NFL Picks: Elite Divisional Playoffs Game-by-Game ATS Selections

Nikki Adams

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 9:55 PM GMT

Divisional matchups set, NFL odds posted, betting in full swing, we bring you a game-by-game primer for this highly anticipated round of the playoffs complete with NFL picks.

***Don't Miss Our ML NFL Picks For Divisional Playoffs***
***Review Our O/U NFL Picks For Divisional Playoffs***

Wild Card Round Recap ATS
While we finished with a 3-1 mark on our SU picks, we went just 1-3 ATS for the wild card round with only the Packers coming through for us as the road underdogs.  To say it wasn’t the best of days in the office is an understatement. Anyways, no sense in crying over spilt beer. Let’s get cracking with the divisional round and make up for the lost ground last week.

Regular Season SU Record: 148-108-0
Regular Season ATS Record: 131-119-6
Playoffs SU Record: 3-1
Playoffs ATS Record: 1-3

 

Chiefs vs. Patriots
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were crushed by Alex Smith and Co. 41-14 at Arrowhead last season when these two teams collided in week 4. That was singularly the worst account of their 2014-2015 season, which, surprisingly, resulted in many NFL experts and analysts calling for Tom Brady’s benching. Writing the then-37-year-old quarterback off as timeworn, approaching his sell-by-date so fast that the only merciful thing to do was to send him to pasture. Tale told, the veteran quarterback led the Patriots to the Super Bowl 49 championship title, effectively sticking it to all his doubters. So much for being a has-been, eh.

In any event, the 27-points they ceded to the Chiefs in the unmemorable account probably rankles with them till today and makes this do-over in the playoffs one of the must-see games. It’s somewhat interesting that the Chiefs are coming off a comprehensive win over the Texans in the wild card round, a 30-0 drubbing that few NFL bettors would have predicted. But that massive winning margin was down to the Texans going MIA rather than the Chiefs doing anything spectacular. Heck, nobody saw such career-ending, shoddy quarterback play from Brian Hoyer coming nor J.J. Watt being rendered so ineffective. The Chiefs did what most expected played solid defense and contained offense. Indeed, the defense was largely responsible for the win while Alex Smith and the O-line were so-so; he went 17-of-22 for 190 yards and one touchdown.

Chiefs’ defense can give Tom Brady some headaches in this game, but they’ll need Alex Smith and the O-line to raise their game if they hope to win on the road this weekend, marking their second straight road game of the playoffs. For most of the season, the Chiefs defense have done a great job, masking the inefficiencies of their side’s O-line. One gets the sense that won’t cut it at Gillette Stadium where Bill Belichick and his boys will be keen to expose those shortcomings.

NFL Picks: Patriots -4.5 (-105) at Heritage

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Packers vs. Cardinals
This has the markings of a shootout on paper but, just a few weeks ago, it was more of a massacre of the Green Bay Packers than anything else. The Arizona Cardinals outmuscled, outplayed and outshot the Packers in a 38-8 win in week 16 of the season, a totally one-sided account that thrust the Packers’ postseason upside into serious question. Heck, it sent them into the wild card round as the underdogs to Washington Redskins. Although they answered those doubts with a convincing win in the nation’s capital, not many NFL bettors are sold on the idea that everything is all right with the Packers. The memory of them being laid to waste still too fresh in their minds.

Yet, results in the regular season don’t always mirror those of the postseason. It highly unlikely the Packers will succumb to a similar result this time around. Case-and-point: the Vikings were crushed by the Seahawks in the regular season 38-7, only to comeback in the playoffs and give the Seahawks a run for their money. Heck, the win was within field goal range only for the kicker to boggle the kick and send the Vikings out of the playoffs in a stunning 10-9 defeat.

This is the Packers’ do-over, and just like the Vikings, they can take a page from their defeat to the Cardinals and game plan accordingly. It’s also a playoff game and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will be counting on their experience to be the deciding factor. By that same token, this is Carson Palmers’ first playoff game in six years. Certainly, he’s had a great season and he’s a veteran of the game but the wild card round revealed just how important experience is in handling the pressure of the occasion. We’re not suggesting Carson Palmer does his best impression of Brian Hoyer, but rather, when push comes to shove, that Aaron Rodgers can make things happen. As such, seven points does seem a lot to be laying with the Cards in a pivotal game that is set to decide the NFC Championship matchup.

NFL Picks: Packers +7 (-105) Heritage

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Seahawks vs. Panthers
Of all the games of the divisional round, this is THE toughest to call for several reasons. Undoubtedly, the 15-1 SU Panthers are the best team in the NFC by virtue of their record on the season, but the Seahawks, with two NFC titles in a row and one Super Bowl championship, have been the best team in the NFC two years running. It’s going to take some balls to bet against either of these teams on your NFL picks. It doesn’t help matters that books have rolled out the tightest NFL betting line for this game, unanimously.

Odds makers opened this game with the Panthers firmly installed as the -2.5 home chalk, a favorable nod based on their form as well as a win over the Seahawks – earlier this season, the Panthers underscored their credentials with a 27-23 win in CenturyLink Field, all while matched as the +7 road underdogs. The opening -2.5 line has now crept up to -3 at most sportsbooks but with the Panthers disadvantaged to cover (juice is trading at even money on the Panthers and as high as -120 on the Seahawks).

Clearly, there’s an expectation about this game being a close one. Nothing like last year’s divisional clash between this pair, in which the Panthers gave the Seahawks a run for their money for the better part of three quarters until a late game collapse saw the Seahawks run away 31-17 winners.

What the NFL odds suggest is that that experience should prove invaluable to Cam Newton and the Panthers as they attempt to wrestle the torch away from the Seahawks in the NFC, but it won’t be easy as the Seahawks are nothing if not ferocious competitors that simply won’t go away.

Very few NFL bettors are entertaining the possibility that this game might go firmly the way of the Panthers, which is interesting seeing as they are home, well-rested and raring to go in the playoffs and prove they are the legitimate No.1 seed. Everybody is thinking of the two-time NFC champions Seahawks. The Super Bowl 48 winning Seahawks and the Super Bowl 49 runners-up.

Is anybody considering the Seahawks team that is before them right now, a side that got off to a slow start on the season but finished strong with seven wins in their last nine games, albeit against lesser teams, for the most part (the only credible wins were over Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Arizona). Let’s not forget too that they are set to play their second road game in the postseason after freezing their butts off in Minnesota and escaping with the lucky win. We stress the word LUCKY. A game that saw Russell Wilson struggle and the defense do just enough to keep the Seahawks ahead by only just 10-9 nearly came undone when the Vikings lined up to take the field goal in the dying seconds of the game.

It’s hard to compare this Seahawks team with that Seahawks team that has ruled the NFC roost for the last two seasons. What’s more, as dangerous as it is to bet against the Seahawks on your NFL picks, it’s conversely hard to recommend them either. As such, we’re banking on the Panthers to cover as the home chalk.

NFL Picks: Panthers -3 (+100) at WagerWeb

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Steelers vs. Broncos
With question marks surrounding Big Ben’s status, the Broncos emerge as the considerable home chalk, as high as touchdown favorites at some sports betting outlets. With Big Ben the Steelers are infinitely dangerous, potent, and a team that nobody wants to face in the playoffs. Without him they are substandard, at best.

Case-and-point: the wild card game.

The Steelers raced off to a 15-0 lead, which they maintained through the better part of 3 quarters until Big Ben went down and hurt his shoulder. The moment he was carted off the field and Landry Jones stepped in for relief was the moment things changed for the hosts. Backup AJ McCarron finally had the prime opportunity to mount a comeback for the Bengals, which he did, and, all of a sudden, deep into the fourth quarter, they had the 16-15 lead. Looking all but on the verge of winning when two key things happened: the Bengals suffered a spectacular collapse in the dying seconds of the game and, at the same time, Big Ben returned to orchestrate a game-winning drive with a limp arm.

To sum it all up: when Big Ben led the offense the Steelers put up 15 points and conceded none. With Landry Jones they leaked 16 points in a matter of minutes and answered back with none, turning the game on its head. If that doesn’t underscore the importance of Big Ben to the Steelers chances in this game nothing will.

What it also goes to show is that Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler (for those divided on which quarterback should be leading the Broncos in the playoffs) calling the shots for the Broncos offense won’t make the difference. Denver’s defense will have a very good chance of running away with this game against a weaker Big Ben or Landry Jones.

NFL Picks: Broncos -6.5 (-105) at William Hill

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