Two games Sunday will close out the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. Let’s study key stats and betting patterns in both:
— Kansas City (-9.5) vs. Houston (3:05 p.m., CBS)
Houston: No. 13 offense, No. 28 defense, No. 7 schedule, even turnover margin
Kansas City: No. 6 offense, No. 17 defense, No. 15 schedule, plus-8 turnover margin
(Stat rankings are from the regular season, and strength-of-schedule rankings are from Jeff Sagarin’s market-respected data at USA Today). Clear edges to K.C. in all facets, even after you make a slight mental adjustment for Houston’s tougher schedule.
Worth noting that Kansas City’s defense improved down the stretch and will likely perform better than what No. 17 would suggest. You probably watched the Chiefs win at New England 23-16. They allowed only three points apiece to Denver and Chicago the next two weeks. That defensive improvement caught betting markets napping. Kansas City is 5-0-1 against the spread in its last six games.
Similar to the Tennessee-Baltimore game, the public will likely bet the favorite at 9.5 or less, with sharps stepping in for underdog value at the key number of plus-10.
— The case for Kansas City: Houston had to rally to survive less dynamic Buffalo last week. The Texans’ 41-7 loss at Baltimore in mid-November may suggest Houston isn’t ready to compete with the league’s elite. K.C. is elite.
— The case for Houston: Quarterback DeShaun Watson won’t go down without a fight. The Texans are capable of scoring late to sneak through the back door even if they fall behind by 11 to 16 points. Plus, Kansas City coach Andy Reid’s playoff history isn’t exactly stellar.
— Green Bay (-4) vs. Seattle (6:40 p.m., FOX)
Seattle: No. 8 offense, No. 26 defense, No. 1 schedule, plus-12 turnover margin
Green Bay: No. 18 offense, No. 18 defense, No. 26 schedule, plus-12 turnover margin
If Seattle was fully healthy and both teams had equal rest, this line would definitely sit below a field goal. Green Bay consistently failed to impress through the regular season despite facing a soft schedule. And the positive turnover advantage keyed by the experience of quarterback Aaron Rodgers is canceled out here by similar strengths for Seattle and Russell Wilson.
Sharps are biding their time. That allows more complete information regarding Seattle’s health and the weather at kickoff. Public bettors prone to backing all the fresh home favorites have hit the Packers at -3.5 and -4. We may see very strong sharp interest on the underdogs before kickoff at plus-4 or more if game-day indicators are positive for the Seahawks.
— The case for Green Bay: Seattle faded down the stretch. It closed the regular season 0-3-1 ATS, then could only turn a statistical rout into a 17-9 nail-biter at injury-riddled Philadelphia.
— The case for Seattle: Our stat profile shows the Packers may be playoff pretenders. They might not have ranked in the top 20 on either side of the ball vs. a league-average schedule. Bettors should take more than a field goal vs. likely pretenders.