There are four NFL playoff games for the Divisional Round Weekend, but as a fan of the Cleveland Browns, I need to take a second to let it process. The Browns are one of those teams in action this weekend following their first playoff win since the 1994 season.
Buffalo Bills fans have probably needed two days to process it all themselves, as they will participate in this round for the first time since 1995. Some new kids on the block tangle with some faces we’ve seen a lot on January 16 and 17 in the second round of the NFL Playoffs.
The two teams coming off of byes are big favorites, while the two games involving teams that had to win and advance last week look to be extremely competitive games. It should be a great weekend of football and we’ll have you prepared for it every step of the way right here at ATS.
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Here is the NFL Opening Line Report for Divisional Round Weekend:
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (-7, 46)
Let’s go ahead and touch on this – teams coming off of a bye week are 10-5-1 ATS in the Divisional Round dating back the last four postseasons. We used to have all four games with teams coming off of a bye. Now we only have two because of the league’s playoff realignment. Teams that are favored by a touchdown or more are 5-3 ATS and 6-2 SU in that span.
The Packers are in that role here, but this line has already come down a little bit and it wouldn’t be shocking with a low-scoring expectation to see this line fall to 6.5. The Rams have one of the league’s best defenses, though there are certainly offensive concerns going to play at Lambeau Field in January and just in general with Jared Goff.
This line is mostly 7 flat and we’ve seen the total come down as low as 45.5 in the marketplace. We split the difference to list 46, but it is clear that the early interest is the underdog and the under. We’ll see if that holds throughout the week. The long-range forecast calls for chilly temps, but no precipitation and relatively calm winds by kickoff after some morning gusts.
The Rams haven’t been a touchdown or more underdog since Week 17 of the 2017 season when they were sitting a bunch of players against the Cardinals. The last time before that was Week 15 back in 2016 against the Seahawks. They probably won’t close that here, but if they do, now you know.
Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (-2.5, 50)
The early influential money has been on the Ravens to pull this line down below the key number of 3. It is sitting mostly 2.5 with some extra juice on the Bills across the market, but some of the sharper global books like Pinnacle that we can use as good indicators do have the Bills -2.5 and -110. That suggests some pretty strong opinions on Baltimore early in the betting process.
The Bills failed to cover last week and also gave up over 450 yards with zero forced turnovers. Teams that had 450 yards and zero turnovers were 11-0 straight up in the playoffs prior to that game. Because of the Colts, that is now 11-1. Because the Bills struggled in the box score, and the Ravens had a thoroughly impressive win over the Titans, it isn’t a big surprise to see the early money on the Baltimore side of this line.
The total has ticked up to 50 at some places after opening 49 or 49.5. The vaunted Titans offense did very little against the Ravens and the game easily stayed under the total. We’ll see if buyback comes in on the under as the week goes along.
It is always interesting to do line comparisons. Indianapolis was +6 or +6.5 against Buffalo. Baltimore opened +3. Would Baltimore -3.5 be a fair line against Indianapolis on a neutral? Given that Baltimore was -3.5 AT Tennessee, it gives us a lot to think about.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (-10, 55.5)
The Browns were +5 in turnover margin and gave up 500 passing yards, but they scored 48 points and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. Advanced metrics had a glowing review of Cleveland’s offensive performance. EPA/play is Expected Points Added per play. The Browns had far and away the best offensive performance of any team in that department in the Wild Card Round.
And yet here they are as a 10-point underdog. This total sits at 55.5, but it should be on an elevator going up. A very smart coach in Andy Reid got to watch the Browns defense, which is littered with dudes that probably would only play special teams on other rosters, but injuries and COVID have taken a toll on the Browns roster.
On the other hand, since 2002, there have only been 11 games with a total of 55 or higher in the playoffs. The most recent one was Super Bowl LIII between the Patriots and the Rams. The game ended 13-3. The over is 7-4 in those 11 games, with three of them during the 2018 playoffs. Those went 1-2.
We all expected Ravens/Titans to be a back-and-forth affair and it was not. Maybe recency bias will keep this total from going too high. We’ll have to wait and see.
What we have seen so far is a willingness to lay it with Kansas City. A lot of places opened 9 or 9.5 for this game and it sits 10 and there are even some 10.5s out there in some spots. It’s easy to see why bettors would like the Chiefs. They won by 20 last year over the Texans, an offense-first, defense-second team, in this spot. They are the reigning Super Bowl champs. The Browns put a ton into that game to beat a rival.
We saw late money on Cleveland against Pittsburgh, presumably after the team had no new COVID positives, but maybe just because influential money likes this Cleveland team. Guess we’ll see how this week goes and also hope the Browns have their COVID issues in the rearview.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-3, 51.5)
This is your standard division line between two comparable teams. The Saints are -3 in the Superdome and the total is 51.5. It is a bit surprising that this total has gone up a little bit. It feels like a setup for when limits go up on Tuesday to start taking pieces of the under at better prices.
The Saints won and covered in the two regular season meetings. The Buccaneers are playing really well right now, though, and seem to have made some key offensive adjustments with Tom Brady and those have created a lot more efficiency for that unit. The Saints won with defense over the Bears, as the offense was limited to 5.1 yards per play. The Bears were 1-of-10 on third down, so the Saints ran 75 plays to Chicago’s 49 and had the ball for nearly 39 minutes.
It seems unlikely that the Saints would do that to the Bucs, so a lot more will be asked of the New Orleans offense. Right now, we have no indication of the line moving to 2.5, but it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise, given how the Bucs have played in recent weeks and how last week’s Saints performance will be viewed.
Look for the total to come down and for the Buccaneers to be the juiced side with -115 or -120 on the +3 at some point this week.