The Wild Card round of the NFL Playoffs was exactly that, wild. With the missed field goal, bone-headed penalties and even Brian Hoyer’s unbelievably terrible performance, last weekend was a great way to enter the playoff season.
But if you are a betting man or woman, maybe not so much.
Therefore to help some of us make up for last week’s mistakes, we again caught up with some of the analysts at Sports Book Review for some advice for the Divisional round.
Super Bowl trends:
Underdogs have also been a really good wager over the last 15 years or so. In the last 14 Super Bowls, underdogs are 11-3 ATS, and they have won the Super Bowl SU in six of the last eight seasons. Another big trend heading into Super Bowl 50 is the NFC, who have been very good at covering in the Super Bowl. A lot of it has to do with the Giants cashing as big underdogs those two years against the Patriots, but even after the Seahawks choked away last year’s Super Bowl, the NFC is still 6-2 ATS in the last eight games.
The Seattle Seahawks late season resurgence has come entirely without RB Marshawn Lynch on the field. They went 3-4 SU in the seven games that Lynch was healthy enough to play in. I don’t think he moves the needle one iota – not even worth a half point to the spread, or to the eventual result. But Lynch is a ‘superstar’ and his status moving forward is likely to affect the point spread, at least a little bit, as he tries to recover from an abdominal injury that has kept him sidelined for the last two months.
That being said, the Seahawks came out of Sunday’s game at Minnesota virtually unscathed. The only new player on their injury report Monday morning was the punter, Jon Ryan, who had his nose bloodied but was still fine to finish the game against the Vikings. I’d be very surprised if Ryan wasn’t good to go at Carolina.
The Pittsburgh Steelers injury concerns are very real as they get ready for the Broncos. Ben Roethlisberger’s got a bum shoulder – one notable report listed it as a separated shoulder — but early reports indicate that he’s likely to suit up. WR Antonio Brown needs to go through concussion protocol before he’ll be allowed to play, although early week signs look good in that regard. And even with cluster injuries at running back, it was a non-factor on Sunday, with Jordan Todman and Fitz Toussaint filling the void effectively. That being said, other than the skill position question marks, Pittsburgh is at near full health in the trenches (center Maurkice Pouncey has been out since October) and on the defensive side of the football.
Seahawks vs. Panthers
Opening Line: Car -2.5
Current Line High: Car -3
Notes: The Seahawks were extremely lucky to leave the numbing cold temperatures in Minnesota last weekend with the win. The Vikings were a field goal away from sending the preseason favorites for Super Bowl 50 out of the playoffs, unceremoniously. Only for the kicker, who’d been responsible for all of the Vikings’ points in the game, to boot the precious points into thin air. It’s no wonder the Seahawks et al collapsed to their knees and looked up to the heavens…that was one lucky escape.
As a result, the Seahawks enter the divisional round as the road underdogs. That and the fact that the Panthers defeated the Seahawks at CenturyLink field has Seattle at the disadvantage. Still, experience proved to be the decider in just about every single wild-card game and there’s no team with more experience than the Seahawks in the postseason over the last few years. That has seen sharp money come down the wire at early doors on the Seahawks – 39.32% of the spread tickets amount to 60.93% of the money wagered. The public is clearly buying what Super Cam Newton and the Panthers are selling, but sharpies are relying on the Seahawks to do what it takes. It’ll be interesting to see which way this line goes over the week, whether the reverse line movement continues – Panthers increased to a field-goal advantage despite taking in just 39% of the money – or if it settles back down again as more money pours in on this game.
Packers vs. Cardinals
Opening Line: Ari -7
Current Line High: Ari -7
The Green Bay Packers underscored their playoff experience in the wild-card round with a win over the Washington Redskins. In the only game to feature a home favorite in the wild-card round, the Packers defied the NFL odds. That Aaron Rodgers and the Packers even opened and closed as road underdogs is a bit of a shocker, but it’s not for us to muse on the ins and outs of sportsbooks. Suffice it to say, they proved the savvy NFL pick with a 35-18 win over the Redskins as the closing 2-point road underdogs. It sets up the Packers with a 1-0 SU and ATS record in the playoffs, highlighted by a 17-point winning margin and a plus 19-point differential against the spread.
The Packers draw the Cardinals in the divisional round, a game that is being touted as a redemption game for the Packers in the desert. It wasn’t a long time ago – only a three weeks ago – when the Cardinals laid the Packers to waste in Arizona. The 38-8 loss was one of the worst Aaron Rodgers suffered on the season, if not in his career. NFL bettors can bet the Packers will be looking to get their revenge for that game, but if the NFL odds were any indication the odds makers aren’t buying it. The Cardinals are installed as the significant 7-point home chalk, even though they too suffered a forgettable 36-6 loss to the Seahawks in their regular season closer. That seemingly hasn’t taken the shine off of their NFL odds, dismissed for the most part as a meaningless game in terms of the postseason.
As it is, consensus polls at SBR reveal an even split down the middle in spread tickets and money coming down the wire. The Packers have 52.31% of the spread tickets but 42.98% of the money. The Cards, meanwhile, have 47.69% of the spread tickets but 57.02% of the money. It’s quite reasonable to assume that this game is going to hold around the touchdown mark over the course of the week as the Packers’ convincing win over the Redskins will inspire betting on their chances to cover and, at the same time, the Cards’ win over the Packers three weeks ago will draw action on their chances to replicate that performance.
Chiefs vs. Patriots
Opening Line: NE -5
Current Line High: NE -5.5
The Kansas City Chiefs extended their 10-game winning streak of the regular season to 11 straight wins with a comprehensive rout of the Houston Texans in the wild-card round. The Chiefs underscored their favorable NFL odds as the -3 road chalk with an implacable 30-0 win to kick off their postseason with a 1-0 ATS mark highlighted by a 30-point winning margin and a plus 27-point differential against the spread. That’s quite the impressive start to say the least.
Regardless, the Chiefs are faced with a second road game in the playoffs. None comes tougher than a matchup with the defending champions New England Patriots and, as such, despite their gaudy numbers following the wild-card win over the Texans, the Chiefs are matched at the disadvantage.
Odds makers went to press with a 5-point spread for this game with the Chiefs at plus the points but with favorable juice at -110. The Patriots were installed at -5 (+100) or thereabouts depending on your sportsbook of choice. Since opening doors, the Patriots have inched up to 5.5-points (juice is set at -110 for both sides of the coin) at some sports betting outlets; most notably, Westgate Las Vegas Superbook and Sports Interacion, to name a few.
However, the problem with this game for savvy NFL bettors is the injury question marks in the Patriots camp. Tom Brady suffered a sprained ankle in the last game of the season while Edelman continues to battle a foot injury that has kept him out of the line-up down the stretch. It’s yet unknown whether he’ll be back for the weekend – the Patriots are 2-4 SU and ATS since his injury.
Early NFL betting coming down the wire appears to be split down the middle with the Chiefs taking in 46.61% of the spread tickets and the Patriots taking 51.39% of the tickets. The Patriots emerge with the 63.56% edge as far as money risked on this game at early doors, according to contributing sportsbooks at SBR. This isn’t surprising as the Patriots are an extremely popular NFL pick in public betting circles. It’s worth noting, however, that the Patriots finished 7-7-2 on the season versus the spread and 4-2-2 at home versus the spread; the latter of which boasts just a 4.4-point winning margin on average and a plus 2.7-point differential against the spread.
Steelers vs. Broncos
Opening Line: Den -6
Current Line High: Den -7
The game between the Steelers and Broncos is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated in the divisional round of the playoffs; that is, if Ben Roethlisberger will be fit to start. Big Ben suffered a shoulder injury in the highly contentious clash with the Bengals on Saturday. It was bad enough to side line the starter and force Mike Tomlinson to send in Landry Jones in relief. When things started to go south for the Steelers, falling behind 15-16 to the Bengals on the scoreboard, Big Ben returned to the field to lead the Steelers down the field in a last-gasp drive that resulted in the game-winning field goal.
Everybody is expecting Big Ben to start this game and take on Peyton Manning and the Denver defense head on at Mile High. He’s certainly going to want to be there and do his best for his team. Anybody that watched the game with the Bengals though could see that Big Ben was unable to throw deep during that last drive, which raises doubt for his ability to compete in Sunday’s Primetime thriller. Under the circumstance this is the least bet game of the week but, surprisingly, the Steelers are taking in slightly more spread tickets at early doors (51%) while the Broncos increase in favoritism, from -6 to -7. An intriguing reverse line movement that could be an indication of early sharp money. Still, it’s interesting that sharps would take the Steelers on their NFL picks so early with the questions hanging over Big Ben.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports