Eagles Bears Football

Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey (1) kicked and missed a field goal during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday in Chicago. The Eagles won 16-15.

Eight teams remain.

Some eye-opening numbers were quickly posted. The Colts and Chiefs have an over-under of 57.5, whopping numbers for a playoff game. Oddsmakers throughout the country expect some shootouts.

For updates numbers and to place wagers, go to our source: PlaySugarHouse.com

Some history, some mystery.

Philadelphia at New Orleans

History: The New Orleans Saints have hosted five playoff games in the Drew Brees era. All five have hit the over. Will it be that way again vs. the Eagles?

The Mystery: How will New Orleans come into this game after failing to cover in four straight games? The team was not sharp down the stretch, but did not have the same urgency as now. In midweek, the number was hovering around 9 points. It was already down to 8 by late Wednesday.

San Diego at New England

History: The Pats have gone 6-1 against the spread in division-round games.

The Mystery: No Josh Gordon, a reduced Rob Gronkowski, a leaky defense and a San Diego team that plays best on the road.

History: Tom Brady has never lost to Phillip Rivers. He is 7-0.

The Mystery: Is this the year Rivers and his Chargers finally get their due? This is the year the Patriots look old. But do they have one more game left in this era?

Indianapolis at Kansas City

History: Underdogs gaining 4 or more points in the division round are 17-12 since 2008 and there is often one outright upset per year in this round.

The Mystery: Is being a hot team entering the playoffs better than having a bye? The Colts were 1-5 once. They knocked off Tennessee on the road to reach the playoffs and Houston on the road in the playoffs. Their defense has vastly improved with its speed.

Dallas at Los Angeles Rams

History: Dallas has gone 7-1 recently, centering its offense around Zeke Elliott. And the Rams choked as heavy favorites against the Atlanta Falcons in this spot last year. While the Rams are explosive, they also look vulnerable at times. The Eagles beat them at home late in the season.

The Mystery: Todd Gurley is hurt, Rams defense is vulnerable, Dallas may try to win a ball-control type game against them. The Cowboys have the running game to do it.

Midweek Lines

(Courtesy of Draft Kings, PlaySugarHouse.com and varied sources.)

Kansas City -5.5 Indianapolis (57.5)

New England -4 LA Chargers (46.5)

LA Rams -7 Dallas (49)

New Orleans -8 Eagles (50.5)

Our picks

This week's picks, excerpted from Beat the Degenerates, which I host along with Scott Cronick, director of entertainment publications for the Press of Atlantic City. The show airs on Newstalk 1400-AM WOND, 92.5-FM, WONDRadio.com and the Tune In app. Check out next week's show 4 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16.

Bontempo and Cronick pick: Dallas +7

Pickett Russell, aka The Kipster: Patriots -4

Brian Cahill: Colts +5.5

David Weinberg, Philadelphia Eagles beat writer for The Press of Atlantic City: Philadelphia +8

Key matchups

Here are certain factors that mark each game.

Eagles-Saints. The Saints want to take Nick Foles out of his comfort zone and a keep a good eye on Darren Sproles. He was once one of their most valued commodities. His presence out of the backfield greatly enhanced Brees over the years, and his return to prominence with the Eagles has coincided with their ascent. Conversely, the Eagles must contain Alvin Kamara, the Sproles of his age. The Saints often struggle for touchdowns in the red zone, and Brees is not a tall quarterback. He loves the dump-off-stuff from in tight and can be harassed.

Rams-Cowboys. Dallas needs to make Jared Goff uncomfortable with some blitz packages. The health of Todd Gurley is a big factor here. Dallas has the weapons to make this a run-first game and keep the Rams offense off the field. The Cowboys will try and force Goff to beat them deep.

Colts-Chiefs. Andrew Luck comes in as a hot quarterback and Marlon Mack has run well behind a strong offensive line. Kansas City does not have a good defense. Do the Colts try to match them big bomb for big bomb, or slow the game down? Hilton, Inman and Ebron are strong weapons for the Colts. Kansas City has Mr. Everything in Pat Mahomes, a speedster in Tyrek Hill and a game-changing tight end in Travis Kelce. The Colts may try what the Ravens did late in the year: Jam the line of scrimmage and blitz him often, giving him one read on the play. Mahomes has made his magic by finding second, third and fourth options as he avoids the rush. Look for a bomb to Hill sometime in this game, possibly early, to set a tone.

Chargers-Patriots. What new wrinkles to the Pats have? They have engineered trick plays over the years in playoff games? They are a slower team, not a deep threat. The Chargers need to cut off the middle of the field from Tom Brady in a good zone defense. The Pats will likely try some razzle-dazzle play and perhaps find a creative defensive package from which to attack Phillip Rivers. The Chargers are long denied, the Patriots are on fumes, but they have the benefit of home field, where they went unbeaten this year.

Last Week

Three times a charm. Yours truly, Cahill and Cronick all hit our selections. Cahill and I scored with the Chargers over the Ravens, while Cronick selected the Cowboys over the Seahawks. They were giving 1 1/2 points and won by 2.

Did you notice: The injury to Sebastian Janikowski for the Seahawks helped Seattle boost the over last week against Dallas. In the final two minutes, trailing 24-14, Seattle would have most likely kicked a short field goal on fourth down rather than go for it. But with Janikowski hurt, they had to keep the offense in. A TD and two-point conversion followed and the over 43.5 was covered. And, because the line jumped from 2.5 down to 1 and back up to 2.5 just before kickoff, this affected some bettors, including Cronick.

Did you notice, Part 2: Some errant passes from Mitchell Trubisky cost the Bears way before the Cody Parkey doink-doink field goal. One was real big: With the Bears trailing 10-6, he threw the ball behind Allen Robinson, who nonetheless caught it for a big gain. It led to a field goal and a 10-9 game. A good throw hitting Robinson in stride would have been a touchdown there.

Good luck in your degeneracy this week.

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