NFL Divisional Round Picks

patriots-texans

It was an ugly 1-3 start for me in the playoffs. That happens to me almost every year for Wildcard Weekend. I always come back with a vengeance. Jump on these Divisional Round picks.

Seattle at Atlanta (-5) | over/under 51.5

The Pick: Seattle

The Score: Atlanta 29, Seattle 26

The Bets: Atlanta (+5) in a 3-way tease / Over (51.5) / Over (41.5) in a 3-way tease

This Atlanta offense put up 48 & 33 points on the 10th best defense in the league (Carolina), 30 points on the 8th best defense (San Diego) and 38 points on the 3rd best defense (Arizona).

They also put up 23 & 24 points on the road against Denver (#1 defense) and Seattle (#5), respectively. And one could argue they would have ended up with at least 27 in Seattle had it not been for a horrible non-call on an obvious pass interference.

They’ve faced plenty of tough defenses all year and almost always put up 30 or more points.

Even though I expect Seattle to be a particularly tough out, I don’t think their offense can hang with Atlanta for 60 minutes. Seattle would need to force some turnovers, but the Falcons tied the Patriots for fewest turnovers in the league this year. And the Seahawks ranked a meh 22nd in takeaways in 2016.

Seattle’s putrid run game (23rd in the league) won’t be able to fully exploit Atlanta’s horrible run defense (29th). And on the flip side the Seahawks’ pass defense slipped to 13th in the league, which is bad news going against the #1 passing offense in football.

The recipe just isn’t there for a Seattle upset. But a decent team with deep playoff experience should keep it pretty close.

Houston at New England (-16) | over/under 44.5

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 31, Houston 13

The Bets: New England (-6) in a 3-way tease

How did the Patriots defense hold up against the very worst offenses in football this year?

  • Cleveland (29th in offense) – 13 points allowed
  • Jets (31st) – 17 points allowed on the road / 3 points allowed at home
  • Los Angeles (32nd) – 10 points allowed
  • Denver (28th) – 3 points allowed
  • Houston (30th) – 0 points allowed

Let’s just table the argument on if the Patriots defense is legitimately good and would hold up against even a decent offense. We can save that for next week. We know they can 100% shut down awful offenses, especially at home.

Similar to last week when I guessed the Lions would put up 14 in Seattle, I think I’m being generous projecting the Texans for 13.

And since the Patriots always score 30+ against teams like this, I have to reluctantly lay the points and grab New England.

If you’re not into 3-way teasers where you can adjust each line by 10 points, then this isn’t that great of a game from a betting standpoint. The Patriots are too big of a favorite for a regular tease or to bet straight up. And you can’t really have confidence in the game total (Do the Patriots win 40-10 or 30-0? Huge difference for the over/under.)

If you’re trying to make the case for a Houston upset, or even just for them to keep it close, you can’t use this argument: “The 2009 Ravens and the 2010 Jets stunned the Patriots in Foxboro so anything could happen.”

The ‘09 Ravens were actually the best team in the NFL despite their 9-7 record, according to FootballOutsiders.com. And the 2010 Jets, not too shabby themselves. They were 6th in overall DVOA (team efficiency).

Your 2016 Houston Texans….29th in DVOA! In other words, they were the 4th worst team in football. The gap between this year’s Patriots and Wilfork’s Texans is possibly the biggest in playoff history.

Pittsburgh at Kansas City (-1) | over/under 44

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 23, Kansas City 20 (in Overtime)

The Bets: Pittsburgh (+11) in a 3-way tease / Over (34) in a 3-way tease

During Kansas City’s 10-2 finish to the season, they only put up 21 or more points in two of six home games.

The Steelers’ last three road opponents of the season happen to be the three teams right above the Chiefs in offensive DVOA rankings (KC ranks 13th). And here’s how those teams performed against Pittsburgh’s D:

  • Colts (12th) – Steelers gave up 7 points
  • Bengals (11th) – Steelers gave up 20 points
  • Bills (10th) – Steelers gave up 20 points

Let’s say things stay consistent in terms of the Chiefs’ offensive production. What you gotta figure out is whether or not the Steelers can put up 24 or so points. That’s the only way they win this.

I think we’re looking at an overtime game, or at least a last-second win for one of these teams. I liked the Chiefs immediately after seeing last week’s games play out, but the numbers don’t lie. The combination of the way Pittsburgh’s been able to play defense lately and the incredible potency of a healthy Steelers offense makes it impossible for me to go with the Chiefs.

Green Bay at Dallas (-4) | over/under 52

The Pick: Dallas

The Score: Dallas 28, Green Bay 23

The Bets: Dallas (-4) / Dallas (+6) in a 3-way tease / Over (42) in a 3-way tease

Starting in 2011, which is when Jordy Nelson started putting up 1,000-yard receiving seasons, the Packers have been a top four offense each of the four seasons that Nelson and Aaron Rodgers have been healthy together. In the two seasons where they weren’t, the Packers fell to 9th (2013) and 11th (2015) in offensive DVOA.

Not a catastrophic drop-off, but a noticeable one that will be in effect for this divisional round game.

After all my cutting edge research, I had the Packers coming up just short, maybe losing by 2 points. But I’m deducting an additional 3 points from their total due to the Jordy loss.

Remember that the Giants offense is most similar in production to the offenses of the Ravens, 49ers, Cardinals and Eagles. It makes perfect sense that Green Bay would demolish the Giants if Aaron Rodgers had a big game. But now the Packers face one of the best offenses in the league. Even if Rodgers steals the show again, they should have an answer.

My read on the spread and game total is that Vegas never adjusted either one when it became apparent that Nelson might not play. I think the game would be impossible to predict if he was healthy, but since he’s not, I’ll be betting as if they forgot to ding the Packers even slightly.

Prop Bets

Who will record the most Passing Yards?

  • Matt Ryan (+350) – Because he had 335 passing yards in Seattle while facing a healthy Early Thomas earlier this season. Because at home in 2016, his lowest yardage output was 269. His worst case is even better than that because of the injured Seahawks defense.
  • Tom Brady (+350) – In the past 5 years, Brady has played in 12 playoff games. He’s cracked 300 yards passing 7 times, 4 of which came in this divisional round. I think he’s good for 290+, which could win the week.
  • Dak Prescott (+1000) – You’re giving me 10/1 odds on a Pro Bowl QB who’s rested, at home and facing a pretty bad pass defense? Sign me up.

Who will record the most Receiving Yards?

  • Dez Bryant (+850) – Call it a hunch. The Packers have a crappy pass defense as it is, and they’ll put extra focus on stopping Dallas’ 2nd ranked run game. I think Dak will find Dez early and often.

Enjoy the Divisional Round!

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