Sunday Divisional Round Matchups: Cowboys, Chiefs Both Favorites

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The dynamics for a team with a red-hot quarterback often change when they go on the road, which is why Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys are a solid favorite against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

The Cowboys are listed as 4.5-point favorites against the Packers with a 51.5-point total, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Dallas is 7-0 straight-up and 5-2 against the spread in its last seven home games, but the fact that the Packers are 6-1 ATS in their last seven playoff games as a road underdog will no doubt give bettors pause.

The Packers, who are 11-6 SU and 9-7-1 ATS, need QB Aaron Rodgers to stay in peak form to have a shot at taking down Dallas, which does happen to be 0-4 SU and 1-3 ATS in its last four divisional round games.

That doesn’t leave the Packers with much margin for error, especially since WR Jordy Nelson (ribs) may not play and the Cowboys will be able to pay more attention to WR Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. Running the ball against OLB Sean Lee and Co. could also be tough for Green Bay.

The Cowboys, 13-3 SU and 10-5-1 ATS, have one of the NFL’s most balanced offenses outside of New England with the combo of Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott. Provided LT Tryon Smith is healthy and handles OLB Clay Matthews, Dallas is capable of setting the pace. The Packers’ pass defense is spotty and as a team that is 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games after bye weeks, Dallas surely will have used the extra prep time to develop schemes to use WR Dez Bryant (seven TD in his last nine games).

The total has gone over in five of the Packers’ last six games on the road, according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

In Sunday’s other game, the Kansas City Chiefs are listed as the 1.5-point favorite against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 44-point total.

The Steelers, 12-5 SU and 10-6-1 ATS, with QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell, are experts in staying explosive even in the type of cold weather forecast for Kansas City on Sunday.

However, thanks to FS Eric Berry, the Chiefs excel at limiting long completions, and their defense, thanks to the return and/or emergence of DE Chris Jones, OLB Justin Houston and ILB Ramik Wilson, is much improved since that embarrassing defeat.

The Chiefs, 12-4 SU and 9-7 ATS, are the more likely team to come out ahead in the all-important turnover battle. Kansas City’s M.O. offensively is misdirection and the Steelers defense, which has had a steady diet of mediocre matchups over the last two months, are prone to missing tackles.

Having to account for speedster Tyreek Hill may create some big openings for RB Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware. Quarterback Alex Smith and his offensive line have also improved at providing ball security as the season has progressed.

Kansas City coach Andy Reid is 3-0 SU in divisional round games after a bye. The total has gone under in the Chiefs’ last six games after consecutive wins.

Last year all four home teams won in the divisional round. In the last three years the visiting team is 7-3-2 ATS in the divisional round.

Baseball built sports foundation for Patrick Mahomes

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After leading Kansas City to five wins this season, there’s no doubt that Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes can throw. But not every NFL quarterback got their start in an MLB dugout.

Mahomes’ father, former MLB pitcher Pat Mahomes, had him on the diamond at Shea Stadium, former home of the New York Mets, in a custom toddler uniform at four years old. Like a typical kid, he ran around and threw some balls. Unlike a typical kid, Mahomes was diving for catches and impressing the pros.

“I started thinking to myself, I said a normal five year old does not do stuff like this,” Pat Mahomes says.

Growing up around professional athletes like A-Rod and Derek Jeter, Mahomes observed and picked up on how they prepared for games.

One such pro was former MLB pitcher Willie Banks. During a game of catch, Banks told Pat that Mahomes would be a quarterback. Pat saw his son’s future in baseball or even basketball. “You know, he’s just messing around with football,” Pat thought.

“And evidently I was wrong.”

Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes finds home in Kansas City

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For a young Patrick Mahomes, a career as an athlete wasn’t a dream. It was the game plan.

Mahomes has had a breakout rookie season as starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. A first round pick in the 2017 NFL draft out of Texas Tech, Mahomes has led Kansas City to five wins with his first NFL loss coming against New England. His dominance as a younger player may have come as a surprise to the NFL world, but his family always knew he was destined to go pro.

A three sport athlete with deep roots in baseball before picking up basketball and football, Mahomes “was very competitive, even as a kid,” his mother, Randi Mahomes, says. “He wanted everything to be a ball. Wherever we were, he was going to try to toss something at you.”

Randi says she hoped he would end up somewhere that “felt like home,” and after leading the Chiefs to five back-to-back wins, she feels like Kansas City has become just that.

“To see your child get to live his dream and to know that he’s happy–that can’t be replaced,” she says.