The wild card round of the NFL playoffs went as planned as all four home teams won and covered. As a matter of fact, all four favorites won and covered rather easily. The divisional round will likely be a little more difficult to handicap as we have a number of tight spreads on the board. Typically, home-field advantage and the bye week play a significant role this week but we’ll see if rest trumps rhythm this weekend.
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons
Odds: Falcons -4.5
The Seahawks rolled to a 26-6 win over Detroit at home, but now they head on the road to Atlanta where the Falcons were 5-3 SU this season. The Falcons were second in total offense this season, and they were balanced, ranking third through the air and fifth on the ground. Seattle’s pass defense has struggled since Earl Thomas got hurt, and MVP favorite Matt Ryan will definitely test them. The Falcons are 3-2 SU and 2-3 ATS in their last five against the Seahawks, who beat the Falcons 26-24 in Seattle in Week 6, a game in which the absent Thomas intercepted Ryan late.
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots
Odds: Patriots -16
The Texans beat Oakland 27-14 in Houston last week, but they still come into this trip to New England as the biggest playoff underdogs since 1998. The Patriots led the league in point differential by a wide margin, and if Tom Brady had played the entire season, he’d probably be the MVP favorite.
As for the Texans, they enter with the league’s No. 1 ranked overall defense but it’s a bit misleading. They were 11th in points allowed and they played in the AFC South, which is one of the weakest divisions in football. There were just 2-4 against teams with a winning record.
The Patriots are 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS in their last five against the Texans, and they blew out Houston 27-0 at home in Week 3 without Brady. That’s a scary thought. The Houston defense will be under huge pressure to keep New England’s high-powered offense quiet because Brock Osweiler, who was fine against Oakland, could struggle badly against the Patriots. By almost every metric, he’s the worst starting quarterback of any of the eight remaining teams.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Odds: Chiefs -2
The Steelers defeated Miami 30-12 at home on the back of a big game from Le’Veon Bell, but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. There are questions about assistant coach Joey Porter getting arrested after the game and Ben Roethlisberger was seen in a walking boot. On top of that, they’ll have to go on the road to face a team as fired up for revenge as much as they were fired up to face a Miami team that crushed them earlier in the year.
The Chiefs’ defense was actually 24th in yards allowed, but they were seventh in points allowed and tied for first in turnover differential at +16. The Chiefs are at home in this contest and have had a week off to prepare, but this is the exact type of matchup that has had people skeptical of this team. If the Steelers move the ball well and don’t turn the ball over, can Kansas City keep up? We know that they can beat the weak teams and they’ll rack up wins against teams that beat themselves, but the Chiefs were smoked 43-14 at Pittsburgh in Week 4 when they played a sloppy game. Furthermore, the Chiefs lost at home to Tampa Bay and Tennessee down the stretch, so there is concern that they are vulnerable.
The Steelers are 4-1 SU and 2-3 ATS in their last five against the Chiefs, including the aforementioned 43-14 thrashing in Pittsburgh in Week 4 as Roethlisberger threw five touchdowns.
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys
Odds: Cowboys -4
The Packers pounded the New York Giants 38-13 and scored on another Hail Mary as Aaron Rodgers continues his red-hot play over the last two months. Green Bay has now won seven straight games and Rodgers has 19 touchdowns and no interceptions in that span.
The Cowboys are led by a pair of rookies in the offensive backfield in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, but defensively Dallas is 26th against the pass and that should have Rodgers licking his chops for this matchup. The Cowboys will have to ride their running game and ball-control offense to keep Rodgers on the sidelines. The Packers defense is banged up but that’s mostly in the secondary. They’re ranked eighth overall in stopping the run and the Cowboys have to win this matchup if they’re to advance.
The Packers are 4-1 SU and 2-3 ATS in their last five against the Cowboys, who beat the Packers 30-16 in Dallas in Week 6; it was the Cowboys’ first win over the Packers in six meetings.