Underdogs slowed down a bit for a couple games on Sunday, but it was still another good wild-card weekend for teams getting points.
Going back to the playoffs at the end of the 2017 season, underdogs were on a 14-1 stretch against the spread through Saturday’s games. The Ravens and Saints covered as favorites on Sunday, then the Browns had a shocking win as underdogs against the Steelers in the final game of the weekend.
The divisional round is usually more friendly to favorites. This is a different divisional round, however. We’re used to all four home teams in the second round playing their first playoff game after a bye. In the expanded playoffs, only the No. 1 seed in each conference gets a bye. That could reduce the edge the home teams have in the divisional round.
Here is the first look at BetMGM’s opening lines for the four divisional round games:
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (-7)
The injury report will be watched closely. Aaron Donald missed most of the second half of Saturday’s wild-card win with a rib injury. Receiver Cooper Kupp banged up his knee in the game. Jared Goff presumably will be OK to play again, but the progress of his thumb after having surgery on Dec. 28 will be watched closely.
The Rams do have a fine defense, and having Jalen Ramsey to match up with Davante Adams is a plus. The Packers have been one of the NFL’s best teams all season, with Aaron Rodgers putting up an MVP season. Los Angeles probably doesn’t want to be playing in Green Bay in January, but the early forecasts say temperatures for the game should be in the low 20s, which might be a best-case scenario for a warm-weather team going to Lambeau Field.
Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (-2.5)
Both teams played great football down the stretch, setting up what should be a fantastic matchup in prime time on Saturday night.
Both quarterbacks can beat defenses in the air or on the ground. Josh Allen is more of a passer than Lamar Jackson, who is perhaps the best running quarterback in NFL history. But both of them are phenomenal dual-threat players.
The Ravens won their final five regular-season games, scoring at least 27 points in each one. The Bills won their final six regular-season games and scored at least 26 points in each one.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (-10)
The most shocking development of wild-card weekend happened in the first quarter of the final game. The Browns set a playoff record with 28 points in the first quarter and led the Steelers 28-0. Even if bettors liked the underdog Browns, they couldn’t have seen that coming.
Presumably it won’t be so easy against the Chiefs. Kansas City had another great season, and will be well rested too. Kansas City has had trouble against the spread, however. The Chiefs have failed to cover the spread in eight straight games, despite going 7-1 in that stretch.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-3)
The betting market must believe in the old adage that it’s hard ot beat a team three times in a season. Because nothing in the first two meetings between these teams indicates the Saints should be such a short favorite.
The Saints beat the Buccaneers 34-23 in Week 1 and the rematch was worse. In Week 9, New Orleans took a 31-0 lead in the first half and cruised to a 38-3 win.
Neither team looked dominant on wild-card weekend. The Buccaneers had a tough time putting away Taylor Heinicke and the Washington Football Team, and the Saints led the Bears just 7-3 in the third quarter.