The National Football League will fill out their Super Bowl matchup today with a couple games played in cold weather sites. The first game kicks off at 12:05 p.m. Pacific time and finds the Green Bay Packers hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the late game, the Kansas City Chiefs entertain the Buffalo Bills. While it will be cold at both game sites, there is little chance of rain or snow with only the second half of the game at Arrowhead Stadium posing any threat of precipitation.
The NFL has threaded the needle this season while getting all 256 regular season games played in the confines of their 17 week regular season schedule. The challenge required some rescheduling and the use of all seven days of the week. This is the first season ever the NFL has played games on all seven days of the week, and the first time the visitors won more games than the home teams straight-up, 128-127-1.
In the ten playoff games played before today’s matchups, the home teams in the postseason action have won five and lost five straight-up with a 4-6 point spread record.
From my desk, both games today have conflicting factors and if they were played during the regular season, when we had 14 other games to handicap, I suspect we would find games with clearer factors pointing to one side or the other. Still, there are some compelling reasons to like the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills advancing today.
The strength of the Packers play is based greatly on the path these two teams took to arrive at the NFC Championship Game. The Buccaneers added Tom Brady this year and he has made all the difference in an already talented team that lacked leadership from the quarterback position. That leadership has been filled by Brady, who is looking to win his record tenth championship game today, extending his own personal mark of nine trips to the Super Bowl.
While the Bucs cracked the playoff field and are on the cusp of a Super Bowl trip behind Brady, the Packers path to today’s Championship Game has been more of a cumulative journey. In his first season with the Packers, Head Coach Matt LaFleur led Green Bay to a 13-3 regular season and a trip to the NFC Championship Game, which resulted in a road loss to the San Francisco 49ers last year.
This season, LaFleur’s team is better on both sides of the ball. Their defense is much improved over the troubled unit that got former head coach Mike McCarthy fired two years ago, and the offense has been guided by a healthy and likely Most Valuable Player recipient Aaron Rodgers. Both Rodgers and Brady are nearing the end of their storied careers, with one of them having another shot at the brass ring this season. Rodgers has won one Super Bowl, Brady six.
While I like Green Bay for all the football reasons, the fact that the public likes them too and the point spread on this game has come down to three points from the opening four point line is troublesome for enhancing our position. For that reason, the Packers couldn’t be a Top Pick, but we will stay with Rodgers and company at home and lay the short line.
The Bills own more of the characteristics I’m looking for with a potential Top Pick. The fact that the Bills lost the stat war in both their home postseason games, against the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, but won the games is a testament to their strength in my book. Other people in my industry consider a team that loses the statistics side of a game but still wins a wobbly choice in their next contest.
As for the Chiefs, they appeared headed for a winning margin last week that would have cleared the point spread against the Cleveland Browns, leading 19-3. Then Patrick Mahomes was knocked out of the game and that put the Chiefs offense into neutral while allowing Cleveland to close the gap to a point spread winning 22-17 final margin. The point spread loss continues a string for Kansas City where they have not won a point spread decision since November 1.
Backing them today as a favorite against a Buffalo team that has the better defense appears risky at best. For that reason, the Bills are our play today, but some technical trends on the Point Spread Price chart and a graph we keep to measure when a team is due to jump up or fall down, points toward Kansas CIty.
In a day of conflicts, we land on two four rated plays with the Packers and Bills.