NFL Divisional Round Opening Lines and Analysis
Let’s take a look at each of the Divisional Round’s opening lines. Some of the lines have already seen some movement, but we will be taking a look at the teams involved and what the opening line may tell us as potential bettors. We will just be discussing the matchups; if you are looking for more concrete predictions and projections, be sure to check back throughout the week for our game picks.
All odds are courtesy of our friends at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers
Odds: Packers -7, O/U 46.5
The Los Angeles Rams survived the Seattle Seahawks thanks to their defensive unit’s heroics and that of rookie running back Cam Akers. It was not a pretty win, but the Rams were able to rely on their strengths to get them past a Seahawks team that has looked disjointed for the past two seasons. They will be facing a much more well rounded and consistent team in the Packers, but have the defense to put them into one of the funks we have seen the Packers inexplicably fall into enough to worry about. Los Angeles has some injuries to sort through this week but could prove to be a value if they can get healthy. Aaron Donald injured his ribs by sacking Russell Wilson but dragging him down straight onto the exposed part of his ribs when rolling. His X-Rays came back negative. Quarterback John Wolford is day-to-day with a stinger. He is the preferred starter for the Rams, so this is another massive Rams injury to follow this week. They also saw David Edwards and Cooper Kupp pick up knocks.
The Green Bay Packers got the bye due to having the best record in the NFC. That means that the Rams must play and win a game in Green Bay in order to advance to the conference championship. Los Angeles was already going to have their work cut out for them against Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and Davante Adams, but in what is expected to be a cold-weather game, the task gets even more daunting. Green Bay will need to be careful not to look past Los Angeles, as, despite their injuries, and their relative inconsistency, they still have enough defensive talent to keep the Rams in most contests. Start thinking about the New Orleans Saints or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers too early, and Green Bay could end up staring at a possible upset. Still, this is the Packers’ game to lose.
Green Bay at -7 quickly attracted enough sharp action to see the juice, but there have been enough Rams bettors to keep the line stuck at its original number through the first 12+ hours of being posted. This line will more than likely see some movement; however, which way it moves may be dictated by which quarterback the Rams are able to or decide to roll with for the divisional round matchup. Jared Goff has regressed for the second straight season, leaving John Wolford as the option bettors may have more faith in. The over/under saw some quick movement, originally being posted at 46.5 but moving to 45.5 before the end of Sunday’s final game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The total was set well enough that we could see it bounce between 45.5 and 46.5 for much of the week. It is already on its way back up to 46 with the juice firmly on the over at the new number. We could see multiple line changes here, so keep that in mind when deciding on the timing of your action. It is also important to bear in mind that Goff being confirmed as the starter may end the movement’s fluidness.
Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills
Odds: Bills -3, O/U 49.5
The Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson finally got the proverbial monkey off their back in picking up their first playoff win and also in exercising the demon known as the Tennessee Titans. Baltimore had lost two straight to Tennessee (earlier this season and last season’s playoffs), so this win no doubt serves as a massive momentum builder. However, the biggest positive storyline to come from their Wild Card round win was that the Ravens emerged from a 10+ point hole with a win for the first time in Lamar Jackson’s career. They are still not built to play from behind, but with Marquise Brown providing more consistency as a sophomore, the arrow is pointing up. Baltimore has the defense to limit the Bills scoring production but will need to be able to score enough points on an improving defense to keep pace with the Bills output. This should be an exciting contest from start to finish and will be viewed by more than a few as the marquee contest of the weekend from both a viewer’s and bettor’s perspective. If Baltimore can avoid going down early, they are the most likely to walk away from the divisional round with an ‘upset.’
The Buffalo Bills were expected to have their work cut out for them against a very good Indianapolis Colts team, and that proved to be the case as the game was a hard-fought affair from start to finish. The Bills’ path to the Super Bowl became even tougher with the Cleveland Browns ‘upset’ of the Pittsburgh Steelers, meaning that Buffalo will be forced into the improbable task of beating both the Baltimore Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs in order to qualify for the Super Bowl. Buffalo is peaking at the right time, especially on defense, but will be hoping that starting running back Zack Moss will be healthy enough to go against a defensive front that shut down 2,000-yard rusher Derrick Henry. How the Ravens are able to deal with Josh Allen’s ability to scramble may dictate how this contest plays out. Having a legitimate running back threat will open things up for the rest of the offense. We should receive word on whether or not the rookie has been lost for the season by Wednesday at the latest. As the rising over/under suggests, this contest could easily turn into a shootout if the weather cooperates like it did on ‘Super’ Wild Card Weekend.
The spread for this contest is perhaps the most interesting of the week. The -3 suggests that sportsbooks sees these opponents as relatively evenly matched, with the home team getting the small ‘deference’ spread. Almost as soon as the line was posted, sharp action started to pour in on the Ravens, pushing them to -128, but the Bills saw enough action to keep them at -3 through the night. The line was finally changed to -2.5 early this morning. The over/under was one of the first numbers to move despite not being posted until hours after the NFC lines were posted, climbing from 49.5 to 50.5. The total dropped back down to 50 as of early this morning, suggesting that sportsbooks set the line well enough that they were destined to see significant action on both sides.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs
Odds: Chiefs -10, O/U 55.5
The Cleveland Browns will enter the most daunting matchup of the weekend with a laundry list of injuries. Star pass rusher Olivier Vernon already left a massive hole on defense, but they were also forced to play without top corner Denzel Ward and star guard Joel Bitonio. The injuries continued to pile up on Sunday, as Jack Conklin and B.J. Goodson both left the contest early due to injuries. The Browns, of course, have a puncher’s chance straight up, but the +10 spread tells us all we need to know about what sportsbooks think their actual chances for an upset are. Healthy, and with the ground game humming, the Browns are an easy cover candidate. Kansas City can score on anyone, however, and entering a contest potentially down two starting corners, a starting middle linebacker, and two starting offensive lineman is deficiently not the recipe for success against a high-powered Chiefs team.
Kansas City is the favorite to win it all but will have to emerge from the conference that arguably features three of the strongest remaining four teams left in the playoffs. The path to the AFC Championship will go through Kansas City, and they will see their hard regular-season work pay off as they get to avoid having to face both Baltimore and Buffalo in order to advance, as the Browns upset of the Steelers means the Chiefs will have to defeat only one of them to get a chance to defend their championship. Kansas City will need to be careful not to look past a banged-up Browns team, as they still have the pieces to dominate on the ground, with or without Bitonio and Conklin. Nick Chubb and former Chief Kareem Hunt are a tremendous duo that could affect the outcome of the game if Chris Jones and company cannot hold them in check. Kansas City should be relatively healthy after resting a litany of starters for portions, if not all, of Week 17’s contest against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chiefs opened as large -10 favorites against the Browns. As mentioned above, Cleveland is dealing with some injuries, but until a time that Ward, Conklin, Bitonio, and Goodson are cleared, this line is likely to stay exactly where it is and could possibly grow. There should be sharp action coming in on both sides until that time. The over/under being set at 55.5 suggests that sportsbooks expect a relatively high-scoring affair, but since the number was set in the upper threshold of what most view as a favorable total, we are likely to see the number drop as the week progresses. However, the early money has come in on the over, so we may see a rise to 56 before it starts to drop. Both teams possess explosive offenses and feature defenses that can be exposed, so there is likely to be considerable action coming in on both sides despite the projected movement.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Odds: Saints -3.5, O/U 49.5
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to have their work cut out for them against a team that they have already lost to twice this season. Ronald Jones being ruled out for the Wild Card round matchup due to pre-game swelling only murkies the waters for the underdogs, but as the smaller +3.5 line on the Buccaneers suggests, this contest can still go either way. Tampa Bay is peaking at the right time, especially on offense, but will need to play to their potential in all three phases against one of the more complete teams in the league to avoid getting embarrassed again. Tampa Bay lost by 11 and 35 points when they played New Orleans this season, but that was when the offense was still much more of a work in progress than it is now. However, they will need to find a way to solve a Saints defense that has also seen a vast improvement since the last time these two teams met.
The New Orleans Saints were always expected to make it to the conference championship but will need to get past Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to do so. Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees is a fun narrative, especially considering that this is likely the last ever matchup between these two Hall-of-Fame-bound legends, but it is the defensive units of each team that will dictate who wins this contest. The Saints have the edge in terms of being more complete, but, even without Vita Vea, the Buccaneers still have the more talented and imposing front seven. New Orleans may very well need to turn to the short passing game over the run, but with Alvin Kamara in tow, they certainly have the personnel to do so. They may, however, be without top backup Latavis Murray. The Saints picked up some injuries in their win over the Bears, with corner Patrick Robinson and Murray both picking up thigh injuries that forced them from the contest late.
The New Orleans Saints looked like the more complete team in both of the meetings between these two teams this season, winning Week 1’s contest by 11 points before laying the smackdown in Week 9, blowing the Buccaneers out by a 35 point margin. Tampa Bay has improved since Week 9, but by all accounts, so has New Orleans. The -3.5 spread may be slightly on the smaller side for Saints value, and the immediate juice appears to suggest the same, with the juice rising to -114 before the first quarter of the Browns-Steelers game was even halfway complete. However, significant sharp action on Tampa Bay pushed the number to -3 overnight. The volume is going to come in on the Saints, but as the overnight movement has shown, the actual handle is harder to project. 49.5 is an interesting number. On the one hand, no one would have balked if this contest opened at 52.5-54, though the sharp action would have been on the under. At 49.5, the early money has been on the over. We could see both the spread and the total rise quickly this week, but there is a point where they will likely reach a peak before starting to move in the opposite direction. The total soared to 51.5 overnight and could see further movement, with the juice now being on the under. Keep that in mind before deciding when and if to place your action at FanDuel.