1st TD scorer picks for the Divisional Round
What a weekend for my system! I have been betting the first-touchdown market all season based on which team is more successful at doing so than the other. Last week, I wondered if the trend would stay true in the Wild Card round of the NFL postseason and, thankfully, it did.
Of the six Wild Card games, only one featured an upset. The Bengals (10/17 on first touchdowns) scored first against the Ravens (12/17) on a 7-yard pass from Joe Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase (+650 at DraftKings). But, as I mentioned in my article last week, despite the slightly worse first-TD record, we should’ve been targeting only Bengals players in this one since the Ravens had been so inconsistent with their first scorers all season, plus the questionable play at QB. So, as I only cashed one first touchdown ticket this week (Austin Ekeler, +550), I did go 5-0 in my “which team will score first” bets (I didn’t bet the Giants-Vikings game). Not bad!
Let’s take a look at the Divisional Round matchups and who we expect to score first. You can check out my tracker to see a full list of who each team targets early. Below is each Divisional Round game with first-TD success rates, followed by my suggestions.
I’ve gotta lean towards the Eagles in this one who have scored first in five of their last seven games. While I’ve become a believer in the Giants and think they could pull off the upset, I believe the rest will help Philly come out strong and find the end zone first. In both of their matchups earlier this season, the Eagles scored first, doing it with their run game (Miles Sanders in Week 14 and Boston Scott in Week 18). I’ll be on Sanders, Jalen Hurts, who has six of Philly’s first TDs this year, and put a sprinkle on DeVonta Smith who has four TDs in his last six games. Fly, Eagles, fly!
Like the Eagles, the Chiefs have been looking to running backs as well over the back half of the season. Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco have scored the team’s first TD in five of their last six games. The other player in that span? Kadarius Toney, who happens to be the player who also scored first for KC in their Week 10 matchup with the Jaguars. I’ll be betting all three of them this week.
I won’t even consider a Jaguar simply because I am mad at them for eliminating the hottest first-TD team in the league last week in the Chargers, who had scored first in seven straight games. Boo, Jags, boo!
This game is tough based on essentially even success rates for both teams and the emotions that will be running at an all-time high. So, I’ll have two tickets on each team. The Bengals have found wide receivers in the end zone first in five of their last six games, so that’s where I’ll lean here. I’m assuming Ja’Marr Chase will be heavily covered, so I’ll go with his counterparts (and their more attractive odds), Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Boyd scored first in that canceled Week 17 game against the Bills and leads the team in first touchdowns with four.
On the Bills side, I’ll have Dawson Knox, who has a touchdown in five straight games, and Gabe Davis, who leads the team in first TDs with four.
Another toss-up here, with both teams coming in with identical success rates. So, again, I’ll be going with two players on each team. For the Cowboys, I like Dalton Schultz, who scored first for them last week, and has four TDs in his last three games. And I can’t look away from Ezekiel Elliott. He hasn’t been getting a ton of yards this year, but he does find the end zone. Zeke has 12 touchdowns on the season, eight of which were the first Dallas TD.
The 49ers are a little tougher to find a trend for heading into this game. Eight different players have scored first in their last 10 games. I’ll go with George Kittle, who has seven touchdowns in his last five games, and Christian McCaffrey, who has scored first for SF in back-to-back games now.
Good luck in the Divisional Round and let’s hope the system keeps rolling!