NFL Divisional Playoff Betting Overview

08 January 2020

Last updated: 23 March 2020 at 3:17 am

NFL Betting TJ Calkins

After a well earned bye week to start the postseason, the top two seeds from each conference will host the winners from wild card weekend. With the Texans, Titans, Vikings and Seahawks advancing last week, our schedule this week is the following:

  • Vikings at 49ers
  • Titans at Ravens
  • Texans at Chiefs
  • Seahawks at Packers

Here are how the odds currently sit to win the Super Bowl for these remaining teams:

  • Ravens +190
  • 49ers +325
  • Chiefs +340
  • Packers +900
  • Seahawks +1200
  • Vikings +1400
  • Titans +2800
  • Texans +3300

With the Ravens being so completely chalky, it is prudent to look elsewhere when placing Super Bowl winner bets. The Chiefs remain the greatest value as just the third highest price. Their largest amount of resistance would come in Baltimore next week, should both teams win this week. The two home teams in the AFC are fully expected to advance. The 49ers have the clearest path of getting to the big game, as they have homefield advantage in the AFC, and there is a massive odds gap between them and the closest conference foe in the Packers. If the Packers get past the Seahawks this week, it should be noted they were absolutely dismantled in San Francisco earlier this season, while the Seahawks played the 49ers more competitively in a split pair of games.

Divisional playoff weekend is the best weekend of football of the season, as we get four games and all the top teams are in action. Let’s get to the NFL picks for this week.

Saturday Slate

6 Minnesota Vikings at 1 San Francisco 49ers

4:35PM EST

Opening Line: 49ers -7 and 46
Current Line: 49ers -7 and 45

The Vikings are coming off certainly the biggest shocker of Wild Card Weekend, as the they went to New Orleans and pulled out the overtime win in the Superdome. This was a getting over the playoff hump game for Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, and the offense played respectably, but we have to be realistic about that game. The Saints offense was a massive let down. Sean Payton had one of his inexplicable poor play calling games that happen every so often, and it came at the worst possible time. Quarterback Drew Brees played poorly and the offense just couldn’t get going until very late in the game. The Vikings overtime win was capped by a highly controversial touchdown by tight end Kyle Rudolph that seemed to have blatant offensive pass interference, but the play was allowed to stand. While the Vikings deserve credit for the win, and far more so than the Texans (we will get to them later), their advancement was as much about the Saints poor offensive play as it was the Vikings own performance.

The matchup for the Vikings offense is far more formidable than it would have been a just a couple weeks ago. The 49ers have gotten much healthier on defense, headlined by the return of Dee Ford, and are once again the dominant unit we saw earlier in the season. While the Vikings can find success running the ball against just about any team, they need the proper game script to be able to stick to that, and that feels a real longshot in this matchup. The key for the Vikings is likely the ability of wide receiver Adam Thielen to beat the 49er zone schemes and it likely will fall squarely on his shoulders. Stefon Diggs is not the type of receiver that feasts on zone coverage so Kirk Cousins may very well be left with a single go to option. Cousins will be under duress all afternoon as this 49ers pass rush is ferocious when at full strength.

The 49ers offense has good balance and real playmakers all over the field. The matchup for the backs is not a good one as the Vikings are stout against the run, but their defense does have very exploitable holes. They are soft in tight end coverage and are matched up with the league’s best tight end in George Kittle. Kittle has become such a good blocker that the 49ers sometimes forget to put the ball in his hands often enough, but that feels extremely unlikely in a playoff atmosphere. Kittle has become an absolute force at every level of the game and is a true difference maker.  Whichever 49ers wide receiver lines up on the left side for any given snap will be in for quite a treat. They will be running their routes against once high end corner Xavier Rhodes, who has been burnt so many times this year his limbs must be crispy. Both veteran Emmanuel Sanders and exploding rookie Deebo Samuel can eat this matchup alive and I envision multiple long touchdowns for 49ers pass catchers.

The Vikings will be able to hand their hat on a sound playoff win in New Orleans, but their playoff journey ends here. They don’t have the required juice in the passing game to keep up in this one and the holes they have on defense will be exploited. The total is set in a sound spot and not one to attack for any action, but the 49ers winning by more than a possession is extremely attractive.

Betting Pick: 49ers -7

Fred Vanvleet is ruled out for the Raptors, killing the play.

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6 Tennessee Titans at 1 Baltimore Ravens

8:15PM EST

Opening Line: Ravens -10 and 48.5
Current Line: Ravens -9 and 47

The Titans went to Foxboro last week and knocked off the Patriots 20-13, sparking many talking heads to wonder if it was the end of the dynasty in New England. That’s a question for another day as the Titans are still alive and are a bit of a bad luck draw for the Ravens. The Titans are the best team remaining from Wild Card weekend and this is not the matchup any 1 seed would have selected if they got to hand pick their opponent with the Titans offense being the force it has been with Tannehill.

The matchup for the Titans isn’t a perfect one as the Ravens defense is stout at all levels, but that is not to say there are no spots the Titans can exploit. The Ravens are stout against the run, but a matchup with the Titans is not a normal one by any means. The nature of their running game with the high end offensive line play and the massive body of Derrick Henry has seen them turn sound rush defenses to mush throughout the second half of the season, including the Patriots last week to the tune of 182 rushing yards and a score. Mostly absent last week was the passing game due to being mostly unnecessary. Ryan Tannehill only threw 15 passes and the statistics would imply he wasn’t at all a factor, but this is simply not the case. He dropped dimes on the two most important throws he made – the touchdown strike to Firkser and the game icing play, also to Firkser. The high end weapon for the Titans that was absent last week, was AJ Brown in a brutal matchup with Stephon Gillmore. That should change this week as he will run the majority of his routes on the Ravens relative worst corner, Jimmy Smith. He will also get some slot snaps, the historical most exploitable spot against Harbaugh lead Ravens as he played his highest slot snap total of the season last week. Complementary pieces Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, Tajae Sharpe and even first round bust Corey Davis could contribute here, but the bulk of the weight will fall on the shoulders of Henry and Brown.

On the Ravens side, there are some plus spots and some minus spots from a matchup perspective. On the ground, the Titans can be stubborn about giving up rushing yardage but are more exploitable by backs when catching the ball. This will be less of a concern if top running back Mark Ingram is unable to suit up as Gus Edwards would then get the majority of the running back work and doesn’t offer much in the passing game. If (and likely when) Ingram plays, he could get real opportunity to make big plays in the passing game. The Titans are absolutely exploitable when it comes to high end tight ends and Mark Andrews is precisely that as the Ravens top pass catcher overall. He could be in for a big game and a prudent game plan for the Ravens would be to scheme big volume to Andrews. As for wide receivers, the Titans hole is in the slot with Logan Ryan, but Willie Snead is far from the type of player to scheme touches to, but it might be prudent to on some level given the matchup. Marquise Brown is the Ravens top receiver and home run threat, but Adoree Jackson returned from injury for the Titans last week and will likely hold Brown down in this one. Last but the opposite of least for Baltimore is matchup proof quarterback Lamar Jackson. The league has not yet figured out how to stop the Greg Roman schemed dual threat. As matchup proof as Henry has been on the other side, Jackson has been exponentially more so for the Ravens.

The oddsmakers correctly have the Ravens favored in this one, but I believe the line opened far too wide, creating value on the Titans side. Since Tannehill took over as starter in week 7, the Titans are 8-3 and the three losses were far from blow outs, no game was wider than a 10 point margin. The total point differential in those losses was a combined -23 and their overall point differential with Tannehill is +72. This is a team that has a unique offense with balance and not one that is competitive in every game they play. A Ravens route would be an extremely surprising outcome and, as mentioned, the line here is simply too wide. I give the Titans a real chance to win this game, at least at the level of a single score underdog and they are certainly the value to attack in this one. The total is over or pass and I feel more comfortable on the pass side. Just the Titans are the play.

Betting Pick: Titans +9

Fred Vanvleet is ruled out for the Raptors, killing the play.

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Sunday Slate

4 Houston Texans at 2 Kansas City Chiefs

3:05PM EST

Opening Line: Chiefs -9 and 49
Current Line: Chiefs -9.5 and 51

There is one remaining fraudulent playoff team remaining on the AFC side, and it is the Texans. In fairness to them, the winner of their game against the Bills last week was going to carry that moniker no matter what the outcome was, but it just so happened the Bills choked so hard that the game needs to be labeled a Bills loss rather than a Texans win. The 16-0 deficit the Texans overcame is about 20% credit to the Texans and 80% blame to the Bills, split evenly between head coach Sean McDermott and quarterback Josh Allen.

This column has been a fader of the Texans all season, as they are good enough to beat bad teams, but not a team that runs away with any games and one that had a negative point differential despite a 10 win season. Conversely, I have advocated playing the Chiefs in many spots when both Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill were healthy, and this is one of those spots. Let’s look at the matchup.

The Texans are a team with an underwhelming running game spearheaded by pedestrian talent Carlos Hyde. He is capable of grinding out some yards, but is simply the farthest thing from a difference maker and generally gets what the offensive line gets for him. The team gets slightly more dangerous when in pass heavy mode as Duke Johnson enters the game and offers some juice as a receiver that Hyde simply doesn’t. The biggest key for the Texans to stay competitive in this one is getting explosive plays from stud wide out Deandre Hopkins and his counterpart Will Fuller, who is very much a boom or bust player. The matchup to watch here is whichever wide receiver is lined up against Breshaud Breeland on any give play, as he is by far the most likely Chiefs player to be beaten. The Chiefs defense has truly taken a step forward in recent weeks and closed the year utterly shutting their opponents down. They allowed just 10.2 points per game over their last five games and have been the perfect complement to the dominant offense. The wide receivers are the players that will need to win for Houston.

The Chiefs offense likely needs no introduction. I still believe them to be the measuring stick for the rest of the league, despite the much bally hooed Raven offense getting the bulk of the attention this season. Patrick Mahomes still has Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce headlining his elite weaponry, but lets not forget both Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins and most notably last season’s playoff stud, running back Damien Williams. Let’s start with the one plus for the Houston defense. They have been exceptional against tight ends this season and it is unlikely Travis Kelce has a huge game in this particular matchup. On the other hand, the Texans are extremely exploitable by the wide receiver position and they are unlikely to have anything resembling an answer for the group the Chiefs deploy. Tyreek Hill moves around the formation plenty and is a mismatch on all corners, even high end ones. Houston doesn’t have anything resembling high end at the position and Hill running routes on Gareon Conley on the outside and laughably against Vernon Hargreaves in the slot is as unfair as it gets in the NFL. With only a moderate amount of sensationalism, Hill could jeopardize playoff receiving records if the Texans are able to muster competitiveness. Just as easily, the ball could be spread around and a team effort with Mahomes as the trigger man smokes this secondary. Last but certainly not least, Damien Williams presence gives this already elite offense an extra gear. He returned from injury for the team’s last two games and was exceptional. He totaled 246 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in those games on just 35 touches. He is quite capable of contributing to accumulating a lead but in any event, he’s the one to protect it.

I’m generally unexcited about laying near double digits in playoff games, but that is operating under the assumption we have two playoff caliber teams. Houston’s fraudulence is very real and I see them getting smoked in Arrowhead. The over was more attractive at the opening figure and is the lean if you feel a need for the total, but the Chiefs are the play here.

Betting Pick: Chiefs -9.5

Fred Vanvleet is ruled out for the Raptors, killing the play.

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5 Seattle Seahawks at 2 Green Bay Packers

6:40PM EST

Opening Line: Packers -3.5 and 46
Current Line: Packers -4 and 46.5

If you’ve followed this column all year, you know I am very much an advocate of attacking both of these teams when they are favored. Both teams have quite a propensity for playing very close games, neither team deploys a coaching philosophy to put the other team away and it is highly questionable whether either team could put up runaway scores if they attempted to do so. These teams combined for 24 wins in the regular season but are completely fraudulent when compared with the best of the best. Bear this in mind as we sort this one out.

The Seahawks were the team that extended their season last week in Philadelphia. Their defense played respectably in a 17-9 win, but the win came with quite an asterisk. A questionable hit from Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney knocked Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz out of the game with a concussion, thus making the defense’s job much easier. The true bright spot on offense for the Seahawks was the play of rookie wide receiver DK Metcalf. He scored the game’s most meaningful touchdown and additionally caught the pass to ice game.

The Green Bay offensive philosophy will continue to be to run the offense through the running backs, and they should have Jamaal Williams back in this one to pair with Aaron Jones. The rushing matchup against the Seahawks is fairly neutral and is one that can be won by the Packers, but it will need to be earned and is unlikely to be given. The biggest offensive mismatch in the Packers favor will be wide receiver Davante Adams running the majority of his routes in the coverage of Tre Flowers. There are very few corners in the league that would give a defense an advantage against Adams and Flowers is very from being on that list.

On the Seattle side, their rushing attack is in an anemic state with the state of their running backs. They continue to use seventh round rookie Travis Homer and two weeks ago street free agent Marshawn Lynch. Both have limitations to their games and the schemes are limited in a sense, depending on which back is on the field. Lynch is best suited as a short yardage runner and does well in spots where individual effort for an extra yard or two is called for. He was never great in the passing game however and offers very little in that area now. Conversely, Homer has shown he is lacking as an interior runner and offers the most as a check down pass catcher. The Packers rush defense is exploitable, but it is questionable at best whether the Seahawks have the tools at the moment to make the most of the matchup. Much like the Packers on the other side of the ball, the best individual matchup belongs to outside wide receiver DK Metcalf. He will run the majority of his routes in the coverage of Kevin King, which isn’t the best matchup one can imagine, but it is beatable.

All in all, the gist of this game comes back to the philosophies of the coaching staffs and the limitations to both offenses. I envision a close game like the ones both of these teams are so apt to play and either team getting more than a field goal is an extremely attractive proposition. The total is not one that offers a great play, but if you feel an absolute need to touch it, the under is the side to lean towards. Go with the underdog Seahawks in this one.

Betting Pick: Seahawks +4

Fred Vanvleet is ruled out for the Raptors, killing the play.

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NBA Betting with TJ CalkinsTJ Calkins – NFL Expert

TJ Calkins was raised in a gambling loving household. He knew how to handicap horse races and follow line movements well before his tenth birthday.

 

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