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Divisional Betting Preview

Thursday, January 10, 2019


The regular season is over, but the betting fun is just beginning. Like they did all season, Rich Hribar and Raymond Summerlin are here to preview the betting weekend and hopefully make a few good picks along the way.

*All lines taken from the Westgate Superbook on Thursday morning


Rich: A few overall notes on the Divisional Round and the matchups this week…

Home teams have dominated the Divisional Round, going 49-23 straight up since 2000 and 15-5 over the last five seasons. Against the spread, however, home teams are 32-39-1 against the spread and 8-12 over the past five seasons. Home field is a clear advantage in these games, but they typically end up closer than anticipated.

The Divisional Round is also where we see some points scored. Whereas last week we discussed betting unders was an advantage in the Wild Card Round (three-of-four hit), things swing slightly towards going over the projected game totals when the bye-week teams get to play. Since 2000, the over has hit in 52.8 percent of the games with six of the past eight Divisional Round games going over the game total.

We also have an odd dynamic in play this weekend as three of the teams (Colts, Chargers, and Eagles) are playing their third consecutive road games. Since 2008, teams in that spot are 23-37 straight up and 27-33 ATS. Reduced to just teams in the playoffs, things get much worse. Over the same span, playoff teams playing their third straight road game are 2-8 heads up and 3-7 against the spread. To compound matters, the two outright wins (and two of the three covers) came from road teams that were actually favorites in the game. We have no road favorites here, making any of those three teams sketchy bets at best if you’re feeling loose on the money line for an outright upset.

Colts @ Chiefs (-5.5) – 57-point total
Rich: 
By now we all know teams coached by Andy Reid are a sensational 17-3 after a bye in the regular season. In the playoffs, his teams have gone 3-1 with a first-round bye, but his one loss came with the Chiefs two years ago when they lost to the Steelers at home. At home in the postseason has been an issue for the Chiefs. They haven’t won a home playoff game since the 1993 season, losing six straight at home and failing to cover in all of them. Two of those have come under Reid’s watch.

As for the matchup, the Chiefs faced six playoff teams this season, going 2-4 and 2-3-1 ATS. All six of those games went over the game total with an average combined score of 71.8 points (65.2 points if you remove the Rams game). At home, Chiefs’ games only averaged 50.4 total points per game, but they were fortunate to play a soft home schedule this season. In the two games at home in which they faced good quarterbacks, Philip Rivers and Jimmy Garoppolo, the games featured 57 and 65 combined points.

The 57 points here are a big line, matching the highest game total set in the Divisional Round since 2008. That other game ended up going over the 57. The Colts are scorching hot, going 10-1 over their past 11 games. Without attempting to dismantle a 10-1 run, the best offense they’ve played over that span in terms of DVOA was the Giants at 13. The Chiefs hold the No. 1 offense by DVOA measures.

I believe the Chiefs win here and conquer their recent home playoff bugaboos because the Colts have not faced an offense this strong. I do believe it’s a close game, which makes the 5.5 points something I don’t particularly love. Instead, I’ll take the over.
Pick: Over 57

Ray: 
The Chiefs are undoubtedly a good team, but as Rich notes, they have not done particularly well when faced with other playoff teams this season. To be fair, three of those four losses came on the road, but they lost by one point to the Chargers at home in Week 15 a week after needing overtime to beat the Ravens at home.

The Colts are also a tough matchup for Kansas City. Indy’s defense has turned into a shut-down unit, allowing just 15.5 points per game over their last 11 with no more than 28 points allowed in a game over that run. They are not going to be able to stop the Chiefs, but they might be able to slow them down.

On the other side of the ball, the Colts’ offense line both can take advantage of the Chiefs’ terrible run defense and neutralize Kansas City’s pass rush, their biggest strength on defense. The Colts have allowed one or fewer sacks in 12 games this season and 11 of the last 13 while Marlon Mack has averaged 4.7 yards per carry so far this season.

This will also be Patrick Mahomes’ first playoff start. As Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson, and Mitchell Trubisky learned last week, that is not a great spot to be. Teams with quarterbacks making their first playoff start are 4-15 straight up and 5-14 against the spread since 2013 with two of those straight up wins coming against other quarterbacks making their first career start. No sophomore or rookie quarterback has won their first playoff start since 2012.

Mahomes is not those other quarterbacks and has not looked like a first-year starter at really any point this season, and the Colts are in a bad spot too playing their third road game in a row. Still, it is at least something to consider, especially when matched with what looks like a less than ideal matchup. All of that might not be enough to get the Colts a win, but they should at least be able to keep it close.
Pick: Colts +5.5

Cowboys @ Rams (-7) – 49.5-point total
Rich: 
The Cowboys were a different team on the road this season, going 3-5 and averaging just 17.4 points per game. That said, all three of those road wins came after trading for Amari Cooper. They also played a ton of low-scoring games on the road. The under hit six times with Dallas on the road this season, with one of those overs coming in a weird Week 17 affair with the Giants. Just one of the past 12 Dallas road games has hit a total this high.

Even with a 13-3 overall record, the Rams played a healthy amount of close games this season, especially against good teams. The Rams played seven games against playoff teams this season, going 4-3 overall and just 1-5-1 ATS. Of their four wins, three came by five or fewer points.

The Rams went 7-1 at home this season and I like them to win the game, but the line is too high. Dallas can run the football and slow down games, which is why I like Dallas with the points and the game to go under the total.
Pick: Cowboys +7, Under 49.5

Ray: 
This is the game I have the worst feel for this weekend. 10-1 and coming off an exciting win over the Chiefs heading into the bye, the Rams stumbled home with a lackluster win over the Lions and then two straight losses against the Bears and Eagles before handling their business against the Cardinals and 49ers.

On the other side, the Cowboys are coming off an unimpressive win against a Seahawks teams which seemingly wanted to lose given their offensive play-calling. Dallas has also struggled on the road this season, getting shut out by the Colts and struggling to a one-point win against the Giants despite playing everyone except Ezekiel Elliott in the season finale.

I can also see avenues to both teams winning this game. Dallas’ defense is not exceptional, but they are very good against the run, giving them a shot to neutralize a hobbled Todd Gurley, and allowed more than 28 points just once this season. If they are able to keep that up, Zeke should be able to eat against the Rams’ porous run defense. If the Rams are able to score early, though, Dallas will be forced to rely more on Dak Prescott, a hit or miss proposition especially given the strengths of Los Angeles’ defense.

Ultimately, I expect this game to be close, which has me leaning toward taking the points with the Cowboys, but I simply do not have the feel for this game or the conviction to make it an official pick.

Chargers @ Patriots (-4) – 48-point total
Rich: 
This is a tough spot for the Chargers. Not only are they playing their third consecutive road game as mentioned in the open, but the Patriots have been a boogeyman they’ve yet to vanquish. Philip Rivers is 1-7 in his career against the Patriots, with that lone win coming with Matt Cassel under center.

In New England, it gets worse as he and the Chargers are 0-4 (1-3 ATS), losing those games by a combined score of 115-60 with all four losses coming by eight or more points. The Patriots are 12-2 in the Divisional Round with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady and 11-1 at home over that span. More impressively, this is just the second time we’re getting them laying four or fewer points over those 14 games. The Patriots were 8-0 and had the largest point differential at home this season, outscoring opponents by 130 total points.

Given the Chargers travels, their struggles against New England, the Patriots Divisional Round dominance and what may be some cold weather, the Patriots are the play here. The past two times these teams hooked up, they also combined for 34 and 37 points. With both defenses playing well and the weather potentially being cold and windy, the game total is also in play.
Pick: Patriots -4, Under 48

Ray: 
Amazingly, the Patriots are about to play their 13th home game in the Divisional Round since the turn of the century and their ninth in a row. They have lost just one of those games – a 28-21 loss to the Jets in the 2010 season – and are 7-4-1 against the spread. More interestingly, the over has hit in each of the last eight instances with the Patriots averaging 35.1 points per game.

This Patriots team does not feel as dominant as some of those past units, but their struggles and bad losses all came on the road. New England was 8-0 at home this season including wins against the Chiefs, Colts, Texans, and Vikings, and they scored 32.9 points per game at home against just 21.6 on the road.

Coming off a demolition of Lamar Jackson, Los Angeles’ defense is playing exceptionally right now and has the talent to shut down an offense searching for playmakers. On offense, the Chargers have the tools to take advantage of New England’s soft run defense assuming Melvin Gordon is healthy enough to play.  All of that said, they are facing their third road game in a row, their second early start on the East Coast in a row, and a lengthy history of the Patriots dominating after a first-round bye. All of that might be too much to overcome.
Pick: Patriots -4, Over 48

Eagles @ Saints (-8) – 51-point total
Rich: 
The Saints melted the Eagles 48-7 in Week 11, but that was before the Eagles turned the keys back over to the nearly bulletproof Nick Foles. At this point, Foles has taken so much of my money that I should’ve just married him. Once again, the Eagles won as playoff underdogs with Foles against the Bears last week. To add to the lore, they were just the eighth team ever in the postseason win on the road when they lost the turnover margin by two or more and the first ever to do that with fewer than 100-rushing yards.

If the lore of Foles is going to live on, it’s going to take another tall order. This is an objectively bad spot for the Eagles. As mentioned, this is their third-straight road game and they are playing a Saints team that has been a tough out at home.  Since Drew Brees and Sean Payton got together in 2006, they are 68-36 at home in the regular season and 5-0 in the postseason.  Three of those wins came by three points or less.

Laying 8.5 points is too much for me, even I’m ready to dig in and believe that the Eagles run finally comes to an end. Saints home games featured an average of 59.8 combined points and the over has hit in seven consecutive playoff games with the Saints as favorites. I believe the Eagles score more than seven this time around but still have a hard time slowing down the Saints.
Pick: Over 51

Ray: 
Rich lays this game out perfectly. The Saints are a better team than the Eagles and should beat them easily, but betting against Foles at this point, especially with this big of a number, would be asinine. That makes the side an easy stay-away. As for the total, taking the over is also pretty easy.

The Saints’ offense ran into some trouble late in the year, but those struggles happened on the road or with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. Excluding Week 17, the Saints scored 37 points per game at home this year with just one game of fewer than 30 points, against the Browns all the way back in Week 2. They hung 48 on this Eagles team in Week 11, and while Philly’s defense has shown well against Josh Johnson and Mitchell Trubisky the last couple weeks, this will be an astronomically tougher test.

It does have to be noted the Saints’ defense turned into something of a shut-down unit over the second half of the season, allowing a grand total of 74 points from Week 10 through Week 15 including just seven to these Eagles before giving up 28 to the Steelers and then 33 against the Panthers in a game they threw away. Even so, the Saints’ home record this season suggests the Eagles will not have to score very many for this game to go over.
Pick: Over 51



Raymond Summerlin is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter at @RMSummerlin.
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