More does not equal better. That's a lesson many sports fans need to learn because it was a common retort this weekend. I do not like that the NFL has moved to 14 playoff teams because all it does is increase the odds of mediocre teams making the playoffs, which in turn increases the chances we get boring blowout games on the first weekend of the playoffs.
Yet, when you say this publicly, invariably, people will respond with, "but it's more football! Don't you like football?" I do, but what I like more than football is good football, especially when we reach the playoffs and the stakes rise. I don't need to see a washed-up Ben Roethlisberger throwing three-yard outs or Jalen Hurts overthrowing open receivers.
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We could have all saved ourselves a lot of time by just giving Tampa Bay and Kansas City a bye as we have been for years. And, yes, one year, a No. 7 seed will make an improbable run and reach a conference championship or Super Bowl, but so what? Will the 15 years of watching them lose by multiple scores suddenly be worth it when it happens? Are you just really excited at the prospect of teams finishing 8-9 or 7-10 making the playoffs? Or do you just like the watered-down matchups?
Only one underdog has won through five games this weekend, and the average margin of victory has been 16 points per game. How exciting!
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OK, now that I'm done complaining about the NFL playoffs, let's bet on the NFL playoffs.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
The Pick: Under 49.5 (-110): OK, so while I'm not a big fan of having more mediocre teams in the playoffs, I don't hate having another playoff game on Monday night. I'm sure the winner of this game won't like having to play on a short week, but that's not my problem (not until it's the Chicago Bears, anyway, but they're the Chicago Bears, so we aren't likely to cross that bridge for quite a while).
Anyway, divisional matchups are always intriguing in the postseason. The two regular season meetings between the Cardinals and Rams saw 57 points scored in the first meeting and 53 more in the second. So why in the hell am I taking an under here when the total is at 49.5? Because familiarity breeds two things: contempt and lower scores.
Both teams know where the other will attack them and how to counter it. Plus, games just tend to be lower-scoring in the postseason because the intensity ratchets up a notch, and coaches will get a bit more conservative, whether intentionally or not. So with all of that in mind, I don't think our Monday night finale will have the same kind of fireworks the first two meetings did, and as long as this number stays over 49, I'm going under. You should, too.
Also, I have a free live-betting tip to consider while watching the game. Arizona is one of the worst goal-to-go offenses in the NFL, as it scored a touchdown in only 64.1% of those situations this season, and that ranks 29th. The Rams defense ranks 11th in the league at keeping opponents out of the end zone in G2G situations. So any time the Cardinals have a 1st and goal, you should consider betting the live under. There's a good chance they don't get the touchdown.
Key Trend: The under is 25-10-1 in the Rams last 36 games as a favorite.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: SportsLine's RJ White is 37-25-1 ATS in his last 63 picks involving the Rams, and he has a pick posted for tonight.
🏈 One more NFL best bet
The Pick: Kyler Murray Over 39.5 rushing yards (-115) -- There's been a shift in how the Cardinals have used Kyler Murray's legs over the latter part of the season. Through Week 8, before Kyler's injury that caused him to miss time, he hadn't rushed for more than 39 yards in any game and averaged only 18.4 yards rushing per game. Since returning from injury in Week 13 against the Bears, Murray has rushed for at least 35 yards in five games of six games, and while he's averaged 46 yards in that span, three rushing yards against Detroit kills the average. In the other five games, he's averaged 54.6 rushing yards per game.
Oh, and that time he rushed for 39 yards in the first half of the season? You'll never believe who the opponent was. Yep, it was the Rams. In the Week 14 meeting, Murray rushed for 61 yards against them, meaning he's averaging 50 yards rushing per game against Los Angeles, and he's not alone. Quarterbacks have averaged 5.03 yards per rush against the Rams this season, which leaves L.A. ranked 23rd in the league in that category.
Key Trend: Kyler Murray has averaged 50 rushing yards per game against the Rams this season.
🏀 College basketball
Wyoming at Nevada, 8 p.m. | TV: FS1
The Pick: Under 149.5 (-110) -- There isn't a large slate of college basketball tonight with so many afternoon games today, but of the available games, this is far and away my favorite play on the night. Nevada's offense has been inefficient all season long, and it's gotten worse in three conference games. The Wolf Pack have an adjusted efficiency of 108.7 on the season (79th nationally), but it's dropped to 103.1 in the Mountain West. They move quickly but do not shoot well, shooting only 32.8% (211th) from three and with an overall eFG% of 49.9% (179th).
Wyoming is more efficient on the offensive end but moves very slowly and is also a poor shooting team. Their efficiency results from taking care of the basketball, and they're facing a Nevada defense that doesn't turn you over often, which means they'll be dribbling out the clock to their heart's content. So, we have an inefficient offense going against a slow offense, with neither having a significant advantage over the other in any key area. Take the under.
Key Trend: The under is 5-2 in Nevada's last seven games.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Looking for a little DFS side action tonight? SportsLine's Mike McClure is sharing his optimal DFS lineups for tonight's NFL playoff game.
🏈 Same Game Parlay
How about a Same Game Parlay for tonight too? This one pays +184.
- Rams +7.5 (-600)
- Matt Stafford Over 1.5 TD (-190)
- Matt Stafford Longest Completion Over 39.5 yards (-120)