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NFL Game of the Week: Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs


NFL Game of the Week: Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs

Inform your NFL predictions ahead of the biggest matches this season with Mark Taylor's Game of the Week. This week, the Kansas City Chiefs host the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (14-3): Odds at a glance

Market

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Money Line

4.430 (+343)*

1.236 (-422)*

Handicap

+8.5 2.020 (+102)*

-8.5 1.884(-113)*

Total Team Points

Over 19.5 1.970 (-161)*

Over 28.5 1.714 (-140)*

Total Game Points

Over 52.5 1.970 (-103)*
Under 52.5 1.909 (-110)*

The Kansas City Chiefs have already banked a sizeable postseason premium following their comfortable Week 18, 31-13 win in Las Vegas against the Raiders.

That final regular season contest secured them a bye week as the top AFC seed and they’ve had since January 7 (a full two weeks) to rest and recharge.

That’s ample time to prepare a tactical game plan with which to face a limited cast of potential opponents who emerged from the attrition of the Super Wildcard Weekend.

They may end up facing the Buffalo Bills in the Championship game at a neutral field, but they’ve enjoyed all the other benefits of a top seed.

If Jacksonville fail to take the division, there's still around a one in five chance that they will beat off the host of teams who are currently on win-loss records of around 8-8 or 7-9 and travel as one of the three Wild Card sides.

The Chiefs ended the regular season as the most efficient passing team under probable MVP, Patrick Mahomes. They pass for an average of 1.2 yards per attempt further than the concession rate of the defences they’ve faced and they pass often. Coach Andy Reid calls a passing play on 61% of snaps and only a trio of NFL teams exceed this figure.

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Combined with a running game that was the fifth-most efficient of those teams who made the postseason, they’ve proved to be a potent offensive team and they scored just over 29 points per game (PPG) against opponents who conceded 22 PPG.

However, their scoring prowess has cooled since their Week 8 bye week.

Breaching 40 points wasn’t uncommon in the early weeks, even against postseason-calibre opposition, but they’ve since averaged just 27 points per game, beating five teams by six points or fewer and narrowly losing once in Cincinnati.

KC’s defence is very good against the pass and mid-division against the run, but they do consistently allow the opposition to post competitive totals of at least 20 points.

A 14-3 win-loss record doesn’t quite stack up against the Chiefs’ points record. They are a 11.5 Pythagorean winning team over the season, but are rested and will have a team loaded with quality and ready for a postseason run.

Saturday’s opponents on the Divisional weekend will be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are the fourth overall seed (as winners of the AFC South), but share a 9-8 regular season record with the AFC’s seventh-seeded, and now eliminated, Miami Dolphins.

The Jags kicked off their final regular season match just four hours after the Chiefs game in Las Vegas, but they’ve endured a far from restful period since.

They needed their defence to return a fumble for a touchdown in the final three minutes to finally secure victory in their vital Week 18 game hosting Tennessee and their Wild Card win at home to the Los Angeles Chargers was even more extraordinary.

Trevor Lawrence gifted the opposition three interceptions, leading them to be 17 points down after the first quarter, and they finished with a fourth pick, a minus five team turnover differential, but they still won.

They trailed 27-7 with less than six minutes remaining in the third quarter and only long-suffering Chargers fans won’t have been surprised that the Jags booked another postseason game by a single point, with a field goal as time expired.

Finally, they can turn their attention to a trip to the Arrowhead stadium, but they’ve faced some tough tasks partly of their own making of late, both mentally and physically, and against-the-odds comebacks tend not to be a sustainable practice.

They are a 10-win Pythagorean team, who ran cold up to their bye week (going 3-7), before turning hot in the second half of the regular season with six (now seven) wins and just one defeat, albeit by a large margin in Detroit.

They’ve arrived in the postseason a year or two ahead of schedule. Lawrence has jumped from almost rock bottom into the top six quarterbacks in 2022. But he’s not the polished performer that Mahomes was at a similar career stage.

They are an above-average offensive running side, but it won’t have escaped Reid’s attention that the Jags have a below-average passing defence, which is the least efficient of the remaining postseason teams.

Mistakes won’t go unpunished by a seasoned Chiefs team and although Lawrence performed creditably in a Week 10 rehearsal for Saturday’s game, it was Mahomes who outgunned Lawrence in virtually every category.

The Kansas City quarterback beat Lawrence in passing yards, completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdowns, and sack avoidance stats, and the hosts won the game 27-17, despite Jacksonville enjoying a plus three turnover differential.

Scoring rates suggest that Kansas City will progress to the AFC Championship game by a score of 31-23. But the bye week and Lawrence’s lack of top-level knockout football experience makes the home side unlikely to edge past the current 8.5-point spread.

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