The Divisional round of the playoffs is here and the four top seeds and division winners are left in the AFC. The Jaguars head into Kansas City riding the high of their incredible comeback win against the Chargers, despite committing 5 turnovers. The Jags outscored the Bolts 24-3 in the second half, including a gutsy two-point play when an extra point would have brought them within a field goal.
Now the road gets even tougher for Jacksonville, as they prepare to face top-seeded Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes after a bye week. The Chiefs come in with a 14-3 record, having won 10 of their last 11 and with their only home loss this season against the vaunted Bills.
The Chiefs are currently 8.5 point favorites against the Jaguars with an over/under total set between 52.5-53 points. Let's preview this game and see if we can find a way to make some money on Saturday.
Let's Get Right into the Betting Trend Numbers
There are a lot of trends to look into so let's dig in.
The Chiefs haven't been good against the spread this year, with a record of just 6-10-1 against the number. This tells us the betting public expects Kansas City and their vaunted offense to blow out their opponents, and despite 14 wins, they haven't always won convincingly.
On the other hand you can't discount Andy Reid following a bye week, who wins at an incredible 89 percent straight up in his career following a week off.
Stats around the Jaguars are a mixed bag, they are 5-1 against the spread in their last 6, but they have only covered in 4 of their last 13 games on the road. Jacksonville played in a shootout last week at home and the over has hit in 8 of their last 11 road games, but Kansas City has hit the over in just 8 of 17 games this year.
The week 10 matchup between these two teams had a point spread of 10, and the Chiefs were able to win by exactly that number, 27-17. Vegas clearly thinks the Jaguars have improved since early November and particularly on offense, not just because the spread is a point-and-a-half smaller, but because the total is more than a full touchdown higher than was scored the first time these teams met.
You combine a total so much higher than the first meeting, with a weather forecast predicting more than a 60 percent chance of rain or snow in balmy Kansas City and it is easy to see why the sharp money is already betting heavily on the under.
Sharps are also on the Jaguars to cover with 89 percent of the money on Jacksonville to beat the spread despite 56 percent of the bets on the Chiefs. This tells us that the public can't help themselves from betting on Mahomes, even if he is only covering at a 37.5 percent clip this year.
Are There Any Big Edges from a Scheme Perspective?
Some folks were concerned that the Chiefs' offense would take a step back after Tyreek Hill left for Miami, but all Kansas City did was lead the league in offense with more than 29 points per game. The Jaguars have a bottom-five pass defense, allowing nearly 240 yards per game through the air, so they must find a way to keep Mahomes under control if they want to advance to the next round of the playoffs.
The key to the Jaguars success might be the exact opposite route they took to a win last week against Los Angeles. The Jacksonville defense is tied for generating the fourth-most turnovers in the league, 7 more than the Kansas City defense, which explains their +5 turnover differential compared to KC's disappointing -3.
Jacksonville needs to earn a few extra possessions this week to have a shot on the road. Rest assured, if they lose the turnover battle 5-0 to the Chiefs this week there is simply no way they can pull off a miracle victory like they against the Chargers.
The big issue for Kansas City has been their middle of the road defense, which allows more than 220 yards through the air per game. They will no doubt have their handsfull with a Jacksonville offense that has put up thirty or more in four of their last six games.
The Chiefs' defense is built to play from ahead, which is why they are second in the league with 55 sacks and why Kansas City is tied for third in the league in second half point differential. So the Jaguars can't afford another slow start, because that would play right into the hands of Mahomes and company.
What About the Bigger Picture Here?
There is a huge experience edge for Kansas City as a win would give Reid, Mahomes and the rest of the Chiefs a fifth straight trip to the AFC Championship. The Jaguars on the other hand, have few remaining players, and none that played critical roles, from the 2017 Jacksonville team that made the AFC title contest.
Clearly the new core and coaching staff has a bright future ahead of them in Jacksonville, but they are going to need to tap into a lot of that potential Saturday as they face a juggernaut at home with so many critical players in their prime.
So, Where Should We Bet on Saturday?
The sharpest money is clearly on the under, but there is no joy in rooting for Trevor Lawrence and Patrick Mahomes failure as an NFL fan. Personally, I tend to think the Jaguars defense is worse than so many analytical measures, because their win streak featured a ton of sub par quarterbacks, just like their division does. I also will never underestimate the scoring power of Andy Reid after a bye week. While the under might be the play here, I will be staying from the total.
As for the spread, this number feels pretty tight to me. I don't see an edge for either side. 8.5 points offers a lot of backdoor covers for the Jaguars, but also plenty of late covers for KC as they might kick an easy field goal to extend a lead to two scores. I set my own number for this game at -9 and so when there is no value, I try to stay away and use the money on other bets.
Instead it's a rare moment where I recommend upping your bet size to go with the Chiefs money line. Another option is a teaser where you increase the total to 60 points to take the under, and bring the spread down to -1.5 to take the Chiefs. I do think that either of these two bets even with worse odds and higher risk is where the money is in this game.
This is a really tough line to hit, but I think Andy Reid's 80 percent career win rate after a bye can't be denied. You need to win just about that percentage of time to make a money line of around -400 profitable. I see this game with many different totals, but every one has this Chiefs team finding a way to win at home and to make it to yet another AFC Championship. I'm going with a very healthy Chiefs bet to win straight up, because it's our best way to beat the book.
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