Expanding the schedule to add an additional regular season game was bound to adjust the record books. Records were broken, streaks extended and bonuses were met, which made for fun prop bets to close the season. But an additional game doesn’t mean there should be an asterisk next to the latest NFL stats, rather a footnote to account for 17 contests.
The Future is Bright for the NFL Record Breakers
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are an iconic quarterback-tight end duo that will reach the Hall of Fame. Both turned in historic performances, remarkably at the ages of 44 and 32 years old, respectively. Brady’s 485 pass completions set a NFL record while his 5,316 yards passing were third-most all-time.
Gronkowski set the career record for 100-yard games out of a tight end with his 32nd in Week 18. He passed Tony Gonzalez. Tampa Bay teammate Mike Evans finished with 1,051 receiving yards, his eighth straight season with 1,000-plus yards since entering the league in 2014 out of Texas A&M.
To that tune, this season was the first time since Evans and his 2014 classmates had three 1,000-yard receivers. Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite Ja’Marr Chase had 1,455 yards receiving. Atlanta’s Kyle Pitts had 1,026 yards receiving and Miami’s Jaylen Waddle — who reunited with his Alabama teammate Tua Tagovoiloa — had 1,015 yards. Adding on, Waddle broke Anquan Boldin’s record for most receptions by a rookie with 104.
Similarly to Waddle, Chase benefitted from teaming up again with his college quarterback. Chase and Joe Burrow played together at LSU and now lead the Bengals to a home playoff game, the first appearance since 2015. That was an 18-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While many were beneficiaries of an extra game, Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt only played in 15 and still tied the single-season sack record with 22.5. Watt tied Michael Strahan, who needed 16 games to reach the mark. The Steelers again visit Kansas City in the playoffs, looking to avenge a 36-10 blowout at Arrowhead in Week 16.
It should be a good QB matchup as Ben Roethlisberger is guaranteed one more game against superstar Patrick Mahomes, who became the second-quickest to win 50 games and reach 150 touchdowns. He did it in 63 starts while Dan Marino reached the TDs race in 62, as did Ken Stabler with wins.
Matthew Stafford has been on the passing end of the two best receiving seasons in NFL history. In 2012, Calvin Johnson set the single-season receiving record with 1,964. Fast forward nine years and Cooper Kupp fell 17 yards short of the mark but became the first receiver to win the triple crown — leading the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns — since Steve Smith Sr. in 2005. The Rams will look to beat the Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs.
Playoff Betting Lookahead
Road dogs covered 54.1% of the time, compiling a 85-72-3 record. That number is significant as each visiting team in the first round is an underdog. Unders hit 53.9% (146-125) of the time during the regular season.
Dallas (-3 versus San Francisco) was one of the more successful teams as favorites this season, posting a 9-3 record against the spread. Arizona was 10-7-0 against the spread for the season, but was exceptional on the road with an 8-1-0 record against the spread. The Cardinals are +4 against the Rams, who they beat 37-20 as 3.5-point underdogs in that contest.
Longshot futures to consider include the Cowboys (consensus +1,200, sixth-best odds), who have the league’s best turnover differential (+14), which includes 26 interceptions. Another is the Patriots (consensus +2,000, ninth-best odds) aside from having Bill Belichick as their coach they’re also one of the top teams remaining in defensive points per 100 yards (points allowed divided by total yardage divided by 100). They have a 5.7 rating, allowing the fourth-best yards per game (310.8) and the second fewest points (303) this season.
The Patriots and Bills have the two best scoring defenses in the league, both allowing under 18 points per game. The over/under for their first-round matchup is 43.5. In the two meetings, they reached 24 — albeit in blustery, unpleasant passing conditions in Buffalo, which figures to be dry but nearing-zero-degree temperatures — and 54 in the return matchup to Foxborough.