NFL Playoff Divisional Round – Saturday Edition
The Wildcard Round wasn’t exactly full of surprises, all the favorites won last week, giving each home team a victory. There are some higher totals this week and some more exciting matchups in store for fans and bettors alike. We will have free picks for every playoff game this season, culminating with the Super Bowl.
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Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons -5 Total: 51.5
The Seahawks will travel to the Georgia Dome to take on the Falcons in the first game of the Divisional Round. Few thought their October, Week 7, meeting would be a preview of a divisional round playoff game, but here we are.
That game was played in Seattle and not Atlanta, however. Seattle won 26-24 on a controversial no-call on a Matt Ryan to Julio Jones pass deep downfield. The call would have put the Falcons in at least field goal range, which would have likely made the difference in the game and given the Falcons the victory.
The Seahawks – Defensive Dominance Reemerges
Even with Earl Thomas gone for the rest of the season, the Seahawks looked to be in dominant form last week against the visiting Detroit Lions. Seattle’s defense didn’t allow a touchdown in the 26-6 victory, where they held the Lions to just 231 total yards.
The Falcons – True Super Bowl Contenders
The Cowboys and the Packers have rightfully gotten a lot of the ink lately regarding title chances, but the Falcons are one team that should be generating more hype. They’ve been the best offensive team in the league and have their weapons fully healthy. They finished the season with an 11-5 record to win the NFC South and have been resting since January 1st after defeating the Saints to close out the year.
Atlanta opened as -3.5 favorites at the beginning of the week. They are now -5 at most online sportsbooks. The move isn’t through any key numbers, but it is worth noting that betting action has been 50/50 for the most part on both sides, with slightly more action on the Falcons.
Seattle did look great last week, but let’s not forget about the opponent. The Lions and Matthew Stafford had been fading for weeks and limped into the playoffs. Stafford also had a lot of issues with hand injuries that hampered his effectiveness.
Corralling the Lions at CenturyLink Field is one thing, but going on the road and keeping the Falcons in check is another. Few teams have been able to do it this season and without Earl Thomas, the “Legion of Boom” is not quite the same unit.
I fully expect Atlanta to be able to move the ball, and perhaps with ease. While the Seahawks did shut down Stafford, they rarely got to him quickly enough to sack him. Most of the time no one was open, or he was missing receivers downfield.
There’s little reason to suggest that they will get more pressure on Ryan, who is playing behind one of the league’s most dominant offensive lines.
Atlanta’s defense is weak, but Seattle’s offensive line is the polar opposite of Atlanta’s. It’s one of the poorest units in the league. They looked good last week, but they haven’t performed well in similar cupcake matchups.
Lay the points with Atlanta.
Pick: Falcons -5
Houston Texans at New England Patriots -15 Total: 44
It’s relatively rare to see a playoff game with this kind of lopsided spread, but that’s how the oddsmakers currently feel about the game between the Texans and Patriots. It’s easily the highest spread we have this week and will likely see in the postseason.
Few teams have gone through as much turmoil as the Houston Texans have this season. In most other divisions in football, the Texans wouldn’t have made the playoffs, but they play in the pitiful AFC South, which underachieves seemingly every season.
Then, they were fortunate enough to host a playoff games in the first round against the Raiders, who lost their franchise quarterback to a broken fibula in Week 15. Houston dominated the last week’s game against Oakland for the most part, winning 27-14 with the Raiders’ final touchdown coming in garbage time.
Brock Osweiler is going to keep the job after he performed admirably in last week’s victory. We wouldn’t rule out a mid-game benching for Tom Savage if things go extremely poorly for Osweiler in the first at New England, but he will get the nod under center on Sunday.
The Patriots – Are You Not Entertained?
Describing the Patriots excellence becomes difficult at times. They’re easily the most successful NFL franchise over the past 15 years. They have won the division every year since 2008. They usually have the top seed in the AFC or have at least a first-round bye. They finished the season with a 14-2 record after defeating Miami 35-14 on New Year’s Day.
The odds opened with New England as a whopping -16 favorites. That number has moved to Patriots -15 at most sportsbooks. Over two-thirds of all wagers are coming in on the Patriots’ side.
New England is going to win this game, but it’s just a matter of by how much. In these situations, I’m immediately inclined to be interested in the underdog. Are Brock Osweiler and the Texans worth of a bet?
I think they are. Let’s not forget that the Texans pass defense is the top-ranked unit in the league. Defensively, they looked good last week. Yes, it was against Connor Cook, but they got plenty of pressure on what is a strong offensive line in Oakland.
Tom Brady isn’t quite the same without Gronkowski in the lineup. The offense takes a big hit, and this matchup is not easy for New England.
I do believe that Osweiler and the Texans can put up enough points to keep this game within 15 points. This is still a playoff team and their performance, even against an Oakland team that lost a lot of their Thunder was above-average.
Take the points.
Pick: Texans +15