Eight NFL titans meet this weekend in the Divisional Round. With the Super Bowl only three weeks away, the competition will be brutal.
Last weekend’s Wild Card Round was one of the best in recent memory. We saw the Cowboys comeback win against the Lions, the Ravens win their first-ever playoff game at Pittsburgh, and the Panthers roll against the Cardinals by a score of 27-16.
If you thought that was something, get ready for the Divisional Round! Last week separated the men from the boys. This week will separate the Super Bowl contenders from the pretenders. Enjoy the action, and be sure to bet smart this weekend!
The Panthers will beat the spread—Carolina at Seattle
Considered a major disappointment at the 12-game mark, the Seahawks have made a late surge and are now everyone’s favorite Super Bowl contender again. Online sportsbooks in the US are going gaga over them beating the Panthers, even after Cam Newton’s bunch throttled the Cardinals at home last week.
The Seahawks are picking up steam as they bid for a second-consecutive Super Bowl victory. They have the NFL’s best defense, its best rushing attack, and arguably its most underrated quarterback in Russell Wilson. What’s not to like?
The official line. Bookies have Seattle winning by -10.5, which is on the high side. This game will be played in Seattle, and it’s highly likely that the Seahawks will win, but that spread needs to come down 3-4 points. If it holds at -8 or above, put your money on the Panthers.
The Pack is Super Bowl bound—Cowboys at Packers
The Cowboys proved their mettle last week in overcoming adversity to beat the Lions. They also went
8-0 on the road during the regular season. They should have no trouble going into Lambeau and facing the Packers, right?
Oddsmakers don’t think so; the Pack are favored by -6.5. And they’re right. The Packers were 8-0 at home during the regular season, boast an explosive, balanced offense the Cowboys will have no answer for, and will be playing in the atrocious, gulag-like January conditions of Green Bay.
The Packers were the NFL’s most statistically-balanced team throughout the regular season: 8th in passing offense, 11th in rushing offense, 10th in passing defense, and 23rd in rushing defense. That third number is what really stands out. If Clay Matthews and company can keep Romo from breaking out, the Pack will zip this game up easily.
Green Bay will beat the spread at -6.5, and you would be advised to bet on the Packers to win the Super Bowl. ESPN’s John Clayton has already predicted a Seahawks-Packers NFC Championship game.
The Broncos will win the War of 1812—Colts at Broncos
Payton Manning started at quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts for 13-straight years, making 10 playoff appearances, winning a record four MVP awards, and leading the team to a Super Bowl victory in 2006. Few players have ever done more for a team than Payton Manning did for the Indianapolis Colts.
• Packers over Cowboys – 6.5
• Patriots over Ravens – 7
• Broncos over Colts – 7
Nonetheless, following the 2011 season, Colts owner Jim Irsay decided that the team needed to get younger. They traded the 35-year old Manning to the Broncos, then used the first overall pick to select hotshot Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
That trade has worked out great for both teams; Manning was the AFC MVP last year and Luck is the league’s best young QB, and soon will just its BEST QB overall. This game has been dubbed the “War of 1812,” and is the one everyone will be watching this weekend.
Luck may be the better quarterback, but the Broncos are definitely the better team and will be playing at home—where they were 8-0 during the regular season. They’re favored to win by -7, and it looks like a safe bet that they’ll cover that spread. The Colts need to put more weapons around Luck before they can be called Super Bowl contenders.
Patriots will stomp—Baltimore at New England
Last week the Baltimore Ravens went into Heinz field as the underdog, having never won a playoff game there. To the chagrin of bettors everywhere, the Ravens pulled off a 30-17 upset and now get the chance to face the Patriots, again on the road.
Online gambling sites in America don’t like the Ravens’ chances, favoring the Pats by -7. And it’s hard not to see why. The Patriots were beaten at home only once—in a Week 17 game against the Bills in which they sat several starters, including Tom Brady.
These Patriots are also younger, spryer, and more balanced than previous editions. Theyfinished the regular season 18th in rushing offense and 9th in rushing defense, the best groundwork they’ve done in years.
And Tom Brady is…well…Tom Brady. This game may not be a bloodbath, but it will almost certainly end in a victory for the Pats, and one in which they cover the spread.