Can betting the underdog or passing on the game work two weeks in a row?
You like that!
Our “dog-or-pass” approach worked perfectly last week in the NFL wild-card round as the two underdogs we liked both pulled outright upsets when Tennessee (+4.5) ran over the defending champion New England 20-13 with running back Derrick Henry. And, Minnesota (+8) ousted highly regarded New Orleans 26-20 behind quarterback Kirk Cousins, who coined (and trademarked) the “You like that!” catch-phrase when he played for Washington.
We passed on the spread in the Buffalo-Houston game, which the Texans won 22-19 in overtime. Underdog bettors either pushed on the Bills (+3) or lost (+2.5). If your best-case scenario is a push, it’s probably a game you should have passed, right?
Fortunately, we were on the Under (43.5) to pick up another win. In the Seattle-Philadelphia game, we should have stuck with our gut reaction on the Seahawks being the better team, but passed as the pick ‘em game looked like a virtual coin-flip. Unfortunately, we went with Over (45.5) in the Seahawks’ 17-9 win, but we’ll take a 3-1 betting record any day.
Hopefully this weekend’s divisional playoff breakdown will be at least equally as successful.
Bar a couple of exceptions, none of the starting quarterbacks heading into the NFL divisional round have much big-game playoff experience. That’s about to change.
Minnesota (+7) at San Francisco
I was going to pass when this line was only +6.5 as it’s rare for an underdog to be getting fewer points against a No. 1 seed off a bye than it got in the wild-card round, but I’ll take Minnesota with the line back up to a full touchdown. But it’s done with some hesitation because I don’t like that the Vikings had to play the late game Sunday and now play the early game Saturday. Plus, the San Francisco defense looks as if it’s going to get Kwon Alexander, Dee Ford and Jaquiski Tartt back. In the final assessment, Cousins and his weapons match up well with Jimmy Garoppolo (making his playoff debut), while the Vikings’ defense is nearly as good as the 49ers’. It’s more likely for this to be a one-score game than the 49ers to win by two scores.
Tennessee (+9.5) at Baltimore
The Titans are again my favorite play of the weekend, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull another outright upset. Coach Mike Vrabel outcoached Bill Belichick with his manipulation of the rules in milking the clock before the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter. But he also outcoached him in other ways. He had Henry (the NFL’s leading rusher) run the ball right at the Patriots and used a smothering, well-prepared defense that shut down Tom Brady. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense is a different matter, but I expect Vrabel to be ready. Jackson, a shoo-in for MVP, has certainly improved his throwing since a season ago, but he’ll have tight windows to throw into against Tennessee. The Titans didn’t need Ryan Tannehill to beat the Patriots, but from what he has shown this season, he can win a duel down the stretch.
Houston (+9.5) at Kansas City
I’m still amazed at how many people are expecting the Chiefs to win in a blowout. It’s reflected in the betting market, as this line opened as low as -7 at Treasure Island in Las Vegas and -7.5 at the Westgate and William Hill. But it has been getting bet steadily higher. They talk about Patrick Mahomes like he can’t possibly lose to the Texans, who they say barely got past the Bills. But the Texans won 31-24 in Kansas City in Week 6 when Deshaun Watson beat the Chiefs with his arm and legs. There’s no reason he can’t do it again. Or at least keep it close.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, an offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs, is the NFL’s only active player who is also a physician. Now he gets to play in the Super Bowl against the 49ers.
Seattle at Green Bay (Over 46)
Similar to the Vikings-49ers game, this line opened a little short for me (-3.5 at several books with some at -4), but hopefully it continues to move higher. The buy sign would be Seahawks +4.5, so it’s still a “lean” at +4. Russell Wilson always gives his team a shot to win, even though he came up short in the loss to the 49ers that sent them on the road in the playoffs. However, that’s not such a negative, as the Seahawks actually performed better on the road this season at 8-1 straight up and 6-2-1 against the spread (ATS) after last week’s win in Philadelphia. Expect Aaron Rodgers to have success against the Seattle defense and for this to be a shootout, so the better bet is Over 46.
Last week: 3-1 (2-0 ATS, 1-1 on Over/Unders).
SEASON: 45-39-3 ATS, 1-1 on Over/Unders.
Dave Tuley writes for VSiN, the sports betting network.
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