2017 NFL Divisional Playoff Week
How much of an advantage does a rested team with home-field advantage have in the playoffs?
Turns out, it’s a huge advantage.
Over the past five seasons, rested home team in the divisional playoff games have posted 16 wins and 4 losses straight up (80 percent). Since 1990, teams in this situation are 73-27 (73 percent). This number is 16 percent higher than in the regular season.
This decisive home-field/rested team advantage is reflected in this week’s lines, especially in the AFC where New England is laying -13.5 to Tennessee and Pittsburgh is laying -7/-7.5 to Jacksonville. The NFC matchups are far less certain, as Minnesota is favored by 5 and Philadelphia is a home dog (+2.5/+3).
The moneyline prices are probably more reflective of the 80 percent win rate for these teams. New England is -1000 and Pittsburgh is -340. Minnesota is a far more reasonable -230 in their matchup against New Orleans. You can also get Philadelphia at plus money, as high as +135.
Caution is advised when it comes to jumping on the four teams that played last week, no matter how impressive they looked.
That said, I’m defying the history and the numbers on one game and going with the strong home field odds in another. On two games, I made two wagers. I also posted leans in all four games.
2017 NFL REGULAR SEASON RESULTS
STARTING BANKROLL: $10,000.
CURRENT BALANCE: $11,830. (+$1,830.)
OVERALL W-L RECORD: 57 wins / 45 loses / 3 pushes
Week #1 — 3 wins, 4 losses = net -$250
Week #2 — 1 win, 0 losses = net +$350
Week #3 — 7 wins, 2 losses = net +$1,070
Week #4 — 1 win, 1 loss = net -$20
Week #5 — 7 wins, 3 losses = net +$740
Week #6 — 2 wins, 2 losses = net -$40
Week #7 — 3 wins, 4 losses, 1 push = net -$280
Week #8 — 4 wins, 2 losses = net +$360
Week #9 — 2 wins, 2 losses = net -$270
Week #10 — 9 wins, 6 losses = net +$480
Week #11 — 3 wins, 4 losses = net -$280
Week #12 — 2 wins, 4 losses = net -$480
Week #13 — 4 wins, 2 losses = net +$360
Week #14 — 4 wins, 4 losses = net -80
Week #15 — 2 wins, 2 losses, 1 push = net +$60
Week #16 — 2 wins, 3 losses = net -$370
Week #17 — 1 win, 0 losses = net +$300
Wild Card Week — 1 win, 1 loss = net -$30
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: Last week, I posted 1 win and 1 loss — for a net loss of -$30 (the vig). This puts me at +12 games over .500. I also went a perfect 6-0 in my “leans” which were posted at the end of the report. That and $4.85 will get you a Cafe Latte at Starbucks.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS: On to this week’s games (lines current as of Saturday morning). I made TWO wagers, but also posted each of my leans:
Atlanta -2.5 (-120) vs. Philadelphia (Risking $360 to win $300)
This seems to be a sharp versus square divide. Many serious handicappers are on Philadelphia, which is home underdog entirely based on concerns about the (backup) quarterback position. Never before has a top seed been a dog in the first round of the playoffs. I think the dog status is well justified here, not so much because the Eagles offense is a question mark. Rather, I’ve become convinced Atlanta is a team on a mission, determined to return to the Super Bowl. Like last week’s match up against the Rams, which Atlanta dominated both offensively and defensively, here are two teams with disparate playoff/big game experience. The Falcons are loaded with veterans who have been in this situation before. Not so with Philadelphia, and certainly not the case with backup QB Nick Foles who has made one playoff start in his career. I noted earlier the sharps were mostly on the home Eagles, so my pick here would seem to be a contradiction. This is a rare situation where the think the betting public is correct. Keep it simple. Atlanta has played excellent football in the second half of the season, going 7-2, with the only two losses versus New Orleans and Carolina — no shame there. While the offense can’t possibly match last season’s explosive numbers, the defense looks to be better. Falcons smothered the Rams in wild card game, arguably the best offense in the NFL. Take a look at the points allowed by Atlanta down the stretch — just 13 to LAR, 10 to CAR, 23 to NOR, 17 to NOR, and 14 to MIN (Note: Falcons have played 7 straight UNDERs). Atlanta is certainly capable of making things difficult for a backup quarterback who has looked AWFUL in his last two games (he didn’t play much in Week #17). We also saw WR Julio Jones take over last week’s game. He looks to be peaking at just the right time. For the Falcons to win, Jones will have to be a factor and I think he rises to the occasion. Yes, the Eagles will be rested and there’s legitimate concern about the home advantage in divisional playoff weekend (80 percent home wins over the past five seasons). However, since -2.5 (juiced to -120) is widely available, I’m willing to wager that Atlanta’s roll will continue, at least for another week until they likely meet Minnesota in the rematch. Betting ATL -2.5.
Minnesota (-230 Moneyline) vs. New Orleans (Risking $460 to win $200)
The tipping point for me betting on the favored Vikings is/was New Orleans’ inability to run the ball effectively last week versus Carolina. That was an alarm bell. The Saints rolled into the playoffs with one of their most balanced teams in years (i.e., they didn’t have to rely on Drew Brees’ arm to win every game). However, the Panthers shut down the Saints rushing attack and forced them to throw. That’s a bad omen since New Orleans was at home and now must go on the road and step up in class against an even better defense. I don’t think the Saints will be able to run in this game (no opponent does in Minnesota). That will force Drew Brees to be the game breaker. Trouble is, Saints have struggled on the road against stiff competition this season and historically, already losing once at MIN, and to LAR and ATL. In fact, Saints are on a three-game road slide. Minnesota is showing themselves to be the class of the league, right behind the Patriots in terms of being able to dominate an opponent. I think a well-coached, rested team with an outstanding defense is the perfect formula for winning playoff games, and so I’m going to lay the chalk on the moneyline and expect the Vikings to get the home win. Vikings are 7-1 at home this season and do enjoy a decided home field advantage. Minnesota +5 might seem the lower risk at -110, but I do have some concern New Orleans keeps this close — the reason why I didn’t lay the points. Certainly, with Drew Brees on the field the Saints are always in the game and capable of a cover — watch the backdoor, the Saints are good late in games. Minnesota enjoys just about every situational advantage in this game other than at the quarterback position. Rested. Home field. History. The Vikings get my money today to advance and host the NFC Championship game versus Atlanta.
OTHER GAMES AND THOUGHTS:
JAX / PIT
Steelers are probably the right side laying -7 (no way you can lay -7.5 here). Cold weather (temps in the teens) would seem to favor the home team versus the opponent from Florida. However, if cold does slow down the offenses, that could help Jacksonville which wants to make this game into a low-scoring street fight. All eyes are on Blake Bortles for this game, who played horrendously in the ugly win versus Buffalo last week. I have a sneaky suspicion Bortles will rebound here. Then again, he couldn’t play any worse. Rare to see starting veteran NFL QBs put together terrible performances back to back. I’m also wary to how the Jaguars dominated Pittsburgh earlier this season in a game where Ben Rothlesberger tossed five interceptions and had one of the worst games of his career. If we believe in the Jaguars defense (and I don’t know how you can’t believe in them at this point — holding 8 opponents under 10 points this season), then this game could certainly be an upset. I see too many contradictions in this match up to play any side with confidence.
TEN / NWE
I’m tempted to lay -13.5 here, but as a rule don’t play heavy chalk. Deal me in if this line was -12.5. The mismatch looks obvious, especially considering how ill-prepared the Titans looked in the first half of last week’s Kansas City game, where they fell behind 21-3. If New England gets up by double digits, it’s all over. This team won’t crumble like the Chiefs. In fact, once the game reaches two scores, I think the Titans likely give up and the score gets completely out of hand. What keeps me off the favorite is my reluctance to lay lots of points, especially in games where weather could be a factor. You also have to appreciate the line play from the Titans last week, which steamrolled over the Chiefs, especially in the running game. It Titans can move the ball on the ground at all, this could be a closer game than the point spread suggests.
SIDE LEANS: ATL -2.5; MIN-5; JAX +7 (get +7.5 if you bet this); NWE -13.5
TOTAL LEANS: ATL/PHI OVER 40; TEN/NWE UNDER 48; JAX/PIT UNDER 41; NOR/MIN OVER 46.5
FIRST-HALF LEANS: ATL -1.5; NWE -7; JAX +4.5; MIN -3