For The Win: Divisional Weekend

Dave Larkin makes his picks against the Las Vegas lines for the second round of the playoffs.

The NFL world was shaken up during an unpredictable and dramatic set of games on wild card weekend. Not only did the NFL’s paragon of consistency for so many years, New England, get knocked out, but the much-ballyhooed Saints got their marching orders after going 13-3 in the regular season. The margins are so fine in a one-game setting – and indeed, for those wagering. The books destroyed the public last week, with the Saints' loss particularly damaging. For yours truly, it could not have gone worse as I finished with an 0-4 record.

But we go again in the Divisional games. Fewer games on the docket means the Vegas sharps have ample opportunity to drill down and find every edge, so picking the right spots is crucial not only this week but throughout the playoffs. My predecessor on this column Jeff Pasquino often found success during the postseason with this column. My hope is that I can put the dismal first playoff week behind me and finish with a flourish this season.

As you would expect at this point of the tournament when the competition gets stiffer, the favorites are comfortably touchdown-plus in terms of points apart from the Packers game. If these games pan out anything like last week’s, we will be in for a treat.

Note that the over/unders are taken from VegasInsider.com

MINNESOTA VIKINGS at SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (-6.5 to 7) (Over/Under 45.5)

(Saturday, 4:35 pm Eastern, NBC)

"Bonjour San Francisco, au revoir New Orleans" were the triumphant words of the Minnesota Vikings local radio announcer after Kirk Cousins went for broke, chucking up a lofted pass to Kyle Rudolph to break Superdome hearts – and shock the NFL world. Pundits often talk of the 49ers being a battle-tested team, but the Vikings have a strong case for that moniker too. The upside for Cousins and company is that there is no reason to fear the trip to San Francisco; winning in the Superdome is as hostile a challenge as any. It should be noted, however, that the Vikings’ victory on Sunday was the franchise’s first road playoff win in 15 years. Will it be a flash in the pan or will ‘You like that?!’ echo in the visiting locker room once again on Saturday evening?

The week off will have done the 49ers players the world of good after not enjoying a break since Week 4, a staggering period that included games at New Orleans, two clashes with Seattle and Green Bay, among others. The occasion could not be bigger for head coach Kyle Shanahan, who will undoubtedly draw on his father’s wisdom ahead of a career-defining game – and possibly run of games, if all goes well. As the number one seed, the expectation is for the 49ers to run roughshod on the Vikings, but Vegas initially had the line at 6.5, perhaps a little slight to the home team. Both defenses are allowing fewer than 20 points per game, so this could be a tight affair; the seven points have significant appeal. San Francisco 24 Minnesota 17.

Key stats:

  • The 49ers have been poor against the spread as the home team in 2019, covering just 42.9% of the time with a 3-4-1 record.
  • The Vikings have outperformed this week’s opponent in the red zone this season, with a scoring percentage of 61.67% (the 49ers are at 53.23%).

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