NFL Betting, DFS Angles for Every Divisional Round Game

NFL Betting, DFS Angles for Every Divisional Round Game article feature image

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It must be kind of disappointing to be a Titans fan. You begin the season with 20-1 odds to win the Super Bowl. Not bad, right? You make it all this way to the divisional round. On the right track, right?

Somehow, the Titans’ Super Bowl odds have dropped to 80-1. I guess the moral of the story is: Don’t be a Titans fan. Either that, or don’t play the Patriots in the playoffs.

Speaking about a rough change in odds, one of eight teams remaining has had a 99.7 percent chance of winning a Super Bowl within the past year, or approximately -33233 odds. One would imagine they got that Super Bowl. Wrong again. It’s not all doom and gloom for the Falcons, though, as they’re the first six seed to ever be favored over a one seed. Do they give out rings for that? No? Moving on …

Let’s take a deeper look at the lines, trends, weather, metrics, matchups, and all the rest of the hubbub that will impact the four NFL playoff games this weekend. – Mark Gallant

All info is as of Sunday morning. For live spreads and bet percentages, check out this page. Follow the latest injury info on our industry-leading news feed.


Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET | CBS

Betting market: The Steelers are getting the majority of both the tickets and the money (see chart below),  but on Sunday morning, the line at sharper books like Pinnacle and moved from -7 to -6.5. It stayed there for about an hour before ticking back up to -7. One potential reason for the move could be the health of Steelers WR Antonio Brown. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Sunday morning that Brown’s calf injury is still far from 100 percent. — Scott T. Miller

Did you know? The disparity in postseason experience between Blake Bortles and Ben Roethlisberger is incredible. Bortles has thrown for 87 career yards in the playoffs; Roethlisberger has thrown for 4,787, exactly 4,700 more. Bortles has attempted 23 playoff passes; Roethlisberger has started 20 playoff games.

Overall this season, Bortles has been dreadful on the road (55.6 percent, 6 TDs, 8 INTs, 69.4 QB rating) — and that includes games against the Browns, Colts, and Jets. — Stuckey

Injury watch: Brown (calf) practiced in full all week, but Schefter’s report makes you wonder just how much he’ll play. The defense is another story. CB Artie Burns injured his knee during practice Wednesday, and DT Stephon Tuitt (elbow) was seen wearing a sling at the practice facility Tuesday. The Jaguars expect to have the league’s best defense in DVOA fully ready to go, as each of LB Telvin Smith (ankle), LB Paul Posluszny (hip), and SCB Aaron Colvin (illness) were able to return to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday’s session. — Ian Hartitz

Sneaky storylines: The Steelers allowed 4.4 yards per rush this season (27th in the NFL), but they’ve actually been even worse ever since LB Ryan Shazier’s neck injury. Pittsburgh played nearly almost all of its final five games of the season without Shazier, and they allowed 5.3 yards per carry during that span. To put that in perspective, no team allowed more than 4.9 yards per rush this season. If the Jags have any shot on Sunday, they need to exploit this weakness.

Meanwhile, with the Steelers offense, keep an eye on how they use their tight ends and running back Le’Veon Bell in the passing game. The Jaguars’ pass defense is as good as advertised, but they are vulnerable against TEs (20th in Football Outsiders’ metrics) and RBs (15th) — Stuckey

Did you know? Roethlisberger hasn’t lost a playoff game played in freezing temperatures since the 2005 AFC Championship Game. He’s 6-0 straight up and against the spread in this spot since then. The forecast calls for 21-degree temps at kickoff. — Evan Abrams

Trend to know: While we’re discussing the weather, it’s a good time to remind you that cold weather does not impact scoring. In all games played since 2003, the over is 101-80-4 (55.8 percent) when the temperature is 32 degrees or colder and the total is 44 points or less. — John Ewing

What the metrics say: Pittsburgh’s red zone defense was miserable all season, ranking 28th overall in percentage of TDs allowed (61.5 percent). The Jags, somewhat surprisingly, have the second-best red zone offense in the league, scoring a TD on 64.7 percent of drives. — Stuckey

Which way are you leaning, Stuckey? I played the Steelers -7. The Steelers’ elite O-line (No. 1 in adjusted sack rate) can neutralize the Jaguars’ ferocious pass-rush. Le’Veon Bell should have a field day against a Jacksonville’s 26th-ranked rush defense in DVOA. Mike Tomlin will have his team ready after an embarrassing home loss to Jacksonville earlier in the season. — Stuckey


Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET | FOX

Betting market: This game provides a fantastic example as to why bettors need access to both ticket and money percentages when diagnosing line movement. Take a look at the chart below. Nearly two-thirds of the tickets are on New Orleans, while the majority of the money is on Minnesota. That’s why the line jumped from Vikings -3.5 to -5.5. As always, follow the money. — PJ Walsh

What the metrics say, Pt. 1: This contest will come down to third-down conversions on both sides of the ball. Minnesota ranks No. 1 (by a mile) in third-down defense (25.3 percent), while New Orleans’ offense surprisingly struggles (20th overall, 37.1 percent). In fact, the Vikings allowed the lowest single-season third-down conversion rate since the NFL started recording the stat in 1991. The Saints are even worse on defense (41.5 percent, 27th), compared to a Vikings offense that’s been elite on third-down (43.5 percent, third overall). — Stuckey

DFS edge: Saints WR Michael Thomas converted his eight targets into a 5-45-0 line against the Vikings in Week 1, although he managed to avoid Rhodes for most of the game. It’d behoove the Vikings to try anything to slow down Thomas, who has averaged the sixth-most DraftKings PPG among all WRs since December. Rhodes has certainly proven to be more than capable of limiting some of the league’s top receivers in shadow coverage this season (save for Marvin Jones). Still, Thomas leads the league with 13 games of at least five receptions and 50 receiving yards this season (nobody else has more than 11-such games). That’s a big part of the reason he has the highest projected floor among all wide receivers outside of Antonio Brown and Julio Jones in our Models. — Ian Hartitz

What the metrics say, Pt. 2: How do you stop the Saints? Shut down their RBs, who are responsible for 52 percent of their offense, the highest percentage in the NFL. The Vikings are equipped to do just that. According to Football Outsiders, Minnesota ranks No. 1 at defending running backs in the passing game and No. 2 in the NFL at defending short passes. The Vikings have also allowed the second-fewest rushing yards per game (83.6). That number shrinks to a league-best 55.0 in home games. — Stuckey

Trend to know: Since 2003, the over is 26-8 (76.5 percent) in postseason games played inside of a closed dome. The over is also 76-53-2 in Drew Brees’ career when he’s playing indoors. That includes 5-0 in the playoffs, with the total going over by 6.5 PPG. — John Ewing and Evan Abrams

Injury watch: The potential absence of WR Brandon Coleman (neck) could lead to increased snaps for Willie Snead, and G Andrus Peat’s injury last week (fibula/ankle, IR) will cause some shuffling up front. But otherwise, the Saints expect to have the remainder of their roster active for Sunday. The Vikings are also getting healthy at the right time, as TE Kyle Rudolph (ankle), CB Xavier Rhodes (foot), and C Pat Elflein (shoulder) all practiced in full this week after missing sessions during the team’s bye week. — Ian Hartitz

Sneaky storyline: One important weakness for the Vikings: field goals and extra points. Kai Forbath has made just 84.2 percent of his FG attempts, 18th overall. And Minnesota has the second-worst extra-point make percentage in the league (87.2 percent), missing five in total this season (tied with the Chargers for the most overall). —Stuckey

Did you know? Since 2003, teams that allow less than 21 PPG are 24-14 ATS (63.2 percent) in the playoffs when facing teams that score 28 PPG or more. The defensive teams have covered five of their past six in this spot. — Evan Abrams

Which way are you leaning, Stuckey? I bet the Vikings -5. If you don’t want to lay the points, I also grabbed Minnesota at +380 to win the Super Bowl. I think the winner of this game goes to the Super Bowl, and the Vikings match up well with whichever team comes out of the AFC (especially the Patriots). Minnesota’s defense (No. 1 overall, No. 4 against the pass, and No. 5 against the rush) is perfectly built to contain the Saints’ prolific offense. This smells like a 7-plus-point Vikings victory in which they wear down the defense over four quarters and feed off the home crowd. — Stuckey

FALCONS (-3) AT EAGLES  |  O/U: 40.5

Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET | NBC

Betting market: This line has stayed steady at 3 since the open, and the public hasn’t hesitated to lay the points with the Falcons, with the majority of tickets and money both on Atlanta (see chart below). The total opened at 43.5 and despite almost 60 percent of tickets taking the over, it has dropped to 40.5 across the market. A forecasted 15 mph crosswind is the likely reason behind that move. — PJ Walsh

Metrics to know: Carson Wentz’s absence looms over this entire game. I’d make the Eagles around 7-point favorites in this spot if he was playing, but he’s not. Here’s what we’re left with: Philly ranked third overall in third-down conversions (45.3 percent) before Wentz’s injury; in their final three games of the season, they fell to 30th in the league (23.7 percent). This could be a big factor, especially if the Falcons offense plays up to its No. 1 ranking on third down (44.7 percent). — Stuckey

Did you know? Since 1990, these are the only Divisional Round games that have featured a home underdog:

Jan. 14, 2012: 49ers +3.5 W, 36-32 vs. NO
Jan. 5, 1997: Panthers +3 W, 26-17 vs. DAL
Jan. 10, 1993: Dolphins +1 W, 31-0 vs. SD
Jan. 5, 1992: Lions +1, W, 38-6 vs. DAL

And as Mark mentioned above, the Eagles are the first No. 1 seed to ever be a home dog in the Divisional Round. — Evan Abrams

DFS edge: Ajayi’s implementation into the Eagles backfield hasn’t been seamless, but his average of 5.8 yards per carry demonstrates his ceiling without Jay Cutler under center. Corey Clement and LeGarrette Blount are expected to continue to remain involved, but they took a backseat down the stretch. Neither back reached double-digit touches in Weeks 14-16, as Ajayi averaged an additional 13.9 snaps, 6.4 carries, and 0.5 targets per game compared to Weeks 8-13. Despite the increase in usage, Ajayi’s price tag on DraftKings is at its second-lowest mark of the season. There’s certainly concern about the number of fantasy-friendly touches he’ll receive with Nick Foles instead of Carson Wentz under center, but it’d behoove the Eagles to attempt to move the ball on the ground against the Falcons’ 20th-ranked defense in rush DVOA. — Ian Hartitz

Sneaky storyline: Keep an eye on the kickers, especially with a windy forecast. Everyone remembers Jake Elliott’s game-winning 61-yarder earlier this season, but the Philly kicker has missed a number of easy attempts this season. He’s just 5 of 8 on FGs from 30-39 yards and has missed three extra points. I have a lot more confidence in Matt Bryant (96.3 percent make rate this season) than Elliott (85.3 percent). — Stuckey

Injury watch: The Eagles entered their bye week with several starters on both sides of the ball banged up, but each of DE Brandon Graham (ankle), CB Jalen Mills (ankle), LT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee), and RB Jay Ajayi (knee) have practiced in full all week and will suit up Saturday. The Falcons offense isn’t nearly as healthy as their defense, but WR Julio Jones (ankle), QB Matt Ryan (personal), WR Mohamed Sanu (knee), and RB Devonta Freeman (knee) are all expected to play Saturday despite missing practice or participating in a limited fashion throughout the week. — Ian Hartitz

Which way are you leaning, Stuckey? I’m passing on this game, unless the line hits Eagles +3.5, which I doubt it will. I can’t lay 3 on the road with the six seed, despite the fact that the Falcons have the experience edge and have been playing playoff-type games for weeks now. There’s simply no value. But I’m also in no hurry to back an Eagles team that has had no identity or momentum since losing Carson Wentz. — Stuckey

TITANS AT PATRIOTS (-13.5) | O/U: 48

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET | CBS

Betting market: The Patriots aren’t just the most popular bet of the weekend; they’re one of the most popular playoff bets in our database’s history, receiving 72 percent of the overall tickets. Only three playoff teams have ever gotten more: 2008 Colts (79 percent) at Chargers, 2013 49ers (74 percent) at Panthers, and 2010 Ravens (73 percent) at Chiefs. — PJ Walsh

Injury watch: The Patriots are tentatively expected to welcome back each of DT Alan Branch (knee), WR Chris Hogan (shoulder), RB James White (ankle), and RB Rex Burkhead (knee) for Saturday night. Still, Burkhead will reportedly be limited if active, meaning Dion Lewis could be in for another week as the team’s featured back. The Patriots defense would certainly benefit from the presence of LBs Marquise Flowers (illness) and Kyle Van Noy (calf) against a Titans offense that has already ruled out RB DeMarco Murray (knee). Titans starting G Quinton Spain (back) is shaping up to be a true game-time decision, while CB Logan Ryan (ankle) is fully expected to play through any injury designation for his #RevengeGame. — Ian Hartitz

What the metrics say: The Patriots score TDs on 60 percent of their red zone trips (fifth overall), and while their defense struggles generally (31st in yards per play allowed), they don’t break inside the 20, allowing TDs on just 43.8 percent of trips (fourth overall). — Stuckey

Did you know? Since Tom Brady made his first career start in 2001, 10 different teams have played at least one playoff game as double-digit favorites. This will be the Patriots’ sixth such game, the most of any NFL team. The last fave of 10 or more to lose outright in the postseason was the Panthers (-10) vs. the Cardinals in January 2009. Since then, double-digit favorites in the playoffs are 8-0 SU and 7-1 ATS. — Evan Abrams and John Ewing

Weather report: It’s forecasted to be cold (mid-20s) and windy (11 mph) at kickoff on Saturday night. As we saw in last week’s Bills-Jaguars game, windy weather can have an adverse effect on the passing game and scoring. But a few items to consider with this matchup: Brady relies on short passes, which are obviously less affected by the wind, and the Titans (if they’re smart) should lean heavily on their ground game against New England’s 31st-ranked yards-per-carry defense. — Scott T. Miller

Sneaky storyline: The Titans cannot cover tight ends and running backs in the passing game, ranking 24th and 32nd, respectively, in Football Outsiders’ coverage metrics. Expect Gronk and Lewis to go off, and for Brady to dink-and-dunk his way down the field at will against DVOA’s 24th-ranked pass D. — Stuckey

DFS edge: The Titans have fed Derrick Henry a combined 51 carries over the past two weeks with their season on the line. He tore apart the Chiefs to the tune of 156 yards and a touchdown. The Patriots’ 31st-ranked defensive line in adjusted line yards has hardly shut down every adversary they’ve faced, but the expected return of 6’6″ 325-pound run-stuffer Alan Branch (knee, questionable) is bad news for a Titans’ offensive line that could be without starting guard Quinton Spain (back, questionable). Henry has finally demonstrated his Heisman-winning ability thanks in large part to his newfound massive workload, but he’s in a tough spot considering road running backs who have been at least 13-point underdogs have posted a -1.3 Plus/Minus and 31 percent Consistency Rating on DraftKings since 2014. Exposure to Henry should be limited to FanDuel, where he has a position-high 99 percent Bargain Rating and +4.15 Projected Plus/Minus. — Ian Hartitz

Which way are you leaning, Stuckey? I’m hoping the public pushes the Pats to -14, so I can bet the Titans. If it doesn’t get there, I’ll settle for +13 or +13.5. These two teams are dead even in net yards per play, and Henry should eat on the ground against the Pats’ putrid rush defense. Don’t get me wrong: New England will win this game outright with their superior coaching and elite offense/special teams, but this line is just too high. — Stuckey

Photos via USA TODAY Sports