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Betting Against the Spread: Best Bets for NFL Divisional Round


NFL Wild Card Weekend proved to be another profitable one for those who have been following along in this space all season. It was a crazy weekend with the home teams for the most part finding ways to lose when they were close to moving on.

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Now we bring in the teams coming off of a bye and the recency effect is going to have a lot of gamblers thinking better of the teams on the road this weekend. One has to remember that this is the second straight road game for all of last weekend’s winners so that has to be a factor in handicapping.

Record: 45-24-2 (3-1 last week)

Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) at New England Patriots (12-4)

Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET (CBS)

The Chiefs had the least issues last weekend and enter this one with a lot of momentum as the win streak hits 11 in a row. Jeremy Maclin’s status is important, as Kansas City doesn’t exactly have a ton of weapons on the offensive side of the ball. The Chiefs have a good system, but we know that New England takes away what you do best. Because of that, you’ve got to think that Travis Kelce will be the Patriots’ main focus on defense. I hate to be the wet blanket, but look at the teams that the Chiefs beat during this win streak and you see a lot of garbage. It did begin with a home victory over Pittsburgh and does feature a road win at Denver, but other then that yuck.

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The week off did great things for New England, which expects to have Julian Edelman, Sebastian Vollmer, Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower all available for this one. This was a team that limped to the finish with four losses in its last six game, but the Patriots weren’t even close to healthy. Tom Brady struggled mightily down the stretch especially after he lost Edelman. With everyone back, this team is a force and a threat. Remember how well the Pats played, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Patriots allow just 339.4 yards per game which is slightly higher then Kansas City’s 323.2.

All of this leads to my favorite pick of the weekend. People are giving the Chiefs a lot of credit and they deserve it. But let’s not overthink this though with New England 17-7 ATS at home over its last 27 games. SELECTION: New England -5 (Pats 28-13)

Green Bay Packers (11-6) at Arizona Cardinals (13-3)

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC)

It’s a rematch of an ugly 38-8 victory by the Cardinals in Arizona back on Dec. 27. Aaron Rodgers struggled terribly that game, as well as the rest of the offense, which managed just 178 yards total. Last weekend the Packers went into Washington, D.C. and beat the Redskins 35-18 in a game that channeled the Rodgers of old. He threw for just 205 yards, but the swagger seemed to be back. He’ll need that against the Cardinals, playing their third straight home game and four of their last five.

The reason I bring this up is because Green Bay has its fourth road game in its last five. The Bills had a similar stretch during the regular season and they ran out of steam by the end of it. When you get down to it, the Packers are still a flawed team. None of their WRs scare you and the run game still isn’t consistent enough to be a factor. Arizona had two weeks to hear about its 36-6 loss at home to Seattle so you know the Cardinals will be ready to rock. This is a group before that game that scored 128 points over a four-game span. Carson Palmer is rolling and he has a ton of weapons at his disposal. Rookie running back David Johnson is the biggest revelation and he makes it harder to defend Arizona, which also has three top-notch WRs. The Cardinals are 25-12 ATS the last three years against conference opponents. SELECTION: Under 50 (Cardinals 28-13)

Seattle Seahawks (11-6) at Carolina Panthers (15-1)

Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET (FOX)

Rematch No. 2 this weekend, as Carolina won in Seattle back in October a 27-23 contest that was 10-7 Seahawks at halftime. There are a couple of things to consider in this one. First, it’s another early kickoff for the visitors from the West Coast. Second, it’s the team’s third straight road game, going from Arizona to Minnesota and now Carolina. Third, the Seahawks’ defense is a lot better now than in October.

The numbers are fantastic for Carolina’s offense, but the Panthers are coming off a bye so who knows how good the timing will be? I’ll say this; they won’t get the 38 points that they’ve had in three of their last four. Seattle’s offense struggled in the cold in Minnesota, but the run game was without Marshawn Lynch. We still don’t know his status, but even if Lynch is able to return the Seahawks figure to struggle to get much going on the ground against the Panthers’ stout defense. Seattle has gone under in 25 of its last 41 games against conference opponents. SELECTION: Under 44 (Carolina 23-20)

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-6) at Denver Broncos (12-4)

Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET (CBS)

Injuries may make this summary relatively useless, especially since most books have not released totals. Antiono Brown has already been ruled out because of a concussion, while DeAngelo Williams and Ben Roethlisberger are questionable. That’s pretty much the Steelers’ offense. Williams doesn’t look good to play and Big Ben may not be able to throw the ball past 10-15 yards due to his shoulder injury.

Pittsburgh won the first game between the two at home back on Dec. 20 34-27. This is actually the Steelers’ fourth straight game away from home and fifth in their last six. Part of me almost thinks that they will pack it in and get blown out in this one especially playing in the thin air of the Mile High City. There is a small contrarian part of me that likes the Steelers, especially if the line gets a lot higher. If we lose the big three, this line could go up to 10 I bet.

It’s not like the Broncos are blowing anyone out. They beat the Chargers by seven in Week 17 after a three-point home win over the Bengals. Bottom line, right now at 7, I like Denver, but that’s also assuming Brown and Williams are out. This one could be an under as well. SELECTION: Nothing official due to injuries.

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.