NFL Predictions: Expert 2020/21 NFL Tips

Our NFL guru will be sharing his NFL predictions right throughout the 2020/21 season. The NFL Analyst will have comprehensive previews for each prime-time match in the regular season, as well as the Playoffs and the Super Bowl.

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Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay

The AFC’s number one seed Kansas City Chiefs travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers in what will be the first time in NFL history a team has played a Super Bowl in their home stadium. The occasion will mark Tom Brady’s 10th Super Bowl appearance, more than any franchise in NFL history except his former team, the Patriots. The reigning champion Chiefs will be looking to go back-to-back after last years come from behind victory against the 49ers.

The Chiefs took care of the Bills last week, with Patrick Mahomes showing no signs of the injury troubles leading into the game. Mahomes almost exclusively targeted his main two weapons, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, with the duo receiving 26 of 38 (68%) targets for 290 of the 325 receiving yards (89%).

With the Bucs’ strength defending the run, they held the Packers to 67 scoreless yards last week and the Chiefs backs to 59 yards in this year’s matchup. Expect to see the ball in the hand of the league’s most talented passer for the majority of the match.

The Kansas City defence was able to attack Josh Allen in the last game, blitzing 18 times on the way to four sacks and six QB hits. The Chiefs had similar success against Brady in the matchup earlier in the year, creating pressure on 21.4% of dropbacks for six QB hits and one sack.

Brady’s lack of mobility and tendency to stay in the pocket sees him more susceptible to four-man rushes, so we may see fewer blitzes as the Chiefs look to their star defensive lineman Frank Clark and Chris Jones to beat their man off line.

Tom Brady and the Bucs offence started strong against the Packers last week, with Brady capping the first half with a centimetre-perfect 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver with one second left on the clock. Another touchdown on their first drive had the Buc 28-10 up in the third quarter before three interceptions in seven pass attempts threatened to derail their game.

Brady had only thrown one interception since their week 13 bye prior to that sub-five-minute stretch, not something you’d expect him to repeat on the big stage. The Bills running backs didn’t have a lot of success running the ball against the Chiefs last week, but that shouldn’t stop the Bucs trying to get running back Leonard Fournette established early to set up the play-action passing game.

The Bucs defence stood out last week, keeping the high flying Packers offence and MVP favourite Aaron Rodgers at bay. They blitzed Rodgers 23 times on the way to five sacks and three QB hits, sending extra players in a variety of different ways to confuse the offensive line. The Bucs blitzed at the fifth-highest rate in the regular season (39%) and will come up against a Chief offensive line that has just lost left tackle Eric Fisher to a torn Achilles and has been missing their other tackle, Mitchell Schwartz, since week seven.

But unfortunately for the Bucs, pressure doesn’t seem to have the same effect on Mahomes that it does on every other quarterback in the league. Mahomes has been pressured 19 times during the playoffs this season, completing 61.1% of his passes at 8.4 yards per attempt for two touchdowns, no interceptions and 7.4 EPA (Expected Points Added, a metric that attempts to measure an individual plays in terms of points).

Against the Bills, Mahomes threw for 6-9 for 77 yards at 8.6 yards per attempt, one touchdown, one sack and averaged 0.47 EPA per attempt while under pressure. This sort of play isn’t new for Mahomes, finishing with a positive EPA for the whole 2019 season including their playoff run to the Super Bowl. To put this in perspective, the closest quarterback to Mahomes was MVP Lamar Jackson with an EPA of -9.4. No other quarterback finished the year with a score better than -20.

With the Chiefs offence seemingly struggling to enter the postseason, last week showed exactly what they can produce when on form. In a matchup between possibly the greatest QB of all time and the best player in the game today, I see Brady struggling to keep up with Mahomes and the high powered offence of the Chiefs.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Chiefs -3


Total

The opening total of 57.5 points is the highest starting point total in NFL history.

Six of the past seven Super Bowls with a points total of 50 or higher have gone under the total.

Five of the nine Super Bowls involving Tom Brady have had a points total over 50, with those games going 1-4 in favour of the unders.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Under 56.5


Player Props

Tyreek Hill Over 92.5 yards

Tyreek Hill gave the Tampa Bay secondary fits in their last meeting, posting over 200 yards receiving in the first quarter on his way to a season-high 269 yards. With the Chiefs offence back clicking in the playoffs, Hill has posted totals of 110 and 172 yards so far this postseason.

Travis Kelce First/Anytime touchdown scorer

Kelce has scored at least one touchdown in each of his last six games and 12 of 17 for the year. Mahomes favourite target in big games, He has scored seven touchdowns in his last five playoff games.

Mike Evans First/Anytime touchdown scorer

Like last week, Evans will have a significant height advantage against the Chiefs best cornerback Bashaud Breeland. Brady has used Evans in goal to go situations all year, scoring touchdowns from the one-yard (twice), two-yard (twice), three-yard (twice) and the six through nine-yard lines.


MVP

The Super Bowl MVP odds are generally skewed heavily towards the quarterbacks, and with two superstars in this year’s matchup, it shouldn’t be any different. Some notes on previous MVP winners:

A running back hasn’t won the award in 23 years, with the position now shared amongst committees rather than one workhorse. Neither team has a superstar running back and are likely to share the load amongst multiple backs.

Wide Receivers tend to win the award when their QB doesn’t have a great game but their team still wins. In the last four games where a wide receiver has won the award;

  • The winning team has averaged only 21.3 points
  • Winning QB’s have averaged 219 passing yards
  • The winning QB’s threw a total three touchdowns vs four interceptions.
  • The winning receiver account for an average of 60% of their teams total passing yards, with each having more than 50%

Neither team has one true standout receiving option, with both quarterbacks known to share the ball around. With the two shortest receiving options currently Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, it’s likely they cancel each other’s chance of winning the award out. The same can be said for Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, to a lesser extent. It’s also unlikely either of these teams can win the game with their quarterback having a poor game.

Games that have carried an over/under of 52 points or more have seen QB’s win the award 9 out of the 11 games. Of the two games the QB didn’t win;

  • Wide Receiver Julian Edelman won the award in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl of all time, a 13-3 win to the Patriots with Brady not throwing a touchdown.
  • Wide Receiver Desmond Howard took out the award with 244 return yards, including a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown that was the last score in the game.
  • Only one losing player has won a Super Bowl MVP, all the way back in 1971. I can’t see any scenario where a losing player wins the MVP.

Defensive players can provide some value at high odds, with two defensive winners in the last seven games. Shaq Barret and Tyrann Mathieu are the shortest options on defence at anywhere between $40-$50 but would need to be coupled with a down performance by their own QB (who are both amongst the best and avoiding sacks and limiting turnovers) to take out the award.

Teams without a superstar QB are always more likely for a defensive MVP (San Francisco could quite possibly have had a defensive MVP last year if they held off the Chiefs in the last quarter), which is the polar opposite of these two teams.

MVP betting for this years game should reflect your thoughts on which team will take out the title.


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