Sunday Playoff Action
January 13, 2013
Sportsbook.ag NFL Sunday Divisional Playoff Preview
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (12-5) at ATLANTA FALCONS (13-3)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Atlanta -2.5 (-120) & 46
Opening Line & Total: Falcons -2.5 & 45.5
The top-seeded Falcons try to win a playoff game for the first time since the 2004 season when they face the red-hot Seahawks on Sunday afternoon.
The Falcons are dominant at home. They lost their meaningless regular season finale, but before that had won 11 in a row SU (6-3-2 ATS) at the Georgia Dome. However, the Falcons are also 0-3 (SU and ATS) in playoff games during the Matt Ryan era. As the top seed two years ago, they were blown out at home by Green Bay, 48-21. The Seahawks, once a team that couldn't win outside of Seattle, have won three in a row on the road (SU and ATS), outscoring opponents 97-48 and rushing for 223.3 YPG in those games. Overall, the Seahawks have won six in a row SU (5-1 ATS). They lost top pass rusher Chris Clemons (knee) and K Steven Hauschka (calf) in their Wild Card win in Washington though. The Seahawks are on such a roll at the moment, able to win regardless of where the game is being played. They're 6-0 ATS when playing against a team with a winning record this season, 8-0 ATS since the start of last season against teams that average at least 7 passing yards per attempt and 7-0 ATS since the start of last season against teams that average at least 24 points per game. The Falcons have had it happen to them each of the past two post-seasons where they've run into a red-hot team that went onto win the Super Bowl, losing at home two seasons ago as the NFC's top seed, 48-21, to the sixth-seeded Packers, and then last season being blown out 24-2 in New Jersey against the Giants. Atlanta is not built for the playoffs with its inconsistent running game, and the Seahawks defense is playing too well right now to give up many points to a one-dimensional offense.
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has been outstanding late in the season, winning eight of nine games with a 66% completion rate, 8.8 YPA, 17 TD and 2 INT, which includes last week's playoff win in Washington. He's also rushed for 428 yards and 4 TD in these nine contests, including 67 on eight carries (8.4 YPC) last week. RB Marshawn Lynch has certainly lived up to his "Beast Mode" nickname recently with nine 100-yard efforts in his past 11 games, including five in a row. He rushed for 132 yards on 20 carries (6.6 YPC) in last week's win over the Redskins, which had the 5th-best run defense in the NFL. Atlanta's run defense is much more porous, giving up 123 rushing YPG (21st in league). The Falcons have also struggled against the pass too, allowing 242 YPG (23rd in NFL). Seattle has great depth in its receiving corps with eight players catching more than a dozen passes during the regular season, led by Sidney Rice (50 rec, 748 yds, 7 TD) and Golden Tate (45 rec, 688 yds, 7 TD). But last week, FB Michael Robinson caught the lone touchdown pass, while TE Zach Miller (48 rec. yds, 2-pt conversion) and Doug Baldwin (39 rec. yds) both outgained Tate (35 yds) and Rice (27 yds). Veteran K Ryan Longwell (17-for-23 FG in playoff career) will replace the injured Hauschka. Seattle has a +12 TO margin during its six-game win streak, with 16 takeaways and just four giveaways. But Atlanta produced 31 takeaways this season (T-5th in NFL).
Falcons QB Matt Ryan posted career highs of 4,719 passing yards and 32 TD, but he has a 71.2 passer rating in his postseason career, throwing for 584 yards (5.3 YPA), 3 TD and 4 INT. And despite his team's 7-1 SU home mark this year, Ryan has just 11 TD and 9 INT in Georgia Dome, compared to 21 TD and 5 INT on the road. He'll need to be playing at top form on Sunday, as the Seahawks rank sixth in the NFL in passing defense (203 YPG) with more INT (18) than passing TD allowed (15) during the regular season. Last week, the Redskins gained just 203 total yards, including 99 through the air. But Washington doesn't have receivers nearly as accomplished as the Falcons trio of Roddy White (92 rec, 1,351 yds, 7 TD), Julio Jones (79 rec, 1,198 yds, 10 TD) and TE Tony Gonzalez (93 rec, 930 yds, 8 TD). The problem for Atlanta's offense has been the ground game, which averages a mere 87 rushing YPG on 3.7 YPC, which both rank 4th-worst in the NFL. Michael Turner rushed for just 800 yards on 222 carries (3.6 YPC) this season, but he did score 10 touchdowns. But in three career playoff games in a Falcons uniform, Turner has just 122 yards on 43 carries (2.8 YPC) and 2 TD, and he'll be facing Seattle's 10th-ranked run defense (103 YPG). Atlanta has done a great job of protecting the football down the stretch with a total of two giveaways in the past five games combined, including three straight turnover-free contests.
HOUSTON TEXANS (13-4) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13-3)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: New England -9.5 & 48
Opening Line & Total: Patriots -10 & 49
The Texans seek their first-ever spot in the AFC Championship Game when they visit the Patriots, the league's highest-scoring team, on Sunday afternoon.
On a Monday night in Week 14, the Patriots hammered Houston 42-14 at Foxboro, scoring 28 unanswered points to start that game. New England has been less than dominant at home during the playoffs though, losing a home game in the divisional round SU twice in the past three years and getting outplayed at home by Baltimore in last year's AFC title game. They're 1-5 ATS in their past five home playoff games. But the Texans' secondary was incredibly shaky last week, and would have been burned repeatedly if not for the awfulness of Bengals QB Andy Dalton. Tom Brady, whose 16 career playoff wins are tied with Joe Montana for the most all-time, doesn't figure to miss so many throws. Despite Brady's playoff heroics, the Texans also have a playoff star in RB Arian Foster, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in all three of his postseason games, including 140 last week against a strong Bengals run defense. Despite the loss in New England, Houston has been a great road team all season at 6-2 SU. Road teams revenging a loss against opponent by 14+ points, with a winning record on the season playing another winning team, are 29-7 ATS (81%) in the past 10 seasons. And the Texans also thrive after a stuffing the run, going 10-0 ATS after allowing 99 or less rushing yards in two straight games over the past two seasons.
Texans QB Matt Schaub played pretty well in his playoff debut last week, completing 29-of-38 passes (76%) for 262 yards, but he did have an interception returned for a touchdown. He has not been great on the road this year though (79.5 passer rating), with 5 TD and 7 INT in his past six away games. This includes his 68.8 rating in New England when he was 19-of-32 for 232 yards, 0 TD and 1 INT. However, his top receiver, WR Andre Johnson, has been incredible since November with 78 catches for 1,154 yards (128 YPG) in these nine games. He caught eight passes for 95 yards on the suspect New England secondary that allowed the 4th-most passing yards (271 YPG) in the NFL this year. Although RB Arian Foster has been outstanding on the road this season (751 rush yds, 4.3 YPC, 7 TD), he was held to just 46 yards on 15 carries (3.1 YPC) in New England. He did gain 39 more yards on four catches though. Foster has been incredible in his three career playoff games though, piling up 510 total yards (170 per game) and 4 TD. The Patriots have a strong run defense though, allowing just 102 YPG (9th in NFL) on 3.9 YPC (6th in NFL) with a league-high 19 fumbles created (8 turnovers). Houston has a minus-2 turnover margin in the past five games, which doesn't bode well against a Patriots team whose 41 takeaways rank second in the NFL.
New England leads the league in both scoring (34.8 PPG) and total offense (428 YPG), but Houston gave up just 20.7 PPG (T-5th in NFL) and 323 total YPG (4th in league) during the regular season. The Patriots are just 2-4 SU in their past six playoff games, scoring 23 points or less in five of those six contests. Although Brady tossed 6 TD in last year's divisional round romp over Denver (45-10), he has just 7 TD and 7 INT during the other five games of this stretch. In the regular season, Brady threw for 4,827 yards, 34 TD and 8 INT, and was outstanding at home with 2,389 passing yards (299 YPG), 16 TD and 3 INT. He posted a 125.4 passer rating against Houston by completing 21-of-35 throws for 296 yards (8.5 YPA), 4 TD and 0 INT, despite not having the services of TE Rob Gronkowski (11 TD in 11 games). Gronkowski caught 23 passes for 258 yards and 3 TD in last year's postseason. New England's other star tight end, Aaron Hernandez, caught 2 TD in the Week 14 win over the Texans, with WR Brandon Lloyd catching seven passes for 89 yards and 1 TD, while recovering a fumble in the end zone for another score. The Patriots top receiver this year was Wes Welker (118 rec, 1,354 yds, 6 TD), but he has topped 60 receiving yards just once in six career playoff games. New England's rushing offense is underrated, as it had the most touchdowns (25), the 2nd-most attempts (32.7 per game) and 7th-most rushing yards (137 YPG) this season. RB Stevan Ridley finished with 1,263 yards (4.4 YPC) and 12 TD, rushing for 72 yards (4.0 YPC) and a score versus the Texans. A huge reason for New England's offensive success it its lack of turnovers (16, tied for 2nd-fewest in NFL), and Houston has managed just four takeaways in the past five games combined. But Texans DL J.J. Watt is the best defensive player in football with 81 tackles (69 solo), 20.5 sacks, 16 passes defended and four forced fumbles in the regular season. He was a big reason why Houston finished with 44 sacks this year (5th in NFL), but the team had zero sacks of Brady in Week 14.
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