Divisional Playoffs NFL Picks: Game-by-Game ML Odds Predictions

Nikki Adams

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 10:22 PM UTC

Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016 10:22 PM UTC

The wild card weekend is in the books. It’s down to the divisional round with eight teams in the race to Super Bowl 50. We weigh in on all four matchups and serve up our choice NFL picks for the winners.

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Wild Card Recap
We finished the wild card round with a 3-1 SU mark on our NFL picks; only the Houston Texans let us down (big time, cringe) as our lone upset NFL pick. In any event, we forage ahead with our divisional round NFL picks

Regular season record: 148-108-0

Playoffs record: 3-1-0


Chiefs vs. Patriots
It’s hard not to look at this matchup and recall the last time the pair met: an evisceration of the Patriots by the Chiefs at Arrowhead that actually resulted in calls to bench Tom Brady. That was week 4 of last season when the Patriots were laid to waste in a 41-14 loss. A lot has happened since then and, now, it almost seems laughable that there was such mayhem and panic after the defeat, particularly seeing as Tom Brady led the Patriots to win the Super Bowl amidst the deflate-gate brouhaha.

In 2015, the Patriots burst out of the gates winning ten straight before the wheels came slightly undone by a slew of injuries and they finished 2-4 SU in their last six games down the stretch. In a completely contrasting season, the Chiefs got off to a woeful 1-5 SU start that had NFL analysts writing their obituary for the season only for them to then reel off ten straight wins to finish the season with an 11-5 SU mark and clinch a playoff berth, thereby silencing their critics.

The regular season and postseason can be mutually exclusive. Just because a team does well in the regular season is no guarantee of postseason upside. The Chiefs did underscore their impressive run of form with a 30-0 win over the Texans, all while installed as the considerable road faves, but Houston doesn’t compare to New England. It’s a whole different ball game before the Chiefs at Gillette Stadium and this time they are matched as the considerable underdogs (current high price of +203 at Heritage).

By and large, NFL betting experts and analysts are predicting the Patriots will win outright at home. And we’re of a mind to agree with our NFL picks. Last week was all about the road teams as each and every single road team came through for their backers. This week, beginning with the Patriots, the home teams are looking smart on the NFL odds board. Tom Brady and the Patriots appear to be rounding into health and form (injuries down the stretch correlated to a 2-4 SU finish in the last six). Then there is their undeniable experience to consider in the playoffs, something that in the balance of quarterbacks in this game tips the scale firmly towards Tom Brady. Alex Smith is going to have a tough time keeping up with his Hall of Fame counterpart. Indeed, a lot of the success the Chiefs have enjoyed down the stretch is down to their exceptional defense, which, in turn, has masked some of the inadequacies on offense. The Patriots defense is a bit underrated here and it could expose Alex Smith and his shortcomings on offense.  Put it simply: colour the world shocked if the Chiefs stomp into Gillette Stadium and leave with the win.

NFL Picks: Patriots -220 5Dimes

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Packers vs. Cardinals
It’s hard not to look at this matchup and recall the mauling the Packers endured in the desert only a few weeks ago. The 38-8 loss was one of the worst the Packers suffered this season, if not the worst account by Aaron Rodgers in his career. On that account alone, it’s no surprise the Cardinals are the considerable favourites at home on the NFL odds board. Nor is it surprising that consensus betting polls are leaning towards the hosts at early doors. The Packers destroyed the Washington Redskins in the wild card round winning 35-18 on the road despite a slow start to the game but NFL bettors aren’t exactly buying what they are selling. It’s one thing to beat a questionable side such as the Redskins – who, let’s face it, emerged into the playoffs thanks in part to a rather substandard NFC East division. Their legitimacy was always in question. It’s another thing entirely to rise up to the challenge one of the best NFC teams this season presents. Not even the awful loss to the Seahawks in week 17 NFL betting, which was not unlike the loss they served the Packers only the week prior, has taken the shine off of the Cards. The thinking is the game was meaningless for the Cards.

Still, the momentum the Packers gained in the wild card round could prove deciding. It’s very real momentum that can’t be overlooked. Plus, they have the tape of the loss to the Cards to review and use to their advantage as they attempt to gain a different result in this highly anticipated NFC rematch. For the Packers, this is a do-over, an opportunity for redemption. For the Cards, it’s going to be a real test of character. If they get complacent or take the win over the Packers for granted they could be in trouble.

As mentioned above, the bulk of the betting appears to be headed towards the Cards and for good reason. They have had an exceptional season, they are solid on both sides of the ball and they have the reigning coach of the year Bruce Arians to guide them in the playoffs. However, Carson Palmer hasn’t seen postseason action in six years and his last account was nothing to write home about.

That brings to mind the notion about the regular season and postseason action being mutually exclusive. It doesn’t matter what you did in the regular season. The playoffs are a different ball game entirely. Don’t know about you, but when the choice comes down to picking between last year’s MVP Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer, we’re frankly scared to go against the former.

NFL Picks: Packers +255 5Dimes

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Seahawks vs. Panthers
The Seahawks live another week in the playoffs. Luck had a lot to do with it as the Vikings kicker sent the ball well wide of the posts in what should have been the game winning field goal for Minnesota. It’s just the way things go sometimes in the playoffs.

Carolina Panthers aren’t fussed, apparently. ‘Bring it on,’ they say all in one. Instead of the easier matchup on paper with the Vikings, they have preseason darlings of Super Bowl 50 betting to contend with and they’re not intimidated. That confidence could be deciding in this matchup.

Indeed, odds makers are sending the Seahawks into this divisional playoff game as the road underdogs. Not what one would have expected to happen based on preseason NFL odds evaluations of the two-time defending NFC Champions Seahawks.

However, the last time this pair met was October 18 when the Panthers descended on the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink field to mastermind the upset, all while installed as the considerable +7 road underdogs. The Panthers went on to underscore that win with wins over Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Green Bay, and NY Giants, amongst several others en route to a 15-1 SU record on the season.

It’s worth noting that this pair collided in the divisional round last season at CenturyLink, a game Seattle won eventually 31-17 at home.

By the numbers, one has to consider the Panthers are the best team in the NFC this season. However, the Seahawks have been the best team in the NFC over the last two seasons and that experience gives the Seahawks the intangible edge. What a dilemma this is proving to be on our NFL picks. It’s dangerous to bet against the Seahawks. We’re of a mind not to discredit their dangerous floater credentials in the NFC. That said, the Seahawks have had their fair share of problems this season and they weren’t that great in the game with the Vikings. That has us thinking the Panthers, who are a mirror image of the Seahawks (but better this season) could actually expose those well-hidden flaws and come through as the home faves.

NFL Picks: Panthers -142 Pinnacle

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Steelers vs. Broncos
The narrative that’s dominating this matchup is the injury to Ben Roethlisberger – an AC sprain and torn ligaments in his shoulder that seriously takes the shine off of the Steelers in this matchup. We can all agree that with Big Ben, the Steelers have a punters chance to win this game. If he’s not 100% fit or if they have to rely on Landry Jones’ services then the balance swings almost entirely in favour of the hosts Denver Broncos.

As it is, the Steelers are preparing for Big Ben to start the game. If there’s any player that can will himself into form and Herculean effort, it’s Big Ben. Yet, NFL bettors must share in the realism of how low the Steelers’ chances have now become of actually pulling off the upset at Mile High.

Big Ben came back into the wild card game to lead the Steelers in a game-winning drive that resulted in a field goal and lifted the Steelers to the 18-16 win. Conspicuously, he did so without throwing any deep passes. If he can’t throw deep against the Broncos, how can the Steelers win this game? What’s more, it’s a real possibility he could reinjure his shoulder or make it worse against one of the top defenses in the league.

With all the question marks hanging over Big Ben – and we haven’t even gotten to Antonio Brown – there’s just no way we can pick the Steelers to win this game. If Big Ben makes a miraculous recovery or somehow learns how to throw with his left hand before the weekend just so that he can play this game, we’ll revise this NFL pick. For now, Broncos it is.

NFL Picks: Broncos -260 bet365

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