Just missed out on projecting the leading passer and receiver for wild-card weekend on Bovada's NFL special odds, but did hit on 'under' 1.5 wild-card teams winning on the road. Here are some Bovada specials for the four divisional-round games.
Will all four home teams win this weekend?
No is a -230 favorite on NFL odds with yes at +190. During the regular season, home teams won on average 57 percent of the time. That's about the average every season. However, since the current playoff format was adopted in 1990, home teams in the divisional round are 70-26, an excellent 73 percent. Clearly having that bye week is a huge benefit, something the No. 2 seeds may lose next year if the NFL adds one more wild-card team to each conference as expected. There have been no home sweeps in this round this decade. Last year, three of the four home teams won. The outlier was San Francisco winning at Carolina. In 2012 it was three of four again, with the outlier Baltimore taking out No. 1 seed Denver in double overtime. In 2011 it was three of four, with Green Bay the lone home loser (to the NY Giants). And in 2010 it was two of four. The team with the shortest NFL odds this week is Green Bay -5.5 against Dallas on Sunday, and the Packers probably would have been a touchdown favorite if Aaron Rodgers were 100 percent healthy.
NFL Free Pick: Yes. It's overdue to happen, a good price, and considering I give Carolina no shot, you only need to hit on three games.
Will any team trailing at halftime win this weekend?
Yes is -250 and no +170 on NFL odds. This prop is because two wild-card winners were down at halftime. The Cowboys trailed 17-7 against Detroit before rallying for a 24-20 win thanks to some terrible officiating. Carolina somehow trailed Arizona and Ryan Lindley 14-13 at the half but won 27-16 by holding the inept Cardinals to 12 second-half yards. Baltimore was up only 10-9 in its 30-17 win over Pittsburgh last week, and Indianapolis up just 13-10 in its 26-10 victory over the Bengals.
NFL Free Pick: Yes.
Who will have the most passing yards this weekend?
In the wild-card round my choice was Detroit's Matthew Stafford, and he finished third among the eight quarterbacks with 323 yards. The Colts' Andrew Luck had the most with 376 and he's the +250 favorite on NFL odds this time. Luck has three straight 300-yard games in the postseason, one shy of tying Hall of Famer Dan Fouts for the longest streak in NFL playoff history. Luck threw for 370 in the Colts' Week 1 loss in Denver. I partly went with Stafford last week because he was playing in a dome. All four games are outdoors this week and subject to the elements.
NFL Free Pick: I'm taking Tom Brady at +500. The Ravens can get to the quarterback, but they have a very shaky secondary. Ben Roethlisberger had 334 yards against Baltimore in the loss last week.
Who will have the most rushing yards this weekend?
To no surprise, the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray, who led the NFL in rushing this season and broke Emmitt Smith's franchise record, is the +200 NFL pick favorite. Is Murray slowing down a bit after being used so much? He has just one 100-yard game in his past four. The Lions held him to 75 last week, although Detroit had one of the NFL's best run defenses in years. Green Bay ranked No. 23 against the rush, allowing 119.9 yards per game. The tundra could be frozen at Lambeau on Sunday so that could lead to shaky footing for Murray. The Pack also likely sell out to stop him.
NFL Free Pick: Seattle's Marshawn Lynch at +300 against Carolina. True, the Panthers' run defense has been superb in a five-game winning streak, but Lynch usually goes "Beast Mode" when the playoffs roll around.
Who will have the most receiving yards this weekend?
Denver's Demaryius Thomas is the +375 favorite on NFL odds. He finished second in the NFL this season with 1,619 yards and 10 100-yard games, including his final three. One of Thomas' worst games was the Week 1 win over the Colts when he had four catches for 48 yards. Thomas also had 100-yard games in two of Denver's three playoff games last season. If Broncos tight end Julius Thomas remains gimpy with his ankle injury, that means more targets for Thomas. Green Bay's Jordy Nelson is the +550 second favorite. He had a career year with 1,519 yards. Dallas was not good against the pass this year, ranking 26th. Last week I liked Indy's T.Y. Hilton on this prop and he finished second with 103 yards. Hilton is +600 on NFL odds again this week.
NFL Free Pick: I pondered Nelson but worry Randall Cobb will steal too many targets. Go chalk with Demaryius Thomas.