By Matthew Nereim
To recap last week, is not very stimulating...my leans both won outright (Vikings/Titans) as big dogs, but my actual plays came up wanting as the Bills/Texans Over 44 came up too little too late after a slow start and Carson Wentz went down in the 1st quarter, which might have changed things? Josh McCown played solid though off the bench and Russ Wilson felt like he could pull out an extra play if need be - so I am not going to play the excuse card.
The Divisional Round is traditionally where the cream begins to rise to the top. Let’s face it, with 4 teams getting to relax at home and wait to see who they play, the playing field is uneven. But that is what makes football football where the Regular Season actually matters and 50% of the teams don’t make it to the dance!
With that said, let’s dive into the matchups and see who “Joe Public” is backing, and look for value to go against the grain which is how I roll 9 times out of 10!
Vikings @ 49ers -7
54% of the bets are on the Vikings who pulled off a huge upset of the Saints as 8-point dogs. Props to Cousins...and that defense which shut down Drew Brees at home...that’s no small feat! The spread has sat chilly at -7 all week. I generally hate teams that are +7 or 7.5 btw! Last week I was scared to pull the trigger on Minnesota despite salivating over weapons of Cook-Thielen-Diggs getting so many points. Brees at home is intimidating (for me). This week what scares me is a well-rested 9ers team playing a team that is on the road for a 2nd straight playoff game, on a days less rest as well. Logic tells me to take the points, but that spread is so huge it makes me pause and ask why so large? However, this is “Jimmy G’s” 1st playoff start (against a ball-hawking defense)...which is a historically bad proposition! The Vikings also got to relax some in week #17. This is not my favorite line “texture”, by any stretch. But a relaxed Cousins with the Cook-Thielen-Diggs combo, even if beat up a bit, against what has to be a jittery Jimmy G has me pulling the trigger despite the slight “Joe P” backing. 2-Unit Bet: Vikings +7
Titans @ Ravens -9.5
55% of the bets are on the Titans and the line sat at 10 all week before pulling back a “hook” Saturday morning. Copy most of my logic from above to here. 10-points is a HUGE #, especially with a Titans rushing attack that could exploit the Ravens defense which gives up 4.4 a carry on the year. But the fact that the # is SOOOO huge is alarming...and enough to scare me off the Titans. Getting 10-points with a team that can run the ball like the Titans feel like it should be a principle play! But in my conservative “most stars need to align” approach, getting 10-points just seems too easy, which means it usually is. Lean Titans, but I am not going to mess around with the League MVP, The Lamar-velous One! Pass.
Texans @ Chiefs -9.5.
51% of the bets are on the Texans, and like the Ravens game, the line pulled back a “hook” this morning. Like a broken record, this line and game “texture” mirrors almost exactly with the 2 games above. Many will say “the Texans already beat KC in Arrowhead”. Yes, I can’t fault those who play the Texans on principle...but this is not the same KC team they are facing, and they are rested. Most games worth betting are so ugly looking...and the 9ers-Ravens-Chiefs all align with that philosophy. Those are huge #’s to lay, and while I lean KC, there is no way that I can lay 9.5 points.
Seahawks @ Packers -4
59% of the bets are on the Seahawks but the line has sat at 4 all week. The Seahawks feature a QB that will finish 2nd in the NFL MVP voting and is an X-factor that is always concerning. But being decimated at the RB position led to Seattle’s running backs rushing for 19 yards on 17 carries last week in Philly. Russell Wilson carried the offense (again), adding 45-yards rushing in addition to his brilliant day through the air. It is going to be chilly in Lambeau, which does not bode well historically for Wilson. It will also be a 3rd straight huge game for the Hawks, against a well-rested Packers team which has not gotten a lot of respect this year. You can say Aaron Rogers is past his prime but I will take my chances with him at home! Bet 2-units: Packers -4
Enjoy the games and as always, if you’re going to wager, make it be with money that you can afford to lose!