- When: Saturday, January 12, 2018 @ 8:15 pm EST
- Where: LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
- (Betting odds from Sportsbetting AG and current as of 1/8 at 10 pm)
|Team||Point Spread||Moneyline||Total (over-under)|
|Dallas Cowboys||+ 7 -101||+ 275||Un 49 -115|
|Los Angeles Rams||– 7 -119||– 330||Ov 49 -105|
If you’re going to bet along with me, make sure to find the most favorable odds at the best NFL betting sites to maximize your earnings. Following the 2018 NFL regular season – and now, one week of the playoffs- here are my results:
- Overall Record: 185 – 160 – 5 (1 NFL futures bets pending)
- Winning Percentage: 53.6%
- Total Profit: $1,540.81
- Total Return: 5.11%
NFL Playoffs Divisional Round Saturday Quick Picks
This Saturday’s late game must have the NFL brass pinching themselves. As far as playoff ratings are concerned, it’s hard to imagine an event more prominent than the Dallas Cowboys playing on the road in Los Angeles, the country’s largest media market.
This contest will feature two juggernauts of the running back position, Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley. While Gurley owned the first half of the 2018 regular season, it was Zeke who ended the year as the rushing champ – acquiring 1,434 yards on the ground along the way.
Nevertheless, many variables will decide the winner on Saturday – well beyond the All-Pro runners. Let’s run through some of the more crucial factors likely to influence which side advances to the NFC Championship game. But first, here are some of the highlights that I’m considering in my picks:
- Five of the last six Cowboys games have gone over. They have ten “overs” this season.
- The Rams are 19-4 straight up over the past 23 contests but are closer to 50% both against the spread and covering points totals this season.
- Dallas limits teams to the fifth-fewest rushing yards per game.
- Todd Gurley and the Rams have the NFL’s third-most rushing yards.
- The Cowboys are 3-9 straight up in their last 12 playoff games. 0-7 when on the road.
My picks for this game:
- Cowboys +7 at -101 betting odds
- Cowboys ML at +275 betting odds
- Under 49 at -105 betting odds
Gambling Stats for Saturday’s Late Game
Sometimes you can find data to help with your handicapping that may not directly focus on the action on the field. Looking at how a team has traditionally performed against the spread can be worth analyzing as well. You can even take these meta stats further, looking for patterns in performances following losses, at home, and as favorites or underdogs. I was able to find these statistics at TeamRankings.com.
Los Angeles Rams
- Los Angeles is 7-8-1 against the spread, covering 46.7% of the time.
- At home, they’re 3-4-1 against the spread, covering 42.9% of the time.
- As a home favorite, they’re 3-4-1 against the spread, covering 42.9% of the time.
- Following their last two bye weeks, Los Angeles is 2-0-0 against the spread, covering 100% of the time.
- Against other NFC teams, the Rams are 5-7-0 against the spread, covering 41.7% of the time.
- Los Angeles is 8-8-0 (50%) at covering the totals/over-under line.
- Following their last two bye weeks, the Rams are 1-1-0 (50%) at covering the totals/over-under line.
- As a home favorite, Los Angeles is 6-2-0 (75%) at covering the totals/over-under line.
- Against other NFC teams, the Rams are 6-6-0 (50%) at covering the totals/over-under line.
- Dallas is 9-7-1 against the spread, covering 56.2% of the time.
- On the road, they’re 4-4-0 against the spread, covering 50% of the time.
- As a road underdog, they’re 4-3-0 against the spread, covering 57.1% of the time.
- Following a win, Dallas is 6-4-0 against the spread, covering 60% of the time.
- Against other NFC teams, the Cowboys are 7-5-1 against the spread, covering 58.3% of the time.
- Dallas is 8-9-0 (47.1%) at covering the totals/over-under line.
- Following a win, the Cowboys are 4-6-0 (40%) at covering the totals/over-under line.
- As a road underdog, Dallas is 2-5-0 (28.6%) at covering the totals/over-under line.
- Against other NFC teams, the Cowboys are 6-7-0 (46.2%) at covering the totals/over-under line.
Away – Dallas Cowboys (+7)
Midway through this season, the Dallas Cowboys became a whole new team. After the first handful of games, I was beginning to believe that the rookie Dak Prescott we saw leading the group was nothing more than a one-hit-wonder, and the sophomore-campaign-Dak was the real guy. But, then the Amari Cooper trade happened.
Well, now he’s back to looking superb – along with the entire Cowboys roster – which finds itself in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Along with acquiring a legitimate number-one receiver, Dallas has also gotten the ball into the hands of their best player more. Since the bye week, Elliott is touching the ball more than 29 times per game; and it’s working!
On Saturday, I believe for Dallas to win, it’ll come down to a few key matchups. Based on pre-snap formation stats, Amari Cooper will spend much of his day lined up across from Aqib Talib, who takes 92% of the snaps lined up outside on the left side of the defense. That’s too closely-even a matchup for me if I’m Jason Garrett.
I’d like to see Dallas move Cooper around more in this game, ideally getting him one-on-one with Marcus Peters. Cole Beasley will likely be shut down by Nickell Robey-Coleman in the slot, so the Cowboys need a massive game from Amari, who’s struggled on the road – averaging just 4.5 catches for 43.5-yards as the visitor versus 7-catches for 109-yards and a TD at home.
However, it’s the defense that will have triumphed if Dallas ultimately wins. In particular, it will be the linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch who decide the game. If you’re hoping to stop a player like Todd Gurley, you couldn’t ask for a better linebacking corps; after all, they locked down a very similar Alvin Kamara recently.
Also, the defense will need to pressure Goff consistently to give their team a chance. The Rams’ QB has shown vulnerabilities when playing other dominant units – such as the Bears’ – and Dallas will need to do the same to assist the secondary who will be outgunned at times, especially with Robert Woods in the slot.
Hopefully, when Woods moves inside, Byron Jones can follow him rather than allowing him to exploit a mismatch over Anthony Brown.
- G – Zack Martin (knee)
- T – Tyron Smith (neck)
- TE – Blake Jarwin (ankle)
- WR – Cole Beasley (ankle)
- WR – Tavon Austin (groin)
- WR – Noah Brown (illness)
Home – Los Angeles Rams (-7)
For a decent chunk of the season, the Los Angeles Rams were the best team in football. They moved up and down the rankings – competing with organizations like the Saints, Chiefs, and Bears for the top spot – but never outside the top five. Personally, I haven’t been as impressed with this Rams team since they lost Cooper Kupp.
Sure, they’re still an elite offensive unit with Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and Robert Woods primarily leading the way, but they don’t have that unstoppable feel like when the trio of dangerous receivers were all working together to attack and dissect secondaries. Kupp’s replacement – Josh Reynolds – is a serviceable replacement, but not on the same level by a longshot.
Luckily for LA, their excellent record secures them home-field throughout the postseason. Jared Goff has been a different player at home versus on the road. In LA, he’s averaging a monstrous 342 passing yards and 2.75 TDs; a full 100-yards and 1.5 TDs better than his road splits.
But it’s Gurley’s performance that will most decide the offense’s success levels. If the Rams can utilize him in both the run and passing games, and he consistently wins his matchup against Dallas’ excellent linebackers, the home team will coast to an easy win.
As for the defense, they’ll need their best games from Aaron Donald, Aqib Talib, and Ndamukong Suh. The Cowboys’ most significant vulnerability on their offensive line is along the interior where Donald will surely be a challenge. If he can push the middle of that line and get pressure in Dak’s face, Dallas’ offense will fold.
- HB – Todd Gurley (knee)
- S – Blake Countess (concussion)
Fantasy Football Sit/ Start
With so much of the gambling public wagering through daily and even season-long fantasy, I’ve decided to share my sits and starts for the game as well. By playoff time, most year-long leagues have concluded, but sites are now experimenting with playoff fantasy not to mention Daily Fantasy which is still ongoing. For the owners still playing some form of fantasy, I share my sit, start, and sleeper recommendations.
I think this will be much more competitive than people are expecting. Dallas’ linebackers are going to drastically limit Gurley’s influence on the game, although there’s no way to ever entirely shut the RB down. However, as the contest progresses, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Todd making bigger plays after Goff softens up the defense through the air.
While I love the Cowboys’ defense, I can’t stop thinking about Jared Goff’s home and away splits. He’d just been too dominant at home to choke now. But, that doesn’t mean it’ll be a blowout. In fact, I’m not even picking the Rams to cover; I just have them winning straight up by a margin of between-two-and-five-points.
Dallas’ offense will be a pleasant surprise, hitting on several huge plays from Zeke and Amari. Cooper should be able to beat Marcus Peters for some big gains, and Elliott is at his absolute prime right now. That’s why I’m taking the Cowboys with the points and the Over, despite having the Rams winning the actual game.
These sit/start options reflect this prediction:
- Dak Prescott – Cowboys QB – Dak Prescott has been a godsend to daily fantasy owners in recent weeks. Despite being relatively inexpensive, he finished Wild Card weekend as the number-one QB. He’s been using his legs more, picking up rushing TDs in seven of his past twelve performances.
- Ezekiel Elliott – Cowboys RB – Zeke won’t come cheap, but he may be worth betting big on this weekend. The 2018 rushing king will always be the focal point of this offense, and with nearly 30 touches a game, he’s never going to bust completely. I think he outperforms lofty expectations in the biggest contest of his career on Saturday.
- Amari Cooper – Cowboys WR – Amari Cooper is the only other Cowboys player I’d consider rostering on Saturday. The 23-year-old WR has seen a career resurgence since being traded to Dallas, although his road splits are somewhat alarming. Only take the risk if the price is right.
- Jared Goff – Rams QB – Goff has been a beast playing at home this season, averaging over 340-yards passing in LA. Against a very tough defense, Jared might not be the smartest DFS play if his price tag is consistent with the other elite quarterbacks like Brees, Brady, and Luck. Still, it’s hard to ignore those massive home stats.
- Robert Woods – Rams WR – Robert Woods is a consistently high-floor guy and has become this teams top receiver. Since Kupp has gone down, Woods is lining up in the slot for more snaps, where he’ll enjoy a sizable mismatch over slot corner Anthony Brown.
- Todd Gurley – Rams RB – Starting Gurley is a sure-thing. Indeed, it’s not lost on the RB that this contest will go a long way in determining who is considered the NFL’s best running back. Expect the All-Pro to be extremely active both as a runner and pass-catcher, as he goes head-to-head with a nasty Dallas linebacking corps.
- Cole Beasley – Cowboys WR – Beasley is dealing with a hurt ankle, and never really saw a boost from the arrival of Amari Cooper. This week, Cole will draw Nickell Robey-Coleman in the slot – who PFF has graded at 82.6, making him the sixth-best cornerback in the NFL.
- Brandin Cooks – Rams WR – The Dallas Cowboys usually don’t give up big passing plays, although last week was an exception, with Seattle connecting on six of them. The reason I recommend benching Cooks is because of Byron Jones – a lockdown, top-ten corner.
- Josh Reynolds – Rams WR – Josh Reynolds is no Cooper Kupp, but he’s been serviceable. 27% of his targets come in the red zone, so he’ll likely be TD-dependent as a sleeper. Nevertheless, this could quickly become a high-scoring game with plenty of opportunity for Reynolds.
NFL Playoffs Week 2 – Divisional Round – Saturday
Cowboys +7 at -101 betting odds
$80 to win $79.21
Cowboys ML at +275 betting odds
$30 to win $82.50
Under 49 total points at -105 betting odds
$75 to win $71.43