Editor’s Note: Stephen Nover kicked off the playoffs with a 3-1 (75%) record and he’s already posted plays for this weekend. SATURDAY - SUNDAY
LAS VEGAS – Oddsmakers opened the NFL playoffs with four home underdogs last week.
It’s just the opposite this week. The four home clubs are favored by three to 10 points.
“It’s such a huge advantage for these home teams in this round with the extra week to rest and prepare,” said Mike Seba, a senior linesmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants.
Because of that oddsmakers wanted to make sure they didn’t inflate the favorite. The public was on all four favorites this past weekend, crushing the books on Sunday with Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Carolina is the biggest chalk at minus 10 versus Arizona. The Panthers were an impressive 12-4 with a rugged defense, a great wide receiver in Steve Smith and an excellent running back tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
The Cardinals got past Atlanta, 30-24, at home on Saturday. Arizona went 6-0 in its weak NFC Western Division, but was 1-5 in its last six non-division matchups. The Cardinals have dropped four games by 21 or more points.
“Arizona looked good in its last two home games, but don’t have any defense,” Seba said in explaining why LVSC’s opening line recommendation was Panthers minus 10. “Nobody can trust Arizona on the road.”
The line could go higher if star Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin can’t play because of a hamstring injury suffered against Atlanta.
Pittsburgh is the next highest favorite, laying six to San Diego. The line could go higher if LaDainian Tomlinson is out because of a groin injury. Tomlinson hasn’t been nearly as effective as past seasons because of injuries this season.
“Just the perception of Tomlinson being out could move this line up to seven,” Seba said.
The Chargers are peaking at the right time with five consecutive victories, including a dramatic overtime win this past Sunday at home versus Indianapolis. They lost at Pittsburgh in mid-November, 11-10. The final should have been 18-10 but a Pittsburgh touchdown on the final play off an errant lateral was incorrectly overturned. The Steelers out-gained the Chargers, 410-218. They had a 24-16 first down edge and controlled the clock for 36:31 compared to San Diego possessing the ball for 23:29.
Ben Roethlisberger suffered a concussion in Pittsburgh’s final regular-season game. It was a mild concussion and oddsmaker’s are fully expecting Roethlisberger to play.
New York is a four-point favorite against Philadelphia. The Eagles are off impressive do-or-die victories against Dallas and Minnesota.
“I don’t think it will get higher than 4 ½,” Seba said. “The Eagles are a hot team right now. People are going to play them catching four or 4 ½.”
The Eagles have defeated New York in three of the last five games played at Giants Stadium, including the last one on Dec. 7. The Eagles won, 20-14, on a cold and windy day. The Eagles held the Giants to 211 yards. It’s no secret the Giants were pulling hard for their opponent to be the Vikings rather than the Eagles.
Tennessee was the smallest favorite hosting Baltimore. The line was fluctuating between two and three on Monday afternoon. It also was the lowest total at 34 or 35. The highest was Arizona-Carolina at 48 or 48 ½.
Seba said power rankings-wise Baltimore and Tennessee are virtually even. LVSC’s opening line recommendation was Titans minus 2 ½. They have since changed that to minus three.
“I can’t imagine it coming off three,” Seba said.
The LVSC linesmakers originally thought 2 ½ based on how well the Ravens looked on Sunday in dismantling Chad Pennington and Miami. The Titans were just 3-3 down the stretch. Home field and the extra week off account for Tennessee being the favorite.
Linesmakers anticipate Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch, Tennessee’s two top defensive linemen, to play. The Titans, though, could be without center Kevin Mawae. He has an injured elbow.
“We wouldn’t adjust based on that,” Seba said about Mawae possibly being out of Tennessee’s lineup. “But his absence could hurt the Titans’ timing.”