Picks of the Week: Considering two underdogs in Sunday’s divisional playoffs
Whoops, they did it again! As noted yesterday here at NFLbets, since 2010, favorites of 9½ or more points in the NFL playoffs are 5-1 SU/ATS – with the sole win coming back in 2011 as Rex Ryan’s New York Jets won their Super Bowl against the New England Patriots in the divisional round. The line in Sunday’s AFC divisional round game has gone from Texans +9 at opening to Texans +9½, thereby increasing the level of difficulty in betting that game.
Also note that NFLbets caught Saturday’s AFC divisional at Baltimore Ravens -9 versus Tennessee, but that line is now up to Ravens -9½ as well. We’re feeling some regression to the mean is impending, but where…? Perhaps we’ll find hope in analyzing the bets for…
Houston Texans +9½ at Kansas City Chiefs, over/under 51 points
Not to be dogmatic, but since the preseason kicked off, NFLbets has figured the Kansas City Chiefs would make the playoffs and that the subsequent run would be all about Andy Reid. We still believe this is the case, what with the strangely unpredictable yet somehow utterly predictable Houston Texans coming to town.
Reid’s CV reads in part as follows.
• Overall record, regular season: 207-128-1 SU (181-148-7 ATS)
• Overall record, regular season with Kansas City: 77-35 SU (63-46-3 ATS)
• Overall record, playoffs: 12-14 SU (13-13 ATS)
• Overall record, playoffs with Kansas City: 2-5 SU/ATS
• Overall record, playoffs divisional round with bye: 4-1 SU (3-2 ATS)
• Overall record, all games after bye week with Kansas City: 6-2 SU/ATS
The numbers with smaller sample size are naturally simultaneously the most compelling and completely contradictory. Maybe precedent should be thrown away here; after all, the Patrick Mahomes-fueled Kanasas City Chiefs are like no other team, and back-to-back 31-point showings in last year’s playoffs are certainly nothing to scoff at. This is a top-10 offense in essentially all major statistical categories.
And by the way, has anyone noticed how Steve Spagnuolo completely created a defense from dregs? Last year, this unit was no. 31 or 32 in virtually every defensive sphere. This year, the Chiefs are best in the league in – no, really, NFLbets didn’t believe it, either – passing yards and rushing yards allowed. A weak-ish schedule got the KC D ranking just 14th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric but still 6th against the pass, where the bulk of a Texans attack would occur.
When the Texans handed the Chiefs a 31-24 loss in week 6, the Texans offense ran up 472 yards on the Chiefs, the most this defense surrendered in a game all season. In fact, in the four other games in which opponents ran up 400 yards or more on Kansas City, the Chiefs went 4-0 SU – and they’re 8-2 SU (7-3 ATS) since the Houston loss.
Assuming that some classic clock mismanagement from Reid doesn’t hand Deshaun Watson a plum opportunity late in the game, the Texans simply must find a way to move the ball against this solid defense – and they’re probably catching the Chiefs at a bad time. In the past eight games, the Houston offense has been held to 301 yards or fewer four times.
This week, Watson will be playing with his full contingent of receivers, with Will Fuller and Kenny Stills expected to join DeAndre Hopkins on the filed this week. Watson & Co. managed to pull out the W without the field-stretching Fuller out there. The Texans are now 3-3 SU/ATS with Fuller out of the lineup on the season, but certainly they’d rather have him playing, as they’ve gone 8-3 with Fuller in the lineup and 6-1 when he has five or more receptions.
And while the talking heads will be playing up the J.J. Watt vs Mahomes angle, we’re thinking the bets are all about DeShaun and the Texans offense. The question remains: Can Houston essentially play their best offensive game all season just to keep pace? We say they can, especially if snow falls for game time. (Currently snow is expected for Saturday but is just 20% likely for Sunday.) Holding off on an over/under bet until that precipitation report comes in, NFLbets says take the Houston Texans +9½ at Kansas City – seriously, that’s way too high a line, isn’t it?
Seattle Seahawks +4 at Green Bay Packers, over/under 47 points
Right, NFLbets is just coming right out with it: Take the Seattle Seahawks ML of +155 at Green Bay. The truth is we haven’t trusted the Packers all season, and we’re not sure why: They went a solid enough 10-6 ATS and a decent 3-2 SU/ATS against playoff teams (though two wins came against the Minnesota Vikings and the third against Mahomes-less Kansas City).
Meanwhile, the Seahawks have been gritting it out all year. Russell Wilson’s propensity to spin away and survive endless pass rushes coming through an inferior OL makes a metaphor for the entire Seahawks team which is 10-2 SU (though just 6-5-1 ATS) in games decided by 8 points or fewer. The DVOA metric ranks the ’Hawks offense at no. 5 – this despite facing the league’s 3rd-toughest schedule.
What makes betting this game especially maddening, however, is the insanity surrounding homefield advantage in 2019 and Pete Carroll’s entire freaking playoff history. This year home teams went 109-132-1 SU and 104-137-9 ATS. Most typical of this trend was Seattle, who went 7-1 SU (5-2-1 ATS) in away games and 4-4 SU (2-6 ATS) at home. Even more ridiculous is Carroll’s playoff record. Not including the two Super Bowls, the Seahawks coach has gone an impressive 9-5 SU (8-6 ATS) – but he’s 6-0 SU (4-2 ATS) in home playoff games!
Clearly these sorts of numbers are twisting bookmakers’ heads, too, and thus a line which essentially gives Green Bay the traditional homefield edge plus a token ½-point to draw in Seahawks backers. We ain’t buying it. And with all the credit Belichick & Brady and Payton & Brees got for Playoff Experience in the lines last week, we’re wondering why the league’s proven second-best combo of Carroll & Wilson doesn’t get more respect – particularly against a rookie head coach in his first playoff game. Come on, now. Take the Seattle Seahawks +4 at Green Bay as a hedge to the money line bet.
NFLbets’ Picks of the Week last week: 7-0.
NFLbets this season, all recommended bets: 65-44-1.
–written by Os Davis
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