For The Win: Divisional Round Weekend - Footballguys

NFL Picks Against the Las Vegas Lines

Last weekend provided plenty of entertaining NFL action, highlighted at the close of the Eagles-Bears game with “The Double-Doink Heard ‘Round the World”. Only one game was a snoozer, with Houston struggling to compete with an underrated Indianapolis team. Aside from that matchup, all the contests were one-score games with drama into the final minute of each one, providing fans with excitement all weekend. The Picks of the Week fared well (2-1-1), as did the game picks outright (same record, 2-1-1), but the Texans’ inability to score points cost the Weekly Plays (6.15-11). Turning the page, we now have the best four franchises coming off a bye week and hosting teams that had to fight hard to just get to this coming Saturday and Sunday. Only twice since 1990 has neither a number one-seeded team nor a number two-seeded team hosted a conference championship game (in the 2006 AFC Championship the #3 seeded Indianapolis Colts hosted the #4 seeded New England Patriots with the Colts winning 38–34 and the 2008 NFC Championship the #4 seeded Arizona Cardinals hosting the #6 seeded Philadelphia Eagles with the Cardinals winning 32–25). As was the case last week, we have teasers as the favorite way to play, and even with larger point spreads (all games are 4.5 point to 8.5 point lines), value can be found. Last week we pointed out the fabulous “Wong Teaser” approach. Simply put, if you can get both “3” and “7” in your teaser, do it. Let’s cover each game and illustrate how to exploit those numbers. Here we go:

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-5.5) vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (Over/Under 56.5 to 57)
MONEY LINES: KANSAS CITY -220 to -250; INDIANAPOLIS +190 to +200

(Saturday, 4:35PM Eastern, NBC)

The most entertaining game of the Divisional Playoff Round may be the first matchup, where the Colts travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs on Saturday. Kansas City has been up and down since losing both Kareem Hunt (suspension), with Spencer Ware in and out of action and two Williams (Damien and Darrel) providing the ground game for Kansas City. The Chiefs have gone just 3-2 over that period, with two of those victories over the Raiders and the third an improbable comeback against Baltimore. The Colts will be watching plenty of game film, but are likely to focus on the success of the Chargers and Seahawks during that period. Seattle used two tight ends and a solid run game to beat Kansas City, and that recipe could be a preview of what Indianapolis’ game plan looks like for Saturday. Andrew Luck targeted Eric Ebron all year, and he nearly had two touchdowns last weekend against Houston. Both the Chiefs and the Colts are some of the worst teams against tight ends, so expect quite a lot of production from Travis Kelce as well. Luck, Ebron and Marlon Mack will look to provide the points while an underrated Colts defense will look to rise to the challenge against MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes II. This game could easily be a shootout, as the Over/Under is the highest of any postseason game this year. Indianapolis could be able to hang in with Kansas City, but Arrowhead stadium is a tough place to visit. Close call on this one, but taking the home team with rest and plenty of prep time (and Andy Reid’s 17-3 record after a bye) pushes the decision towards Kansas City. PICK: Chiefs

LOS ANGELES RAMS (-7) vs. DALLAS COWBOYS (Over//Under 49 to 49.5)
MONEY LINES: LOS ANGELES RAMS -320 to -360; DALLAS +250 to +280

(Saturday, 8:15PM Eastern, FOX)

Well, at least one Los Angeles team has a favorable kickoff time, with the Rams-Cowboys matchup starting at 5:15 Pacific on Saturday evening. Dallas comes in with momentum after beating the Seahawks last weekend, and they will be surely looking to establish the ground attack with Ezekiel Elliott. The Rams were a league-worst against the run on a per carry basis (5.1 YPC against), but some of that was the defense focusing on stopping the pass more late in contests, as evidenced by only giving up 1,951 rushing yards total (10th-worst in the NFL). Make no mistake, this game is about Dallas running the ball to move the chains with their best offensive player, and also to keep Jared Goff and Todd Gurley on the sidelines. The Cowboys have been playing well in the second half of the season (8-1 including last weekend), but the Rams have the talent on defense (starting with Aaron Donald) to keep them in check. Dallas has a reasonable chance to keep this close for a while, but look for the Rams to pull away and win by 10 or more. Rams 30, Cowboys 20. PICK: Rams

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (+4 to +4.5) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (Over/Under 46 to 47)
MONEY LINES: LOS ANGELES CHARGERS +170 to +180; NEW ENGLAND -190 to -210

(Sunday, 1:05PM Eastern, CBS)

Déjà vu strikes yet again on Sunday, where the Chargers have to wake up early (10AM Pacific) to play another playoff game. Just seven days after a victory in Baltimore, Los Angeles has to go on the road to Foxboro to face the well-rested New England Patriots. Gauging how ready New England is for this matchup is tough, as their final two wins were walkovers of the Bills and Jets. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will be prepared, but do the Patriots have enough on offense to beat a very tough Chargers defense, and similarly, can the Patriots’ defense slow down Los Angeles? New England has been one of the best teams in turnover differential, so it easily could come down to that stat on Sunday (how many times can they force Philip Rivers to throw a pick). The Chargers have basically been on the road all season long, as their fan base is still predominantly in the San Diego area, a good 100+ miles from their former location even when playing at “home” this season. Travel is not a problem for the Chargers, and they should match up well on both sides of the ball. This game feels more like a coin flip, and the odds are saying as much, giving the Patriots the typical field goal head start as the home team. The Chargers were 1-2 plays away from being the top AFC seed, so getting points here feels like the right move. Sharps in Vegas got the Chargers at +5.5 early, as the line quickly moved down to 4.5 or 4. Take the points – and also consider the underdog money line. PICK: Chargers

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-8 to -8.5) vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (Over/Under 50.5 to 51)
MONEY LINES: NEW ORLEANS -370 to -400; PHILADELPHIA +300 to +310

(Sunday, 4;40PM Eastern, FOX)

The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles upset the Bears last Sunday 16-15 with strong defense and a timely tipped field goal attempt by former Eagle Cody Parkey (see the “double doink” above). Now the Eagles must visit the Saints in the Big Easy, and defeating a well-rested New Orleans team at home sounds like a tall, tall order. Both teams squared off in Week 11, with the Saints pounding Philadelphia 48-7. That was the biggest loss by a defending Super Bowl champion ever, and that loss led to several defensive changes for the Eagles. With Nick Foles now leading the offense and Philadelphia looking to be opportunistic on defense, there is a puncher’s chance for the Eagles, but not much more. New Orleans’ defense has been stout the past two months, and the offense is one of the best in the NFL. Philadelphia is also one of the worst defenses against receivers out of the backfield, so expect a big performance from Alvin Kamara. Saints by 10 or more in this one, something like 34-20. PICK: Saints

PICK(S) OF THE WEEK: Rams, Chargers, Saints

DIVISIONAL ROUND PLAYS

The intent of this column is to give out not only the Plays for the Week in the NFL but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 Unit scale. The more units, the bigger the emphasis on that side of the game. (More units = More $$$).

Before diving straight into the picks, it must be pointed out that this time of the year is when you can really use Las Vegas against themselves. The sportsbooks spend extra time analyzing these four contests, and the lines they set are usually rather strong. To use this, it is a great time to use teasers and pair up teams you expect to win and take the leverage that those teasers give you.

In addition, the spreads this week are set up perfectly for several Wong Teasers in play. These are teasers that target margins of victories of 3 and 7, so point spreads at -8.5 to -7.5 are perfect targets as a 6-point teaser moves across both 3 and 7 (i.e. moving -8.5 to -2.5 or -7.5 to -1.5).

* ONE STAR *

  • 6-POINT TEASER: LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) vs. DALLAS COWBOYS (Over 43)
  • 6-POINT TEASER: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-2) vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (Over 44.5)
  • 2-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER:
    • KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (+0.5) vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (+10.5) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
  • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS “FOR THE WIN” (+180) at NEW ENGLAND
  • PHILADELPHIA “FOR THE WIN” (+310) at NEW ORLEANS (Good odds)
  • 4-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (2.65-1 ODDS):
    • KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (+0.5) vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
    • KANSAS CITY CHIEFS vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (Over 50.5)
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (+10.5) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (Over 40)
  • 4-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (2.65-1 ODDS):
    • KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (+0.5) vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) vs. DALLAS COWBOYS
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (+10.5) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
    • NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-2) vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

** TWO STAR GAMES **

  • 6-POINT TEASER: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (+0.5) vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (Over 50.5)
  • 6-POINT TEASER: LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (+10.5) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (Over 40)
  • 3-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (9-5 ODDS):
    • KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (+0.5) vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) vs. DALLAS COWBOYS
    • NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-2) vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

*** THREE STAR GAMES ***

  • 2-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER:
    • KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (+0.5) vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
    • NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-2) vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

RESULTS

Last Week

  • OVERALL: 2-1-1 (66.7%)
  • PICK(S) OF WEEK: 2-1-1 (66.7%)
  • WEEKLY TOP PLAYS: 6.15-11 (35.9%)

Postseason

  • OVERALL: 2-1-1 (66.7%)
  • PICK(S) OF WEEK: 2-1-1 (66.7%)
  • WEEKLY TOP PLAYS: 6.15-11 (35.9%)

Regular Season

  • OVERALL: 128-119-9 (51.8%)
  • PICK(S) OF WEEK: 61-46-5 (57.0%)
  • WEEKLY TOP PLAYS: 362.1-194-3 (65.1%)

Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com