After not having a Wild Card round article, Aaron (@MisterMarkot) and I(@NotoriousKRO) are here to make some NFL Divisional Round picks. Make sure you are following both of us on Twitter to get all of our thoughts. We also got Brain (@grieserulz14) to give a pick for this round as well.
You’re not here for pleasantries so let’s get into these picks. Feel free to follow or fade any or all of our picks.
I’m so excited for this weekend of football as all of these games should be awesome in their own way. Saturday starts out with a potential shootout and concludes with a Cowboys-Rams game that could end 10-3 or 35-38.
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Sunday begins with an epic game between two of the best QB’s of the last 15 years going at it – one decorated, one who consistently falls short in the postseason and ends in the Superdome with the reigning Super Bowl champs taking on Brees and the SB-favorite Saints. Whether or not you are a fan of the NFL, this weekend is going to entertain viewers across the world. I’m going to give my take on each game and highlight the bets I will be hitting to start this weekend.
Indianapolis Colts +5.5 @ Kansas City Chiefs
Indy may just be the hottest team in the NFL at this moment. Luck and the offense is clicking behind a drastically improved O-line and their defense is stifling opponents right now. Kansas City bolsters the league’s most potent offense behind potential NFL-MVP Patty Mahomes. He’s electric, composed, a gamer, primetime player, etc, etc. He’s got it all and he’s not afraid of the spotlight.
Kansas City’s defense has been under a lot of ridicule this season and for good reason. They were 2nd worst in the league (behind the Bengals) giving up 405 yds/gm. Part of this can be attributed to the offense absolutely going off every game forcing teams to air it out and gain yardage in garbage time. But anybody who watches them can see they have holes all over the place. Andrew Luck and surging Mack should have no problem moving the ball here.
That’s enough of my standard NFL commentary – where’s the money at? The total currently sits at 57 which is extremely high. And I’m all over the over. This feels like the Rams-Chiefs game from earlier this year… that was the easiest money ever. We may not get a 100-point game like we did on that Monday night, but this game is going to be electric. If you were asking me to pick a side, I’d go Colts +5.5 seeing as they are playing out of their minds right now.
Pick(s): Over 57
Dallas Cowboys +7 @ Los Angeles Rams
The Cowboys in the 2nd half of the season, post-arrival of Amari Cooper, have been on another level. They went 7-1 to close out the season with their only loss coming to the Colts. The Rams started out the season, like the Saints, looking like one of the best all-time teams the NFL has ever seen. They “cooled off” a bit in the 2nd half but are still likely the most talented team on both sides of the ball in the NFL.
The Rams are currently getting 7 points at home. That seems like an insane amount for 1) the NFL playoffs and 2) a team as good as the Cowboys. There’s absolutely no way that I would take the Rams at a touchdown line, but I’m not 100% confident in picking the Cowboys.
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I would definitely lean towards Dallas but won’t be making a recommended pick here. The biggest thing that scares me is the Rams having 2 weeks to prepare for this game. The rest and preparation advantage of a solid, well-coached team cannot be underestimated in the playoffs.
The total is sitting at 49.5 at the moment. This, like the ATS line, is one I will be staying away from. My gut tells me to hit the under, but the Rams are so explosive on offense that I could see them putting up 30+ with ease. Dallas’ offense is consistent enough that it will confidently score 18-24 points no matter who they are playing, so math tells me the over is the play. I’m leaning over but again, not making a formal pick here.
Pick(s): no formal pick on this game – leaning Dallas +7 and over 49.5
Los Angeles Chargers +4 @ New England Patriots
Brady is 27-10 in the postseason; Rivers is 5-5. Brady is 7-0 against Rivers, Rivers is 0-7. These numbers are glaringly different, but these games have been shockingly close in the past 10-12 years. The Chargers are hot as the sun right now. This seems to be the story with all the underdogs this week.
I loved the Chargers last week and I love them this week. It’s hard to love a team against the Patriots in the playoffs, but hear me out. Tom Brady, quite possibly the most decorated QB in NFL history, is only a 4 point favorite at home in the playoffs? How can that be? Home-field advantage typically gives a team 3-5 points. If we assume just 3 points, that means Vegas is setting this line at NE -1.
The public opinion can easily be worth another 3-5 points. The Patriots are probably the world’s most publicly opinionated team (don’t think that’s a real term but humor me). That now puts the real line at LAC -2. Take into account that the Chargers are 7-1 on the road and winners of 4 out of their last 5, this feels like the Chargers game.
It’s understandable if you’re hesitant to bet against Belichick, Brady, and the Pats in January, but I feel strongly that this is Rivers’ year. It also feels like the start of the decline of the Pats. Not only like the Chargers +4 but I will be taking them straight up to win this game.
The lowest total of the weekend, currently sitting at 48, is another bet I’m staying away from. I see this as a game where the Chargers are up 24-13 going into the 4th quarter and I can see Brady scoring at least a TD to make this a game. Ultimately, I see the Pats coming up short and losing by a field goal in a game that is very close to the 48 total line.
Pick(s): Chargers +4 or Chargers +160 if you’re feeling frisky
Philadelphia Eagles +8 @ New Orleans Saints
Our 4th and final game of the weekend keeps the trend of road dogs alive when big-something-Nick heads to the Superdome to face the great Drew Brees & Co. Outside of botching their first game against the Bucs 40-48, the Saints have looked like an unstoppable force. Their only 2 other losses came to Dallas (13-10 in week 13) and the Panthers (33-14 in week 17 where Drew Brees & Co. didn’t play). The Saints boast the league-best +151 point differential. If we remove the week 17 game against Carolina, that goes up to +170 in 16 games… meaning they average 17 points more than their opponents. That’s absurd.
The Eagles on the other hand may be the most undeserving team in the entire playoffs, yet they find themselves in the hunt for the Super Bowl for the 2nd straight year. And they have the Super Bowl 52 MVP leading the way. Nick Foles isn’t flashy, he’s not a young-gun, he’s not an old-timer like Brady, Brees, and Rivers, yet he finds a way to win and commands the trust of his team. The Eagles didn’t deserve to beat the Bears last week, yet they advanced to the Divisional round.
It should come as no surprise that my pick here would be the Eagles +8. As I mentioned in the Cowboys write-up, more-than-a-touchdown lines in the playoffs are too good to pass up. Sure, I could see the Eagles’ magic finally running out and the Saints clobbering them, but I think it’s more likely that the experience of this coaching staff and team allows them to keep this game closer than it should be (talent-wise at least). That being said, the only wait Philly keeps this close is making this a low score game. If you’re buying into the Eagles +8 line, I suggest you hit the under 51.5 as well.
Pick(s): Eagles +8 and Under 51.5
Bonus pick: 6.5 point teaser (+135) – Rams, Chargers, Saints. This gets you Rams -0.5, Chargers +10.5, and Saints -1.5. This is a virtual lock for >1:1 odds.
Los Angeles Rams vs Dallas Cowboys Under 49.5
Of all the plays for the Divisional Round this one is by far my favorite. The Rams have not looked like themselves over the last month or so without Cooper Kupp and Todd Gurley banged up. Even if we assume Gurley is back and healthy, the Cowboys rush defense has proven to be stout. They allowed the 5th fewest yards this season and shut down Chris Carson in the Wild Card round who had feasting on opposing defenses.
This game will fall squarely on the shoulders of Jared Goff, who has averaged 259 yards per game in the 6 games without cup. In four of the six game over that run, he had 1 or fewer TDs. The Cowboys defense has struggled against the pass of late so there will be opportunities to take advantage.
Despite feeling like a home game with plenty of Cowboys fans in attendance, the Dallas offense has not traveled well all season. They averaged 16 point PPG in all their road tilts this season. I expect the Cowboys to be in 13-17 range.
While I expect the Rams to win and cover I don’t think they’ll go crazy. In this spot last year Falcons beat the Rams 26-13. I expect this game to play out very similar only with the Rams coming out on top, something like 31-17 or 27-13 feels right.
Pick: Under 49.5
Kansas City Chiefs -5.5 vs Indianapolis Colts
The Divisional round is the round where the public tends to get killed. They will back the teams they last saw be successful and forget about the ones who were sitting at home. Be wary of the Colts, Chargers and Eagles as popular road favorites who are getting north of 50% of the bets as of Friday afternoon.
The Colts looked great against a Houston team that had a ton of things go their way even when injuries were piling up. This week then will be on the road for their 3rd straight game and 5th in their last 7.
Indianapolis will also be outdoors, a place dome teams have typically not done well. Per Pro-Football-Reference, dome teams that play outdoor playoff games are 12-44 straight up and 18-36-2 ATS. This does not bode will for both road teams on Saturday.
It really seems like Kansas City is not getting a ton of love considering they’re a 1 Seed. The Colts are garnering 58% of the bets and 72% of the money as of Thursday afternoon.
Give me the home team minus anything less than a TD.
Pick: Chiefs -5.5
6 Point Divisional round tease: Colts +11, Rams -1, Saints -2
The teaser can be a great tool come playoff time. It can help bring the favorite down to a much more manageable number or give you a little extra cushion with that underdog you want to back. (*Note: All three teams must win to win the bet) They also give you some skin in the game without tremendous risk.
This week I’m rolling out a 6 point tease with the Colts +11, Rams -1 and Saints -2.
There is a lot of respect for the Colts this week and with good reason. Their offensive line has been vastly improved which is keeping Andrew Luck away from defenders. It’s also helping to open holes for the run game. The defense has also taken tremendous strides thanks in large part to Darius Leonard who is an All-Pro as a rookie. While I think the Chiefs cover this week, I expect it to be in the 6-10 range. Thus, getting the Colts +11 feels like value. It also gives you a way to hedge if the Chiefs don’t cover.
The other two legs are the Rams -1 and Saints -2. I feel strongly about both teams winning at home this week even if they don’t cover the big numbers. A 6 point tease should pay around +150.
Pick: 6 PT tease (Colts, Rams, Saints)
LA Chargers @ New England ML (-185)
Another year and another bye week for the New England Patriots. This year’s divisional round opponent the San Di.. I mean the LA chargers, are riding high after defeating the Baltimore Ravens in the wildcard round. They’re also in the midst of a 7 game road win streak which include victories in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Seattle. LA will travel to Foxboro with hopes of reaching their first AFC title game since 2007. Unfortunately for them, New England is on a streak of their own.
Since Losing to the Jets in the 2010, The Pats have won seven consecutive home divisional round playoff games. They have done so by an Average margin of victory of 17 points with Baltimore coming the closest in 2014 losing 35-31. I expect this streak to continue making Brady and company my favorite pick of the week. Take LA with the points until it reaches 3, but buy that Money line with the Pats til you run dry.