Early Movement Keeps Sharps Alert in NFL Divisional Round

David Schwab

Monday, January 8, 2018 2:52 PM UTC

Monday, Jan. 8, 2018 2:52 PM UTC

The response to the betting lines for the NFL divisional playoff matchups was rather quick in terms of the sharps looking for the best value in their NFL picks.

NFL Saturday: Divisional Round Matchups

The Atlanta Falcons have caught some early interest as three-point road favorites against the No. 1 seed Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC. Saturday’s matchup at Lincoln Financial Field is set for 4:35 p.m. ET. The opening point spread was 2.5 points, and the betting line for the total opened at 41.5 points before sliding down to 40 as of Monday morning.

The sharps could be looking at Matt Ryan and the defending NFC champion Falcons early, but this early movement can more likely be attributed to a slight overreaction to Atlanta's 26-13 victory against the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday as six-point road underdogs. Everyone knows that Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is out of the lineup, but the smart money also knows that a dome team winning outside in Philadelphia in the middle of January is no small task.

Saturday's second game sends the Tennessee Titans on the road as the AFC's sixth seed to face the No. 1 New England Patriots as heavy 13.5-point underdogs. The total for this 8:15 p.m. start opened at 47 points. Each of these betting lines has held steady since being released, but you would have to believe that the sharps will be leaning toward New England before the spread moves to a full 14 points.

It is hard to see the Titans keeping things closer than two touchdowns against the top team in the league, but this was the same team that just erased an 18-point deficit against Kansas City to win that wild-card matchup 22-21 as 8.5-point road underdogs.

NFL Sunday: Divisional Round Matchups

Sunday’s betting action starts with the Jacksonville Jaguars tangling with the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the second time this season. The Jags closed as 7.5-point underdogs in early October before handing Pittsburgh its worst loss of the year, 30-9. The betting line for the 1:05 p.m. rematch at Heinz Field is also set at 7.5 points.

The spread opened at 6.5 points and the total line dipped from 41.5 points to 41 points based on the early money coming in. This could be a wait-and-see play for the sharps now that the half-point on the touchdown spread favors the Jaguars. You would think they would jump all over Pittsburgh early, but the one red flag is this team’s 2-6 record against the spread over its last eight games.

Sunday’s other divisional tilt should be a good one with the New Orleans Saints visiting the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC. The betting line for Sunday’s 4:40 p.m. kickoff opened with the Vikings giving 4.5 points, with a 44-point total line. The sharps could be on New Orleans early with the spread dropping to 3.5 points, and there is also some early play on the over with that line climbing to 45.5.

The Saints let Carolina stick around too long in Sunday’s 31-26 victory as 6.5-point home favorites to cost bettors the cover. However, given just how strong this offense looked, with Drew Brees throwing for 376 yards and two scores, they suddenly appear to be very attractive as road underdogs. Another edge is that fact that weather will not be a factor in Minnesota’s dome.

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