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An early look at the opening lines for the Divisional Round

Early money comes in on the underdog Giants and Broncos as we enter the second round of the postseason. Joe Fortenbaugh

January 11, 2012
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With the possible exception of the Denver Broncos’ upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the opening round of the NFL postseason produced some fairly predictable results.  Home teams went 4-0 straight up and against the spread, while the favorites went 3-1 ATS.

This weekend, those same four home teams who came away victorious last weekend now find themselves set to hit the road against four teams coming off an extra week of rest. 

According to our friend Larry Hartstein of Covers.com, teams with extra rest and home-field advantage are just 11-17 against the spread since 2004, meaning we could be in line for a wild weekend.

CLICK HERE to check out the Divisional Round point spreads.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (14-3, 5-3 road) at SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (13-3, 7-1 home)

Time:  Saturday, 4:30pm ET
Opening line:  New Orleans -3/47.5
Current line:  New Orleans -3.5/47.5
Current betting trends:  65% backing New Orleans, 70% backing the OVER

New Orleans Saints:  13-4 against the spread, OVER is 10-7
San Francisco 49ers:  12-3-1 against the spread, UNDER is 9-7

The big question:  Does Alex Smith have what it takes to pull out a win if this game turns into a shootout?

Alex SmithAlex Smith is going to need a big game if he wants to take out the Saints.

Analysis:  For as unbeatable as the Saints have looked at home this season (9-0 straight up, 9-0 ATS), the same cannot be said about this team on the road, where the WhoDats have gone 5-3 straight up and 4-4 against the spread.  In addition, Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees’ numbers take a slight hit away from the Voodoo dome, with his QB rating dropping off from 122.6 at home to 100.7 on the road.

The 49ers enjoyed an abundance of success in 2011 and surprised just about everyone by throwing 13 wins on the board en route to a first-round bye.  But does this defense—which ranked fourth overall during the regular season—have what it takes to slow down a Saints offense that is scoring 34.2 points per game (second in NFL)?  Most would agree that quarterback Alex Smith needs his best game as a pro to lead the Niners into the NFC Championship game.

This matchup opened NO -3 at BetOnline.com, and was quickly bet up to NO -3.5, which is where the number has since settled.  New Orleans is 8-0 ATS in their last eight games as a favorite while San Francisco is 18-6-3 ATS in their 27 home games.

DENVER BRONCOS (9-8, 5-3 road) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13-3, 7-1 home)

Time:  Saturday, 8:00pm ET
Opening line:  New England -14/51
Current line:  New England -13.5/50
Current betting trends:  66% backing Denver, 64% backing the OVER

Denver Broncos:  8-9 against the spread, OVER is 10-7
New England Patriots:  9-7 against the spread, OVER is 11-5

The big question:  Does the New England Patriots 31st-ranked defense plan on showing up this weekend?

Analysis:  Another solid performance from Tim Tebow, another Broncos upset, another media meltdown brought on by 2011’s most talked-about football team.

Tim TebowHow much magic does Tim Tebow have left?

However, while fans, analysts and the Pittsburgh Steelers may be buying the hype, that hasn’t stopped Las Vegas from installing the Broncos as a 13.5-point underdog for Saturday’s road trip to Foxborough to take on a Patriots team that is just four weeks removed from handing Denver their asses in the form of a 41-23 beat down at Mile High.

The Broncos went 6-2 ATS on the road this season and are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games as an underdog.  But if John Fox’s team wants to escape Gillette Stadium with a win this weekend, his team will have to protect the football.  Denver went 0-5 in 2011 when committing three or more turnovers.  Keep in mind that New England ranked third in the NFL in takeaways during the regular season, with 34.

As for Tom Brady and the Patriots, did you know that these guys haven’t notched a postseason victory since they beat the San Diego Chargers 21-12 in the 2008 AFC Championship game?

This line opened NE -13.5 offshore and was bet up to NE -14 for a few minutes before coming back down to NE -13.5.  The Broncos are 1-4 ATS in their last five games overall while the Patriots are 0-6 ATS in their last six playoff games.

HOUSTON TEXANS (11-6, 5-3 road) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (12-4, 8-0 home)

Time:  Sunday, 1:00pm ET
Opening line:  Baltimore -7/38
Current line:  Baltimore -7.5/35.5
Current betting trends:  60% backing Houston, 82% backing the OVER

Houston Texans:  10-5-2 against the spread, UNDER is 10-7
Baltimore Ravens:  8-7-1 against the spread, OVER is 10-6

The big question:  Is Joe Flacco ready to take the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl?

Analysis:  After a three-game losing streak that had many concerned the Houston Texans were headed for a one-and-done postseason, Gary Kubiak’s team rallied and put together one of their best performances of the season in trouncing the Cincinnati Bengals 31-10.  Houston will need another strong defensive effort coupled with another big game from running back Arian Foster if they want revenge for the 29-14 beating the Ravens put on them earlier this season.  Remember, the Texans are just 1-4 ATS in their last five games as a road underdog of 3.5-10.0.

Joe FlaccoICONIs Joe Flacco ready to take the Ravens to the Super Bowl?

Baltimore enters the postseason set to host their first playoff game since losing to the Indianapolis Colts 15-6 in the 2007 AFC Divisional Round.  The Ravens have covered the number in six of their last seven games, are 5-0-1 ATS in their last six outings against teams with a winning record and 4-1 ATS in their last five playoff games as a favorite.

If you’re wondering how Las Vegas and the early bettors see this game playing out, look no further than the total, which was posted at 38 and then immediately bet down to 35.5.  The UNDER is 16-5 in the Ravens’ last 21 home games against teams with a winning road record, so don’t be shocked if this one quickly turns into a battle for field position.

The Ravens’ average starting field position at home is the 31.2 yard line (we love to be precise at the NFP), which ranks third in the NFL.

NEW YORK GIANTS (10-7, 5-3 road) at GREEN BAY PACKERS (15-1, 8-0 home)

Time:  Sunday, 4:30pm ET
Opening line:  Green Bay -9/51
Current line:  Green Bay -8/53
Current betting trends:  70% backing New York, 85% backing the OVER

New York Giants:  9-7-1 against the spread, OVER is 8-8-1
Green Bay Packers:  11-5 against the spread, OVER is 11-5

The big question:  Can New York’s secondary rise up to the challenge of slowing down the league’s most explosive offense?

Analysis:  The NFL saved the best for last as the red-hot Giants travel to Lambeau Field looking for revenge against a Green Bay Packers team that enters the postseason as the heavy favorite to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February.

Eli ManningEli Manning and the Giants have caught fire as of late. But can they take out the defending champs?

With their backs against the wall, the G-Men ripped off three straight victories over the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons, respectively, to earn a place in the Divisional Round.  The Giants have covered the number in five of their last six games and their pressure-heavy defense is surrendering just 10.0 points per game over their last three outings.

However, taking down the Packers in Green Bay is no small order, as Aaron Rodgers and company went 8-0 straight up and 7-1 ATS at home this season.  Green Bay is 4-0 ATS in their last four January games and 8-1 ATS in their last nine games against teams with a winning record.  However, be advised that the Packers failed to cover the number in their 38-35 win over the Giants in New York back on December 4.

Despite a stellar postseason and a 15-1 record, early bettors jumped all over Big Blue last Sunday afternoon, driving the opening number from GB -9 all the way down to GB -7.5 at the MGM.  The road team is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings between these two teams, while the underdog is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings between these two teams.

Yep, both of those trends point to the Giants.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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