Tuley's Takes on divisional round

Super Wild-Card Weekend was pretty super for us here in the Tuley’s Takes home office, but it could have been better — especially since we had Ohio State and the Under in the CFP title game, so the less said about that, the better.

Back to the NFL. Underdogs went 4-2 ATS in the six wild-card games, which is always good for me and my followers, and it showed. My best bets went 2-1 with the Bears-Saints Under 47 being an easy winner to go with splitting my top ATS plays on Washington + 8.5 (winner!) and Tennessee + 3.5 (loser).

Washington’s 31-23 loss to the Buccaneers on Saturday was our best result, as we also recommended teasing the Bucs down to -2.5 and hit the middle to score with teasers tied to the Bills and Titans. The bad news was the Steelers’ 48-37 loss to the Browns killed a couple of teaser tickets and spoiled my chances in all my playoff contest pools — especially as I also used the Seahawks and Titans in the vast majority of them.

We see no reason not to stick with the underdogs in the divisional playoff round. As we’ve written before, dogs went 137-111-3 ATS (55.2%) during the regular season with five games closing pick-’em. That’s second only to the 57% in 2006. Another reason to like the dogs this week is they’re all on the road, and we continue to see that home-field advantage has been nonexistent this year. Home teams were only 127-125-1 SU and exactly .500 at 125-125-3 ATS with three neutral-site games. Road teams were also 4-2 SU and ATS in the wild-card round.

Now let’s go over this weekend’s schedule.

 

Rams at Packers (-6.5/-7)

The Packers come in off their bye as the NFC’s No. 1 seed. This game opened Packers -7, as it appears the oddsmakers penciled in a few points for home-field advantage at Lambeau Field in January. Early bettors seemed to agree with our assessment that this was shaded a little too high as it was bet down to 6.5 at most books in Nevada and at legal and illegal books across the country and offshore. Some books have held the line at 7, though all of those require more juice — usually -120 — to get the + 7. The Rams went into Seattle and won 30-20 and can do the same in Green Bay, or at least stay within the number. The key is the Rams’ defense, led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, which allows just 18.6 points per game. I don’t expect them to completely shut down Aaron Rodgers & Co. but just keep them within striking distance. The bigger concern is the Rams’ offense, though it still scored 30 on Seattle last week after John Wolford had to be replaced by Jared Goff. If you missed the earlier + 7, we’re hoping the public bets the popular Packers back to a full touchdown before game time. Best Bet: Rams + 6.5 or, preferably, + 7.

 

Ravens at Bills (-2)

It’s no surprise that this is the lowest spread in this round. It’s a toss-up, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it went off at pick-’em after opening as high as Bills -3 and -2.5 at other books. I’ve gone back and forth on this game, as I really do like how the Bills are playing and this could very well come down to a field goal. While I think there’s a little value on the Ravens plus any points, I can’t pull the trigger with the number so short. Instead, teasing the Ravens up to + 8 is the best way to play this game. We don’t have as many clear-cut teaser plays this week. Even though I like the Rams in the first game, I wouldn’t talk anyone out of a Packers -1/Ravens + 8 teaser, though I’ll also use Ravens + 8 with the Buccaneers + 9 or better. If looking for a total to use in this game, I went with Over 50 on the VSiN NFL Consensus page (which I like even if it snows, as long as it’s not too windy) but would feel more comfortable teasing Ravens + 8/Over 44. Best Bet: Pass, except for Ravens in teasers.

 

Browns at Chiefs (-10)

This is my favorite game of the weekend with the Browns getting too many points and a total that seems to be set too high. (Warning: We felt the same way about Ohio State and the Under against Alabama.) The Browns ran over the Steelers, but that’s not why I like them so much here as they benefited from Maurkice Pouncey snapping the ball over Ben Roethlisberger’s head on the first play from scrimmage and four interceptions from Big Ben. No, the reason I like the Browns so much is that the Chiefs — as great as they are — continue to play close games and are 0-7-1 ATS in their last eight games despite winning them all straight up. The push was in their 32-29 Week 15 win at New Orleans. There’s no reason the Browns shouldn’t be able to cover this huge number, especially if the Chiefs get off to their characteristically slow start. (I also really love the Browns + 6.5 in the first half and wouldn’t be surprised if that line gets to + 7 by the weekend.) As mentioned earlier, I also love Under 56. This looks more like a 27-24 game or something in that neighborhood. Besides, the Browns will be trying to keep the ball away from Patrick Mahomes by running the clock with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and tossing them short passes out of the backfield. Best Bet: Browns + 10, plus Under 56 (either separate or parlayed).

 

Buccaneers at Saints (-3)

This is being billed as the marquee game of the weekend with Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees, but my initial thought is that the Saints have shown themselves to be the superior team with a 34-23 win here in the Superdome in Week 1 and then really routing the Bucs 38-3 in Tampa Bay on Nov. 8. I’m sure you’ll be hearing the myth that “it’s hard for a team to beat another team three times in a season,” but 67% of the time, the winner of the two previous meetings pulls off the sweep. The offenses are pretty equal, but the Saints have the edge on defense, so I can’t pull the trigger on the Bucs plus just a field goal. I might actually pass on this game altogether if I have live teaser tickets to the Buccaneers + 9. Best Bet: Pass, except for Bucs as last leg of teasers.

 

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