NFL Divisional Playoffs Best Bets, Tuesday recaps
Welcome to our weekly Wednesday column (the one that used to appear in “Point Spread Weekly,” where we give our “takes” on every game on the NFL schedule, this weekend with the divisional playoff round.
We give our Best Bet, or how we recommend to bet, on each game. Just like the regular season, even if we can’t come up with a specific play for a game, we’ll include our “pool play” strategy to give a gauge for those who play in pools where you have to make a pick on every game.
Again, as also did during the regular season, we’ll then update our posts in our daily columns the rest of the week and through the weekend.
After being the AFC No. 1 seed and enjoying their first-round bye, the Chiefs come into Saturday’s divisional playoff round as 8.5-point favorites vs. the Jaguars and as the 3-1 Super Bowl favorites at DraftKings. Patrick Mahomes, the +350 MVP fave, of course leads the NFL’s No. 1 offense at 413.6 yards per game and 29.2 points per game.
These teams met in Week 10 with the Chiefs jumping out to a 20-0 lead before the Jaguars finally got on the scoreboard just before halftime. However, the Chiefs’ advantage never fell below 10 points as they won 27-17 and covered as 9.5-point home favorites. That dropped the Jaguars to 3-7, but after regrouping with their bye week, they went 6-1 (and 5-2 against the spread) the rest of the regular season to win the AFC South.
Then, in one of the worst playoff debuts you’ll see from a starting QB, Trevor Lawrence three 3 INTs in the first quarter as they fell behind 27-0 to the Chargers but somehow rallied to win 31-30 on a field goal as time expired.
Some books opened this line closer to the spread in the earlier meeting, but it looks like it has settled in at 8.5 as of Tuesday afternoon. With the way Andy Reid usually wins off a bye with extra time to prepare, we can’t quite pull the trigger on the dog Based on that prior game and the Jaguars falling behind again on the national stage against the Chargers, the First-Half bet on the Chiefs -5 will be popular as well as teasers taking the Chiefs below a field goal.
But we’ve talked ourselves into the Under 53 being the Best Best of the game. Even though only 44 points were scored in the first meeting (and the teams’ combined averages on the season come to around 47.5), this is the highest total of the weekend at 53 points, so the value is on the Under if you believe the defenses (Jacksonville allowed 20.6 points per game in the regular season with the Chiefs allowing 21.7) can get the occasional stop. With Overs going 5-1 on Super Wild Card Weekend, all of the totals appear to be a little over-inflated.
Best Bet: Under 53, plus Chiefs in teasers (Jaguars 55/45 in ATS contests, but Chiefs at least 80/20 in SU pools).
On Sunday night’s “The Greg Peterson Show” on VSiN, I almost gave Chiefs -2.5/Eagles-1.5 as a 2-team, 6 point teaser, though there were some books that were deterring teasers on the Chiefs by going to -9 and even -9.5. That line has apparently settled at Chiefs -8.5, so I fully recommend teasing the two No. 1 seeds to take care of business and at least win straight-up.
However, I’m also taking the underdog Giants plus the points. This is as much of a play against the Eagles, who were 8-9 ATS in the regular season despite their lofty 13-4 SU record as they often let teams stick around. There was a stretch of the season when fading them wasn’t as successful (Week 12 and 13 in routs of the Packers and Titans before blowing out this Giants team 48-22), but then finished the season 0-4 ATS down the stretch including an ATS loss in their 26-22 win vs. these same Giants, though that was with Gardner Minshew replacing Jalen Hurts.
Regardless, this Giants teams has kept themselves in games all season long and are 14-4 ATS, including a perfect 3-0 ATS when getting more than 7 points (27-22 upset of the Packers in Week 5 as 9-point road dogs, 28-20 upset of the Cowboys in Week 12 as 10-point road dogs and the aforementioned 26-22 cover in the Week 18 loss to the Eagles as 16.5-point dogs).
Saquon Barkley mostly carries the load for the Giants, but QB Daniel Jones has been coming through a lot more lately to shed the label of “game-manager.” The Giants also have the familiarity angle that we saw with the Dolphins and Ravens covering in losses to division rivals in the wild-card round.
Best Bet: Giants +7.5, though also Eagles in teasers to hopefully hit a middle on -1.5 and +7.5 (pool play: Giants 67/33 in ATS contests but Eagles 70/30 in SU pools).
We gave this out on Sunday night after missing the +5 opener at some books, but it’s now back to 5 at the majority of books and +5.5 at South Point here in Las Vegas as of early Wednesday mornings. Bengals are live dogs in this game that should be closer to pick-’em. Besides, this is just as much of a bet against the Bills, who we faded successfully again with the Dolphins (+14 in their 34-31 loss) as they continually let teams stick around.
Of course, this is the rematch of the Week 17 Monday night game that was suspended after Buffalo’s Damar Marlin went into cardiac arrest on the field, and then canceled. A lot of people are saying that the Bills have the motivational edge, but it was actually the Bengals who were deprived of a chance to pull the upset that night and feel they should be hosting this game or at least have it on a neutral field.
Regardless, it’s what Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ offense does on the field that has me on them as they were moving the ball at will in that earlier meeting. A lot of people are making a big deal about the Bengals’ injuries on the offensive line, but it’s not like they’re going to be playing with only two offensive linemen and they’ve worked around this problem before.
This should come down to a field goal one way or the other. In fact, I’d say it’s just as likely that the Bengals win by a touchdown or more.
Best Bet: Bengals +5 (pool play: Bengals 67/33 in ATS contests and let’s call for the outright upset at 55/45 in SU pools).
This line is too short for me to take the Cowboys against a 49ers team that has won 11 straight games (and 9-2 ATS) even after having to go with third-string QB Brock Purdy. The 49ers just have too many weapons with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, etc. I also don’t trust that the Cowboys’ defense is back to mid-season form after shutting down the Buccaneers. Before that, the Dallas D had allowed 113 points in the four prior games (28.3 points per game).
On the other side of the ball, the 49ers have the No. 1 defense in the league and allow just 16.3 points per game. I don’t see Dak Prescott able to match the 49ers score for score.
Best Best: Pass (pool play: 49ers 55/45 in ATS contests and closer to 75/25 in SU pools).
Here’s an abbreviated version of our regular daily column. We lost our Best Bet on Tuesday on our Ducks-Flyers 1P Over -140/Kraken-Oilers 1P Over -180 parlay as the Flyers only led the Ducks 1-0 while the Kraken and Oilers were tied 1-1 after the opening period. We’re now just 2-2 with these 1P Over parlays (6-2 in the individual games) and +1.26 units. At least we won with our second NHL picks on the Oilers -1.5 on the puck line at +145 vs. the Kraken as the Oilers won comfortably at 5-2.
Let’s recap the rest of Tuesday’s (full-game) action and then give our Wednesday Best Bets, as we’ll stay on the ice.
NBA: Faves/dogs split 2-2 SU and ATS with upsets by the Spurs (+2 in 106-98 win vs. Nets) and 76ers (+1.5 in 120-110 win at Clippers). The Bucks (-1.5 in 130-122 win vs. Raptors) and Nuggets (-6 in 122-113 win vs. Blazers) covered as home faves. Home teams went 3-1 SU and ATS. Over/Unders split 2-2.
More NBA: On the season, favorites lead 425-234 SU with 9 games closing pick-'em while underdogs still lead 331-310-18 ATS (51.6%). Home teams lead 402-266 SU and 345-307-17 ATS (52.9%). In totals wagering, Overs lead 348-311-9 (52.8%).
CBB: No. 13 Kansas St. upset No. 2 Kansas 83-82 in OT as 1.5-point home dog. No. 12 Iowa St. beat No. 7 Texas 78-67, but it wasn't an upset as ISU was 2.5-point home fave. Wake Forest beat No. 19 Clemson 87-77, but also not an upset as Wake was 4-point home fave.
NHL: Faves went 5-3 with upsets by Canadiens (+210 in 4-1 vs. Jets), Blackhawks (+170 vs. Sabres) and Coyotes (+110 in 4-3 vs. Red Wings). Home teams went 7-1. Overs 5-2-1 w/ push in MIN-WAS (6). On the season, faves lead 405-261 with 19 PKs. Home teams lead 351-323 with 4 neutral-site games. Overs retake lead at 326-323-29.
Wednesday NHL Best Bets
Lightning-Canucks 1st Period Over 1.5 150/Avalanche-Flames 1st Period Over -135 (+190 payoff): The Canucks are the top 1P Over team in the league at 32-11 (74.4%) with the Lightning at No. 9 at 25-17 for a combined 57-28 (67.1%). The Flames are No. 3 at 30-13 (69.8%) with the Avalanche at 22-20 for a combined 52-33 (61.2%) as these are the only games of the night at a combined 60%.
Islanders +150 vs. Bruins: We don’t have any fully-fledged swagger or anti-swagger plays for Thursday, but we’ll add this play in case the Best Bet fails and we need another play to cut the losses like yesterday with the Oilers. The Islanders just snapped a 5-game losing streak (we usually require 6 losses for a swagger play) and are a live home dog.