Saturday's Top Wagers
January 11, 2018
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Creating hard lined rules that ignore the current atmosphere and context of a betting line is a pretty silly way to go about business. I’m not a huge fan of blanket statements unless they have some data to back them up. And leaning on the home teams in divisional playoff betting is by no stretch the smartest play.
The Falcons look to dismiss the faultering Eagles who will forever be plagued by a “what could’ve been” season had Wentz not been injured. After that, the Derrick Henry and Tom Brady show will attempt to captivate our attention. Here’s who I’ve got and why.
Odds per BetOnline.ag
Atlanta Falcons (11-6) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
Saturday, January 13th – Lincoln Financial Stadium – 4:35 p.m. ET
NFL Divisional Playoff Betting Line: ATL -3 (41)
This one won’t take much time. The Falcons have seemingly gotten their act together in the past few weeks, and laid waste to the Los Angeles Rams which included a complete performance from all three sectors of their team. Special teams performing well is the type of attention to detail that separates a champion from a contender.
I’ve been down on the Falcons all season long, and I’m still not wholly convinced that they’re as good as people are saying they are. But it goes without saying that they’re playing at a strong level right now and they’re gaining momentum in a scary way.
Odds To Win NFC Championship and Super Bowl LII
Atlanta Falcons +375 / +750
Philadelphia Eagles +400 / +1200
The most comical thing about this NFL divisional playoff betting line is the fact that the TOTAL has careened to just 41.0 points. Poor Nick Foles. Even the Eagles players are saying that everyone is treating them like they’re the Cleveland Browns. Ouch. The Eagles have looked awful offensively since Wentz went down, and despite the fact that they keep winning games, Foles looks like the dud we feared he was.
That TOTAL in and of itself should have you screaming for the Falcons as the only road favorites this weekend. Three points is a layup, and the UNDER has to be the play given what Atlanta’s defence managed against Los Angeles. This one doesn’t require me ranting on and on for thousands of words (I’ll save that for Titans-Patriots).
In short, you know exactly what to do already.
NFL Divisional Playoff Best Bet: Atlanta -3 (UNDER 41)
Tennessee Titans (10-7) vs. New England Patriots (13-3)
Saturday, January 13th – Gillette Stadium – 8:15 p.m. ET
NFL Divisional Playoff Betting Line: NE -13.5 (48)
Well you know that the oddsmakers have created a good line when the action is basically split 50-50. The Titans rolled to a comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs on the backs of Derrick Henry, a giant killer of a player who will have the spotlight all to himself with DeMarco Murray sidelined once more due to an MCL tear. A lot of the attention is on whether Henry can have another momentum changing game, and most opinions suggest that he will.
Excluding the Week 17 matchup against the New York Jets, the Patriots have allowed 73.8 yards per game on just 20.3 carries to Shady, Le’Veon, Kenyann Drake (they played Buffalo twice in this span). That’s a relatively healthy 3.6 yards per carry just for the feature back. This doesn’t take in to account the damage that Mariota can also manage. All told, the Patriots have allowed 114.8 yards against on the ground, ranking 20th overall. They’re vulnerable. We all know this.
But Henry is a throwback type of player. At full steam, he is seemingly impossible to bring down but he does take a while to get there. I’ve been a bit worried about his first step, which is the major difference between him and almost every type of running-back that the Patriots have faced. Elusiveness is not his strength, but Henry does grade out along the same lines as Melvin Gordon who rumbled for 132 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries.
All things told, this is a “talk yourself in to it” bet. Henry is a very difficult star to gauge simply because we don’t have a ton of actual information on him. He was a game changer against the Chiefs that’s been curiously absent for the entirety of the season in a meaningful way. As I’ve written multiple times, the majority of his yardage this season has come in garbage time or on singular long carries.
I wouldn’t say that the Patriots are a “bend don’t break” type of defence, but they sure seem like one on paper. Their 366.0 total yards allowed this season is ranked just 29th in the NFL, but they mitigate that with a staunch red zone defence that’s helped them rank just 5th in points against. They don’t allow a lot of touchdowns. It’s the Patriot way.
Odds To win AFC Championship and Super Bowl LII
New England Patriots -175 / +175
Tennessee Titans +2200 / +4000
If Henry gets within sniffing distance of the goal line then a touchdown is probably coming, but that’s not really the backbone of what Tennessee usually does. They love kicking field goals, with 35 made (5th) on 42 attempts (3rd). Ryan Succop wasn’t especially busy against Kansas City where Tennessee scored three touchdowns that are going to be harder to come by against New England for obvious reasons.
One of the reasons to bet on the New England Patriots is that they do have a habit of being dream killers in the divisional round. Over the past six years, the Patriots have been undefeated in the divisional round and won by an average of +16.3 points. The exceptions to that average were when they came back against Baltimore in a 35-31 thriller in 2015 and during a 27-20 win over Kansas where the Patriots dominated the entire second half while the Chiefs scored a late touchdown that ended up being meaningless.
You can clearly see the point here. New England is the superior team in this game by every stretch, and Matt Patricia can scheme something to at least contain Henry. To be fair, Kansas tried the same thing and failed and they probably have a better personnel for that task. Generally speaking, it’s difficult to pander to the Titans defence against Brady. They could do a good job, but it’s far more likely that Brady goes in to clock killing, wood chipper mode and chews them up one play at a time.
A solid running game featuring a workhorse back sometimes takes time to have impact but I suspect that Henry will have his say by the end of the day. He’s impossible to contain for the duration of the game and frees up running room for Mariota as well. The Titans have cheeky ways of advancing the chains, and have been doing it all season. New England’s defence has also been suspect for much of the year so the logic points to a Titans cover.
Both teams will be looking to eat as much clock. The Titans need to keep Brady off the field, and Brady has excelled at the dink-dunk offence which ramps up his time of possession. I do think there is lots of potential for the OVER despite this line of thinking, but the UNDER is by far the smarter play. As you guys know, I’m inclined to do dumb things every now and then.
Patriots win cleanly, but the Titans will press for four full quarters and put this game within two touchdowns. The fact that the public seems to love this line in favor of the underdogs so much means that it is likely to stay where it is, which is just fine by me.
Divisional Playoff Best Bet: Tennessee +13.5 (OVER 48)
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