NFL Playoff Divisional Round – Sunday Edition
Sunday’s slate of games is a bit closer matched than per the oddsmakers compared to Saturday’s matchups. The Steelers head to Arrowhead to take on the Chiefs in the AFC and the Packers travel to Dallas for a faceoff with Dallas in the NFC. We will have free picks for every playoff game this season, culminating with the Super Bowl.
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Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs -1.5 Total: 44
Pittsburgh and Kansas City met earlier this season at Heinz Field, a game that was easily the Chiefs’ worst defeat of the season. After losing at Philadelphia the previous week, the Steelers put on a show offensively walloping KC 43-13 in a game that was never close.
This isn’t a rivalry game, and there isn’t any real bad blood between both teams, but you can beat Kansas City is eager to avenge their earlier season defeat. Oh, yeah, and there’s a trip to the AFC Championship on the line, as well.
The Steelers – Playing Their Best Football
Pittsburgh is a team with a heck of a lot of talent, but they’ve been one of the most inconsistent teams in the regular season. Their road woes were particularly worrisome, but they’re playing so well of late, it’s hard to find too many negatives.
The Steelers have won eight straight games, including last week’s 30-12 demolition of the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field in the Wildcard Round. Their defense finally seems to be playing at a high level, along with their offense, and nearly everyone on the roster is healthy.
That’s aside from tight end, Ladarius Green, who missed practice again Thursday. He is once again battling concussion symptoms and likely will not suit up for Sunday’s contest. Ben Roethlisberger scared everyone after leaving the game with a walking boot last week, but he practiced in full on Friday and will play, but how severe his foot injury is still unknown.
The Chiefs – Arrowhead’s Wrath
Kansas City was 2-2 after losing to the Steelers in Week 4, but since their bye week, in Week 5, they managed to finish the season 10-2 the rest of the way. Their 12-4 overall record earned them the second seed in the AFC and a first-round bye.
The Chiefs defense have not been the dominant unit they were last season, but like the Steelers, they have gotten healthier as the season has gone on, which has helped shore up injuries both on offense and defense.
Kansas City historically has played much better at home than they do on the road. Arrowhead is one of the most underrated places to play in the league and it’s a tough test for any team, even the league’s number one offense in Pittsburgh.
It was the Steelers who opened as -1 favorites early in the week. Betting action has been mostly even on both sides, with Pittsburgh getting a 55/45 split of the wagering action. Since opening, the odds have moved back in Kansas City’s favor. The Chiefs are now -1.5 favorites at most online sportsbooks.
This is probably the hardest game of the weekend for me to handicap. On the one hand, line movement does suggest the sharp side is on Kansas City, but there hasn’t been enough of a line move (no key numbers) to massive sway my opinion to one side.
Big Ben’s injury just seems like some soreness after a tough game, but if the Steelers’ are downplaying it – that could be a major concern. Roethlisberger’s home and road splits are quite stark, and if he’s playing on a bum foot, well, that has me concerned.
It’s so tough not to jump on the Steelers getting points, but this is about as terrible as a spot as there is in the NFL playoffs currently, besides going to Foxboro. Unless you have a strong opinion either way, this one may be one to sit out.
However, if you put a gun to my head, I’m going with the hometown team.
Pick: Chiefs -1.5
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys -4.5 Total: 52
The league looks to have saved the best for last. The Packers going into Dallas will probably garner the highest ratings of the weekend, and for a good reason. It projects to be high-scoring and features two of the most storied franchises in football.
These two teams met all the way back in Week 6, in October. Dallas went to Green Bay and put a hurting on the Packers, blowing them out, by a score of 30-16.
The Packers – Rodgers Throwing Lasers
Green Bay’s playoff spot was in jeopardy for much of the season. After all, they finished just 10-6 and won their division in the final game of the regular season, by defeating the rival, Detroit Lions.
Aaron Rodgers’ play was questioned during their rough stretch during the middle of the season, but he has answered all his critics and more. He’s been clinical down the stretch for the Packers and has made a late run for league MVP.
He threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s 38-13 victory over the visiting Giants at Lambeau Field. Wide receiver, Randall Cobb, emerged from his slumber, catching three touchdowns.
However, the Packers didn’t come out the game unscathed on the injury front. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson broke at least two ribs in the victory. He’s unlikely to play this week but hasn’t been officially ruled out either.
The Cowboys – Getting Healthier from Bye
It’s been awhile since Dallas was the top seed in the playoffs, but it’s been a banner year for “Jerry’s Team.” Behind a dominant running game and offensive line, they have two Rookie of the Year candidates that led them to strong 13-3 finish.
It hasn’t been all Dak Prescott and Ezequiel Elliot, however. Dallas has gotten help from every area this season. More importantly, they’re getting healthy on both sides of the ball coming into the Divisional Round.
Tackle Tyron Smith, a key cog in their elite offensive line missed the final week of the season but is on track to play after practicing this week. They will also get back three key defensive starters in Demarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, and Pro-Bow cornerback, Morris Claiborne.
Must of the action has come in on the Packers in this game. Over 60 percent of bettors have taken the road team. Dallas opened as -4 favorites and have moved to -4.5 and -5, despite the heavy action on the Packers.
Dallas is right up there with the Texans as my favorite bet of the weekend. This is dream spot to take the Cowboys. Not only are they at home, but they’re the superior team, and they are the healthiest they have been all season.
I know the Giants lost in pathetic fashion last week, but that’s even more of a reason to consider the Cowboys. Green Bay’s secondary is among the league’s worst and they are still battling injuries. New York’s offense simply couldn’t capitalize last week and lacked execution, with receivers committing several drops.
Dallas won’t have the same problem. They have the offense to keep the ball out of Rodgers’ hands by sustaining long drives and the talent to put up big numbers against a below-average defense.
Lay the points with Dallas.
Pick: Cowboys -4.5