Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 9:15 AM EST odds are subject to change.
Jacksonville +9½ over Kansas City
4:30 PM EST. The noted Paul Johnson, an English author of considerable repute (not to be confused with the Paul Johnson who coached Navy and Georgia Tech) who just passed away last week, once wrote in his acclaimed Modern Times, a history of the 20th century from the 1920s to the 1980s, “There are no inevitabilities in history.” Neither are there in the NFL playoffs; conference top seeds don’t always win, or even clear their first postseason hurdles. We are reminded of this often, most recently last year in the NFC, when top-seeded Green Bay was KO’d right out of the box in the Division Round against the Niners. Failing to cover spreads has repeated even more often, such as it did for the Chiefs against the Browns two years ago in the AFC. We could continue to cite examples, but the point is clear, there are no inevitabilities. We are certain this is not lost upon Andy Reid, who might be understandably wary of this weekend’s coaching by one-time protégé Doug Pederson, both a QB and an assistant to Reid in the past.
They were Packers till the end, until Reid left Green Bay, where he was Pederson’s QB coach among other things, to become Eagles’ head coach. They were Eagles till the end, until Reid got fired and they skipped arm-in-arm to the Chiefs. They were Chiefs till the end, until Pederson broke free and went back to the Eagles to win the Super Bowl Reid couldn’t during his own tenure there. How can we not see this as a 3-hour, mutual admiration, tight love embrace that dates back 28 years, with the chance for a bizarre twist at the end?
Sideline matchups run deep, and Reid will probably be the first to downplay KC’s 27-17 midseason win over Jacksonville at Arrowhead. The Chiefs were able to keep a safe distance between themselves and the Jags, bolting to a 20-0 lead by late in the second quarter, though in the end would need to kill off the last six minutes of the game to prevent the score from tightening further. We should mention that the refs called zero, count ‘em, zero penalties on the Chiefs that day and they covered by a half point. That second half against the Chiefs is what ultimately would light a fire under the Jags rear ends, as they would go on a massive run after that mid-November game.
A late-season ascent that has now seen the Jags win six straight, including a historic rally in the Wild Card Round vs. the Chargers, after Trevor Lawrence endured a dumpster fire of a first half that included four picks to put Pederson’s team in a 27-0 hole before methodically climbing back into the game and dramatically pulling out the win on Riley Patterson’s last-play 36-yard field goal.
The market was not that impressed with Jacksonville’s comeback last week, as it was referred to as a Chargers meltdown more than a Jags comeback but do know that in wins over the Ravens, Cowboys and Titans, the Jags had to come back in all of them. Let’s also not ignore what Jacksonville’s defense did. After being on the field continuously for the entire half with very little rest, they held Justin Herbert’s offense to a mere field goal in the second half. The offense put the defense in big holes the entire first half so that score could have easily been 34-7 or worse at half time.
Trevor Lawrence, who despite his improvement this season, cannot be expected to come out ahead of Patrick Mahomes in this matchup, but Lawrence only has to be good enough to feature a supporting cast (Travis Etienne, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Evan Engram) that blossomed as the campaign advanced. The Chiefs were certainly not a foolproof recommendation in 2022, especially at home, where they covered only two of eight, which strongly suggested they were very overvalued at home all year and this one is no different. Doug Pederson will arrive with the kitchen sink under his arm, guaranteed to play like an underdog, which could force Reid to play like one when he’s a two-score favorite, not the best thing for a multi-score favorite to do.
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Jacksonville +9½ -107 (Risking 2.14 units - To Win: 2.00)