Betting guide for NFL divisional games

Mar 1, 2017

That’s a turnover differential of -7. Bettors have good reason, too, as the Patriots were a league-best 13-3 ATS this season, including 4-0 ATS as double-digit favorites.

Play: Cowboys

Pick: Pass

Massey-Peabody Line: New England -17.1; Total: 45.4

Play: Texans 16 or more

Public perception: The Steelers, especially with Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown all on the field together, are a very popular team and the public is backing them here, especially now that they’re short underdogs.

The Green Bay/Dallas game has the highest total of the week, at 52.5. The Patriots offense is a juggernaut, but it’s still missing Rob Gronkowski, which makes a vital difference against a top-notch defense like Houston’s. They are incredibly efficient on offense, but they’re not going to rack up a ton of volume. Green Bay saw him up close in Week 6, when Elliott rushed for 157 yards at 5.6 yards per rush. The Chiefs’ defense — which certainly makes a lot of big plays — ended up ranked No. Obviously the Texans can be offensively challenged, but the Patriots defense has built their numbers against the likes of Matt Moore, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trevor Siemian and Jared Goff — and that’s just down the stretch. or get special teams TDs, I don’t see their offense being able to keep up with the Steelers.

The pick: Over 52.5* (lean to Dallas -4.5). He’ll certainly need it this week. The under is the play here.

Mike Clay

Erin Rynning: Rodgers and the Packers continue to deliver, however all incredible runs must come to end. The Packers are the biggest public underdog of the weekend.

Erin Rynning

Spread: Opened Pittsburgh -2.5; now Kansas City -1.5

Total: Opened 46.5; now 44

PickCenter public consensus pick: 54 percent Pittsburgh

It’s the NFL divisional playoff round and ESPN Chalk’s Vegas experts have you covered with comprehensive betting previews for all of the Saturday and Sunday action, included together in one handy file.

Erin Rynning: Yes, much is stacked against the Texans this week, but it’s well represented in the pointspread.

A bye is worth about 1.5 points overall, and while we don’t give any teams more points than others, Reid does have a track record of his teams playing very well the week following a bye. During their seven-game winning streak, the Packers have exactly ONE giveaway, a lost fumble against Houston in Week 13. During their winning streak, the schedule has been full of teams without competent offensive units. He’s averaging 3.1 yards before contact per rush (thank you, offensive linemen), seventh among qualified rushers and the only player with at m88a least 250 rushes who is above 3.0. 24 in yards allowed and misses Derrick Johnson. Both teams are offense-dominant, with slightly-above-average defenses. This total is high for a reason (and the Packers have gone over in their last five games), but I don’t think it was set high enough.

The play: No (-130)

Season: 91-91-6 (50 percent) on ATS best bets; 86-88-2 (49.4 percent) on O/U best bets; 1-0 on ATS leans.

Note: All odds courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook as of Thursday morning. Now, obviously the Cowboys cooled off down the stretch, but they’re still the superior team that ran over the Packers 30-16 in Week 6 (and that was at Lambeau Field; now they get them at home). Weird things can happen (especially in the playoffs), but ball security is a serious priority for the New England offense, and the numbers show Brady’s avoidance of interceptions is no fluke.

The Massey-Peabody model isn’t perfect, of course (this season has certainly shown that!), but historically, I’ve found the best prediction weights the Massey-Peabody line about 45 percent and the closing point spread about 55 percent. His ridiculous 14-1 TD-to-INT ratio was more than twice as large as the next-closest quarterback ( Dak Prescott, 5.8). 1 defense in the league that really came together in the second half of the season. But this is a league-average rushing defense, ranking between 14th and 16th in yards per rush, yards after and before contact per rush.

103.5 rushing yards by Ezekiel Elliott (O/U -110)

Public perception: The Packers, who are always a very public team, continue fulfilling Aaron Rodgers’ “run-the-table” speech with seven straight wins and rewarding backers at 6-1 ATS. In the last 15 years, only two qualified quarterbacks had a lower interception percentage in a season — Damon Huard in 2006 and Josh McCown in 2013. However, I can’t stop looking at the NFL Vegas Rankings that have only 6.5 points separating these two teams on a neutral field. The Patriots haven’t lost a game since his injury in Week 12, however that doesn’t mean his absence hasn’t been felt. Since the Chiefs lost Derrick Johnson, their rush defense has really struggled — Kansas City allowed 4.4 yards per rush this season overall, but that number jumped to 4.8 without their veteran linebacker. Expect Bell to add to their total.

Last week: 1-0 on ATS best bets; 1-0 on O/U best bets.

Spread: Opened Dallas -4; now Dallas -4.5

Total: Opened 51; now 52.5

PickCenter public consensus pick: 64 percent Green Bay

Rufus Peabody

Wiseguys’ view: Sportsbooks here in Vegas and also offshore opened Pittsburgh as a short road favorite, but early sharps jumped on Kansas City and flipped the favorite. Of course, they showed real issues throughout the campaign, while finishing 28th overall and allowing 5.9 yards per play. In the first 11 weeks of the season, the Patriots averaged 7.9 yards per pass play; since, they’ve averaged 7.0. Meanwhile, the Packers defense is a huge cause of concern. The Texans are still a playoff team with the No. Even playing only a 12-game season, Brady threw 432 passes this season — meaning he threw an interception on a microscopic 0.5 percent of his pass attempts. He’s fresh off a franchise-record rushing performance against the Dolphins defense, notching 167 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The Texans own a defense that’s playing at a high enough level to make this contest competitive. Spread: Opened New England -14.5; now New England -15.5

Total: Opened 46; now 44.5

PickCenter public consensus pick: 74 percent New England

Season: 15-21 (41.7 percent) on ATS best bets; 22-17 (56.4 percent) on O/U best bets; 7-3 on ATS leans; 3-4 on O/U leans.

Last week: 0-0 on ATS best bets; 1-0 on O/U best bets, 1-0 on ATS leans.

Favorites (who were all division winners playing at home as the higher-seeded teams) swept wild-card weekend at 4-0 ATS but now those four winners are road underdogs at the teams that earned first-round byes.

John Parolin: Elliott isn’t catching anyone off guard. They have only three total fumbles during that stretch. The Packers haven’t quite addressed that issue, allowing 4.5 yards per rush after that game, 22nd in the league. 1 defense by total yards, but tied for 26th in takeaways and tied for 21st with 11 interceptions. Green Bay is already prone to giving rushers space, and for a defense with that flaw, this is the worst matchup to have.

Pick: Pass

Massey-Peabody Line: Kansas City -1.5; Total: 44.9

Wiseguys’ view: Sharps are split on this game, grabbing the best line they can get on the side they prefer. Being aware of him doesn’t mean they have the formula to stop him, and a week’s worth of rest for him and his offensive line won’t make it easier on them.

Rufus Peabody: As someone with a sizable stake in Kansas City Chiefs futures, I was hoping Miami could somehow pull the upset last week, giving the Chiefs a matchup against the Texans, but Pittsburgh completely dominated them. The Chiefs have allowed 10 rushing touchdowns this season, tied for fifth fewest in the league, but running backs added five more in the passing game (tied for third most in the league). That’s a turnover differential of 16!

Season: 29-37-3 (43.9 percent) on ATS best bets; 19-22 (46.3 percent) on O/U best bets; 14-8-2 (63.6 percent) on ATS leans, 8-5 on O/U leans.

Elliott is averaging 108.7 rush yards per game this season, including a 115.2 mark since Week 3 (his breakout game against the Bears). Houston boasts the league’s No. The ability to run and throw the football will be too much to handle, as the Cowboys controlled their first meeting without Dez Bryant.

Dave Tuley’s take: I certainly understand the Patriots being heavy favorites based on how well they’ve played (and covered) this season, and it looks justified in some ways when you consider they routed the Texans 27-0 in Week 3 — and that was with rookie Jacoby Brissett. 7 in yards per game and they’re clicking now after a mid-season slump. Those numbers are significantly better than the first 11 weeks of the season (5.6 yards per play on offense, 6.1 on defense), but they don’t tell the whole story.

The pick: Texans 15.5*

Rufus Peabody: It’s rare to see a two-touchdown favorite in the playoffs. A 103.5 total is pretty high, and the Packers are certainly game-planning to stop Dallas’ stud rookie rusher. Certainly Dallas owns the firepower and balance to give the Packers defense fits. Brady was slightly more productive than both of them, as they threw 24 combined touchdown passes in those seasons.

This isn’t a one-year anomaly, as Brady has thrown nine interceptions total since the start of last season (28 games), and his opponent this week isn’t known for ballhawking. Other power ratings have a bigger difference, but this line still looks way overinflated to draw action on Houston. Massey-Peabody makes the Patriots a 17-point favorite, but we don’t adjust for injuries (except at quarterback), and my research earlier this season showed that Gronkowski is worth in the neighborhood of 2.5 points to the Patriots’ offense. And on defense, they have recovered 6 of 7 fumbles they forced, and picked off opposing quarterbacks an astounding 11 times. Why? They don’t run a lot of plays — in fact, my numbers have them forecasted to run the third-fewest plays of any team — and they are a run-first team. I see the Cowboys jumping out to an early lead, so that will force Green Bay to abandon the run and have Rodgers throwing a lot — which makes me look to the over, especially as the Packers average 27 points per game themselves. The game being played indoors certainly helps scoring, but 52.5 is too high. Including the Week 12 game, the Patriots defense has only given up 4.8 yards per play since Gronkowski’s injury (compared to 5.5 yards per play before).

The Chiefs defense isn’t a particularly stingy unit against running backs, either. So after fitting my spread of 17 to the distribution and regressing to the market number, a Patriots bet is about a break-even proposition at a line of -110. I certainly don’t expect Houston to totally shut down Tom Brady and Co., but I do believe the Texans can keep this relatively close. Bell scored all his touchdowns over Pittsburgh’s last eight games, and we’re seeing the first playoff run that Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell have ever had together.

Dave Tuley’s take: I’m sure most followers of mine are expecting me to land on Rodgers plus the points, but I’m not that high on their chances (and turned off by the fact they’re such a popular underdog play). All that said, I think the spread is about where it should be, as Massey-Peabody makes the Cowboys a 4.5-point favorite — which leads me to look at the total here.

Dave Tuley’s take: I agree with the original oddsmakers that the Steelers should be favored, so I’ll take them with any points. Pittsburgh played like a team that was fresh (they did rest their key players in Week 17), and the single-digit temperature was definitely an advantage, since the Steelers faced a Miami team that had spent the week practicing in the 80-degreee South Florida weather.

Will Tom Brady throw an interception? (Yes 110, No -130)

The reason they’ve been winning — and doing so convincingly — is their defense, which has become a dominant unit. Pittsburgh is the clear-cut second-best team in the NFL, per the Massey-Peabody ratings, and is 2.6 points better than Kansas City on a neutral field. A total of 52.5 implies two teams on the extreme end of the total spectrum. Part of that is Andy Reid’s record of 19-3 with an extra week to prepare (regular season byes and playoffs).

We all know how large a role turnovers play in football, but they are notoriously difficult to predict. A more troubling number in that same span is the 3.0 yards before contact per rush they’re allowing (25th), which is a huge part of what makes Elliott successful. However, the probable blow of losing Jordy Nelson is very real for this offense. More than two touchdowns figured to provide at least a hint of value as my strike price is 16 with a lean to the Texans at lower numbers.

Pick: Under 52.5

Massey-Peabody Line: Dallas -4.5; Total: 49.9

Have the Packers been better fundamentally in the latter part of the season? Without a doubt.

John Parolin: Brady has thrown 28 touchdown passes and only two interceptions since returning from his four-game suspension. That wouldn’t ordinarily even be a lean, and we’re not about to force it given the Gronk injury.

The play: Yes -135

Rufus Peabody: Green Bay is a very interesting team. Normally with a spread so large, I would think there’s value on the underdog, but my numbers actually think this is justified. Clearly, the Packers are playing better than they were at that time of the season, but I don’t see the defense being able to slow down Ezekiel Elliott or hold the Cowboys below their season average of 26.3 points. But despite one of the NFL’s best offenses, Dallas is not a team that profiles to be in a lot of high-scoring affairs; in fact, the Cowboys are 15th in those total ratings. During the win streak, Green Bay has averaged 6.3 yards per play on offense, while giving up 5.8 yards per play to opponents. They ranked third in the NFL allowing 4.9 yards per play with a banged-up secondary at times during the season. I’m sure that Reid will have the Chiefs ready off a bye, but I keep going back to the Steelers’ 43-14 rout in their Week 4 meeting. That most certainly isn’t worth 2.5 points per game, so we have reason to think the dropoff may not be as severe, but it’s still worth something.

Season to date: 51-48-3 (51.5 percent) on ATS best bets; 44-31 (58.7 percent) with O/U best bets; 79-70-2 on ATS leans; 12-15 on O/U leans.

Last week: 0-2 against the spread with best bets (marked with an *); 0-2 with over/under best bets; 1-1 on ATS leans; 1-0 on O/U leans.

. Unless the Chiefs can force a ton of turnovers from Big Ben and Co. The Cowboys were the league’s best bet earlier in the season at 9-0-1 ATS but they were just 1-5 ATS down the stretch.

Will Le’Veon Bell score a TD? (Yes -135, No 115)

The play: Over

Wiseguys’ view: Early bettors weren’t scared off by the high spread either, but we saw some resistance when the line hit 16 and it was sharp money driving the line down to 15.5 at several books (and 15 offshore as of early Thursday morning).

Public perception: The Patriots are a hugely popular public team and bettors are all over them here despite the very high spread. Even if they fall behind by three touchdowns, the back door should be open.

John Parolin: The price for any “will player X score a touchdown?” rarely favors the yes this much, but Bell is as versatile and productive a running back as you’ll find in the NFL. Don’t be fooled by a “six of his 13 games with a touchdown” stat this season (missed three games with a suspension). The Packers have won seven in a row — and only one of those wins was by less than a touchdown — but their numbers during that stretch aren’t necessarily indicative of a 7-0 team. Green Bay is definitely more of an over team, as the Packers run more plays and are very pass-heavy; in my “total ratings” the Packers come in at number three. The Steelers were No. No question, Rodgers and his gaudy numbers will be tricky to contend with for the Dallas defense. During the Packers’ 4-6 start, they fumbled 17 times (losing eight) and threw eight interceptions, while forcing seven fumbles (recovering just two) and intercepting opposing quarterbacks seven times. After adding in home-field advantage and the bye week bonus, Kansas City is (rightly) a small favorite. In reality, this game is a matchup of one extreme team against an average team. I show no value here, but will be rooting for the Chiefs.

Dave Tuley

The pick: Steelers 1.5*. But they’ve also been extremely fortunate

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