Will ‘dogs still bite?

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Last week’s Wild Card round was a bonanza for underdog and Under bettors as they cashed seven of eight tickets. Some may have pushed by backing the Bills over the Texans as Buffalo was a 3-point underdog early in the week prior to Saturday’s 22-19 overtime loss in Houston. For much of the latter part of the week the line was a pretty solid 2.5.

For a second straight season, all four Wild Card games stayed Under the total as no team scored more than 22 points in regulation play. The highest scoring team of the weekend was Minnesota, whose overtime touchdown caused New Orleans to suffer a bitter, tough playoff exit for a third straight season, losing 26-20.

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You may want to keep in mind for next season that underdogs are now 11-1 ATS (or 10-1-1) over the past three seasons in the Wild Card round.

And Totals players take note that Wild Card games have gone 8-0 to the Under the past two seasons and an impressive 16-4 to the Under over the past four seasons.

Considering these extreme results for both sides and totals we might expect initial action in next season’s Wild Card games to be toward the underdogs and the unders, perhaps setting up middle opportunities later in the week as the lines continue to move in the direction the recent trends.

Now on to the Divisional Playoffs. The top two teams in both conferences see their first playoff action following Byes last week. San Francisco, Baltimore, Kansas City and Green Bay will be rested as they face teams that are playing for between a seventh and ninth consecutive week.

Here are previews of the four games.

Saturday

Vikings +7 at 49ers: Minnesota pulled the weekend’s biggest upset and eliminated New Orleans for the second time in three seasons while San Francisco is in the playoffs for the first time since 2013. 

Both teams have strong running games. Minnesota has a solid defense but San Francisco’s is outstanding, especially against the pass in which the 49ers allowed a league best in both yards per game (169) and yards per completion (9.66). But the Niners are just average in rush defense. Minny veteran QB Kirk Cousins finally won a ‘big game’ last week while 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo makes his first career start in the postseason. 

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook looked 100 percent last week after either missing games entirely or playing sparingly over the prior two months. He is the key to the Vikings offense.

Minnesota’s lone win over a playoff team was last week so to expect a second straight outright upset is a stretch. Yet the stats and matchups suggest this is a competitive game. VIKINGS  

Titans +9.5 at Ravens: Tennessee eliminated the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots with a 20-13 road win behind the strength of RB Derrick Henry’s 204 yards of total offense and a defense that played one of its best games this season. 

Perhaps the most amazing stat of the season is the Ravens are averaging over 200 rushing yards per game (206). Both offenses excel at avoiding turnovers. 

After a rough first month Baltimore’s defense was among the NFL’s best as the Ravens won their final 12 games, allowing no more than 23 points in any of those wins. The Ravens led the NFL with 37 rushing attempts per game, nearly a third of those by QB Lamar Jackson. Tennessee was 10th with 28 per game with Henry having just over half of them. 

Eight of Baltimore’s last 10 wins have been by 14 points or more. Since taking over as starter QB Ryan Tannehill has been one of the best in the league, but not as good as Jackson, the likely MVP. Ravens coach John Harbaugh is 11-2 SU, 9-4 ATS following a Bye. RAVENS

Sunday

Texans +9.5 at Chiefs: Houston showed character and resolve in overcoming a 16-0 deficit to rally and defeat Buffalo 22-19 in OT to cover as 2.5-point home favorites. QB DeShaun Watson was the star of the comeback. 

The Texans will seek to show their 31-24 Week 6 win (closing as 3.5- point road underdogs) over the Chiefs was no fluke. It certainly was not as the Texans had 40 minutes of possession, 35 first downs and gained 472 yards despite being minus-1 in turnovers. 

The Chiefs had some key defensive injuries as the line opened 7.5.  KC QB Patrick Mahomes played the full game (was injured in their next game vs Denver). 

KC coach Andy Reid is well known for his excellence following a Bye. Much of that success was with Philadelphia. Coaching the Chiefs since 2013 Reid is 6-3 SU but just 5-4 ATS including 1-1 in the playoffs. Under coach Bill O’Brien the Texans were shut out at home by KC in the 2015 playoffs 30-0 (as 3-point home underdogs). TEXANS

Seahawks +4 at Packers: Seattle defeated Philadelphia by the same 17-9 score by which they defeated the Eagles earlier this season. That makes the Seahawks 8-1 SU on the road. Thirteen of their 17 games have been decided by eight points or less with five decided by four or less or in OT. 

Green Bay was a very quiet 13-3 and had a positive points margin of just under 4.0 points per game. 

The QB contrast is intriguing with Green Bay’s classical Aaron Rodgers vs. Seattle’s all-purpose modern-style Russell Wilson. Injuries give Green Bay a significant RB edge with Aaron Jones (with all due respect to Seattle’s lightly tested Marshawn Lynch). 

It’s also worth noting since 2012 the home team in Packers-Seahawks games is 13-1 SU, 9-2-3 ATS since 2006, including eight straight wins dating back to 2009. PACKERS

Last week: 2-1-1

Season: 51-52-3

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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