THE D IN KC
How about that Kansas City defense. Through its last four games, the Chiefs’ D has held opponents to just 30 points, three touchdowns, 261 yards of offense per game while piling up 10 sacks and keeping offenses to a 36-percent third-down conversion rate.
The Chiefs are still in the hunt for a first-round bye and will be at full force when they host the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 17.
The Chargers’ offense has topped 20 points just once since November 8 and looked dreadful versus the Oakland Raiders’ Bottom-5 defense last week. Over his career, QB Philip Rivers is 14-14 versus the Chiefs but has an 82.6 QB rating against KC, which is his third-lowest rating among the league’s 31 other teams.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see L.A. play some bench players including backup QB Tyrod Taylor. With KC still in win-mode, we are taking the Chargers’ team total 17.5 and hitting the Under.
The Pittsburgh Steelers almost had Rudolph save Christmas last week, instead backup center B.J. Finney stepped on the QB's foot, Rudolph got tripped up and pile-drove into the ground injuring him and forcing the Steelers to use fourth-stringer Devlin Hodges once again
Without No. 1 center Maurkice Pouncey and Rudolph, the league’s third-worst offense over the last three weeks doesn’t stand much of a chance of putting up points, even with Pittsburgh facing a resting Baltimore defense. The Steelers have scored more than one TD in just two of their last six games and could be without top running back James Conner as well.
Take the Under on the Steelers’ team total of 20.5 points.
PLAYOFF PATH: PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Not wanting to be on the naughty list, there is a possibility that the Pittsburgh Steelers punch their ticket to the playoffs. ESPN gives them a 28.4 percent chance of seeing a Wild Card game.
The simplest path for the Steelers is a victory versus the Ravens and a Houston Texans win over the Tennessee Titans. This scenario could net backers a +378 payday but the Texans could possibly be playing for nothing and wanting to rest key starters for the playoffs.
An even more interesting path is a Steelers loss (+115), a Texans win (+175), a Colts win (-200), a Vikings win (-300), a Packers win (-500), a K.C. win (-370) and a Dolphins win (+625). This 0.8 percent probable case has a reward of around +13,000. I think we like the first scenario if you’re rooting for the Steelers.
L.A. Rams TE Tyler Higbee showed that he can maintain his ridiculous production even with the return of fellow TE Gerald Everett. Higbee saw 89 percent of the snaps and 11 of the 12 TE targets in Week 16. The 11 targets were his third-straight week reaching double-digit targets as the emerging TE sits fifth in total targets (44) and second in receiving yards (438) over the last four games.
Although the Rams are eliminated, Higbee is just seven catches and 50 yards short of a 70/700 campaign which is incredible considering he had just 212 yards heading into Week 13. It just so happens that the Rams face the most generous team to opposing tight ends in the Arizona Cardinals (73.9 Y/G) this week.
We are taking one more ride on the Cards’ TE defense and will take the Over on Higbee’s receiving total on any number below 80 yards.
NFC WEST UP FOR GRABS
Sunday night will feature an NFC West throwdown that will crown the division leader. The 49ers can claim the NFC’s No. 1 seed with a win in Seattle, but a loss could shake up the entire bracket. If Seattle, a 3.5-point home dog, pulls off the victory it will win the division but need some help to get a bye.
Recency bias will have the public down on the Seahawks, especially without RB Chris Carson, but QB Russell Wilson is an impressive 12-3 lifetime versus the 49ers. Wilson has never lost to San Francisco at home over his career and knocked off the Niners on the road in Week 10.
We like the 3.5 points at home and if you really want the Hawks to capture the No. 1 seed, then put your dollars down on this dandy: Seattle win (+155), Carolina win (+500) and Detroit win (+475) for +8700.
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