by Joe Fortenbaugh
January 07, 02014
Of the 12 Divisional Round postseason games that have been played over the last three seasons, six have been decided by seven or fewer points with an average margin of victory of 5.0 points per contest. However, the other six matchups have seen the victors combine to produce an average margin of victory of 17.8 points per game, with no team winning by fewer than 11 points.
This season’s Divisional Round slate features an interesting card that includes three favorites of more than a touchdown and one home underdog.
Let’s go to work.
Home teams: 2-2
Home dogs: 2-0
Home favorites: 0-2
CLICK HERE to check out the current lines.
New Orleans Saints (12-5, 4-5 road) at Seattle Seahawks (13-3, 7-1 home)
When: Saturday, 4:35pm ET
Open: Seattle -7.5/48
Current: Seattle -8/46.5
Weather: High of 48 degrees, low of 40 degrees, 60% chance of rain, winds out of the south/southwest at ten miles per hour.
Analysis: The Seahawks put a 34-7 beating on the Saints when these two teams met in Seattle back on December 2, but there are several sharper minds in Vegas who believe the rematch will feature a more tightly contested battle. Seattle, despite its gaudy 13-3 record and 15-1 home mark since 2012, struggled to score points over the final four weeks of the season (19.25 pts/gm) and mustered an average of just 263.0 yards of offense per game during that stretch.
Brees and the Saints return to Seattle on Saturday, where they were throttled back in December.
New Orleans got the monkey off its back last Saturday night with an outdoor road win and cover at Philadelphia, but this team is still just 1-6 ATS over their last seven road contests and 1-6 ATS over their last seven games following a win. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are 4-1 ATS over their last five home playoff games and 35-17-1 ATS over their last 53 games overall.
The LVH sports book in Las Vegas opened this game with Seattle as a 7.5-point favorite, with that number quickly being bet up to 8.5 before settling at 8. That’s a lot of points to lay with an offense that has been stalling against the playoff-savvy duo of Sean Payton and Drew Brees.
Trends: New Orleans is 0-4 ATS over their last four road games against teams with a winning home record, while Seattle is 12-3 ATS over their last 15 games against teams with a winning record.
Indianapolis Colts (12-5, 5-3 road) at New England Patriots (12-4, 8-0 home)
When: Saturday, 8:15pm ET
Open: New England -9/53.5
Current: New England -7.5/53.5
Weather: High of 49 degrees, low of 39 degrees, 60% chance of rain, winds out of the south at nine miles per hour.
Analysis: The big question here is how much gas Indy has left in the tank after spilling their guts in last Saturday’s epic 45-44 comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs. While Indy was laying it all on the field, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were relaxing while putting together a game plan for this weekend’s showdown. Edge to New England.
While Luck and the Colts were leaving it all on the field last Saturday, Brady and the Pats were relaxing.
The Patriots enter postseason play having won five of their last six contests, with a whopping 75 total points scored over the team’s final two games of the season against Baltimore and Buffalo. However, this offense will have to make do without the services of star tight end Rob Gronkowski. In seven games with a healthy Gronk, the Pats averaged 32.0 points and 417.7 total yards of offense per game. In the nine contests without the Pro Bowl tight end, New England averaged just 24.4 points and 358.6 total yards per game.
The early money backed Indy, forcing a line adjustment from -9 to -7.5. Note that New England is just 2-9 ATS over their last 11 playoff games, while the comeback kids from Indianapolis have covered the number in four straight and are 13-3 ATS over their last 16 games after racking up more than 250 passing yards in the previous game.
Trends: Indianapolis is 9-0 ATS over their last nine games after scoring more than 30 points in their previous game, while New England is 2-8 ATS over their last ten home playoff games.
San Francisco 49ers (13-4, 7-2 road) at Carolina Panthers (12-4, 7-1 home)
When: Sunday, 1:05pm ET
Current: San Francisco -2/42
Weather: High of 64 degrees, low of 46 degrees, 20% chance of rain, winds out of the southwest at five miles per hour.
Analysis: Try this one on for size: The Carolina Panthers own the NFL’s second-ranked defense and went 11-1 straight-up and 8-3-1 against the spread over their final 12 games of the season. In addition, the Panthers have an extra week of rest under their belts and went 6-1-1 ATS at home in 2013.
So why are the San Francisco 49ers favored by two points?
ICONWill Newton's lack of playoff experience doom the Panthers on Sunday?
Not only are the Niners on a run of their own (7-0 SU, 4-3 ATS over last seven games), but San Francisco has a monstrous edge when it comes to postseason experience. Sunday marks head coach Jim Harbaugh’s seventh playoff game (4-2 SU) since jumping to the professional ranks in 2011, as well as quarterback Colin Kapernick’s fifth postseason start. On the other side of the football reside Cam Newton and Ron Rivera, both of whom make their playoff debuts on Sunday.
Note that San Francisco is 18-7-1 ATS over their last 26 road games and 23-7-3 ATS over their last 33 contests following an against the spread loss.
However, be advised the Carolina is just the sixth team in NFL history to host a Divisional Round playoff game as an underdog. In those other five matchups, the home team won four times (courtesy of our friends at Spreadapedia.com).
Trends: San Francisco is 27-10-2 ATS over their last 39 games played on grass, while Carolina is 7-1-1 ATS over their last nine games played on grass.
San Diego Chargers (10-7, 5-4 road) at Denver Broncos (13-3, 7-1 home)
When: Sunday, 4:40pm ET
Open: Denver -10.5/56
Current: Denver -10/55
Weather: High of 50 degrees, low of 29 degrees, 10% chance of rain, winds out of the west at 15 miles per hour.
Analysis: The Denver Broncos would be wise to heed the opening lyrics from Phish’s “Julius.”
I’ve been told to expect it
I begin my descent
Down the cold granite steps
Right now, Mike McCoy and the San Diego Chargers are the most dangerous team in football. That’s what happens when you’re playing on house money with nothing to lose. After thoroughly dismantling the Bengals in Cincinnati last Sunday, the Bolts have now ripped off five straight victories (4-1 ATS), one of which came in the form of a 27-20 upset win at Denver on a Thursday night back in Week 15. Philip Rivers is playing lights out football and the San Diego defense has turned the corner (16.3 pts/gm over last six outings), making this the most confident bunch of overachievers in the entire league.
And then there’s Peyton Manning, John Fox and the Denver Broncos. Another big regular season, another first round bye, another lofty point spread to cover in the Divisional Round. Now seems like the perfect time to mention that for his career, Manning is 9-11 in postseason action with a QB rating of 88.4.
Note that the Chargers are 8-3-1 ATS over their last 12 road games while the Broncos are 2-6 ATS over their last eight playoff contests.
Trends: San Diego is 5-0 ATS over their last five road games against teams with a winning home record, while Denver is 1-5-1 ATS over their last seven games played in the month of January.
Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh