Divisional Round NFL Preview

Divisional Round Preview: More Underdogs, Please

It doesn’t always happen this way. Yes, the underdogs swept this year’s Wild-Card Weekend games at 4-0 ATS, winning three of them outright. And yes, the dogs went 4-0 ATS last year, too. But it was only two short seasons ago that the favorites cleaned house and dumped all four Wild Card teams from the playoffs. You can always count on those puppies to cash in.

Having said that, the underdog is still the right play in general once the postseason rolls around. Three of this week’s four Divisional Round games are set up nicely to make the contrarian choice for your NFL picks. “But what about the bye week?” We hear you; teams who didn’t play during the Wild Card round are 10-13-1 ATS in Divisional play over the past six seasons. So much for that old trend.

Saturday

Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs (4:35 p.m. ET, NBC)

This is the one game where the NFL odds are too tight to make a solid pick against the spread. The Colts are 5-point underdogs at after opening at +4.5; according to the consensus reports at Sportsbook Review, 55-percent of early bettors are on Indianapolis, which suggests the underdogs are the preferred “sharp” pick here. Before placing a bet, check a Sportsbetting.ag review.

Unfortunately for the Colts, they’re going up against a Kansas City team with the best offense in the NFL. And they’ll be playing outdoors at Arrowhead Stadium – Saturday’s forecast calls for foggy skies at kick-off with temperatures in the mid-30s. That might make the UNDER worth a shot with the total at 57, but again, it’s a tight line with not a lot of profit margin to be had.

Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams (8:15 p.m. ET, FOX) 

This is where the value starts pouring in. The Cowboys have won eight of their last nine games at 6-3 ATS, but they almost blew it against the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild-Card round, winning 24-22 as 2.5-point home faves. Meanwhile, the Rams are 10-3 SU and 4-8-1 ATS since sweeping their first three games in dominant fashion. Their defense never did reach the heights they expected after loading up on talent during the offseason.

Which makes Dallas very much worth a spin as 7-point road dogs at the Coliseum. The early consensus is 60 percent on the ‘Boys, who have stepped up big-time on defense this year – see what they did to Seattle’s offense before coughing up the matador cover. Again, we’ll stay away from that 49-point total, but getting Dallas at the magic number of 7 is definitely a bargain.

Sunday

Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS)

In theory, the Chargers are still a solid underdog pick at +4 over New England, down from +4.5 at the open with 64 percent of early bettors on board. But the Patriots have a way of crushing souls at Foxboro. They’re the one bye-week team that has made hay during the Divisional Round, going 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS over the past six years. Yikes. Did we mention it’s supposed to snow at Gillette Stadium? Could affect the spread, and smart bettors should check a Sportsbetting.ag review before placing action.

If you want to fade the Evil Empire, it’s usually best to wait until the Conference Round and the Super Bowl, when even more “recreational bettors” come into the marketplace and dump their money on Tom Brady’s team. We’re not particularly keen on Sunday’s 47-point total, either, although the UNDER might be worth a spin given the weather forecast.

Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints (4:40 p.m. ET, FOX)

God bless the Philadelphia Eagles. The defending Super Bowl champions were the obvious value pick going into the postseason, with Nick Foles once again taking over at quarterback for Carson Wentz. That value may be slipping now that people are starting to believe in the magic of St. Nick, but as 8-point road dogs against Drew Brees and the Saints, Philly remain the best bet on the Divisional odds board.

You might also want to pound the UNDER on the total of 51 points. Some books already have it down to 50.5; the Saints are much better at defense than in years past, and it’s not like the Eagles have been going vertical with Foles at the helm. Then again, the corners are where the New Orleans defense is most vulnerable. Bet accordingly.

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