NFL Divisional Playoffs – Best Bets Against the Spread

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Last week was tough but not a disaster, with me going 1-1-2. One win, (Under 54 Eagles/Saints) one loss, (Bengals -7) and two pushes on the 49ers -3 and Chiefs +1. Not bad, but let’s hope for a winning week as we head into the Conference Championships next week.

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks -8 Total: 46

The Saints come into this game after their first postseason road win in franchise history. New Orleans will face a much tougher task this Saturday as they head to Qwest Field to take on the Seahawks. The game will be a rematch of a Dec. 2nd meeting between these two teams at the same venue. Seattle won that game 34-7, beating New Orleans badly from start to finish.

Few expect the game to play out the same way, but Seattle is debatably the toughest place to play in the league. The Saints have struggled away from home for much of the year, but did perform well enough to win on the road at Philadelphia last week. Brees was subpar in the win against the Eagles, throwing for 250 yards and two picks, but just one touchdown.

Though, the Seahawks offense has slowed in recent weeks, as well. Quietly, New Orleans’ defense has been a top-five unit defensively this season and are especially strong against the pass. Seattle’s offense is a run-first unit, led by Marshawn Lynch, who had another fantastic year. But, it is worth noting that he has  rushed for over 100 yards just once in his last eight games.

As a whole, Seattle has struggled offensively over the past month, and New Orleans’ unit is extremely underrated nationally. This game has a 90 percent chance of rain as well so I would expect to see a lower scoring affair and more of a field position game from both sides.

Pick: Under 46

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots -7.5 Total: 52

The Colts head to Foxboro after rallying back from 28 points down to beat the Kansas City Chiefs last week, 45-44. The comeback was led by none other than Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck, who threw for over 440 yards, but also added three first half interceptions.

Like the Colts, New England has a potent offense but has been marred by poor defensive performances through the last part of the season. Since the season-ending injuries to defensive lineman Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerrod Mayo, their rush defense has been among the worst in the league.

This one may be a shootout, but I think it is more likely to be a New England blowout victory. Few coaches gameplan better than Belichick, and he is the absolute best at eliminating his opponent’s best weapon. For the Colts, that is wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who had over 220 yards receiving last week and two touchdowns.

While the normal result of this move by Belichick is that other members of the offense carry the load and benefit, but I do not think it will be as easy as most think for Luck to change gears. Since the loss of Reggie Wayne, they have not been able to get another receiver to complement  Hilton on a consistent basis. Luck threw at Hilton 18 times last week, and with no other credible no. 1 wide receiver on the roster, he may be in trouble if the Patriots key-in on his favorite target.

Furthermore, New England’s key weakness is rush defense. The Colts are majorly lacking in this area. Donald Brown and Trent Richardson both fumbled last week, and Indianapolis can’t be happy with their current backfield going into this game.

The Colts defense has been terrible and is coming off a game where they gave up 44 points to the Chiefs’ offense. Brady should carve them up via the short-passing game and New England should find plenty of success pounding the rock via the run game.

Pick: Patriots -7.5(+110)

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers +1 Total: 42

After taking care of business at Lambeau Field last week, the 49ers move on to a tougher test in their quest to head back to the Super Bowl. Carolina welcomes San Francisco to Charlotte to take on quarterback Cam Newton and the vaunted Panthers defense, who is making playoff debut.

Carolina has one victory against San Francisco this season at Candlestick Park on Nov. 10th. It was the Niners lowest offensive output of the season. They managed just three field goals, losing 10-9. 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a season-low in yardage with 91 yards passing and was sacked a career-high six times in the loss.

While history does not always repeat itself when it comes to these types of rematches, I think Carolina is a solid bet to win this game, especially as an underdog. Despite the hype surrounding him coming into this game, Kaepernick has taken a step back in his development this season, and Carolina’s defense is much better than Green Bay’s. He will not be chucking the ball up and down the field or breaking off 50-yard rushes in this one.

Carolina has the edge defensively, and though the 49ers have a strong unit, it is not as good as the elite group they had last season. The Panthers have the full package in the playoffs, a top defense, strong running game, and a quarterback in Cam Newton who is ready to make his mark in the postseason.

Pick: Panthers +1(-110)

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos -9 Total: 55

After barely making the playoffs in Week 17 after everything went their way two weeks ago, the Chargers proved they deserved a spot in the postseason after beating Cincinnati handily at home, 27-10. Now, they head to Mile High Stadium for the second time this year to take on AFC West divisional foe, Denver.

The two previous meetings between these two teams have been close. The Broncos took the first meeting 28-20 in California but lost the Week 15 meeting on Dec. 12th, 27-20.

No disrespect to San Diego, they are a formidable team, but Denver’s offense has just had the best season in NFL history. While I think the Chargers deserve to be here, it does not mean this game will be close, despite them beating the Broncos less than a month ago.

I keep going back to San Diego’s overtime win in Week 17, a game that was played against Kansas City’s second string offense. Backup QB Chase Daniel moved the ball at will and the Chiefs led for most of the contest. Denver’s offense is much more potent, to say the least, and will finally have wide receiver Wes Welker back after a long hiatus due to a concussion.

Denver’s defense has not been impressive as of late, but that will go into John Fox’s gameplan. I see Peyton Manning shaking off his playoff demons and leading the Broncos to a big victory this Sunday.

Pick: Broncos -9(-110)

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