NFL Picks: Divisional Playoff Fades and Games to Avoid

Doug Upstone

Tuesday, January 7, 2014 3:45 PM GMT

Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 3:45 PM GMT

In the past three years, four No.1 seeds have been eliminated this week and they are 1-5 against the spread in this time span. Let's see if this year's No.1's can hold on for another round.

For sportsbooks, this is golden, with the public preferring the top teams and betting accordingly. However, with only four games to choose, oddsmakers can make the NFL betting odds incredibly accurate and really level the playing field against those making NFL picks. Here are three situations in my opinion to avoid.

New Orleans and Seattle Not Easy to Determine

It is already a given the Saints will play harder and smarter less than the six weeks ago when they visited Coffee-Town and were bounced around by the Seahawks.

This is one of two non-division revenge games for the visiting team and New Orleans will be focused on battling after being manhandled the last time.

The Saints no doubt gained confidence for the road in their come from behind win at Philadelphia and will bring a better defense into this conflict. It is wise to presume head coach Sean Payton has diligently gone over the game film and will have new wrinkles for Seattle.

However, the Seahawks will still be at home and despite the loss to Arizona, they still have a commanding home presence and the noise level can again prevent Drew Brees from checking to other plays because of limited communication. The majority of NFL picks will probably be with the underdog, but the Saints have to show they can play in the Northwest.

NFL Picks: 2013-14 AFC Playoff Betting Odds

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Whose the Fairest of Them All

While it has never come off the lips from those in the Carolina organization, the Panthers and the 49ers are mirror images of each other.

Both utilize a physical in your face running game, with San Francisco fifth and the Carolina eighth in the NFL. Each has a terrific defensive front seven, with the Panthers second and the 49ers fifth in total defense, built for stopping the run first.  And both have young athletic quarterbacks which can run or throw their way out of trouble and lead their teams into the end zone.

Based on recent pedigree, the Niners are the better team with more playoff seasoning. Yet Carolina is at home, has beat San Fran four straight times and come through in the clutch all season.

Everyone, including NFL football handicappers will have a tough choice in this one. I will be sitting this one out.

NFL Picks: 2013-14 NFC Playoff Betting Odds

Tough Total in the AFC

For the Colts and Patriots, sportsbooks hung a total of 52.5 for the NFL odds in this battle. Indianapolis is off an amazing comeback over Kansas City, in a contest which featured a Baylor-like 89 points.

In that game, Andrew Luck was forced to throw the vast majority of the time, which is not how coach Chuck Pagano prefers to play and why the Colts are 17-8 UNDER versus the AFC the last two seasons.

Indianapolis will test New England’s 25th ranked run defense which could take time off the clock and slow the scoring.

Nevertheless, in spite of all their offensive personnel issues this season, New England was still fifth in points scored at home at 30.4 per game. If Alex Smith can throw for 363 yards against Indy, what is Tom Brady capable of at home?

Does Indy stay hot on offense against the Pats or suffer a letdown from last week? It is challenging making a call on the total for this one.
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