It's Divisional Playoff weekend and this Saturday's games are huge stories, but even better, they're huge Pro Football betting events. Let's take a look at both matchups.
SAN FRANCISCO +3.5 over New Orleans
I know, I know, I know. Everyone loves the team from the Big Easy, but there’s a lot to like about the home dogs in this game. For those that have been betting this season, both sides have been bosses against the betting line. San Francisco totes a strong 12-3-1 ATS record this season, while New Orleans has gone an equally impressive 13-4 ATS after demolishing the Lions (thanks a lot, refs).
Despite San Francisco’s almost unreal showing this year, the betting trends lean heavily in favor of New Orleans and for very good reason. Not only are they an unreal 8-0 ATS against the NFC this season, they’re also 8-0 ATS in their last eight games when posting as the favorite.
That’s why the betting line has been inching away from the home team, which is odd because nobody travels to the west coast and plays that well. Remember Drew Brees and the defending champion Saints getting upended by Beast Mode and the unlikely Seahawks?
Ok, ok. That’s not enough to go on. For you nerds, the numbers are actually pretty even for the Niners as well. They’re 3-0-1 ATS in their last 4 games at home when listed as the underdog and a polished 10-2-1 ATS in their last 13 NFC matchups.
I bring this up because the Niners are not the sexy team that the Saints are. You take Drew Brees over Alex Smith any day of the century. This is Jim Harbaugh’s first professional appearance in the playoffs, and Sean Payton won a Super Bowl two years ago. The Niners’ defense is predicated on stopping the run, which is actually how New Orleans sets up their high flying offense. Don’t expect San Francisco to miss the tackles that Detroit did, and that will limit what the Saints can do offensively.
Keep in mind that when these two teams met during New Orleans’ Super Bowl campaign in 2010, the floundering Niners lost 25-22 at Candlestick. If the Niners know how to do anything, it’s win a dogfight, especially at home. They went 7-1 SU at home this season, winning in double digits every single time and losing to Dallas in Week 2 by a field goal in overtime.
San Francisco is not a sexy bet by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re the smart one. I don’t like when teams travel west all that much, and the Niners’ dominance at home this season, plus their unsung performance when hosting as dogs, should be the kicker you need to bank on Alex Smith.
NEW ENGLAND -13.5 over Denver Broncos
Please don’t overthink this too much. Denver barely got past the Steelers who were playing their b-team on defense due to injuries, while Ben Roethlisberger was literally a stiff shell of himself. Even then, they needed everything to go right for them.
That won’t happen in the scathing cold of Foxboro. The Patriots are a hot 11-5 ATS against AFC opponents and know that the key to beating Denver is very simple: build a lead early and don’t let up. That’s what happened in their 41-23 beatdown of Denver and that’s what’s going to happen again.
Denver lost a major passing weapon in Eric Decker and while Demaryius Thomas showed flashes of what made him a deserving first round pick (over Tebow no less), he’s not the one man army that you need to beat New England. The best defense in this game is a great offense, and the Patriots have that in spades.
I don’t hate Tim Tebow. I don’t think Josh McDaniels will offer that much sage advice on a player he never started while in Denver. What you should do is simple: you’re already leaning towards New England. Enjoy the hype around Tebow, just don’t get yanked in like the rest of the suckers.