(301) MINNESOTA at (302) SAN FRANCISCO
The Vikings (11-6, sixth seed) are playing with house money after securing the biggest upset of wild-card weekend, taking down the Saints 26-20 in overtime as 7.5-point underdogs. Kirk Cousins finally broke the “can’t win a big game” jinx. Minnesota is 10-7 ATS and 5-4 ATS away, averaging 25.47 PPG on offense and giving up just 19 PPG on defense. The 49ers (13-3, first seed) tied the Packers and Saints for the best NFC regular-season record. San Francisco is coming off a bye after finishing the regular season with two straight wins, including a 26-21 victory over the Seahawks as a 3.5-point favorite in the season finale to clinch the No. 1 seed. San Francisco is 9-6-1 ATS but just 3-4-1 ATS at home, averaging 29.94 PPG on offense and giving up 19.38 PPG on defense.
This line opened with San Francisco listed as a 6.5-point home favorite. Some books opened 49ers -7 and immediately fell to 6.5. Others have briefly touched 6 before rising back to 6.5. All liability appears to be on Minnesota plus the points as more than two-thirds of bets are backing San Francisco, yet the line has stayed the same or moved slightly toward the Vikings. Divisional round dogs are 38-24 ATS (61%) since 2003. Also, it has been profitable to bet against teams coming off a bye (52-43 ATS, 55%).
Sharp money has also come in on the Under. The total opened at 45.5 and has been bet down to 45 or even 44.5. The forecast calls for mid-50s with 8-10-mph winds. Both teams have been slightly profitable to the Over, with Minnesota 9-8 and San Francisco 8-7-1.
(303) TENNESSEE at (304) BALTIMORE
The Titans (10-7, sixth seed) are coming off a big 20-13 upset of the Patriots in the wild-card round, covering as 4.5-point road dogs and winning straight up plus-190 on the moneyline. Tennessee is 10-7 ATS, including 6-3 ATS away, averaging 24.82 PPG on offense and giving up 20.24 PPG on defense. The Ravens (14-2, first seed) finished with the best record in the NFL and a league best plus-249 point differential, whereas the Titans were plus-71 in the regular season. Baltimore went 10-5-1 ATS but just 4-4 ATS at home, averaging 33.19 PPG on offense and giving up 17.62 PPG on defense.
This line opened with Baltimore listed as a 10-point home favorite. The public doesn’t know which way to go. Bettors love backing Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, especially at home. But the Titans secured an impressive win at Foxborough last week, and 10 points seems a little high. Despite spread bets being split 50/50, this line has dipped to 9.5. Some shops are even down to 9. In a vacuum, a line shouldn’t move at all if the tickets are even. So we know based on this line move that sharps are leaning Tennessee plus the points. Divisional round dogs are 38-24 ATS (61%) since 2003. Big playoff dogs plus-7 or more are 36-24 ATS (60%). Also, teams coming off a first-round bye are only 43-52 ATS (45.3%).
We’ve also seen some smart money target the Under. The total opened at 48 and has dipped slightly to 47. When a playoff total falls at least one point, the Under is 41-27 (60.3%) since 2003. Weather could be a factor, as the early forecast calls for 10-13-mph winds. The Under is 23-13 (64%) when the wind blows 10 mph or more in a playoff game.
(305) HOUSTON at (306) KANSAS CITY
The Texans (11-6, fourth seed) took care of business on wild-card weekend, but it wasn't easy. Houston rallied from a 16-0 deficit to beat the Bills 22-19 in overtime, barely covering as a 2.5-point favorite. The Texans are 8-8-1 ATS on the season but 5-2-1 ATS on the road, averaging 23.53 PPG on offense and allowing 23.76 PPG on defense. Kansas City (12-4, second seed) is coming off a first-round bye after finishing the regular season 11-5 ATS, including 5-3 ATS at home. The Chiefs averaged 28.19 PPG on offense and allowed 19.25 PPG on defense.
This line opened with Kansas City listed as an 8-point home favorite. Sharps immediately pounded the Chiefs, pushing the line up to 9.5 or even 10 at some shops. When some books reached 10 they took in sharp buyback on the Texans at the key number of 10, dropping it back down to 9.5. The Texans have a lot of value as road dogs getting big points in the playoffs. Divisional round dogs are 38-24 ATS (61%) since 2003. Big playoff dogs plus-7 or more are 36-24 ATS (60%). Also, teams coming off a first-round bye are only 43-52 ATS (45.3%). The Texans traveled to Arrowhead in mid-October and upset the Chiefs 31-24 as 3.5-point dogs.
The total opened at 49 and has ticked up a point to 50. Divisional round Overs are 35-28 (56%) since 2003. However, the weather suggests some Under value, as the forecast calls for 10-15-mph winds. When the wind blows 10 mph or more in the postseason, the Under is 23-13 (63.9%) since 2003. Houston has gone 10-7 to the Under this season, while Kansas City is 8-8.
(307) SEATTLE at (308) GREEN BAY
The final game of divisional round weekend is shaping up to be a classic Pros-vs.-Joes mismatch. Seattle (12-5, fifth seed) took down the Eagles 17-9 on wild-card weekend, covering and winning straight up as a pick-’em or 1-point dog. With the win, Seattle improved to 8-1 on the road this season, including 6-2-1 ATS. Despite their impressive record, the Seahawks are just 8-8-1 ATS overall, averaging 24.82 PPG on offense and giving up 23.94 PPG on defense. The Packers (13-3, second seed) enter the postseason riding a five-game winning streak. Green Bay went 10-6 ATS (including 5-3 ATS at home), averaging 23.5 PPG on offense and giving up 19.56 PPG on defense.
This line opened with Green Bay listed as a 3.5-point favorite. The public can’t believe Russell Wilson and the Hawks are getting points, and about two-thirds of bettors are rushing to the window to back Seattle. Despite this lopsided support, the line has ticked up to Packers -4. Essentially we are looking at a fade-the-trendy-dog play, with pros laying the points with the contrarian favorite. The Seahawks have value as divisional round dogs (38-24 ATS, 61%), and it has been profitable to fade teams coming off a first-round bye (52-43 ATS, 55%).
Sharp money has also leaned on the Under, as the total opened at 46 and has stayed the same or ticked down to 45.5. The forecast calls for frigid temperatures in the low 20s with 7-mph winds at Lambeau. Seattle is 8-8-1 to the Under this season, but Green Bay is 10-6 to the Under, including 5-3 to the Under at home.
(283) CLEMSON vs. (284) LSU
It’s hard to bet against LSU. The Tigers are one of the most dominant teams we’ve seen in years. They are 14-0, including 9-3-2 ATS, and beat their opponents by an average score of 49-21. LSU also features the Heisman Trophy winner and just demolished Oklahoma 63-28 in the College Football Playoff semifinal, easily covering as a 12.5-point favorite. And this game will be played at the Superdome in LSU’s backyard.
This line opened with LSU listed as a 5-point favorite (some books opened closer to -4). The public and early sharps are absolutely pounding LSU with nearly eight of 10 bets. This lopsided support pushed the line up to 6, which is when value-minded wise guys got down on Clemson at the key number of plus-6, dropping it back to 5.5.
At this point, all the value is on Clemson. The Tigers (14-0, 11-3 ATS) are super contrarian in what will be the most heavily bet game of the season — maybe the decade. Plus you can take advantage of an inflated line, ideally at plus-6. There is also a buy-low, sell-high recency bias here, as LSU rolled over Oklahoma and Clemson barely edged Ohio State 29-23 as a 2.5-point favorite. Clemson has an experience advantage, having played in three of the last four national title games and won twice. Dabo Swinney can use the “no one believes in us” card as a motivator. Give me Trevor Lawrence and Clemson as a contrarian dog with a chip on its shoulder.