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2012 NFL Wildcard Round Playoff Odds

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leads the team out to warm up before the start of the Steelers-Arizona Cardinals game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on October 23,2011. UPI/Art Foxall

Bengals +3 @ Texans, 4:30PM ET, Saturday
Before I looked at the point spreads for this week, I wrote down what I thought the line would be for each game. While I nailed both of the NFC games, I was off considerably for each AFC contest. For this matchup in particular, I had the Bengals as 1-point underdogs given the quarterback situation for the Texans. I thought Jake Delhomme would start because all indications out of Houston on Sunday were that T.J. Yates wouldn’t play. But now that Yates is expected to start, the line makes sense. While Houston enters postseason play as the most injury-riddled team in the tournament, the Texans still have an excellent shot of advancing because of their running game and Wade Phillips. Arian Foster and Ben Tate are a matchup problem for most teams, even those that can stop the run. And Phillips will surely throw in a few wrinkles to confuse quarterback Andy Dalton, who is playing in his first career playoff game. Laying any amount of points on the Texans seems risky but the Bengals aren’t exactly steamrolling into the postseason.

Lions +10.5 @ Saints, 8:00PM ET, Saturday
Attaching the hook to this game was a smart move by oddsmakers, who had to do something to give Saints-backers a moment of pause. There are probably plenty of bettors in Vegas who are laying the wood with New Orleans considering how dominant it’s been at home. But the Lions have already made a trip to the Superdome this year and thus, there will be no surprises. At 10, bettors may be apt to lay the points in hopes that, at the very least, they’ll get a push. But at 10.5 the Lions become a more attractive play. Detroit will also have Ndamukong Suh (who was suspended the first time these two teams met) for this contest, as well as a healthy Louis Delmas and Chris Houston (who were banged up in the first meeting). I’m not suggesting the Saints can’t or won’t cover: they certainly can. They’ve been an unstoppable force at home this season and Drew Brees looks ridiculously comfortable running Sean Payton’s offense on the Superdome turf. But 10.5 points is a lot for a playoff game, especially when you consider how good Detroit’s passing game is thanks to Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. NFL fans may get the shootout that they’re hoping for.

Falcons +3 @ Giants, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
If the roles were reversed and this game was being played in Atlanta, I’d fully expect the Falcons to be favored by 3. That’s because these two teams draw plenty of similarities to each other and thus, home field advantage is what sets the line. (On a neutral field I would almost expect the game to be set as a pick’em.) There will be plenty of New York backers for this one, especially when you factor in the Giants’ fierce pass rush, Matt Ryan’s 0-2 record in the postseason, and the Falcons’ lackluster play on the road this year. But while Atlanta is 4-4 on the road, New York is 4-4 at home so again, this is a pretty even matchup on paper. That said, if you’re a trends bettor then you have to love Atlanta. The Falcons are 5-0 against the spread in their last five road games versus the Giants and the road team is 8-0 against the number in the last eight meetings. The under is also 5-1-1 in the last seven meetings so if you’re looking for an edge when it comes to the total, under 47 might be a solid play.

Steelers –9 @ Broncos, 4:30PM ET, Sunday
I was way off when predicting the line for this game. You knew Denver was going to be an underdog given its brutal performance the past two weeks and the fact that Pittsburgh was coming to town, but I figured the spread would be around 5.5 or 6. Nine seems way too high, even when you consider how brutal Tim Tebow could look against Dick LeBeau’s defense. But the Steelers’ offense isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders right now. In their last four games, Ben Roethlisberger and Co. have scored 14, 3, 27 and 13 points, respectively. And that 27-point barrage came against a hapless St. Louis team that couldn’t move the ball in Week 16. Considering Big Ben has a bad ankle and Rashard Mendenhall is done for the season because of a knee injury, this game may be closer than people think. Remember, the Broncos are playing excellent defense right now so this may turn out to be a field goal-fest. (And if that’s the case, then maybe the under is the best play on the board, even though its sitting at 34.5.)

2012 NFL Wildcard Weekend Odds

Bengals +3 (38)
Texans –3

Lions +10.5 (58.5)
Saints –10.5

Falcons +3 (47)
Giants –3

Steelers –9 (34.5)
Broncos +9

Check out more odds at TopBet online sportsbook for the NFL playoffs and other sports.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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2011 NFL Divisional Round Odds

coln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, 09 January 2011. EPA/JUSTIN LANE fotoglif882603

Ravens @ Steelers, 4:30PM ET, Saturday
This will be the third meeting between these two teams this season. In Week 4, the Ravens beat a Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers in Pittsburgh, 17-14. But the Steelers got their revenge in Week 13 by beating the Ravens 13-10 in Baltimore behind Troy Polamalu’s strip of Joe Flacco late in the fourth quarter. It’s a little surprising to see oddsmakers open this game at 3.5 with the way the Ravens played last Sunday in Kansas City. One would think that they would have set the point spread at 3 and let the public play with it from there. I can’t see this line going up throughout the week. The public remembers that the Ravens should have beaten the Steelers twice this year and they tend to latch onto Wildcard teams because those teams’ performances are fresh in their memory. I bet this line closes at Steelers –3, or even –2.5.
THE ODDS: STEELERS –3.5 (36.5)

Packers @ Falcons, 8:00PM ET, Sunday
Home field advantage is usually worth three points, or so the logic goes. To see the Falcons opened at only –1.5 means one of two things: either oddsmakers believe that the Packers are the team to beat in this game or they believe that the public believes they’re the team to beat. (Or it could mean both, I guess.) Aaron Rodgers and the Pack are red-hot and the public views them as a legit Super Bowl contender. With the way James Starks ran last week, people are starting to buy into a Green Bay championship run, which means an upset this Sunday in Hotlanta. That said, the line has moved all the way up to 2.5 in the matter of 24 hours, so is Vegas getting heavy sharp action on the Falcons? It’s good to see that this matchup received the primetime spot on Saturday night because it should be the best game of the weekend.
THE ODDS: FALCONS –2.5 (45)

Seahawks @ Bears, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
It’s not surprising that the Seahawks are underdogs again but didn’t their upset of the defending champs last Sunday by them a little bit of respect? They already beat the Bears once in Chicago this year and yet they’re double-digit dogs. Neither oddsmakers nor the public (at least the majority of the public) believes that the Seahawks have two upsets in them, especially since they have to go on the road this week. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the line drops from 10 to 9.5 or even 9 by kickoff. I don’t get the sense that everyone is on the Bears’ bandwagon this year, so the public may take the points with the road dog. But if you like the Bears, it may be best to wait and see if the number comes off the all-important “10.”
THE ODDS: BEARS –10 (41)

Jets @ Patriots, 4:30PM ET, Sunday
The line opened at Patriots –9 and it almost immediately jumped to –9.5. But the spread has now dropped back to 9 so maybe Vegas is getting action coming in on both sides. It’s hard to imagine that the line wouldn’t move back up to 9.5 or even 10 by kickoff after the way the Patriots spanked the Jets 45-3 in their last meeting. But maybe Rex Ryan made believers out of people by the way he held Peyton Manning in check. In the end, I can’t see the public not backing New England and if the line stays below 10 then it would be a gift to Patriot backers.
THE ODDS: PATRIOTS –9 (45)

NFL Divisional Round Preview

Before I get to my Divisional Round Preview, I’d like to send all of the losers from Wild Card Weekend off the only way I know how: By jabbing them one final time.

Atlanta Falcons: Hey Mike Smith and Mike Mularkey, his name is Jerious Norwood. He’s #32 and he’s one of the best playmakers on your offense. Might want to think about using him more the next time an opposing defense figures out how to shut down Michael Turner.

Indianapolis Colts: Seven trips to the postseason in the last seven years and you only manage one Super Bowl appearance with a three-time MVP at quarterback? Dear Barbara…

Miami Dolphins: Chad, I love you man and I love your story this season. But you can’t force passes down field into double coverage and expect good things. You should have kept doing what you did all season and what you did in your first possession of the game – hit the high-percentage passes and let your receivers get the yardage.

Minnesota Vikings: Did anyone else scratch their head when Brad Childress declined a holding penalty on third down early in the first quarter that would have moved the Eagles on the edge of field goal range? Instead, it brought up forth down and David Akers drilled a 43-yarder to give Philly a 3-0 lead. Childress basically said, “I’m not sure if my defense can hold the Eagles on 3rd and 14 – better give up the field goal so we don’t give up a potential touchdown instead.” You never give your opponents points in the playoffs. Never. Not even a field goal. Force them back, force them to make a play and force them to earn the points.

Myself: I went 1-3 with my Wild Card Predictions last week. Seriously? You went with the Colts in the playoffs? A rookie in Matt Ryan? The Vikings over everyone’s sleeper team in the Eagles? You’re a freaking bum. (Ironically I went 3-1 in a family football pool because I came to my senses and picked San Diego and Philly.)

Moving on…

Chris JohnsonBaltimore Ravens (11-5) at Tennessee Titans (13-3)
Saturday, January 10, 4:30PM ET
Opening Odds: Titans –3
Over/Under: 34.5
Game Outlook:
No disrespect to the Giants and Eagles or any other team playing this weekend, but this is easily the best matchup on the divisional playoff schedule. Did you see what Ed Reed and the Ravens did to Chad Pennington and the Dolphins last week? They held them to only 276 total yards, forced five turnovers and surrendered only 52 rushing yards. And although they used a lot of gadget formations throughout the season, it’s not like Miami’s offense was a dud this year. Granted, the Titans have the seventh best rushing attack in the league and rookie Chris Johnson brings an added dimension to the field, but Mike Heimerdinger has his hands full this week trying to come up with a game plan to move the ball against a Baltimore defense allowing just over 15 points a game this season. That said, it’ll be interesting to see how rookie quarterback Joe Flacco does against the seventh best defense in the NFL. Flacco passed with flying colors last week while playing mistake-free and running for the game-clinching score in the fourth quarter. But he’ll have to do a hell of a lot more than complete 9 of 23 passes for 135 yards against a Tennessee defense that could have DT Albert Haynesworth and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch back on their defensive line. If both players are in the lineup Saturday, Flacco is going to feel the heat up the middle and from the edges so he better get rid of the ball in a timely manner. Overall, this is the best defensive matchup of the year and this game will probably come down to who doesn’t turn the ball over.
X-Factor: Chris Johnson, Titans RB
The only time the Dolphins found success last week was when they used the Ravens’ aggressive style against them and slipped backs out in the flats. Pennington was able to hit Patrick Cobbs and company for seven to 10 yard gains and the Titans could employ the same method. Johnson is a homerun threat and more than capable of taking one to the house every play. Tennessee has to get the ball in this kid’s hands and force the Ravens to miss tackles in the open field, which they have the penchant for doing at times.
Prediction: Titans 16, Ravens 13.
I’m not going to bite on this potential upset. The Ravens’ defense is absolutely nasty, but Flacco worries me against a ball-hawking Tennessee secondary and I think the Titans are going to shut down Baltimore’s running game. This game comes down to which team makes fewer mistakes and I’ll take a veteran in Kerry Collins over the rook Flacco. (Word to the wise though, Kerry – stay away from Ed Reed’s side if you can.)


Read the rest after the jump...

NFL Playoff Preview: Wild Card Weekend

What a bizarre season this has been. Two teams that many pundits figured would meet in the Super Bowl – the Cowboys and Patriots – didn’t even make the playoffs. While two teams expected to dwell the cellars of their respective divisions for another season – the Dolphins and Falcons – will be playing in round one of the postseason, which kicks off this weekend.

Below is a complete playoff preview for the four Wild Card games this weekend. In each game preview you’ll find a matchup breakdown, a player to keep an eye on, odds, and a predicted score. (What’s a game preview without a prediction?)

Rather amazingly, all four home teams are underdogs this weekend.

Matt RyanAtlanta Falcons (11-5) at Arizona Cardinals (9-7)
Saturday, January 3, 4:30 PM FOX
Opening Odds: Falcons –2
Over/Under: 51
Game Outlook:
Outside of having to face Kurt Warner and a Cardinals’ offense that averages over 290 passing yards a game, this is a great matchup for the Falcons. Arizona has had issues stopping the run over the past couple weeks and before Edgerrin James cracked 100 yards Sunday against the Seahawks, no Cardinal rusher hit the 100-yard mark in the previous seven games. Offensively, that means Atlanta can do what it does best – put the game in the hands of Michael Turner. “The Burner” is coming off a 208-yard rushing performance in Week 17 and hasn’t shown signs of wearing down despite this being the first season that he’s had to carry the full rushing load. Look for the Falcons to try to wear down Arizona’s front seven throughout the game and keep the Cards’ explosive offense on the sidelines. Once the Cardinal safeties start to creep up to stop Turner, Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey can start taking shots down the field with rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. Defensively, the Falcons will have to keep their safeties back in coverage and rely on their front seven to stop the Cardinals’ run game because corners Chris Houston and Dominique Foxworth can’t contain Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald in one on one coverage. Although Boldin has missed the final two games with a shoulder injury, he’s expected to play, which is obviously huge for Warner and the passing game. But if they can’t run the ball they’ll be to one-dimensional and the Falcons will be able to sit back in coverage.
X-Factor: John Abraham, Falcons DE
Abraham has been an absolute beast this season and if the Falcons can build a decent lead with their running game, it will allow Abraham to pin his ears back and head straight for the quarterback. Atlanta has done a nice job rotating their defensive linemen all season to keep them fresh and if Abraham can get pressure on Warner, he’s bound to make mistakes and turn the ball over.
Prediction: Falcons 30, Cardinals 27.
Atlanta’s secondary is a concern (especially with safety Lawyer Milloy nursing a back injury), but the Vikings exposed the Cardinals two weeks ago and the Falcons will use the same blueprint.


Read the rest after the jump...

Vegas odds favor Giants and Titans for Super Bowl

According to Las Vegas oddsmakers, the New York Giants and Tennessee Titans have the best chances of squaring off in Super Bowl XLIII February 1.

Las Vegas sports books favor the New York Giants over the 11 other teams in the NFL playoffs to win the Super Bowl, giving 2-to-1 odds on the NFC’s No. 1 seed to repeat as champions.

The Tennessee Titans are the favorite among AFC teams to win a title at 4-1.

Oddsmaker Mike Seba of Las Vegas Sports Consultants says the Giants have the easiest road to get to the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, while the AFC teams are more evenly matched.

The Giants would have to beat either the Arizona Cardinals or the Atlanta Falcons to reach the NFC championship game. The Cardinals are the biggest longshots for the title at 40-1; in the AFC, the Miami Dolphins have 30-1 odds.

Before the season, the two teams that opened with the longest odds to win the Super Bowl were the Dolphins (250-1) and the Falcons (200-1). Now they’re both in the playoffs.

The two preseason favorites — the New England Patriots (2-1) and Dallas Cowboys (7-1) — failed to reach the playoffs.

It’s kind of crazy that oddsmakers feel that the Eagles (the sixth seed in the NFC) have a better shot of winning in the Super Bowl than the NFC West Champion Arizona Cardinals.

Apparently their victory over the Seahawks on Sunday wasn’t enough to make oddsmakers confident in the Cards.

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