NFL Divisional Playoff Betting News and Notes

NFL Divisional Playoff Betting News and Notes

NFL Divisional Playoff Opening Lines
By: The Linemakers   
Sportingnews.com

Point spreads on two of the NFL's divisional playoff matchups were posted upon completion of the pair of Saturday's wildcard games. The Texans (-4) beat the Bengals, 19-13, setting up a date with the Patriots. In the night cap, the Packers (-11) dismissed a Joe Webb-led Vikings team, 24-10, and will travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers next Saturday night.

The opening numbers below are from the LVH SuperBook

Packers at 49ers (-3, 49)

San Francisco is a 3-point favorite throughout Las Vegas, although there's been some dickering with the juice. The Wynn opened the Niners -3 (even) but was pushed to -3 flat and then to -3 (-115). Stations opened San Fran -3 (-120) and remained there through early Sunday morning.

The 49ers and Packers met in Week 1 of the season, San Fran winning outright, 30-22, as a 6-point dog. The Niners are 6-1-1 SU but just 4-4 ATS at home this season. Green Bay is 4-4 SU and ATS on the road.

The LVH opened the total at 44.5, and OVER money immediately pushed it to 45. It's as high as 45.5 at some shops as of Sunday morning.

Texans at Patriots (-9.5, 49)

When the Patriots hosted the Texans on Monday night in Week 14 of the NFL season, New England went off as a 5.5-point favorite. The Pats opened -4.5 and were immediately bet up to -5, but Texans money came in early that week, and the line was bet to as low as -3.5.

Patriots backers will have a much more difficult proposition next Sunday afternoon when the Texans are in New England for a divisional playoff matchup. After Houston beat Cincinnati on Saturday, the LVH made New England a 9.5-point favorite over the Texans.

Early action on the Pats bumped the line to -10, but it was readjusted back to -9.5 shortly thereafter. The line is -9 at many books.

But New England going off as a double-digit favorite against a team that, up until a few weeks, seemed like a lock to be the No. 1 seed in the AFC, is a very real possibility. The Pats have demonstrated an ability to cover as big favorite this season, getting the cash the last three times they’ve laid double digits at home.

The total is between 48.5 and 49.5. The total in the Week 14 meeting was 50.5.

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NFL Divisional Playoff Opening Lines
By: The Linemakers   
Sportingnews.com

When a team on the road is less than a field-goal underdog in the NFL, the suggestion is that, according to the power ratings, the visitor is a better team than the host — the road squad, in most cases, would be the favorite on a neutral field.

When the Seahawks closed out the Redskins (24-14) on Sunday, the LVH SuperBook opened the Falcons as just a 2-point favorite for next Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff matchup. The implication is that Seattle, a wildcard team, is better than the top-seeded Falcons.

There was some immediate movement in Vegas on Seahawks-Falcons. The LVH took some early action on Atlanta, and bumped the line to 2.5, but Seattle money followed, and the line dropped back to the opener of -2.

The South Point and Caesars both opened Atlanta -2.5, but moved the line to -2, nearly simultaneously, shortly thereafter. There was a scattering of 2s and 2.5s around town as of about 8 p.m. ET Sunday night.

The spread is in line with The Linemakers Power Ratings — before wildcard weekend, we had Seattle rated slightly higher than Atlanta, 99.6 to 99.3.

Bettors liked the LVH’s opening total of 44.5, taking the OVER and driving the number up to 45.5. Others opened the total around 45, and it sat between 45.5 or 46 Sunday night.

The Falcons don’t lose many games at home, so laying less than a field goal with them is an intriguing proposition. The Seahawks, meanwhile, have answered some questions about their ability to win games on the road.

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Analyzing the NFC's Final Four
By Teddy Covers
Sportsmemo.com

With three more NFL playoff weekends still ahead of us, there are eight teams still standing; the top quartile of the league. This week, I’m going to write about all eight of those teams; assessing their respective chances for a trip to the Super Bowl. Click here for the AFC. But first, it’s time for a brief history lesson for the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

If you’re looking for active trends for next weekend’s round of the playoffs, you’re not going to find much when it comes to sides. Over the past ten years, the rested team has only gone 17-23 ATS in this round, but we’ve seen some dramatic swings. From 2006-2008, the teams coming off a bye went only 2-10 ATS in this round. In 2009, the teams coming off their bye went 3-1 ATS. In each of the last two years, it’s been a 2-2 ATS split. In other words, there’s not much of a trend.

It’s a similar story with totals. Over the last ten years, there’s no prevailing trend to report, with 21 Unders compared to 19 Overs. But over the last two years, it’s 7-1 to the Over. In the two years before that, it was 6-2 to the Under. In the two years prior to that, Overs and Unders split 2-2 both times. Again, there’s not much of a trend.

Green Bay: The Packers lost 37-20 at home to the Giants as eight-point favorites in their first playoff game last year, following the bye week. The previous year, Green Bay won three straight postseason road games, including a blowout at Atlanta in this round, to reach (and win) the Super Bowl.

Nine of the Packers last eleven opponents have been held to 20 points or less; a defense that has improved by leaps and bounds since their Week 1 matchup against the 49ers. And with a healthy receiving corps for the first time all year, Aaron Rodgers connected with an NFL playoff record ten different receivers in their win over Minnesota last weekend.

Prop bet players surely noticed, however, that with ten different receiving options, every single one of those wideouts that had an Over/Under for total receiving yards posted stayed Under the number.

San Francisco: The 49ers led the NFL with a +28 turnover margin last year. This year, San Fran was +9 in turnover margin, but they led the NFL in a stat that the betting markets respect a lot more – yards per play differential. Jim Harbaugh’s squad finished the regular season with a +1.3 yards per play differential. Only one other team – Denver—finished with a better than 0.7 ypp margin. And San Fran compiled those stats despite facing a much tougher than average slate of foes.

Last year, the Niners lost out on a trip to the Super Bowl thanks to a fourth quarter special teams’ miscue against the Giants. Anyone who’s watched San Fran closely down the stretch this year knows full well that those special teams’ issues have NOT been fixed.

Seattle: Any team with a rookie QB that falls down by 14 points on the road in the playoffs, loses a fumble from their star veteran running back at the one-yard line and still wins the game by a double-digit margin is clearly doing something right.

Atlanta: The betting markets aren’t going to respect the Falcons until Matt Ryan and Mike Smith finally gets the monkey off their backs with a playoff win. Or two. Or three. It’s surely worth noting that Atlanta was outgained on a yards per play basis for the entire season. The only other playoff team to do that? Indy.

Atlanta’s -1.1 yards per rush differential between what they gain and what they allow ranked #31 in the NFL this year. The No. 32 team? Those same Colts, who did not fare well in their playoff loss at Baltimore.

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Analyzing the AFC's Final Four
By Teddy Covers
Sportsmemo.com

With three more NFL playoff weekends still ahead of us, there are eight teams still standing; the top quartile of the league. This week, I’m going to write about all eight of those teams; assessing their respective chances for a trip to the Super Bowl. But first, it’s time for a brief history lesson for the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

If you’re looking for active trends for next weekend’s round of the playoffs, you’re not going to find much when it comes to sides. Over the past ten years, the rested team has only gone 17-23 ATS in this round, but we’ve seen some dramatic swings. From 2006-2008, the teams coming off a bye went only 2-10 ATS in this round. In 2009, the teams coming off their bye went 3-1 ATS. In each of the last two years, it’s been a 2-2 ATS split. In other words, there’s not much of a trend.

It’s a similar story with totals. Over the last ten years, there’s no prevailing trend to report, with 21 Unders compared to 19 Overs. But over the last two years, it’s 7-1 to the Over. In the two years before that, it was 6-2 to the Under. In the two years prior to that, Overs and Unders split 2-2 both times. Again, there’s not much of a trend.

Baltimore: Do we give the Ravens credit for being the only team in the NFL to win at least one playoff game in each of the last five seasons? Or do we rip the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco combination for never even reaching a Super Bowl, let alone winning one, despite all those postseason victories?

Do we give Baltimore credit for holding the Colts to just nine points in their Wild Card Round win and cover? Or do we rip the Ravens for allowing a rookie QB to pick them apart as the Colts finished #2 among the eight teams that played last weekend in total yards while holding the ball for more than 37 minutes?

Judging by the nine-point spread for their upcoming game at Denver, it’s clear that the betting markets are rather bearish on Baltimore.

Denver: Peyton Manning lost in the playoffs as the higher seed in 1999, following a first round bye week. He lost his first round playoff game as a Wild Card in 2000. He didn’t make the playoffs in 2001.  In ’02, he lost in the Wild Card round. In ’03 and ’04 he lost to Tom Brady and the Patriots in the playoffs. In ’05, the Colts lost at home following their bye to the lower seeded Steelers as ten point favorites.

Following Indy’s Super Bowl title in 2006, in ’07 the Colts lost at home as the higher seeded team to San Diego, following a bye. In 2008, they lost as favorites to the Chargers again in their first playoff game as 10.5-point chalk. In 2009, Manning lost as a favorite in the Super Bowl. In 2010, he lost as a home favorite as the higher seeded team in the opening round.

Head coach John Fox’s last try as a home favorite in the postseason? He lost 33-13 at home to Arizona as ten point chalk with the Panthers, following Carolina’s bye in 2008. And it’s surely worth noting that Denver has a losing SU and ATS record against the five playoff teams they faced during the regular season.

Houston: The Texans defense was the best unit on the field in their win over Cincinnati; holding the Bengals offense to a pair of field goals. Gary Kubiak has covered the spread in all three playoff games in the Texans history over the past two years, including their two wins over Marvin Lewis’s squad and a seven-point loss at Baltimore in this round last year as 7.5-point underdogs.

It’s surely worth noting that the Texans were in the +4.5 to +5.5 range when they travelled to New England for Monday Night Football in December. Since that time, the betting markets have been downgrading Houston on a near weekly basis; hence the dramatic adjustment compared to the game that was played on the same field just last month.

New England: In 2010, the Patriots finished the regular season with a +28 turnover ratio; best in the NFL by a wide margin (the No. 2 team was +17). In 2011, New England finished the regular season with a +17 turnover ratio. Nobody else in the AFC was better than +7 that year. This year, the Pats led the league with a +25 margin again. The No. 2 team in the AFC, Houston, was only +12. Turnovers are NOT completely random – good teams with good quarterbacks are supposed to win the turnover battle more often than not.

But if you’ve been expecting the Patriots regular season good fortune to carry over into the playoffs, you’ve been losing bets consistently. Dating back to the Pats loss to the Colts in the 2006 AFC Championship Game, New England is on a 1-8 ATS run in the postseason (the lone win coming against the Broncos last year) in large part because they haven’t been winning the turnover battle in the playoffs the same way they’ve been winning it in the regular season.

And it’s also worth noting that the Patriots lost at home in their first playoff game in both 2010 and 2011 prior to last year’s Super Bowl run. The last Super Bowl loser to return to the big game the following year? C’mon, you know the answer to this one, because it happened three years in a row – the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowls XXVI, XXVII and XXVIII. In other words, it’s been a while!

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Divisional Playoff Angles
By Marc Lawrence
VegasInsider.com

Once again, after expanding its playoff format to 12 teams in 1990, the NFL left the door wide open to the possibilities of a Wild Card team running the table and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. And while a Wild Card team has done so only seven times in Super Bowl history, five such winners have been crowned since 1997.

2010 witnessed the Packers hauling home the hardware. In 2007 it was the NY Giants, in 2005 the Pittsburgh Steelers, in 2000 the Baltimore Ravens and in 1997 the Denver Broncos.
   
Will the trend continue this season or will the top seeded teams have their say? With one of the top seeds (Atlanta) owning the worst remaining defense in its conference, and its opponent (Seattle) sporting a Top-4 ranked stop-unit, an argument can certainly be made either way.

It's important to remember that 39 of the last 46 Super Bowl winners have owned a Top 10 ranked defense.

Before we crown anyone just yet, let's first check a few Divisional Round angles in the NFL playoffs that are noteworthy.

All results are since 1990 and are ATS (Against the Spread), unless noted otherwise.

Bye And Large Top Seeds Up To Speed

No. 1 seeds enjoy the luxury of not only hosting a game in this round but also play with an added week of rest.

For the most part these teams have met with modicum of success, going 31-11 SU and 23-19 ATS in this role.

The best the NFC has to offer has gone 19-3 SU and 15-7 ATS, including 17-1 SU and 14-4 ATS if they won 13 or fewer games last season.

The NFC spotlight shines on top-seeded Atlanta this week.

Top seeds from the AFC have struggled, going 14-9 SU and 9-13 ATS, including 6-5 SU and 2-9 ATS when playing off back-to-back wins.

No. 1 seed Denver will look to improve on those numbers when they host hot-and-cold Baltimore on Sunday.

Success Breeds Success

Rested hosts in this round that enjoyed success last season use that experience to their advantage.

That's confirmed by the fact that teams that won 11 or more games last year are 29-6 SU and 21-13-1-1 ATS at home with a week to prepare in Division Round contests.

New England and San Francisco fit the bill this season, rather cautiously though as teams in this role are just 5-4 SU and 2-7 ATS the last six years.

On the flip side, teams that were losing teams last years (seven or fewer wins) are just 10-34 SU and 18-24-1 ATS in this round, including 2-12 SU and 4-10 ATS when taking on No. 1 seeds.

However, before snapping the rubber band and fading Seattle this week - the only losing team last year to make it to the Division Round this year - you should know these 'losers' were 3-0 SU and ATS in this round last season.

Your move.

Highway Blues

Life on the road for Wild Card teams who won at home has been rocky at best, especially if those who grabbed the cash as well.

These highwaymen are just 12-34 SU and 17-27-2 ATS in this role against well-rested higher-seeded foes.

And if these same Wild Card winners take to the road off one win-exact they dip to a filthy 0-15 SU and 1-13-1 ATS in these affairs.

Baltimore, Houston and Green Bay all look to avoid becoming road kill this week.

There you have it. A trio of time-tested theories to help guide you through the NFL Divisional Round games this week. Do the math, figure them out and play accordingly. Good luck as always.

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NFL: Streaks, Trends, Notes
Sportspic.com

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

Baltimore (11-6, 7-9-1 ATS) toppling Indianapolis 24-9 in their AFC wild card contest now face a more imposing challenge as they visit Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (13-3, 10-6 ATS) who dismantled them 34-17 three weeks ago. Hard to argue against Broncos ridding an 11-0 (8-3 ATS) streak and entering the contest a perfect 4-0 SU/ATS hosting an AFC North opponent. But, must keep in mind although home teams laying 9.5 or more this season were 32-1 SU they were only 19-15 ATS. Must also be aware home favorites of -7 to -10 in this round of post season are on a 2-7 ATS skid.

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers


Packers (12-5, 9-7 ATS) overwhelming the Vikings 24-10 in an NFC wild-card game that was never really close head to San Francisco for an NFC divisional game against the 49ers (11-4-1, 9-7 ATS). The 'Pack' exacting revenge against Vikings holding Adrien Peterson to just 99 yards in the victory won't alter the playbook much here as they seek to contain Frank Gore while avenging a season opening 30-22 loss to the 49ers at Lambeau field. Deep on offense and scary-good on defense Packers will attract it's share of backers knowing their on a profitable 5-0-1 ATS stretch in San Francisco and on a smart 6-2 ATS stretch as road underdogs vs the NFC West.

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons


The Seattle Seahawks (12-5 SU/ATS) behind rookie QB Wilson's 187 passing yards 1 TD and Marshawn Lynch's 132 rushing yards 1 major posted the franchise's first road playoff victory in 29 years with a 24-14 win over Griffin and the Redskins. Seattle riding a six-game winning streak (5-1 ATS) will now take the show down to Atlanta to battle the Falcons (13-3, 9-6-1 ATS). Seattle has all the earmarks of a team that can get it done on the ground as the Falcons defense has allowed 123.2 yards per game on the ground this season. A heavy dose of Lynch the Seahawks will have betting trends on their side. Seahawks are on a 15-4 ATS stretch including 6-3 ATS on the road rushing for =>125 yards, Falcons are 4-8 ATS surrendering => 125 rushing yards including 1-4 ATS at home. Falcons 1-3 ATS at home in this round makes Seahawks worth a second look.


Houston Texans at New England Patriots

The Texans rebounded from a terrible month where they lost three of four games and the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs with a 19-13 AFC wild-card win over Bengals on Saturday. Now comes the big test as Texans (13-4, 10-7 ATS) move on to the second round to face the New England Patriots (12-4, 9-7 ATS). Hard to make a case for Houston who lost 42-14 at this venue in week-14 and knowing Texans are 6-6 SU/ATS on the road vs the AFC East scoring a punny 17.5 points/game while the 'Brady Bunch' enter on a smart 17-2 (12-6-1 ATS) stretch in Gillette Stadium vs the AFC South winning by a 15.6 point margin.

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NFL Divisional Playoffs                     
By Jim Feist
Playbook.com

As the playoffs begin, those who earned the top two seeds in each conference have a key edge, as they get a bye the first week while watching the others duke it out. Sitting at home this past weekend were the Patriots, Broncos, Packers and Falcons. Why is that significant? A year ago the 4 bye teams were the Ravens, Patriots, Packers and 49ers. The Pats made the Super Bowl and the 49ers made it to the NFC title game and nearly won.
   
This season the Falcons 18-to-1 and the surprising Seahawks (there's one in every crowd) 50-to-1. The Broncos were also 50-to-1 before Peyton Manning signed with them.
   
Gaining the bye is an advantage for teams to not only rest injured players, but to have two weeks to put together a game plan.  Since 1990, 33 first and second round seeds have filled 44 Super Bowl slots and the No. 1 and 2 seeds, rested after the bye, have gone 60-20 in their first games in the divisional round.
 
A year ago the rested teams went 3-1 SU/2-2 ATS. The Patriots blew out Denver (45-10) while the 15-1 Packers got upset by the Giants. Two years ago the rested teams were 2-2 SU/ATS, and three years ago the rested teams went 3-1 SU/ATS, with blowout wins by three teams. Only the Chargers (17-14 loss to the Jets) fell apart. Four years ago was one of the unusual seasons, with three of the four bye teams losing that first game (Giants, Panthers, Titans). The Steelers, though, not only won and advanced but ended up winning the Super Bowl.   
   
The No. 1 seeded team in four of the last eight years in the NFC (Eagles, Seahawks, Bears, Saints) wound up in the Super Bowl. In the AFC it's been a different story, as the only recent No. 1 seeds to make it were the 2003, '07, '11 Patriots and the '09 Colts. Two years ago the Pats lost to the NY Jets.  In 2001 and '04 the Steelers were the No. 1 AFC seed and fell short, along with the 14-2 Colts and Chargers, plus the 13-3 Titans in three of the previous four years. Here's a look at the four teams that come into this weekend's playoff games rested with home field.

Broncos (13-3 SU, 10-5-1 ATS): Denver has been a great story, with Peyton Manning (37 TDs, 11 INTs) upgrading the offense, No. 5 in the NFL in passing with 283 yards per game, 16th in rushing. The comeback Player of the Year award is between him and Adrian Peterson.  What's even more amazing about Denver, though, is the defense. They've been soft against the run the last few years, but improved remarkably in 2012, ranked 3rd against the pass, No. 3 against the run.
   
Is that because Manning has built up leads and the opposition has had to abandon the run more? We'll see in the postseason. Denver hasn't lost since October 7, a 31-21 defeat at New England. They lost in September to Atlanta (27-21) and Houston (31-25). The Broncos are 18-35-2 ATS in their last 55 home games and they are on a 37-18 run over the total.

Patriots (12-4 SU, 9-7 ATS): The Pats blew four games they could have one, but still squeezed out a first round bye only because the Texans lost their final two. QB Tom Brady (34 TDs, 8 INTs) leads another powerhouse, no-huddle offense with young RB Stevan Ridley and targets WR Wes Welker, newcomer Brandon Lloyd and TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez has been slowed by an ankle injury the last month and Gronkowski (broken bone in arm) just came back.

They have much better balance on offense than last season, but the young defense is a concern, struggling (again) in the secondary, which was the main reason they traded for CB Aqib Talib in midseason. The young defense gave up 503 yards (382 passing) to Baltimore, 438 to Buffalo and 41 points to run-oriented San Francisco. The over is 21-9 in the Patriots last 30 home games.

Falcons: (13-3 SU, 9-6-1 ATS): 
There are a lot of non-believers with this No. 1 seed. Atlanta has some weaknesses, ranked 29th in rushing the football with a defense in the bottom 12 in both defending the run and the pass. They've won four games by four points or less and lost to the Saints (31-27), Bucs (22-17) and Panthers (30-20) in the second half of the year.

But they are more than lucky, with a pass-first attack behind first-year offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and QB Matt Ryan (32 TDs, 14 INTs) and a pair of 1,000+ yard WRs in Julio Jones and Roddy White, plus veteran TE Tony Gonzalez not far behind. But can they win a big game in January? Last year they were one-and-done losing to the Giants (24-2) and two years ago as a No. 1 seed they lost at home to the Packers (48-21).

49ers: (11-4-1 SU, 9-7 ATS): 
San Francisco surprised everyone last year under first-year Coach Jim Harbaugh. They surprised everyone again, not by making the playoffs but by making a QB change in midseason, benching Alex Smith (13 TDs, 5 INTS) for rookie Colin Kaepernick (10 TDs, 3 INTS).  It's no secret how they got here: run the football on offense and play a rough, physical defense, ranked fourth against the pass and the run. The conservative offense has RB Frank Gore (1,214 yards), WR Mike Crabtree and TE Vernon Davis. They impressed with road wins at the Packers (30-22) and Patriots (41-34). Let the games begin!

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NFL Poolies Betting Cheat Sheet: Divisional Round
By Covers.com

Check out our NFL poolies' cheat sheet for all your football wagering needs in condensed form. Quick-hitting betting notes on all of this weekend’s playoff action.

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos (-9.5, 46)


Peyton Manning guided the Broncos to 11 consecutive victories to close out the regular season. Among those wins was a dominating 34-17 rout of the Ravens in Baltimore less than a month ago - a game Denver led 31-3 after three quarters. It was Manning's ninth straight victory over the Ravens. Baltimore allowed Denver to control the clock for more than 38 minutes in the first matchup. The Broncos have scored at least 30 points nine times and posted seven double-digit victories during its winning streak. They’re also 4-0 ATS in their last four overall.

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (-3, 44.5)

The 49ers went 6-1-1 at Candlestick Park and beat Green Bay 30-22 at Lambeau Field in Week 1. The focus this week will be on Aaron Rodgers facing a San Francisco defense that has held opposing passers to 200.2 yards - fourth-best in the NFL - and finished second in the league in scoring defense. The Niners’ stop unit has surrendered an average of 13.9 points in eight home games. San Francisco RB Frank Gore rushed for 112 yards on 16 carries against the Packers in Week 1, but has not reached 100 on the ground in any of the last nine contests. The over is 7-1 in the 49ers’ last eight games.

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons (-1, 45.5)


The Seahawks have ripped off six consecutive victories and turned in an impressive performance last weekend, erasing an early 14-0 deficit in Washington to eliminate the Redskins 24-14. Seattle has allowed the fewest points in the league (15.3 per game) and has shaken its reputation as a team unable to win away from CenturyLink Field by prevailing in its last three road games. But the Seahawks have some injury concerns as both DE Chris Clemons (knee) and kicker Steven Hauschka (calf) sustained injuries in last week’s win and are on injured reserve. The Falcons are 0-3 in the playoffs in the past four seasons and were destroyed in their last two postseason appearances by a combined 72-23. Seattle is 7-0 ATS in its last seven games vs. a team with a winning record.

Houston at New England (-9.5, 47.5)

Houston was blown out 42-14 at New England in Week 14. Tom Brady threw touchdown passes on the first three drives for the high-powered Patriots, who bolted to a 21-0 lead and nullified the Texans' ability to control the game on the ground through Arian Foster. New England was without an injured Rob Gronkowski, who finished tied for fourth in the NFL with 11 TD catches and is healthy now. The Texans brushed aside their poor finish to the season and limited Cincinnati to 198 total yards in last Saturday's 19-13 wild-card victory. The Patriots are 1-8 ATS in their last nine playoff games.

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Division Round Preview

Keep in mind that all four home teams had last week off; visiting teams all had to win to get to this weekend.

Ravens (11-6) @ Broncos (13-3) — Denver hasn’t lost since Week 5 in Foxboro, winning last 11 games, including 34-17 (-3) in Baltimore four weeks ago, when they held Ravens to 56 rushing yards, 1-12 on 3rd down and scored a defensive TD. Broncos held last four opponents to 17 or less points; they’ve won last six home games, all by 7+ points. Peyton Manning is just 9-10 in his playoff career, but he’s won his last eight starts vs Baltimore. Ravens’ win last week was their second in last six games, during which time they fired their OC; they lost last two road games—five of their eight road games were decided by 3 or less points (Ravens 4-4 SU, 1-3 as road dog). Home teams won eight of ten series games; Ravens lost three of four here. Teams met once before in playoffs; Baltimore won 21-3 at home during their Super Bowl run 12 years ago. AFC West non-divisional favorites are 8-6 vs spread, 5-4 at home. AFC North underdogs are 8-10, 4-7 on road. Last three Raven games stayed under total; over is 5-3 in Denver’s home games this year. #1 seed in AFC has actually lost this game four of last seven years, and is 2-7 vs spread in this game last nine years.

Packers (12-5) @ 49ers (11-4-1) — Green Bay had won last eight series games before Niners (+6) beat them 30-22 at Lambeau in season opener, outrushing Pack 186-45. GB dropped back to pass 47 times, ran ball only 14 times, would expect that to change here, with Packers having won 10 of last 12 games, including four of last six on road (1-1 as underdog this year). Pack won last three visits here, but this is Rodgers’ first start here, in area where he went to college (Cal). GB’s last loss here was in ’98 playoff game. QB mismatch favors Pack, with Kaepernick making first playoff start. 49ers scored 13-3-13-13 points in their four losses this year; Pack held four of last six opponents to 14 or less. Niners are 6-1-1 at home this year, 4-4 as home favorites. NFC West non-divisional favorites are 10-7 vs spread, 6-5 at home; NFC North underdogs are 4-6, 3-5 on foreign soil. Six of last eight Green Bay games stayed under total; seven of last eight 49er games went over. #2 seed in NFC won this game five of last six years, but is 4-5 vs spread in last nine.

Seahawks (12-5) @ Falcons (13-3) — Lot of pressure on the home team here. Mike Smith has done great job with Atlanta, but he hasn’t won playoff game; now would be good time for that, vs red-hot Seattle team that won its last six games, coming back from down 14-0 last week in Washington. Falcons were 5-3 in second half of season after 8-0 first half; they’re 4-4 as home favorites this year, with only SU loss in meaningless season finale vs Tampa Bay. Seattle is 3-5 in true road games (beat Bills in Toronto); they’re 6-1 vs spread as an underdog this year, 3-1 on road. Falcons won last three series games, scoring 44-34-30 points; Seahawks haven’t been to Georgia Dome since 44-41 loss in ’07 season finale. NFC South non-divisional favorites are 13-10 vs spread, 8-9 at home; NFC West underdogs are 16-7, 12-5 on road. Five of last seven Seattle games went over total; six of last seven Falcon games stayed under. #1 seed in NFC lost this game four of last five years, covered only once in last six years.

Texans (13-4) @ Patriots (12-4) — 11-1 Houston rolled into Foxboro six weeks ago and left 11-2 after getting waxed 42-14 in Week 14 Monday nighter, when Pats scored six TDs on 12 drives (all on drives of 68+ yards), converted 6-12 on 3rd down, averaged 7.8 ypa. Loss started Texans on 1-3 tailspin that cost them bye last week and home field in this game; Houston lost last two road games (Pats/Colts) after winning first six; they’re 1-1 as underdogs this year. NE won six of last seven home games; they’re 4-4 as home favorites, winning at home by 10-3-6-35-28-28 points. Home team won three of four series games, with Houston losing 40-7 (’06)/42-14 in only two visits here. AFC East non-divisional favorites are 11-11 vs spread, 7-7 at home; AFC South underdogs are 13-15, 6-10 on road. Six of last seven Patriot home games went over total; five of last six Houston games stayed under. #2 seed in AFC is 3-3 in this game last six years (2-4 vs spread).

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Saturday Playoff Tips
By Kevin Rogers
VegasInsider.com

The divisional round of the playoffs is set to kick off on Saturday afternoon with Peyton Manning making his Broncos' postseason debut against the Ravens. In the late action, the Packers and 49ers meet in the playoffs for the sixth time since 1996, while San Francisco tries to erase last season's NFC Championship letdown.

Ravens at Broncos (-9½, 46)

Last season, Denver found a way to reach this round thanks to a Tim Tebow overtime touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas to shock Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round. The Broncos' postseason ride came to a screeching halt in a 45-10 drubbing at New England, but Denver can possibly return to Foxboro with a victory over Baltimore on Saturday.

The Ravens (11-6 SU, 7-9-1 ATS) reached this round after taking care of old friend Chuck Pagano's Colts, 24-9 in the Wild Card round. Baltimore easily cashed as 7½-point favorites in Ray Lewis' final home game with the Ravens, as the defense held Indianapolis to just three field goals. Anquan Boldin hauled in 145 yards receiving and a touchdown, while Joe Flacco became the first quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons.
   
Baltimore heads to the Rockies with plenty of revenge on its minds after the Broncos humiliated the Ravens in a Week 15 rout, 34-17. Denver cashed as short road favorites, while building a 31-3 advantage after three quarters, even though Manning threw just one touchdown pass (to Eric Decker). The Ravens were limited to only 56 yards on the ground, as Flacco connected on a pair of long touchdown tosses to Dennis Pitta late to make the score closer.

The Broncos (13-3 SU, 10-6 ATS) began the season losing three of their first five games, including losses to the Falcons, Patriots, and Texans. However, John Fox's club got the train back on the tracks by winning 11 consecutive games, while covering eight times in this stretch. Manning led the offense to at least 30 points in nine contests during this current hot streak, as the Broncos cashed the 'over' seven times.

John Harbaugh's team won seven of nine home games this season, but the highway took a slight detour on the record. The Ravens split eight road contests, as two of those losses came by less than three points at Washington and Philadelphia. Although Baltimore is 4-4 SU in eight away playoff games during Harbaugh's tenure, the Ravens have covered five times, including in last season's AFC Championship at New England.

Dating back to 2003, Manning has won and covered six of nine playoff home contests as a member of the Colts. Twice during this span, Manning defeated the Ravens ('06 and '09), as Baltimore's offense sputtered against the Indianapolis defense by scoring a combined nine points in those losses.

Packers at 49ers (-3, 45)

Green Bay and San Francisco have put together some epic performances in the postseason, including several classics at Candlestick Park. Gone are Brett Favre, Steve Young, and Terrell Owens, but this new batch of superstars will look to shine on this stage with a ticket to the NFC Championship on the line.

The 49ers are playing their third straight playoff game at home dating back to last season, as San Francisco sat one possession away from the Super Bowl. Jim Harbaugh's team held off New Orleans in a game for the ages in the divisional round, a 36-32 triumph as three-point underdogs. The Niners couldn't close the door on the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants in the conference title game, falling to New York, 20-17 as two-point favorites.

The quarterback that led San Francisco's resurgence isn't the same one this time around, as second-year signal-caller Colin Kaepernick started the final seven games for Alex Smith, who suffered a concussion in a Week 10 tie against the Rams. Kaepernick guided the Niners on a pair of touchdown drives in the deadlock with St. Louis, but his performance the following Monday night against Chicago cemented his position as the team's starting quarterback.

In Smith's nine starts, the Niners compiled a 5-4 ATS record, including a 2-3 ATS mark at Candlestick. After Kaepernick took over, San Francisco cashed four of seven times, but one of those non-covers came as a 16-point favorite in a Week 17 win over lowly Arizona. The key number with Kaepernick under center is the 6-1 to the 'over,' in his seven starts, but four of those 'overs' came with a closing total of 40 or below.

The Packers are flying under the radar following last season's 15-1 record and a threat at going undefeated in the regular season. Before San Francisco's heartbreaking setback to New York in the NFC Title Game, the Giants shocked the Packers at Lambeau Field, 37-20 as nine-point 'dogs. Green Bay rebounded with another NFC North championship this season by posting a 9-2 record after a 2-3 stumble out of the gate. Mike McCarthy's club cruised past the Vikings in last Saturday's Wild Card rout, 24-10 as 9 ½-point favorites.

Revenge is on mind of the Packers after dropping the season opener to the 49ers, 30-22 at Lambeau. San Francisco jumped out to a 23-7 cushion, including three field goals from David Akers. Green Bay received a jolt thanks to a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown from Randall Cobb to cut the deficit to 23-15 in the fourth quarter. The Niners put the game away with a Frank Gore touchdown run, as the Pack scored a late touchdown to fall by eight. San Francisco cashed outright as six-point 'dogs, while the game barely finished 'over' the total of 46½.

Aaron Rodgers is quarterbacking his eighth playoff game for the Packers (5-2 SU/ATS), as Green Bay has taken four of the first five contests played away from Lambeau Field. Since 2006, the Packers own a sterling 19-9 ATS record in the role of a road underdog, while splitting a pair of games in this situation against the Giants and Texans this season.

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Ravens at Broncos: What Bettors Need to Know
By COVERS.COM

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos (-9.5, 46)

For the Ray Lewis retirement tour to continue, the Baltimore Ravens will have to overcome an imposing obstacle when they visit Peyton Manning and the top-seeded Denver Broncos on Saturday in the AFC divisional round. Manning, in his first season in Denver, guided the white-hot Broncos to 11 consecutive victories to close out the regular season. Among those wins was a dominating 34-17 rout of the Ravens in Baltimore less than a month ago - a game Denver led 31-3 after three quarters. It was Manning's ninth straight victory over the Ravens.

Lewis returned from a 10-game absence to register a team-high 13 tackles and spark an emotional 24-9 victory over the Indianapolis Colts a week ago. Unlike the Broncos, Baltimore stumbled down the stretch and lost four of its final five games before beating the Colts and permitting its fewest points since a 13-10 victory at Pittsburgh in Week 11. Still, the once-vaunted defense remains susceptible, allowing Indianapolis to hold the ball for more than 37 minutes.

LINE: Early money took the underdog, dropping the opener to -8.5, but action has come back on the Broncos and could have this moving as high as -10 before the 4:30 p.m. ET kickoff

WEATHER: Forecasts are calling for temperatures in the low-20s with mostly cloudy skies. Winds will be light out of the east at 3 mph.

ABOUT THE RAVENS (11-6): Joe Flacco's resume hardly stacks up to Manning's but he is the only quarterback in league history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons. He threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts while compiling his highest passer rating (125.6) since the season opener. Veteran Anquan Boldin was his favorite target with five catches for 145 yards and a touchdown. Flacco struggled against Denver in Week 15, throwing a killer interception that was returned 98 yards for a TD to break the game open. Star RB Ray Rice was a non-factor in that game with only 38 yards on 12 carries. He also lost two fumbles in last week's win. Rookie RB Bernard Pierce has taken on a bigger role and had his second 100-yard game in three weeks against the Colts. Baltimore allowed Denver to control the clock for 38 1/2 minutes in the first matchup.

ABOUT THE BRONCOS (13-3): Denver has not lost since a 31-21 defeat at New England on Oct. 7. Much has been made about the lack of quality competition during the winning streak, but the Broncos limited Baltimore to 56 yards rushing and 278 total. Manning had a rather pedestrian performance, throwing for a season-low 204 yards and one touchdown. He finished the season with back-to-back three-touchdown games, giving him 37 TDs vs. only 11 interceptions. Wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker each went over 1,000 yards and combined to catch 23 scoring passes. Knowshon Moreno, who took over for an injured Willis McGahee in the final six weeks, rushed for 115 yards and a score against Baltimore. Denver's defense, led by the pass-rushing tandem of linebacker Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, has peaked down the stretch and surrendered only 45 points in its final four games.

TRENDS:

* Broncos are 4-0 ATS in their last four games overall.
* Ravens are 1-5 ATS in their last six Divisional Playoff games.
* Under is 4-1 in Ravens’ last five road games.
* Over is 5-0-1 in Broncos’ last six games following an ATS win.

EXTRA POINTS:


1. Denver has scored at least 30 points nine times and posted seven double-digit victories during its winning streak

2. Ravens S Ed Reed has eight interceptions in the playoffs, tied for fourth on the all-time list.

3. The Broncos own a stellar 13-3 home record in the postseason.

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Packers at Niners: What Bettors Need to Know
By Covers.com

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (-3, 44.5)

The dream matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game last season never materialized after the Packers dropped the divisional round game at home to the New York Giants. This year Green Bay took care of business at home in the wild-card round, sending Aaron Rodgers and company to San Francisco to face a well-rested 49ers defense.

San Francisco got a win over Arizona in Week 17 to edge the Packers for a first-round bye and closed the season by winning five of its last seven, with the lone setbacks coming on the road. The 49ers went 6-1-1 in Candlestick Park this season and beat Green Bay 30-22 at Lambeau Field in Week 1. San Francisco has gone through a change at quarterback since then, replacing Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick, and has seen a boost in its offense as a result. The Packers had little trouble shutting down the Minnesota Vikings and Adrian Peterson last Saturday in a 24-10 triumph.

LINE: Some online books opened as high as San Francisco -3.5 and some have made the move off the key number to -2.5 with money coming in on Green Bay. The majority of markets opened the Niners as juiced field-goal favorites but have since moved to plus money with action on the Packers coming in at a 4-to-1 pace.

WEATHER: Forecasts are calling for temperatures in the mid-40s with partly cloudy skies. Winds will be light out of the west at 5 mph.

ABOUT THE PACKERS (12-5): Green Bay has most of its defense healthy for the first time in weeks and spent the wild-card round attacking Vikings backup quarterback Joe Webb. Clay Matthews, looking fully recovered from a hamstring injury that has limited him at times, had a pair of sacks and forced a fumble while Charles Woodson played for the first time since breaking his collarbone on Oct. 21. With those two playmakers back, the Packers forced three turnovers and managed to hold Peterson under 100 yards rushing. The focus this week will be on Rodgers facing a San Francisco defense that has held opposing passers to 200.2 yards - fourth-best in the NFL - and finished second in the league in scoring defense. Rodgers passed for 303 yards but struggled until late in the game and was intercepted once in the first meeting. He should have a better rushing attack behind him in Saturday’s game, with DuJuan Harris and Ryan Grant taking handoffs. Rodgers was the leading rusher for the Packers in Week 1 and could be without one of his top receiving targets Saturday in Jordy Nelson, who is questionable with a knee injury.

ABOUT THE 49ERS (11-4-1): San Francisco has a solid candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in Aldon Smith and has surrendered an average of 13.9 points in eight home games. That defense is keyed on the front line by tackle Justin Smith, who has been dealing with a triceps injury and missed the final two games of the regular season. Justin Smith was wearing an elbow brace but has been practicing and is listed as probable for Saturday. On the other side of the ball, the 49ers will be giving the Packers a much different look than in Week 1. Kaepernick passed for a career-high 276 yards in a Week 17 win over the Arizona Cardinals and has opened up the playbook with his ability to extend plays with his legs and one of the stronger arms in the league. The 25-year-old finished up the regular season with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions and was at his best in some of the biggest games, including a four-touchdown performance at New England in Week 15.

TRENDS:

* Packers are 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall.
* Over is 4-0 in the last four meetings.
* Packers are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven meetings.
* Over is 4-0 in 49ers’ last four games overall.

EXTRA POINTS:


1. San Francisco RB Frank Gore rushed for 112 yards on 16 carries against the Packers in Week 1 but has not reached 100 on the ground in any of the last nine contests.

2. Rodgers has only been intercepted four times in seven career playoff starts.

3. 49ers K David Akers tied the NFL record with a 63-yard field goal in the Week 1 meeting but has struggled of late, prompting San Francisco to audition replacements. Veteran Billy Cundiff was signed on Jan. 1 to offer some competition.

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Total Talk - Divisional Playoffs
By Chris David
VegasInsider.com

Wild Card Recap

The ‘under’ posted a 4-0 record last weekend and all of the games were never in doubt. Those playing first and second-halves also saw a combined record of 7-1 to the ‘under.’ The only half that went ‘over’ this past weekend was the first 30 minutes in the Washington-Seattle matchup. The Redskins built a 14-10 led and even that barely went ‘over’ the closing number of 23. Will the ‘under’ continue to cash in the Divisional Playoffs? We do have three rematches from the regular season on tap and all three went ‘over’ in the first encounter.

Divisional Playoff History

The ‘over’ has gone 7-1 in the second round of the playoffs the last two seasons and the scoreboard operator has certainly been busy. During this span, seven teams scored 30-plus points and two put up 45 or more.

Coaching Trends

In last year’s playoffs, we mentioned a trend on Bill Belichick in the Divisional Playoffs. The future Hall of Fame coach has now been on the sidelines eight times in this round. In those games, the Patriots have seen the ‘under’ go 6-2. However, the ‘over’ has cashed the past two postseasons but they weren’t easy winners. New England blasted Denver 45-10 last January and the closing number was 50. Two years prior, the Jets beat the Patriots 28-21 and the ‘over’ (45) was blessed with 14 meaningless points in the final two minutes. Lastly, we should make a note that the Patriots’ defense has been stout in this round and it could make you lean to the ‘under’ in the Texans’ team total (19 ½ points). In the aforementioned eight games with Belichick, six were played at Foxborough and New England has given up a total of 88 points (14.7 PPG) in these contests. When you consider Houston has been kicking more field goals than scoring touchdowns lately, it might be worth a look.

Saturday, Jan. 12

Baltimore at Denver:
This line opened 45½ and got as high as 46 ½ during the week but the number has since returned to the opener. Baltimore looks like an 'over' team on paper but the numbers (8-7-1) don't really justify the stats. Offensively, they have the ability to put up points and defensively they give up the most points (21.5 PPG) amongst the eight teams playing this weekend. The Colts put up over 400 yards and made 25 first downs in last week's Wild Card mtchup. The Ravens did hold them to nine points, but that came on three field goals. Indy also missed a field goal and turned the ball over twice in Baltimore territory. All that was against a rookie QB and now you have to face arguably the best QB of all-time in Peyton Manning. It’s safe to say that if he’s on, Denver will get a minimum of five scores barring turnovers. In eight games at home, the Broncos put up 30-plus points in seven of them. Will rust be a factor? Off the bye in the regular season, Denver put up 34 in a win at home. If you are looking at the ‘under’ here, you could point to Denver’s defense, which is vastly underrated. It does help playing the AFC West but they’re allowing 12.3 PPG in their last six games. When these teams met in Week 15, Denver won 34-17 and the closing number was 48. This contest was 17-0 at the break but the two teams combined for 34 (17-17) in the second-half and three of the touchdowns were plays of 30-plus yards.

Green Bay at San Francisco: Something has to give in this matchup! The Packers have seen the ‘under’ go 6-2 in their last eight while the 49ers have watched the ‘over’ cash in four straight and seven of their last eight. In Week 1, San Francisco beat Green Bay 30-22 with Alex Smith at QB and that game got saw 22 points posted in the fourth quarter. The closing number for that affair was 47 and this week’s total is 45, which tells you that the books are expecting a lower-scoring affair than the first go 'round. The Packers saw the ‘under’ go 3-1 in primetime games this year, while the 49ers posted a 3-3 total mark in contests under the lights. On the season, the league has watched the ‘under’ go 32-18 (64%) in primetime games. This total hasn’t seen much movement either way.

Sunday, Jan. 13

Seattle at Atlanta: The books sent out an opener of 44 ½ and it was quickly pushed up to 46, which is where it sits. To be honest with you, I’m not sure why the line was steamed up. If you believe Seattle’s defense will play to its ability then you’d expect a low-scoring affair, considering the unit has leads the league in points allowed (15.3 PPG). Also, Atlanta has a balanced offense that likes to control the ball plus it’s hard to ignore the clear-cut fact that the ‘under’ went 7-1 in the Georgia Dome this season. Seattle was on a nice ‘over’ run (5-2) but the ‘under’ has cashed in its last two games, including last week’s Wild Card win over Washington, 24-14. If you look at the four games played by Seattle on the East Coast, the team has given up 12, 24, 17 and 14 points.

Houston at New England: In Week 14, the Patriots blasted the Texans 42-14 and the ‘over’ (50) barely cashed, thanks to a meaningless late touchdown by Houston’s back-up QB. We talked about the Texans’ inconsistent offense last week and once again, the unit put up 19 points with 12 coming from field goals in their win over the Bengals in the Wild Card round. New England’s offense was potent at times this season but it did slow down the last two weeks (23, 28) of the season, which resulted in ‘under’ winners. I’d be surprised to see the Patriots put up six touchdown again, especially against a solid defensive unit that's much healthier. Including last week’s outcome, Houston has watched the ‘under’ cash in four straight and five of the last six games and the lone ‘over’ during this span was the aforementioned “Bad Beat” on MNF versus the Pats.

Fearless Predictions

I understand it’s hard to win ‘over’ bets with backup quarterbacks and even if Christian Ponder played for Minnesota, it probably would’ve been tough to see the Packers-Vikings game go ‘over’ because Green Bay wasn’t clicking offensively last week. If the Packers put up an extra touchdown, we go 3-1 with the plays. Instead, it’s a 1-3 mark and a red figure of $220. On the season, we’re still up close to six units ($590). As always, Press, Pass or Fade but in the end - Good Luck!

Best Over: Baltimore-Denver 45.5
Best Under: Houston-New England 49
Best Team Total: Over 27½ Denver

Three-Team Total Teaser:
Over 36½ Baltimore-Denver
Under 55 Seattle-Atlanta
Under 59 Houston-New England

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Seahawks at Falcons: What Bettors Need to Know
By Covers.com

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons (-3, 45.5)

Since the Atlanta Falcons made Matt Ryan their franchise quarterback, they have been synonymous with incredible success at home. While that has continued this season, the Falcons are more focused on ending another pattern that has emerged since Ryan and head coach Mike Smith came on board in 2008: an inability to win in the postseason. Top-seeded Atlanta has another chance to rectify its recent playoff struggles when it hosts the red-hot Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in the NFC divisional round. The Falcons are 0-3 in the playoffs over the past four seasons and were destroyed in their last two postseason appearances by a combined 72-23.

Seattle arrives in Atlanta as the team that no one wants to play. The Seahawks have ripped off six consecutive victories and turned in an impressive performance last weekend, erasing an early 14-0 deficit in Washington to eliminate the Redskins 24-14. Seattle has allowed the fewest points in the league (15.3 per game) and has shaken its reputation as a team unable to win away from CenturyLink Field by prevailing in its last three road games. The Falcons have won the past three meetings.

LINE: Atlanta opened as low as a 1-point favorite and has been bet up to -3. The total has moved from 45.5 to 46.

ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (12-5, 12-5 ATS): Seattle did not deviate from its game plan despite the early two-touchdown deficit at Washington and rallied behind rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who threw for 187 yards and a touchdown and ran for 67 yards on eight carries. Wilson continues to play with the poise of a veteran, throwing 17 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in the past nine games. He has the luxury of a sledgehammer behind him in running back Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for a season-high 132 yards and a touchdown. Lynch, who finished third in the league with 1,590 yards, has reeled off five straight 100-yard games and 11 overall this season. He had only 24 yards on eight carries in last season's 30-28 loss to the Falcons in Seattle. The defense suffered a huge blow with an injury to DE Chris Clemons, who leads the team with 11.5 sacks.

ABOUT THE FALCONS (13-3, 9-6-1 ATS): Atlanta won its first seven home games before falling to Tampa Bay in a meaningless regular-season finale. That gave Ryan a 33-6 career record at the Georgia Dome. The former No. 3 overall pick posted career highs with 4,719 yards and 32 touchdowns passes and has perhaps the league's most complete receiving corps at his disposal. Roddy White and deep threat Julio Jones each surpassed 1,100 yards and combined for 17 scoring passes while ageless tight end Tony Gonzalez hauled in 93 receptions for 930 yards and eight touchdowns. The running game ranked just 29th in the league with an average of 87.3 yards. Michael Turner posted only two 100-yard games and ran for more than 52 yards once in the second half of the season. Atlanta's defense surrendered an average of 18.7 points and will hope sack leader John Abraham (10) is recovered from an ankle injury.

TRENDS:

* Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
* Underdog is 5-2 ATS in their last seven meetings.
* Over is 5-1 in Seahawks last six playoff games.
* Falcons are 0-4 ATS in their last four playoff games.

EXTRA POINTS:

1. Seattle has outscored the opposition 217-74 during its six-game winning streak.

2. The Falcons have scored at least 30 points in each of their last three wins over the Seahawks, including the narrow victory at Seattle last season.

3. The Seahawks signed PK Ryan Longwell to replace the injured Steven Hauschka.

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Texans at Patriots: What Bettors Need to Know
By Covers.com

Houston Texans at New England Patriots (-9.5, 48.5)

The Houston Texans were comfortably sailing along atop the AFC before meeting the New England Patriots last month. A lopsided setback led to two more losses in their final three games. The AFC South-champion Texans rebounded with a 19-13 triumph over sixth-seeded Cincinnati in last week's wild-card match, setting up a return date on Sunday with Tom Brady and the second-seeded Patriots in Foxboro, Mass.

Houston coach Gary Kubiak will need to have a better plan for Brady, who dissected his defense for 296 yards and four touchdowns on a national stage as New England cruised to a 42-14 victory on Dec. 10. Should the AFC East-champion Patriots emerge victorious on Sunday, Brady will surpass boyhood idol Joe Montana for the most postseason wins (17) by a starting quarterback. Brady is 10-2 at home during the postseason, but just 6-6 in his last 12 overall starts in the playoffs.

LINE: New England opened at -9 and has been bet up to -9.5 while the total opened at 48.5, dropped to 47.5 and has been bet up to 49.

WEATHER: The forecast is calling for fog and a chance of showers later in the evening with temperatures in the mid 40s. Winds are expected to blow south at 6 mph.

ABOUT THE TEXANS (13-4, 10-7 ATS): Arian Foster scored the game's lone touchdown last week and compiled 174 total yards from scrimmage (140 rushing, 34 receiving). Foster's dual threat was rendered nearly obsolete after the Patriots breezed to an early 21-0 lead. The electric runner was held to 46 yards on the ground. Houston would be wise to feed Foster the ball on Sunday; the Texans are 8-0 when he rushes for at least 100 yards.

ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (12-4, 9-7 ATS): Brady isn't shy about distributing the ball as he guides the league's highest-scoring team. Wes Welker, who had 118 catches for 1,354 yards this season, was held to just three receptions in the teams' earlier meeting. Rob Gronkowski, who was a spectator against the Texans earlier this season, led the Patriots with 11 touchdowns. Fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez, who had two scores versus Houston, and wideout Brandon Lloyd could be the wild cards in the high-octane attack.

TRENDS:

* Over is 4-0 in the last four meetings.
* Home team is 3-0-1 ATS in their last four meetings.
* Patriots are 1-8 ATS in their last nine playoff games.
* Under is 7-3 in Texans last 10 road games.

EXTRA POINTS:


1. New England led the NFL with a plus-24 turnover differential. Houston was second in the AFC with a plus-12 margin.

2. Houston stud WR Andre Johnson mustered nearly 100 yards per contest this season, and fell just five yards shy of that average on eight catches versus the Patriots in Week 14.

3. New England coach Bill Belichick needs one more postseason win to move past Joe Gibbs (17) for third place on the NFL's all-time list. Tom Landry recorded 20 victories while Don Shula is second with 19.

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