Inside Slant: Divisional Weekend

Dave Larkin breaks down the best bets for Divisional Round action. 

I don’t claim to be an expert at betting football games.

After all, gambling is, by definition, a bit of a toss-up. If you manage to come out of a season with anywhere around 55% of your bets earning a profit, you can afford to pat yourself on the back. Getting to that point is the hard part, but my aim is to help you do that across a season with some under the radar wagers.

What gambling on football does allow us to do is have a little bit of fun with games we might not normally be interested in. While wagering on the spread and total points is the norm, your best bet might be to eschew these and go with more unconventional options.

At times the wildcard round didn’t feel much like playoff football, but a set of poorly matched regular season games the likes of which Scott Hanson would shift away from on Redzone. Fortunately for the fan in all of us, we have the mouth-watering divisional round to sink our teeth into. Before we do that, let’s take a peek at last week’s efforts.


WILDCARD ROUND RECAP

WIN: Oakland @ Houston – over 37 points @ 20/21

My logic here was simple: the total had plummeted to an unacceptable level that even mediocre teams would be able to hit. Sometimes when the betting public zigs, you must zag; this was a perfect example. The problem is that the winner of this game gets the boobie prize of playing the Patriots – yippee! This bet looked shaky at times, but the early scoring spree really helped its cause. It’s a win I’ll gladly take considering the season I’ve had.

LOSS: New York Giants (+4.5) at Green Bay Packers @ 20/23

Now why did you have to go and socialise on a boat, Odell? Why? I jest, but the majority of people on Twitter on Sunday night were not kidding in the slightest. It seemed Giants fans, incandescent at their star player’s inability to catch an oblong-shaped football, were on the verge of a mass protest at times. Ultimately the right team won this game, and the Packers look like a formidable out for top-seeded Dallas next week. This bet was a sound one early on, but the Giants’ inability to generate enough points really hurt them. Oh, and Aaron Rodgers is good at football, that too.

LOSS: Miami Dolphins over 17.5 points at Pittsburgh

Amid all the chatter about a review of the concussion protocol after Matt Moore’s devastating hit on Sunday, let us not forget that this was a mismatch. Everyone talked up the Dolphins’ rushing attack and how last time they made the Steelers their personal rampway to run all day. That didn’t happen, and suddenly the Steelers look like a team nobody wants to face. The Dolphins had their chances to score more points in the red zone, only to suffer costly turnovers that killed this bet. That’s what I get for trusting the Miami Dolphins, folks.

WIN: Longest successful field goal: Detroit (M. Prater) @ 5/4

A kicker comes to the rescue again, with my 50-50 logic of ‘Team X will lose, so they will probably kick more field goals’ working out. Matt Prater’s 53-yard try was good – very good, in fact – sealing this one early. We may come back to kicker wagers in the next couple of weeks as we search for value in an increasingly efficient gambling marketplace.

WILDCARD WEEK RECORD: 2-2-0
SEASON RECORD: 31-39-2 (0.426)


DIVISIONAL WEEK PUNTS

First half team points: Seattle Seahawks over 10 points @ 8/11

Despite the significant vigorish you will have to pay on this bet, I believe it is as close to a slam dunk as you will get this week. The Falcons rank 29th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, a statistic I put a lot of stock in. Their defense is capable of playing above itself at times, but Seattle should have the firepower to cause it problems. People in the media are reticent to put too much stock in the Seahawks’ demolition of the Lions, but I would argue the opposite side: the tone that victory set will carry this team into this game with a great deal of swagger. A fast start will be essential to put pressure on the record-setting Atlanta offense.

Houston at New England under 45 points @ 5/6

The logic here is rather simple: when the Patriots have the lead, Brock Osweiler will be responsible for scoring the majority of the points for Houston. Osweiler struggled mightily against Bill Belichick’s defense early in the season, taking checkdowns and looking altogether flustered by the versatile defensive calls the wily old master was throwing at him. This is playoff time a.k.a. Brady time, so the Patriots scoring a ton of points seems about as likely as the sun rising in the morning. At the same time, the fancied Patriots will know they have bigger fish to fry; resting Brady and giving LeGarrette Blount the ball to kill the game off seems like a good strategy. This should keep the score down, so I really like the under here.

Line/total points double: Chiefs -0.5 & under 46.5 points @ 11/5

What was that statistic about Andy Reid off bye weeks? He tends to do well, I know that. Nobody seems to be buying in on this Chiefs team, despite their hugely impressive regular season during which they punked the Raiders twice, knocked off Atlanta on the road and played as a balanced team in all three phases. The pundits will look to the quarterbacks here, but this matchup will be decided by many players, not one. The forecast calls for snow, so the style both teams play should suit the conditions. In a toss up encounter, the smart bet is to side with the home team. The weather only adds fuel to the fire for my under bet in this risky, but potentially profitable, double.

Team total points: Green Bay over 24 points @ 4/5

Oh please, 24 points is an insult to Aaron Rodgers! I don’t think Jordy Nelson’s loss will be as significant as many think; Rodgers can function at a high level without him. The Cowboys defense will be preparing hard to do what the Giants did, except go one better. That is easier said than done, my friends. I’m all over the Pack to get the job done here, but they will need more than 24 points to do so. Take the over and feel confident.


Make sure to check back next week for more betting tips ahead of the championship round games. Follow me on Twitter @davlar87.