THE BARNBURNER’S CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND BREAKDOWN

Baker record SU: 4-4

North record ATS: 5-3

Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints  
Sunday, January 20 3:05 PM EST (FOX)

This number opened at Saints -3.5, which is what the line should have been when these two teams met during the season (line closed at Rams -1.5). This line dipped to 3 after a ton of action on the Rams (almost 3-to-1).

I like the Saints as the short favorite, as I was prepared to bet -3.5 this morning. Now that the hook is gone, the number looks much better and likely won’t last very long (might be back to 3.5 when you read this).

The Saints, despite struggling to score last week against Philadelphia, are the better team and homefield advantage is on their side in this one.

The right side is New Orleans as the short home favorite. Drew Brees is 6-0 at home with the Saints in the playoffs. Assuming the spread closes at 3 or 3.5, it will be the lowest spread for Brees at home in the playoffs. There are a million other reasons why you shouldn’t bet against the Saints this week, but I rest my case.

Pick: Saints -3

Baker:

I agree with Josh all over the map this weekend, which might make our column a little boring, but it feels good to be on the same side of things.

I like the Saints on Sunday for two main reasons: the Dome & Michael Thomas marching up against the Rams’ secondary.

Let’s start with homefield advantage. Like Josh said, Drew Brees has never lost at home in the playoffs. The Superdome absolutely shakes. I’ve been there for a neutral game and it is deafening, it almost seems unfair when the Saints are there. Jimmy Buffett is going to sing the National Anthemn and the Ying Yang Twins are performing at half-time. I hope that the roof is still attached to the building after that. Advantage Saints.

Secondly, Michael Thomas had an absolute field day against this Rams’ secondary the last time these two faced off. The Rams were without Aquib Talib that game and Marcus Peters was burnt toast. Peters has been chirping all week and Talib is back, which should things tougher on the Saints, but not enough to stop them. I don’t see anyone who can matchup with Thomas who might have one of those days on Sunday. The Rams are going to play a lot more zone this time around. We’ll see what that does.

I expect Sean McVay to dial up the offense and I think the Rams will put up points. I’m expecting a shootout, but I think the Saints are moving on.

Pick: Saints

New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, January 20 6:40 PM EST (CBS)

The whole “nobody believes in us” campaign from the Patriots seems awkward and off-base. I just don’t get it.

They’re the underdog for a reason. The Chiefs are at home (where they have only lost once this season) and they have been bar none the best offense in the NFL this season. This line is exactly what it should be, as 2.5 favors the Chiefs and 3.5 favors the Patriots.

In a game that I could see going either way, I like betting the underdog, and getting a field goal could be significant in a game like this (though not likely, I see a blowout either way). If you’re on the New England side, you will find more significant value on the money line (+149).

I should note that Tommy’s last three road playoff games have all ended in losses (His last road win? 2006. Woof.). I should also note that Tommy is 43-23-2 ATS as an underdog (Pretty good).

The Patriots have the better defense and more reliable running game. The Chiefs run defense has a tough matchup that I expect Belichick to capitalize on. Traditionally, betting on the better defense/run game is a better formula than better against the explosive pass-first offense in the playoffs. Give me Touchdown Tommy as an underdog every day of the week (unless he plays the Saints in the Super Bowl….stay tuned).

Pick: Patriots +3

Baker:

I talked last week about thinking that the Chargers were better than the Patriots overall. I still picked the Pats and look how that turned out. I’m expecting something similar this week.

The Chiefs could boat race the Patriots if they’re not careful, but I don’t think Belichick and Brady will allow that to happen. The Patriots’ defense is much better than the Chiefs’, but will they be able to stop Mahomes, Hill, and Kelce? I don’t think they can be stopped, but I think they can be contained.

On offense I expect Josh McDaniels to attack the Chiefs much like he did the Chargers. Looking for long drives, getting the running game going, and short & high percentage passes to eat the clock and keep this game close.

The weather was expected to be frigid, but the forecast has lightened up. I expect the old men of winter to do what they seem to always do. The Patriots have built this chip on their own shoulder and that’s something we’ve never seen before. They are still dangerous, and they’ll be done when they say they’re done.

Pick: Patriots

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