After a completely underwhelming wild card weekend, the divisional round playoff betting matchups have to be better. The matchups are certainly salivating. Logic usually dictates that the favorites are the ones to back here, and I’ve pretty much gone chalk outside of the first game. Are we bound for more surprises, or will the oddsmakers hit the nail on the head yet again with this weekend’s slate?
Odds Courtesy of OddsShark.com
Seattle Seahawks +5.0 over Atlanta Falcons (Saturday, 4:35pm EST)
There are a lot of reasons to bet on Atlanta. They ranked top-10 all-time in offence this past season. Yes – ALL TIME. Matt Ryan should win the MVP for putting up the numbers that he did, but the playoffs are a different animal.
What we know for sure is that Atlanta’s offence is going to put up points. Their tilt from October has a little bearing on this game, in that Atlanta’s offence was able to pick up 387 yards of offence and 3 passing touchdowns against a secondary that had Earl Thomas at the time. The game changing safety broke his leg so the scoring lanes will be open for Ryan to take advantage of.
Seattle’s defence has a tall order to fill in this one, but they have the personnel to get it done. There’s really no point in diving deep on the Falcons offence against the Seahawks defence. It will be a war of attrition.
Head coach Dan Quinn will be familiar with the Seattle defence given that he’s a former defensive coordinator, but it’s safe to say that current defensive play caller Kris Richard has put his stamp on this set of stoppers as well. The Seahawks ranked 3rd in points allowed with just 18.2 against, and were top-10 in all the important stat categories. He’ll have some tricks up his sleeve to counterpunch what Matt Ryan will be ready to do.
The big question is whether Russell Wilson and the offence will be able to capsize the Falcons defence in turn. It’s not unfair to say that Atlanta sucks on this side of the ball. They gave up 25.4 points and 371.2 yards against, which is amongst the worst in the league.
Their biggest liability was in the passing game where nobody stepped up to become a real threat. And any key to this game requires Brian Poole, Robert Alford or Jalen Collins to come up big in mitigating the threat that Russell Wilson presents with Doug Baldwin.
What Seattle does offensively is spread the ball for the first half, and then zero in on Baldwin during the second half. The guy I call Angry Bird was a menace last weekend with 11 catches on 12 targets for 104 yards and a touchdown, with almost all of his production coming in the second half. He’s the threat that defences lose track of after Wilson has spread the ball out to all of his options. Credit Wilson and Carroll for getting others involved and putting opposing secondaries in to a bit of a panic mode.
I alluded to this earlier in the week, but Seattle also seems to be finally healthy so they’re a bit of a difference beast than what we saw in the regular season. Rawls is on fire right now after missing the majority of the season, and Wilson looks to be over whatever injuries were slowing him down throughout the year.
Betting on Seattle to cover and win in this game is a bit of a leap given how mildly they’ve played throughout the 2016 campaign, but divisional round playoff betting requires you to wager with a bit of gusto. I’m investing in the idea that Seattle at their peak is as good as anyone in the NFC.
If you feel inclined to back Atlanta, then you can do so. But I don’t think they have an actual answer for the legwork Thomas Rawls and Russell Wilson can put in. That will keep Ryan at bay on the sidelines for more than he’d like, and could very well impact the rhythm that Atlanta likes to achieve in game.
Seattle simply looks like more of a complete team. There are a lot of ways they can win this game. Atlanta is a spectacular one-trick pony, but there is a likelihood that this offence just can’t get going against a tough Seattle defence. Should that be the case, the Falcons are in desperate trouble and they have no other bailouts built in to their infrastructure.
I just feel more comfortable betting on a known playoff producer like Seattle, which has had the benefit of the doubt more often than not when it comes to game momentum handed out by the refs. Defence still wins championships so simplistically the Seahawks make for a more logical play here to open your divisional playoff betting.
New England Patriots -15.5 over Houston Texans (Saturday, 8:15pm EST)
After burning an absurd word count on the Seattle-Atlanta game, I’m just going to keep this one short. Houston sucks. New England is the Super Bowl favorite. This is the largest spread we’ve seen in nearly thirty years when it comes to the playoffs. Don’t overthink it. Brock Osweiler is about to get Belichik’d right out of his dumb pants.
Kansas City Chiefs -1.5 over Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, 1:05pm EST)
For all you old-schoolers out there who crave a hard nosed matchup, this is the game for you and I’m more excited about Chiefs-Steelers than any other game on the board. A virtual pick ‘em is the perfect line for this matchup, and the sub-zero temperatures it will be played on adds a wonderful element to it as well…no pun intended. Ok fine it was totally intended.
I’ve written extensively about how much I like this Chiefs team. Being a quarterbacks league, we have to start at the top of the roster with this team because if you’re going to find any flaw with Kansas City, it’s probably going to begin with Alex Smith. I have always been an Alex Smith apologist, because I admire guys that understand what they’re capable of.
Smith is not a long-ball specialist, but he does everything so freaking well. Frankly it drives me crazy that he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. And this might be the best team that Alex Smith has ever played on. Travis Kelce is a monster, Tyreke Hill is absurdly explosive and Spencer Ware is completely dependable.
As I stated earlier this week, if the Chiefs need a home run hit, they have two guys that can take the ball to the house in a minute with Kelce and Hill. However, if they need to grind down the field, Smith is the perfect general to do so.
Pittsburgh’s defence was ferocious last week while they overwhelmed Miami, but trying to impale the Chiefs with that same kind of game plan is a bit of a suicide mission. Smith loves it when people are overaggressive against him because he’s so capable of adjusting on the fly. Don’t be surprised if the Steelers are forced to forgo the blitz as Smith moves the chains on them. He’s not vulnerable to overreacting to pressure or panicking, and he has an offensive line that will afford him much more protection compared to what Matt Moore endured last week.
Beyond that, I love this defence. They experienced a temporary mid-season lull after they lost stud linebacker Justin Houston, but with I’m in the lineup this weekend there’s no question that this set of stoppers is a threat to impact the game line.
From an intangibles standpoint, the Chiefs employ a fantastic game plan that is designed to fluster quarterbacks just like Ben Roethlisberger. Kansas led the league in takeaways with 33, but they also gave up the list giveaways with just 17 creating a disparity of 16 – the best differential in the NFL.
For all the praise I could heap on Ben Roethlisberger as a football winner and Super Bowl champion, his major weakness is that he’s prone to making mistakes. You’re more likely to see Big Ben coughing up hairballs in this one as the front-seven blitzes him and the secondary vultures some picks. Houston is also fully capable of either getting after Roethlisberger or tracking Le’veon Bell so he’s not available for dump offs.
Bell is the big x-factor here because he’s incredibly gifted at taking over games. We’ve never seen anything like him before. If you’re betting on Pittsburgh, then you have a theory that involves Bell going ballistic in this matchup, and that’s not unheard of. There are few guys who can rush for middling yardage but catch enough passes from check downs to push the chains or score points.
There’s no doubt that Bell strikes fear in me, but if you take him out of the game even a little bit, leave Marcus Peters tracking Antonio Brown with a safety overtop and then force Ben Roethlisberger to beat you with his supplementary weapons, you have a definitive chance of beating Pittsburgh.
To be fair, the Steelers are not as mistake prone as I’m making them out to be. The team only gave up 15 picks and some of that was because of Landry Jones playing quarterback. They also put the ball on the ground 3 times.
But if this game is going to be tight, I’d rather invest in the team that creates mistakes over the team that didn’t do that as much. The Chiefs accounted for 10 more takeaways than Pittsburgh this season. That in itself is enough to take the home favorite on the frigid, foreign ground of Arrowhead Stadium.
Dallas Cowboys -4.5 over Green Bay Packers (Sunday, 4:40pm EST)
This game would be a lot more complicated to me if Aaron Rodgers had Jordy Nelson fully healthy, but with two fractured ribs I doubt that the pass catching sensation will be much of a factor. The fear of getting smashed by a safety is just too real. Nelson will either be a shell of himself, or taken out entirely due to the injury one way or another.
It’s also worth noting that Green Bay’s defence is over celebrated. They gave up 24.2 points against this season, and their “bend but don’t break” mentality was often shattered by breaking more so than bending. This is a road team that allowed 28.3 points against when travelling. How do you feel about Green Bay now knowing that?
Aaron Rodgers is unbelievable, but Dallas’s front-seven is extremely underrated. I love Sean Lee and think he can command a defence that gives Rodgers the headaches that he’s not expecting.
A ton of the trends are leaning in Green Bay’s favor, and Rodgers is a big reason you could have faith in the Packers overall. He’s the best player in this game. But the Packers are not this “dynasty” team that people make them out to be. They’ve lost almost as many games in the playoffs with Rodgers as they’ve won, and if you’re going to hang Peyton Manning by that noose you better be prepared to do the same to anyone else.
Green Bay hasn’t been a complete team all year, and with Nelson they’re a much more stable prospect. But without him, they’re simply a normal team with an extraordinary quarterback.
Wagering on Dallas in divisional playoff round betting is simple. You’re betting on the best unit in the game: the offensive line. I don’t really have to mention Dak Prescott or Zeke Elliott that much because they’re known entities. Prescott will take care of the football, and Elliott’s going to rumble. Even if they try to push Prescott to win this game, his passing weapons are fully capable of supporting him. They’ve done it all year long.
This is one of those “either way” games. It’s fine to go with Green Bay, and also passable to double down on Dallas. The Cowboys simply have far fewer shortcomings than a Green Bay team that doesn’t travel nearly as well as you want to believe, or perform in the post season to the measure that the hype mongers would have you believe.
To put things simply, I’m willing to lose to Aaron Rodgers.