game produced only 101 yards combined. The performance reflected the team’s offensive struggles for much of the season. However, the Packers finally broke out last week in Washington, producing nearly 350 total yards and 35 points against the NFC East champions. Receivers started to find ways of getting open, the running backs rarely went down on first contact and, most importantly, Rodgers had enough time to get comfortable in the pocket. Granted, the Cardinals defense presents a greater test, but the Packers look up to the challenge.
WHY THE CARDINALS WILL COVER
Jess Root writes for Revenge of the Birds. You can follow them on Facebook and on Twitter @revengeofbirds.
History says so
Arizona has never lost a home game in the postseason — ever. They are 4-0 perfect straight up and against the spread and for the most part those games haven’t been close. They average 35.3 points per game and are +26 in the point differential column. Not to mention the fact the Cardinals thumped the Packers 38-8 in Arizona just three weeks ago.
Their offense hasn’t been stopped by anyone
They put points on the board and, while Green Bay’s defense is solid, even the top-ranked defense in the league (Seattle) gave up 39 to the Cards in Seattle. They ranked No. 1 in total yards at 408.3 per game, second in passing yards at 288.5 yards per game and second in points scored at 30.6 points per game.
Arizona is simply more talented and well rested
If you go position by position, aside from Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, you would probably take every Arizona player at their position over Green Bay’s counterpart. On top of that, Green Bay has many players banged up and is playing on a short week. Arizona is healthy and has had an extra week to prepare.