AFC Divisional-Round Playoffs New York Jets (9-7, 9-7 ATS) vs. San Diego Chargers (13-3, 8-7-1 ATS), Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Sunday, Jan. 17th, 4:40 PM Eastern, CBS
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Chargers -7/Jets +7
Every season or so its seems one or two teams get into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, then make unexpected runs to a conference championship. Like the Arizona Cardinals of last year, or the New York Giants of the season previous. And that’s what the New York Jets are trying to do this season. After beating the Cincinnati Bengals in an AFC Wild Card game on the road last week, the Jets now trek to San Diego to take on the hottest team in the league at the end of the regular season, the Chargers, in an AFC divisional-round playoff game Sunday afternoon.
Many online sportsbooks opened this game with San Diego favored by as much as nine points, with a total of 42 and a half. But as of Thursday morning the Jets had been bet down to +7 almost everywhere, with the total dropped to 42.
Those who think the Jets can win this game outright can still get upwards of +260 on various online moneylines, but they might want to get down quick before that number drops, too.
On the other side of that bet, Chargers backers can forgo the pointspread and risk as low -300 on the moneyline, at the right place.
New York started 3-0 this season, then lost six of its next seven games, and seemed unlikely to make the playoffs. But the Jets finished the regular season with five wins in their last six games to earn one of the AFC Wild Card spots. Then, last week in Cincinnati, New York stuffed the Bengals 24-14 to reach the divisional round for the first time since 2004.
The Chargers began this season as big favorites to win the AFC West, but as usual got off to an unspectacular start, losing three of their first five games. But since falling to Denver on a Monday night in mid-October, the Bolts have reeled off 11 straight wins, and earned the two seed in the AFC, which got them last week off.
New York went with a rookie at quarterback this season, and as one might expect they experienced the ups and downs that comes with that decision. On the season, former USC Trojan Mark Sanchez, who can claim to be 1-0 as an NFL playoff starter thanks to a nice game last week at Cincy, completed 55% of his pass attempts for 7.0 YPA, 13 TDs but 20 interceptions, all for a 66.3 passing rating.
With a rookie at quarterback the Jets have relied on their running game to move the ball and control the clock this season. Consequently they led the league in rushing at 172 YPG, and ranked ninth in average time-of-possession at 31:43.
On the other side of the ball New York led the league in total defense, allowing just 252 YPG, and ranked eighth vs. the run at 99 YPG.
Indy’s Peyton Manning may have won the NFL’s MVP award for this season, but Chargers QB Philip Rivers is playing like a future honoree. The former NC Stater completed 65% of his throws this season for 8.8 YPA, which led the league among starters. Toss in a 28/9 TD/INT ratio and a 104.4 passing rating, third-best behind only Brees and Favre, and San Diego has a solid advantage in this QB match-up.
But as Rivers has blossomed and Tomlinson has aged, the Chargers may be becoming too dependent upon the pass to move the ball. San Diego ranked 31st in the league this season in rushing at just 89 YPG, and ran for a league-low 3.3 YPA.
They also ranked 15th in average T-O-P at 29:58.
On defense the Chargers ranked 16th overall, allowing 327 YPG, and 20th vs. the run at 118 YPG.
These two teams last met on a Monday night early last season at Qualcomm, when the Chargers spotted the Jets a quick 7-0 lead, then roared back to a 48-29 victory, picking off NY quarterback Brett Favre twice. In trying to recover from a 31-14 halftime deficit New York threw the ball 47 times, and ran it just 13 times. Ideally, the Jets would like to reverse those numbers Sunday.
The Jets are 8-8-1 on the totals this season, even though their games have averaged less than 37 points. The Chargers, meanwhile, are 10-5-1 on the totals, as their games have averaged 48 points.
On an injury note New York is banged up on defense, so bettors may want to keep an eye on the status of DE Shaun Ellis and LBs Bart Scott and David Harris before making a call on this game.
Over the last nine NFL playoff seasons, teams that had Wild Card-week byes have gone 23-13 straight up during divisional-round play, and just 15-20-1 vs. the pointspreads.
The Sagarin PURE POINTS ratings at USAToday.com rate the Jets at 28.5, the Chargers at 26.1. Toss in Sagarin’s updated NFL home-field advantage figure of 2.5, and this game is a pick ’em on the Sagarin line.
Z-Man’s Pick: The Chargers go into the playoffs as one of them dangerous teams in the group. They are white hot right now and haven’t even peaked yet. Look for Chargers to not only cover the spread, but to win by 2 touchdowns or more.