Will dogs continue unprecedented run in NFL playoffs?

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

January 11, 2019 11:58 PM
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Nick Foles has eight touchdown passes in the past three games. Behind last year’s Super Bowl MVP, the Eagles are on a four-game win streak.
© USA Today Sports Images

LAS VEGAS — It started a year ago with Nick Foles and dog masks in Philadelphia. The dog show is continuing in the NFL playoffs, but with Foles and the Eagles on the road this time.

An unprecedented postseason run by underdogs — 14-1 against the spread since last year — will be tested in the divisional round this weekend, when the Chiefs, Rams, Patriots and Saints line up as home favorites.

“You will see some ‘dog money,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “All of the ‘dogs have treated the players well and they won’t forget that.”

Three of four underdogs on wild-card weekend advanced. Only the Seahawks, getting 2½ points in a 24-22 loss at Dallas, were sent home to Seattle and kicked out of the party.

All great trends eventually come to an end. Still, beware of the ‘dogs when sizing up the Saturday and Sunday games:

* Colts at Chiefs (-5½): Patrick Mahomes passed for 50 touchdowns and topped 5,000 yards through the air, but he will be opposing a quarterback who’s just as hot.

Andrew Luck, second in the league with 39 touchdown passes in the regular season, has led Indianapolis to a 10-1 record in its past 11 games. Luck just torched the Texans, throwing for 192 of his 222 yards in the first half of a 21-7 win in Houston. Kansas City has the league’s second-worst pass defense. It’s no mystery why the total of 56½ to 57 is the highest on the board, even with cold winds and a possibility of light snow in the forecast.

Luck is 8-3 ATS as a road ‘dog of fewer than seven points since 2015, with one spread loss at Oakland two years ago when he was injured and did not finish the game. Citing that trend, Scott Kellen, a professional bettor and VSiN analyst, said he will play the Colts at 5½ or better. The line has dropped to 5 at several books, including the South Point, instead of ticking up this week.

“The Chiefs have defeated only one playoff team this year by more than three points. That was the Chargers, who they later lost to at home,” Kellen said.

Kenny White, a veteran oddsmaker and Don Best Sports analyst, said he has more respect for the favorite and made the line 7. “I have a 3½-point difference between the teams and a 3½-point home field for K.C.,” White said.

* Cowboys at Rams (-7): Sean McVay was the most popular coach in the league in September, when the Rams went 4-0 straight up and 3-0-1 ATS. But the Rams went 2-7-1 ATS in their next 10 games before closing the regular season with blowout victories over lightweights Arizona and San Francisco. McVay still remains so popular that teams with coaching openings want to clone him or hire his close friends.

“McVay beats up on bad teams but struggles to win by margins against good teams,” said Kellen, who’s taking the points with the Cowboys.

As the coach in L.A., McVay is 3-9-1 ATS versus teams that made the playoffs that season. In those 13 games, the Rams won only twice by more than seven points. The Rams might not be able to bully the Cowboys, who have a stronger defense and can control the clock by riding running back Ezekiel Elliott, who carried 26 times for 137 yards against the Seahawks.

White expects plenty of betting support for the ‘dog, saying, “You can never underestimate the Dallas money. The money on the Cowboys can be overwhelming no matter who they play.”

* Chargers at Patriots (-4): The truth often hurts, and Philip Rivers will get tired of hearing about his 0-7 record against Tom Brady. But it’s also true that Rivers’ most profitable role is as a road ‘dog. Rivers is 21-7 ATS as a road ‘dog of four or more points in his career, including 16-3 since 2012.

Rivers, who completed 22 of 32 passes for 160 yards without a touchdown, was far from phenomenal in the Chargers’ 23-17 win at Baltimore, but he was good enough and avoided mistakes. Playing outside of Los Angeles this season, including a game in London, the Chargers are 9-0. Extending that road streak at New England will be a tough trick.

“I like the Chargers,” Bogdanovich said. “This is the weakest Patriots team in a long time.”

The public bolted to the betting windows to back the Chargers against the Ravens.

“We took a $300,000 bet on Baltimore -3 and we still needed the Ravens for a big decision,” Bogdanovich said. “That’s how much money is floating around out there right now.”

In what shapes up as a two-way action game with a huge handle, New England backers will lean on Bill Belichick’s 45-17-7 ATS record as a home favorite of seven or fewer points since 2003. This line could dip to 3½ by kickoff.

* Eagles at Saints (-8): Behind last year’s Super Bowl MVP, the Eagles are on a four-game win streak (3-0-1 ATS) with road victories over the Bears and Rams. Foles has eight touchdown passes in the past three games.

The perception of the Superdome is that it’s a fortress for New Orleans. And Drew Brees and the Saints were 7-point favorites in a 48-7 annihilation of the Eagles on Nov. 18. In home games this season, Brees has completed 76 percent of his passes with 21 touchdowns and one interception.

Still, Kellen, who played this over the total of 51, pointed to a trend that ‘dog bettors should remember — New Orleans is 2-10 ATS as a home favorite of more than seven points since the middle of the 2014 season.

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