My, oh my, oh my. With the exception of the New England Patriots-Tennessee Titans matchup on Saturday night, the NFL Divisional Round provided some sports betting high drama, excitement, and an absolute stunner in the finale.
New Orleans Saints legend Steve Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS seven years ago and who has a great sense of humor, shared this after Stefon Diggs’ stunning 61-yard touchdown catch and run to end the game:
Congratulations to the Vikings. I'm so in shock I can't move.
— Steve Gleason (@TeamGleason) January 15, 2018
That incredible result produced winners, losers and pushers and will take more time to digest. Let’s look back at all four games and then ahead to next Sunday’s NFC and AFC Championship games.
NFL Divisional Round Playoffs Betting Recap; Lines for Jaguars-Patriots and Vikings-Eagles And First Impressions
Atlanta Falcons (-3, o/u 41.5) at Philadelphia Eagles:
What happened: The Eagles defense showed up to play. Philly held Devonta Freeman to a miniscule 0.7 yards per carry on 10 totes. Striking one 23-yard scamper by Tevin Coleman, Atlanta averaged just 3.15 per carry combined. Much-maligned Eagles backup QB Nick Foles wasn’t a world beater but he showed more poise and accuracy than in recent outings and converted on some key third downs with his arm, with a total 12 passing first downs. Eight different Eagles caught at least one pass.
The Eagles were pretty fortunate to trail just 10-9 at the half after a muffed punt deep in their own territory and a fumble (Jay Ajayi) at the doorstep of the red zone. Ultimately, up 15-10 late in the game, the Eagles allowed a 14-play Falcons drive end at their 2-yard line with just over a minute; this nearly could have produced a brutal push if Atlanta had scored and converted the two-point attempt. Alas the Eagles stood tall at the goal line, stopped Atlanta at the 2, and kneeled it out.
What’s next: Carson Wentz still isn’t walking through that door, at least not in shoulder pads. The Vikings (more on them) may feel like a team of destiny after that Case Keenum-Diggs miracle. One more W and they become the first team to play a Super Bowl at their home stadium.
In the upcoming NFC Championship game, the Eagles will once again be home dogs (-3 or -3.5). The total is a a meager 38 but this a Vikings defense that just held the explosive Saints scoreless in the first half until that game surged over in the second half. But Nick Foles is not Drew Brees. Early lean:he Eagles +3.5 and Under.
Tennessee Titans (+13) at New England Patriots (o/u 48):
What happened: It looked like there might have been have a game after the Titans forced two Pats punts early and followed with a touchdown on an impressive 11-play, 95-yard drive, culminating with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota to rookie Corey Davis. But after that, the Titans had absolutely nothing on offense — 48 total yards until their final drive. The offensive line sprung leaks as the Patriots seized on Mariota for eight sacks.
Meanwhile the Patriots exploited the Titans soft underbelly and wore down the defense with 80 offensive plays and loads of Tom Brady (35-53 for 337 yards) slants and hitches to Danny Amendola and, as expected, a heavy dose of Dion Lewis and James White passes. Overall it was a very complete and well-designed offensive effort for New England (as ever). With the game far out of reach at 35-7, Garbage Time proved very fruitful for Over bettors as the Titans worked a 16-play, 80-yard drive ending with an 11-yard Corey Davis touchdown on a 4th and 9. Ryan Succop’s extra point put the game over at 49. Also, this happened, one of the game’s more entertaining moments:
What’s next: The Patriots opened as a 9-point favorite over the Jaguars and that’s about where it’ll stay. The Pats are 10-1 against the spread in their last 11 games. But do not underestimate these Jaguars. They’ve done a better job shutting down wide receivers than tight ends or running backs (in the passing game), but it’s a very athletic team that can get after the QB, which is the formula for slowing down Brady. The Patriots are like chameleons on offense but this figures to be another Gronk-Lewis-White game plan, probably with some more rushing. Early lean: Under (after that offensive explosion in Pittsburgh). As for the side, I have trouble articulating a reason for betting against the Patriots under any circumstances. Just Under.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (o/u 41):
What happened: Mike Mularkey got the axe on Monday in a “mutual” parting and the Steelers ought to do the same with Mike Tomlin, another “player’s coach.” Once again Pittsburgh came out flat and suffered numerous self-inflicted wounds, including some inexplicable calls on fourth-and-ones which may or may not have been Ben Roethlisberger audibles at the line. A toss outside on one play and a deep pass against the best secondary in the league? Throw in some bad clock management. This is just a poorly coached team for which letdowns are the norm, not the exception. Kudos to the Jags for coming out hungrier and fighting back every time Pittsburgh climbed back into the game. Incredibly the total went over in the first half.
What’s next: The Jacksonville Jaguars are headed to Foxboro for the AFC Championship game, ladies and gentlemen! We addressed the Patriots’ almost unfailing ability to cover the spread. Here, I suspect we see some overreaction to the super high scoring Jaguars game. I’m hoping the total moves out to 48 from its current 47. In any case, it’s time to take it to the limit, baby. The Jaguars have arrived.
The #Jaguars had an impressive #NFLDraft haul, but this fan's TV interview is better than any pick the team made. pic.twitter.com/J0pYbcXYKt
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) May 2, 2016
New Orleans Saints (+4.5 or 5 or 5.5), depending when you wagered at Minnesota Vikings (o/u 46):
What happened: Holy heck, what happened. What didn’t happen? The Vikings defense stymied the Saints in the first half and held them scoreless. Minny also kept the Saints rushing game in check for the duration — just 68 yards rushing on 21 carries (3.2 average) for Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Drew Brees put ‘em on his back with 21 unanswered points en route to a 21-20 lead. The Vikings then leaped in front 23-21.
On the Saints final drive, Brees converted on a crucial 4th and 10 at midfield before Will Lutz nailed a 43-yard go-ahead field goal with just 25 seconds remaining. With just 14 seconds left in the game at their own 39 and no timeouts, Case Keenum and the Vikings needed at least 20 yards to get Kai Forbath into field goal range. As you all know, Keenum got a heck of a lot more with this instant-classic 61-yard, game-ending touchdown score to Stefon Diggs, who took advantage of a cautious Saints safety Marcus Williams for a stunning tightrope walk touchdown:
Maryland’s own Stephon Diggs catches game winning touchdown against the Saints. pic.twitter.com/malddWZxfu
— DC Maryland Virginia (@DMVFollowers) January 15, 2018
The wild TD flipped the spread for most bettors: Depending on whether you bet Saints or Vikes at (plus/minus) 4.5 or 5 or 5.5 (closing number), you either won, lost, or pushed against the spread. And of course the money line flipped both from Saints to Vikings.
ALSO: the NFL mandates that the scoring team attempts a point after or two-point conversion even in a meaningless situation. Check out reaction at the MGM Grand Las Vegas where the line was 5.5 and a successful point after would have changed fortunes for a lot of people:
When they kneel for the deciding point lol pic.twitter.com/UXD9sMevmJ
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) January 15, 2018
I don’t think any rational individual expected the Vikings to attempt the PAT, but, you never know. Once the Saints returned to the field the Vikings kneeled, leaving the spread and total as-is. Just one charade on top of an absolute stunner.
What’s next: The Vikings-Eagles is the nightcap next Sunday, so the winner will know their Super Bowl opponent by kickoff. We need some time to digest and dissect this game. My natural inclination is the home dog with the hook, but that 3.5 seems to beg for some Eagles money. So far most of the cheddar is on the Vikings. I can’t see many points in this game but 38 leaves little margin for error and a defensive or special teams touchdown might spell disaster.
Check back on Friday for the full breakdown on both the AFC and NFC Championship.
TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT!!!!
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