A few notes and trends, courtesy of The Gold Sheet: At least one No. 1 seed has lost in the Division Round in seven of the last 12 years. Over the last 15 seasons, road underdogs are 33-26-2 against the spread in the Division Round. The over is 24-12 in the Division Round since 2010.
There have been 176 Division Round games since the NFL adopted their modified playoff format. Over half of those games have been decided by double-digits, and 72 of them have been decided by 14 points or more. History suggests we probably won’t be seeing two overtime games and four one-score games like we saw a week ago.
Why is the Division Round prone to lopsided games? Some teams are facing brutal rest and travel schedules at this time of the year. Tennessee will be playing their third-straight road game and the Titans’ fifth road game since December 1. Last week’s trip to Philadelphia was Seattle’s sixth trip to the Eastern time zone this season. Pete Carroll’s squad has done significantly more traveling than the rest of the teams remaining in the playoffs. Including this upcoming trip to Green Bay, the Seahawks have traveled over 35,000 miles this year, while Green Bay is in the bottom-third of the league at 13,000 miles.
Keep those things in mind when doing in-game betting, or looking at alternative lines. If a team looks like they’re running out of gas, history suggests the outcome may get a little messy.
San Francisco -7 vs. Minnesota
Since the NFC essentially ended in a glorified three-way tie, Minnesota has already knocked off one of the No. 1 seeds. They should be full of confidence heading into San Francisco after picking up Kirk Cousins’ first playoff win last week in New Orleans. The total at 45 has piqued our interest. Minnesota’s game against the Saints closed at 50. Why the five-point decrease for this one? Early weather forecasts look fine. San Francisco’s offense generates more points per game, more points per play, more yards per play, and more trips to the red zone than New Orleans. In theory, Minnesota’s defense has a tougher task this week than it did last week. The Saints left plenty of points on the board, missing an easy field goal at the end of the first half then fumbling in the redzone in the fourth quarter. The 49ers have their full complement of weapons with George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders. The over is 8-4 in Minnesota’s last 12 games. The over is 7-2-1 in San Francisco’s last ten games.
Baltimore -9 vs. Tennessee
You should have a fairly good idea of how this game is going to play out early in this contest. Baltimore is coming off a glorified double-bye after not playing last week and sitting the majority of starters in Week 17 against the Steelers. The Ravens led the NFL in first quarter scoring at 8.0 points. They finished the regular season with a point differential of +97 in the first quarter. If they jump out to a lead, Tennessee isn’t really built for a multi-score comeback. The Titans’ gameplan is hardly a secret: Get the ball to Derrick Henry. The NFL’s rushing leader gained 182 yards on 34 carries last week against the Patriots in a game where the Titans only completed nine passes. You can do that when you’re leading or within striking distance. You can’t do that when you’re chasing Lamar Jackson. Under John Harbaugh, the Ravens have played seven games as a favorite of more than a touchdown against a team that passes the ball less than 32 times per game. The Ravens are 1-6 against the spread in those games with two outright losses. The Titans attempt the fewest passes in the league at 27.3 per game.
Kansas City -9.5 vs. Houston
Houston has nothing to lose. After getting embarrassed in last year’s Wild Card game, this season is already considered a relative success. Bill O’Brien’s job is probably safe for another year. After going 1-6 against the spread as a home favorite during the regular season, they got the home playoff monkey off their back. Houston is the longest-price in the futures market and no one is betting on them. Running back Carlos Hyde was traded from the Chiefs to the Texans last year. Quarterback Deshaun Watson will always be judged against Patrick Mahomes because they were drafted two spots apart. Texans’ defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was fired by the Chiefs. Houston has plenty of motivational angles on their side. Wide receiver Will Fuller is expected to return to the lineup. JJ Watt looked better than most people expected in his return last week. The Texans have already won in Kansas City this season. All of the pressure is on the Chiefs. Mahomes is expected to receive a record-breaking contract in the offseason. This is their last opportunity to win with him on a rookie deal. Kansas City has been eliminated from the playoffs on their home field each of the last three seasons.