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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 11, 2020 at 11:27 AM

HERE'S ALL FOUR NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF PREVIEWS...
PLUS, WE'VE GOT MONDAY NIGHT'S NATIONAL TITLE TILT: #1 LSU VS. #3 CLEMSON

 

THE NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

Saturday, January 11

MINNESOTA (11-6) at SAN FRANCISCO (13-3) - 4:35p.m. ET, NBC

NFC's #1 seeded San Francisco 49ers sport - and by far - the shortest price to win it all among teams in their conference but word to the wise here is the Niners better strap it on in the trenches where a sometimes-soft San Fran O-line will have hands full with this Vikings' defensive front while DE Nick Bosa and friends will have to work hard to get at Minny slinger Kirk Cousins (242 yards passing and one TD in last weekend's 26-20 overtime win in New Orleans).

In fact, we're gonna go out on a proverbial limb and say the 49ers must turn over Cousins and Company at least three times here while shooting for "shorter fields" for San Fran QB Jimmy Garappolo (3,978 yards passing with 27 TDs and 13 INTs in regular-season action) and mates. If Garappolo gets in a groove here, then he's likely "picking on" Minnesota CB Xavier Rhodes who is playing with a banged-up shoulder / collarbone.

Spread Notes - San Francisco is 10-6 ATS (against the spread) this year and note the 49ers are a composite 11-20 vig-wise at home since the start of the 2016 season; Minnesota is 10-7 ATS overall this year following last weekend's overtime win as 7-point underdogs. Overall, the Vikings are 45-27-2 ATS as point-grabbing sides since the start of 2011. Note the last time these clubs clashed was Week 1 a year ago when 6.5-point fav Minnesota copped a 24-16 win / cover at home.

Current Las Vegas Line ... San Francisco - 7 and 44.5 points


TENNESSEE (10-7) at BALTIMORE (14-2) - 8:15 p.m. ET, CBS

Let's skip all the platitudes for Ravens' QB and soon-to-be MVP Lamar Jackson (36 passing TDs / 7 rushing TDs) and get down to the real nitty-gritty here: Can the second-year pro keep making defenders miss when it comes to his get-out-of-the-pocket and go, go, go nature and will he have to face a Titans' "spy" here (we're thinking DB Adoree' Jackson, perhaps). Jackson has not played a down the last couple of weeks and so there will be some question of "rust" here plus Ravens' RB Mark Ingram (1,018 yards rushing with 10 TDs) may not be 100 percent after dealing with some recent calf issues.

So, what will it all mean? Well, the Titans zoom into crab cake country with mucho momentum, thanks in large part to RB Derrick Henry who trampled New England to the tune of 182 rushing yards and a score but no way will the TD-plus underdogs from Tennessee survive-and-advance here without some big vertical pass plays from QB Ryan Tannehill ... we say Tannehill must go for at least four "chunk plays" in the air game or else.

Spread Notes - Baltimore is 10-5-1 against the vig overall this year but remember the Ravens have covered nine of their last 10 tilts since late September. Did you know these AFC North champs are 14-7 ATS when playing non-divisional foes these past two years? Tennessee, meanwhile, is 9-7-1 ATS overall this season and the Titans have covered 14 of their last 23 games when in the underdog role.

Current Las Vegas Line ... Baltimore - 9.5 and 47 points


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SUPER BOWL LIV ODDS TO WIN IT ALL
Here's the up-to-the-minute Super Bowl LIV Odds (all based on $100 per-play wagers):

TEAM ODDS
Baltimore+ 175
San Francisco+ 275
Kansas City+ 300
Green Bay+ 700
Minnesota+ 1100
Seattle+ 1100
Houston+ 2500
Tennessee+ 2500


Sunday, January 12

HOUSTON (11-6) at KANSAS CITY (12-4) - 3:05 p.m. ET, CBS

The KayCee Chiefs are the NFL's only team to be back here in the round-of-8 / NFL Divisional Playoff round from a year ago - kind of amazing, right? Once upon a time this year, the Chiefs were just 6-4 SU (straight-up) and finding ways to lose to the likes of Indianapolis, Tennessee and ... you got it ... Houston. No doubt Andy Reid's team now is seeking a little revenge here from that 31-24 home loss back in Week 6 and gotta believe well-rested QB Patrick Mahomes (4,031 yards passing with 26 TDs and 5 INTs) will be given carte blanche to zip some deep throws against a Texans' secondary that may not be able to count on DE J.J. Watt to put on similar pressure to what they did against Buffalo in last weekend's 22-19 come-from-way-behind overtime wild card win.

Gotta believe that Houston - down 16-zip at one stage against the Bills last week - must get out of the starting gate quickly if Bill O'Brien's gutty crew has upset dreams and that means WR DeAndre Hopkins (6 catches for 90 yards last week after getting blanked in the first half) must be a factor sooner rather than later and that also means Houston QB Deshaun Watson (55 yards rushing against Buffalo) must make some plays with his legs against a KC defense that's surrendered just 11.5 ppg the past six weeks of play.

Spread Notes - Kansas City's 10-5-1 ATS (against the spread) this year but the Chiefs enter this post-season bash with a shabby 2-6 spread log in all playoff games the past 10 years; Houston is 8-8-1 against the odds overall this year but note the Texans are 8-4-1 ATS as dogs since the start of the 2018 season.

Current Las Vegas Line ... Kansas City - 9.5 and 51 points

 

SEATTLE (12-5) at GREEN BAY (13-3) - 6:40 p.m. ET, Fox

This has been an uber-interesting week of betting lines on this Seahawks vs. Packers game ... the game opened with Green Bay installed as a 3.5-point favorite (the standard line for home field in the NFL, if you will) and it's inched upwards despite the fact that Seattle has been one of the best road teams in the league this year - see 6-2-1 against the odds following last weekend's 17-9 win at 1-point fav Philadelphia in the NFC Wild Card round.

Maybe some wintry weather perhaps will aid /abet the Packers who didn't exactly hum offensively down the stretch with point totals of just 23, 23, 21 and 20 points the final four weeks of regular-season play and we saw how QB Aaron Rodgers (4,002 yards passing with 26 TDs and 4 INTs) was high-and-wide with a number of throws in the Week 17 non-cover win in Detroit. If Rodgers is chased from the pocket here by the likes of DE Jadeveon Clowney and friends, then he'll have to be accurate with his on-the-run throws ... or else.

Game plan for the 'Hawks figures to include QB Russell Wilson (31 TD passes in the regular season and a key 53-yard scoring strike to rookie wide-out DK Metcalf in Philly last week) looking to split runs /passes as was the case against the Eagles (see 26 team rushes / 30 pass attempts) plus Metcalf and fellow WR Tyler Lockett must make their share of chain-moving plays.

Spread Notes - Green Bay is 10-6 ATS overall this season and note the Packers are 4-0-1 spreadwise against Seattle dating back to the 2014 campaign; On the flip side, the Seahawks are a dead-even and vig-losing 8-8-1 ATS this season though this NFC West crew is an electric 11-3-1 ATS as underdogs since late in the 2017 season.

Current Las Vegas Line ... Green Bay - 4.5 and 47points

 

IT'S #3 CLEMSON VS. #1 LSU IN MONDAY NIGHT'S  NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME -
WE HAVE THE GAME PREVIEW, KEY SPREAD STATS AND A WHOLE LOT MORE!

Okay, so it's the fact that jumps out at you when checking out this year's College Football Playoff National Championship Game: No #1 seed has ever won it all in the first five years of the title tilt - there was #4 Ohio State in 2014, #2 Alabama in '15, #2 Clemson in '16, #4 Alabama in '17 and #2 Clemson last year … so should that #1 "jinx" be a source of major concern for the #1 LSU Tigers?

Ha, that's a laugh! LSU - which is seeking the school's first national championship since 2007 (see BCS days) - beat their 14 opponents this season by a per-game margin of 27.2 points per game - while slugging the likes of Florida, Texas A&M, Georgia and Oklahoma all by double digits.

Clemson - part of three of the past four national championship games and winners in 2016 and '18 - beat their 14 foes this year by a whopping 33.8 ppg and that includes twin-figure wins / covers against the likes of Louisville and Virginia (both of whom covered their high-profile bowl games this past holiday season).

 

On Monday, it's … #3 CLEMSON (14-0) vs. #1 LSU (14-0) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Ready, aim … fire! There's expected to be lots and lots of fireworks inside the Louisiana Superdome here on this second Monday night of the new year - the Las Vegas folks have a totals price of 69.5 points right at this very minute -- but the $64,000 question is who will be shooting off most of 'em?

The LSU Tigers sport the country's numero uno offense and these purple-and-gold Tigers have scored in excess of 40 points in 11 different games this season; the Clemson Tigers rank third in the land in total offense and this ACC champ has scored 40-or-more points on 10 different occasions.

To be blunt, LSU - a 6.5-point betting favorite - can't "waste" possessions because Ed Orgeron's defense likely is gonna give up three or four touchdowns even on a "good day" and so Heisman Trophy-winning slinger Joe Burrow (5,208 yards passing with 55 TDs and 6 INTs) must strike on at least half of his team's drives and WRs Justin Jefferson (four TD receptions in that 63-28 win /cover versus Oklahoma in the playoff semifinals / Peach Bowl) and Ja'Marr Chase (18 TDs) must be great route-runners and shake free from this unsung Clemson secondary. The LSU gang says RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (1,304 rushing yards) is healthier than he was two weeks ago … we'll see.

On the flip side, Clemson managed to go scoreless till deep into the first half of that 29-23 win against 2.5-point pup Ohio State two-plus weeks ago in that playoff semifinal / Fiesta Bowl) and still roared back as QB Trevor Lawrence - yes, 25-and-oh SU (straight-up) as a starter - made huge plays with his legs (see 67-yard TD gallop) and his arm. Here, Lawrence needs to keep LSU's defense honest but one major key is RB Travis Etienne (a Louisiana native who LSU basically ignored in the recruiting wars) who must generate some ground yardage (10 carries for 36 yards against the Buckeyes, that's it) for Dabo Swinney's squad. True, Etienne hauled in two passes for scores against O-State but Clemson needs some up-the-middle runs to balance out an attack that likely needs 150+ rushing yards to pull the upset here.

Spread Notes - Top-ranked LSU is 9-4-1 ATS (against the spread) this year and that includes a spiffy 6-1-1 spread mark against fellow bowl squads. The Bayou Bengals are 8-4-1 odds-wise as betting favorites this year and they are a composite 16-5 ATS when playing non-SEC opponents since the start of the 2018 campaign. One last thing on this Baton Rouge bunch: LSU's covered five of its last six SEC Championship / Bowl / Playoff games since 2015; On the flip side, Clemson is an electric 11-3 against the numbers this year (a sizzling .786 winning rate) and the Tigers zoom into this title tilt riding a five-game ATS winning streak. Overall, the ACC champs - and defending national champs - are 6-2 spreadwise versus fellow bowl teams this year and they're 14-5 spreadwise as underdog sides since the start of the 2011 season. Go back to late '15 and you'll see Clemson's covered 12 of its last 20 non-conference affairs.
 

LAST 5 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
2018Clemson+ 5Alabama44-16
2017Alabama- 3.5Georgia26-23 (ot)
2016Clemson+ 6.5Alabama35-31
2015Alabama- 6.5Clemson45-40
2014Ohio State+ 5.5Oregon42-20

Note: Yes, indeed, the underdog side has covered all five championship games thus far under this current format and that incudes three outright dog winners.
 

COLLEGE BOWL POINTSPREAD STANDINGS
(Note: Power 5 conferences and Independents only)

CONFERENCE WON LOSS TIE PCT
Independents210.667
Pac-12430.571
Big 10540.556
SEC450.444
ACC460.400
Big 12240.333

 

NOTE: There's more NFL Playoff News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.

 

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