Free NFL betting tips for Saturday's action in the Wild Card play-offs

NFL
LA Rams superstars Todd Gurley and Jared Goff
LA Rams superstars Todd Gurley and Jared Goff

David John reckons an improving Los Angeles Rams can convincingly beat Atlanta in their Wild Card play-off clash at the Coliseum.

Tennessee at Kansas City (Saturday, 2135GMT Sky Sports Main Event, Action and Mix)

The Titans make their first play-off appearance since 2008 and their status as eight-point underdogs at Arrowhead Stadium reflects the issues they need to address if they are going to make any further progress.

A 9-7 record in the AFC South eventually got them over the line but a scruffy 15-10 victory against Jacksonville was required in week 17, snapping a three-game losing streak that cost them any hope of claiming the division and staging a home game in Nashville.

They now face a tough trip to Missouri and the game becoming another close, physical encounter will probably be their best opportunity of toppling the Chiefs, who have reeled off four straight victories to claim the AFC West with a 10-6 record.

My issue with the Titans is whether they possess that bit of additional quality at this level with the jury still out on quarterback Marcus Mariota and an offense only ranked marginally higher in statistical terms than Cleveland and their 0-16 campaign.

Mariota to begin with has not taken that next step in year three on the back of a 15-interception campaign and a modest passer rating of just 78.6, perhaps still not quite fully fit following on from a broken leg in 2016.

The offense as a whole suffers from a lack of identity, stuck between trying to develop their play-caller as a passer or stick to a smash-mouth approach on the ground with their physical running back combination of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.

Mariota certainly has some running skills of his own to throw into the mix but I can’t see them suddenly finding the fluency to keep up with Kansas City in a big shootout so the key for them comes on the other side of the ball.

The hosts endured an erratic 2017, starting 5-0, slumping frighteningly in mid-season before regaining their composure enough to get back on track.

Alex Smith and his offense have not always turned up and some extremely slick skill players like Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt are perhaps more suited to a track meet than a fist-fight in the depths of winter.

Smith has faced questions too over his long-term future and the Titans do have the personnel to make this attritional and give Mariota and company on their side of the ball a chance of putting up enough points to spring a surprise.

The Chiefs will be fresh having rested a whole host of starters for the victory over Denver but I give visiting defensive co-ordinator Dick LeBeau – and his whopping 59 years of experience in the NFL – a chance to play the game how the Titans would like, so take the unders when it comes to total match points.

Prediction: Kansas City 22-17 Tennessee

Tennessee's wily defensive co-ordinator Dick Le Beau
Tennessee's wily defensive co-ordinator Dick LeBeau

Atlanta at Los Angeles Rams (Sunday, 0115GMT, Sky Sports Main Event, Action and Mix)

The City of Angels stages a first play-off game since 1994 and the likelihood of that particular streak ending at the beginning of September was a real long shot.

However, head coach Sean McVay in his rookie season at 31 has overseen an extraordinary turnaround in fortune for a franchise that stagnated badly under previous incumbent Jeff Fisher.

The worst offense in 2016 suddenly outscored everyone and a 15.9-point average increase per game worked out as the third best from one season to the next in NFL history.

Quarterback Jared Goff, revitalised running back Todd Gurley plus veteran additions to the receiving corps and the offensive line have all combined to deliver an 11-5 campaign good enough for the third seed in the NFC while an already proficient defense has made positive steps as well.

The crunch now comes as just a sprinkling of Rams’ starters have experienced post-season football previously but McVay seems unruffled: "We are a youthful team but have demonstrated good maturity."

Last season’s beaten Super Bowl participants Atlanta visit the Coliseum not in the same sort of scintillating offensive form but to give them their dues, they have dug deep down the stretch to win six of their last eight and pinch the number six seeding out of a very tough NFC South division.

They are battling more than their fair share of injuries in the build-up with key offensive players Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman both missing practice in the week while a dinged up offensive line will have its work cut out to keep Aaron Donald and the returning Mark Barron at bay for 60 minutes.

They will have their fingers crossed the Rams freeze on the big stage but I really like the home side and its exuberance to come out with all guns blazing and blow the Falcons out of the post-season.

Prediction: LA Rams 36-20 Atlanta

Recommended bets: Saturday NFL

2pts under 44.5 total points in Tennessee at Kansas City at evens

1pt LA Rams to beat Atlanta by 14 or more points at 15/8

Click here for our transparent tipping record.

Posted at 1745 GMT on 04/01/18.

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