The NFL’s divisional playoffs were just about as wild as the wild-card round, but we weren’t as happy with the results here in the Tuley’s Takes home office. We went 2-2 and dropped to a still-respectable 5-3 (62.5%) in the playoffs (3-2 ATS and 2-1 on totals).
I was glad that I stressed that the Titans were my Best Bet of the weekend, as they upset the Ravens 28-12 on Saturday night. I also was happy to end Sunday with the Over 46 in the Packers’ 28-23 win over the Seahawks.
The early Saturday and Sunday games didn’t treat us as well. I certainly felt I was on the right side with the Texans + 9.5 (with + 10 available before game time) when they went up 24-0 over the Chiefs. But we all saw what happened with their historic collapse, not even covering in the 51-31 loss.
However, I can actually live with that loss more than my play on the Vikings + 7 in their 27-10 loss to the 49ers. Last week, besides expressing my reservations here in PSW, I went on VSiN’s “Opening Lines Show” and “Betting Across America” and said I thought the line was too short to take the Vikings when it was + 6.5. If this had been the regular season, I’m pretty sure I would have passed even after the line went to 7. So I’m disappointed I didn’t have the discipline to pass even though it’s the playoffs (hey, we all have a degenerate devil whispering in our ears, right?). At least there’s a lesson there, and we’ll be putting that to use this weekend.
So let’s look at the conference championship games. Lines are from VSiN’s host hotel at the South Point as of Tuesday afternoon unless otherwise noted (especially for line-shopping purposes).
Takes on AFC, NFC title games
Titans (O/U 52) at Chiefs (-7.5)
Tuley’s Take: The Titans have been my Best Bet two weeks in a row, and I’m sure it doesn’t surprise anyone that I’m riding them and Derrick Henry again. After they disposed of the defending champion Patriots and the No. 1-seeded Ravens, I see no reason they can’t do the same to the Chiefs, whom they beat 35-32 on Nov. 10 when Henry ran for 188 yards and two touchdowns while Ryan Tannehill passed for 181 yards (more than he’s had to pass for in the two playoff wins combined) and two TDs. I know last week I also cited the Texans’ regular-season win over the Chiefs, but I trust the Titans’ defense much more. In fact, while everyone is talking about Henry, I think the Tennessee defense isn’t getting the credit it deserves for holding the Patriots to 13 points and the Ravens to 12. I don’t expect the Chiefs to be held below 20, but I’ve seen enough from both teams recently to think this will be lower-scoring than the first meeting, with the Titans having a chance to pull the outright upset again. I haven’t seen anything to make me think the Chiefs can shut down Henry, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Mike Vrabel open up the offense more with Tannehill off play-action. I’ve said the last two weeks how impressed I’ve been with the coverage by the Titans’ secondary and linebackers, as Vrabel has really put his stamp on the defense. Obviously, the Chiefs are faster than the other opponents and Patrick Mahomes can throw into tiny windows, but expect some wrinkles from Vrabel too. While I’m dying to bet the Titans again, all those who cashed on the Chiefs last week have the same mind-set, so I expect this line to continue to climb when we get to the weekend. So if you’re with me on the underdog Titans, wait for the line to peak. Best Bet: Titans + 7.5 but waiting for best number.
Packers (O/U 45) at 49ers (-7.5)
Tuley’s Take: I’m sure most longtime readers assume I’ll be on the Packers, and it is tempting getting Aaron Rodgers + 7.5 as the line has ticked up from the opener of 7. However, I’m using the lesson this week and still passing on Green Bay. Similar to last week the Vikings, whom I’ve felt all season were pretty much the mirror image of the Packers and power-rated about the same, I think this line is short. I fear we’ll see a similar result to last week, when the 49ers played a complete game and dominated the Vikings 27-10, similar to the 37-8 beating the 49ers gave the Packers when they visited Nov. 24. The Packers will probably close the gap, but I’m not sure they can keep within one score, especially as well as San Francisco QB Jimmy Garoppolo plays at home. The defense also steps up at home, allowing just 18.8 points and 253.4 yards, and has gotten healthier. Instead, I’m going Over 45 points as the better bet, since I expect both offenses to have success and the 49ers to win comfortably. If you’re reading between the lines, you can probably tell I’d love a 6-point teaser on the 49ers -1.5/Over 39. I also wouldn’t talk anyone out of what’s sure to be the very popular Chiefs -1.5/49ers -1.5 teaser, though I’d recommend passing on the “advantage” teaser and going with Titans + 13.5/49ers -1.5. But obviously there’s plenty of room for both to cash. Best Bet: Over 45.