Beating the Spread: Divisional Round Picks
The Wildcard picks were an overall middling effort around here as our heroes combined for a 6-6 record. The biggest punch in the gut was all three pickers went with the Saints to cover a big spread and had that blow up in their faces in spectacular fashion. It’s anyone’s game as there are plenty of bets left on the table, including four this weekend.
We’re sticking with the same format as the Wildcard round where each person must pick either a side or the over/under in each game. The beauty of our setup in the regular season was that we could turn a blind eye to many of the games that we didn’t have a feel for but in the playoffs, we’re putting a claim on each contest.
For my part, this weekend could be much less exciting than the Wildcard from a competitive game standpoint. Vegas has the closest line at 4 points while the AFC matchups are both big lines at 9 and 9.5 for the home teams. If Vegas is in the ballpark on these lines, the home teams are in good shape.
We’re hoping to incorporate some prop bets next week and for the Super Bowl but for now, we’ll stick with what we know best. Have fun and let us know what your picks are for the week.
The following lines were captured on Wednesday. Betting lines can vary by site and move throughout the week so check yours to make sure that you have similar information.
|Away Team||Home Team||Line||O/U|
|Minnesota||San Francisco||SF -6.5||45|
|Houston||Kansas City||KC -9.5||50|
|Seattle||Green Bay||GB -4||46|
|Analyst||Jeff Berckes||Erik Smith||Tom Schweitzer|
|Pick #1||SF -6.5||MIN +6.5||MIN +6.5|
|Pick #2||BAL -9||BAL -9||BAL -9|
|Pick #3||KC -9.5||HOU +9.5||KC-HOU U50|
|Pick #4||SEA +4||GB -4||SEA-GB U46|
|Regular Season Record||55-29-1||51-33-1||45-40|
Jeff Berckes: If you’ve been reading all year, you know that I’m not a believer in the Packers (and yes, I’m biased as a Bears fan), so take this first pick with a grain of salt. Seattle is one of those teams that seem to play up or down to their opponent. They simply don’t play in normal games. Russell Wilson was on the shortlist for MVP until Lamar Jackson ran away with it and he’s as dangeRuss (sorry) as anyone in these playoffs. Seattle can absolutely win this game outright and they certainly can keep it within a field goal (SEA +4). The rest of the lines are big, as befits teams sitting at home on a bye. Sticking with the NFC, I think the 49ers take care of business in this one. The Vikings proved that they can be the best version of themselves against the Saints last week and they can absolutely hang with the 49ers if they play the perfect game. They’ve logged multiple trips to the playoffs and maybe that dime Kirk Cousins threw in overtime broke the seal on Big Game Kirk. However, the 49ers have been able to win games in a variety of ways and they’ve been able to blow teams out when they’re rolling. I don’t know if the Vikings have an answer for George Kittle so I’ll take the SF -6.5. In the AFC, I have been on the Ravens all year. The Titans have had a great run and their victory against the Patriots was one of those victories that most of the country celebrated, but I’m not sure the Titans can slow down the Ravens offense. Lamar Jackson ran away with the MVP this year and there’s a good chance that the Ravens come out of the gate hot and fast in this one (BAL -9). Finally, the hardest line of the week for me to pick was the Chiefs-Texans game. The Texans are one of those teams that I’ve avoided picking because they play with such high variance. Last week, they were down to the Bills 16-0 in the 3rd quarter before storming back and winning in overtime. They’ve dropped games by two scores or more to the Titans, Broncos, and Ravens (41-7!) since mid-November. While they beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead in October, it was against an injured Patrick Mahomes and a defense that wasn’t playing up to its potential. The Chiefs have won their last six, Arrowhead will be rocking, give me the home team to cover the giant spread (KC -9.5).
Erik Smith: I like San Francisco as the better team, and feel confident that they will pull out the win at home with a week of rest. But the first round of the playoffs showed us that no team is safe from an upset, and Minnesota should be full of confidence after knocking off New Orleans on their home turf. I think the Vikings have a chance of winning this one and should be able to hang around for most of the game, so I’ll take the points, MIN +6.5. It feels scary backing a team that the public will likely be all over, and nine points is a lot in the playoffs. But Baltimore has been a juggernaut this season, has a better running game and defense than the Titans, and plays at home. This Ravens team is on a whole different level from the Patriots, and the Titans still had a chance to lose near the end last week despite playing their style of game from start to finish. I expect Lamar Jackson to take over early, and BAL -9 is my pick in a game where they should be playing with the lead. This one hurts, as I really dislike this Texans team (my problems lie with the coaching), and they should consider themselves lucky to have come back from a 16-0 deficit to beat the Bills last week. But here they are, and nine an a half points is an awful lot for a Texans team that did beat this Chiefs team in Arrowhead Stadium earlier in the year. I expect Kansas City to take care of business this time, but Deshaun Watson should have just enough magic to pull this within a score late. HOU +9.5 with a little help from some Andy Reid clock-management issues. Seattle goes from facing an Eagles team that resembled a fourth-quarter preseason lineup to playing in Lambeau Field to face the well-rested Packers in the cold weather. Both teams will want to run the ball, and I’ll take Aaron Jones over the rotation in Seattle all day. I’ll certainly be holding my breath every time Russell Wilson has the ball in the fourth quarter, but Aaron Rodgers should have some playoff magic left in his arm as well. GB -4 is the pick, though I certainly wish the line was a point lower.
Tom Schweitzer: My first instinct was to think the Vikings would get blown out in San Francisco after their upset of the Saints, but the more I analyze it, the more I think Minnesota (+6.5) can win this game. While the 49ers pass defense is among the best in the league, they’re susceptible to the run. Their season stats look OK because they had the lead most of the time and didn’t play many teams with a good rushing attack, but anytime they did they gave up big yardage totals and the game was close. The Vikings’ defensive weakness is their secondary, but I’m not sure the 49ers have a passing attack good enough to exploit it. We also haven’t seen this version of the 49ers in the playoffs yet and I’d like to see them win a game before I back them. I’ve seen a few of the sports media talking heads predict a Titans upset this weekend, but I’m not buying it. I don’t think the Titans have enough talent on defense to stop Lamar Jackson and their offense isn’t explosive enough to win a shootout on the road. I expect a convincing Ravens (-9) win. I don’t have much of a feel for the Chiefs/Texans game. The Chiefs should be able to win easily, but Andy Reid has lost these types of games before and Deshaun Watson is one of those guys who can win a game by himself. The Chiefs defense has quietly been very good in the 2nd half of the season, so I’m inclined to think the Texans offense might struggle early in the game and keep the total Under 50. I’d be surprised if either team won by a significant margin in the final game of the weekend. Even with their top 3 running backs on injured reserve, Seattle is committed to running the ball and trying to win a one-score game. The Packers offense has been inconsistent due to the erratic play of Aaron Rodgers and a lack of talent at the skill positions behind Davante Adams and Aaron Jones. It all points to a close game that goes Under 46.
What are your favorite picks of the week? Put in your comments below to play along. We’ll be updating our records all playoffs!
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)