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2009 NFL Playoffs – Gambling Trends & Matchup Previews

NFL Wild-Card Playoff Preview 

This is why the NFL has a Wild-Card Round. All four of the visiting teams in this weekend’s opening round of the playoffs are favored against their four division-winning opponents. Will a Wild Card take the Super Bowl for the third time in four years? Our preview of this weekend’s action suggests they’ll get off to a good start. All game times are Eastern; for current lines, visit Bodog’s online sportsbook.  

Saturday, Jan. 3

Atlanta at Arizona

University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
4:30 p.m., NBC
Odds: Arizona +2

Atlanta Falcons

11-5 SU, 9-7 ATS, Under 9-7
Points per game: 24.4 (No. 10 in NFL)
Points allowed: 20.3 (No. 11)
Passing yards: 208.5 (No. 6)
Rushing yards: 152.4 (No. 2)
Passing yards allowed: 220.4 (No. 21)
Rushing yards allowed: 126.6 (No. 25)
Super Bowl odds: 20-1

Arizona Cardinals

9-7 SU, 9-7 ATS, Over 11-5
Points: 26.7 (No. 3)
Points allowed: 26.6 (No. 28)
Passing yards: 291.9 (No. 2)
Rushing yards: 73.7 (No. 32)
Passing yards allowed: 221.2 (No. 22)
Rushing yards allowed: 110.2 (No. 16)
Super Bowl odds: 40-1

Head-to-Head

Arizona (-11) won last year’s Week 16 matchup 30-27 at home in overtime. Atlanta is 6-4 SU and 5-5 ATS in their last 10 meetings dating back to 1994. The over is 7-3, including last year’s contest.

Analysis

The Falcons come into the playoffs as the much hotter team, going 5-1 SU (3-3 ATS) in their last six, while Arizona stumbled to the finish line at 2-4 SU and ATS. The Cards may have taken their foot off the gas a little early after sewing up the shockingly poor NFC West; the two victories they did manage were at home against St. Louis (+14) and Seattle (+7). Arizona is 3-7 SU and 4-6 ATS this season against teams from other divisions. Atlanta is 8-2 SU and 7-3 ATS outside of an NFC South that had no losing teams this year.

Both teams are relatively healthy going into the Wild-Card Round. And both teams played their starters heavily last week – Atlanta to secure the No. 5 seed, and Arizona simply to hit the postseason on a winning note. Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder) looked good in Tuesday’s practice (according to the Arizona Republic) after sitting out the last two weeks.

The Cards have become an abnormally pass-heavy team as the season has progressed, but they managed to unleash Edgerrin James for 100 yards on just 14 carries in last week’s win over the Seahawks. Atlanta’s rush defense is worse than Seattle’s, and James should be fresh after originally losing his job to Tim Hightower in Week 9. Coach Ken Whisenhunt refused to tell reporters on Monday who his starting RB would be on Saturday.

NFL betting lines in the Bodog Sportsbook.

Indianapolis at San Diego

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
8:00 p.m., NBC
15% chance of rain, 55 degrees, light winds
Odds: San Diego +1.5

Indianapolis Colts

12-4 SU, 8-7-1 ATS, Under 8-8
Points: 23.6 (No. 13)
Points allowed: 18.6 (No. 7)
Passing yards: 255.9 (No. 5)
Rushing yards: 79.6 (No. 31)
Passing yards allowed: 188.2 (No. 6)
Rushing yards allowed: 122.7 (No. 24)
Super Bowl odds: 8-1

San Diego Chargers

8-8 SU, 7-8-1 ATS, Over 8-7-1
Points: 27.4 (No. 2)
Points allowed: 21.7 (No. 15)
Passing yards: 240.8 (No. 7)
Rushing yards: 107.9 (No. 20)
Passing yards allowed: 247.4 (No. 31)
Rushing yards allowed: 102.6 (No. 11)
Super Bowl odds: 11-1

Head-to-Head

These two teams met in San Diego in Week 12; Indianapolis won 23-20 as a 3-point puppy. The Chargers won last year’s Divisional Round matchup 28-24 as 10.5-point road dogs. San Diego is 6-4 ATS, but just 5-5 SU in its last 10 against the Colts dating back to 1997. The under is also 5-5, cashing in during Week 12.

Analysis

The Chargers have been on a rollercoaster ride all season. Business improved after defensive co-ordinator Ted Cottrell was fired in late October and replaced with Ron Rivera; San Diego is 5-3 SU and 4-4 ATS since then, including 4-4 SU and 3-1 ATS in the last four to snatch the lowly AFC West from the Denver Broncos. Indianapolis shook off a long list of early-season injuries to finish the year on a nine-game winning streak at 5-3-1 ATS.

Indianapolis had nothing to play for in Week 17 and was able to rest its starters during most of its 23-0 win over the Titans (-3), who were also taking it easy. LB Gary Brackett, who broke his leg in Week 13, will remain out of the lineup on Saturday according to coach Tony Dungy. Despite Indy’s restful week and RB LaDainian Tomlinson’s freshly strained groin, the Chargers are the healthier team right now.

Both teams have relied on their quarterbacks this season, and while Peyton Manning (95.0 passer rating) is getting hyped for league MVP, Philip Rivers (105.5) has had the best season of any QB in the NFL. The Colts also continue to put weak special teams on the field; their return game was quite awful this year, while San Diego sparkplug Darren Sproles has a 103-yard kick return for a touchdown.

Bet on NFL at Bodog.

Sunday, Jan. 4

Baltimore at Miami

Dolphin Stadium, Miami
1:00 p.m., CBS
20% chance of rain, 75 degrees
Odds: Miami +3.5

Baltimore Ravens

11-5 SU, 12-4 ATS, Over 9-6-1
Points: 21.1 (No. 11)
Points allowed: 15.2 (No. 3)
Passing yards: 175.4 (No. 28)
Rushing yards: 148.9 (No. 4)
Passing yards allowed: 179.8 (No. 2)
Rushing yards allowed: 81.2 (No. 3)
Super Bowl odds: 14-1

Miami Dolphins

11-5 SU, 8-8 ATS, Under 10-6
Points: 21.6 (No. 21)
Points allowed: 19.8 (No. 9)
Passing yards: 226.6 (No. 10)
Rushing yards: 118.3 (No. 11)
Passing yards allowed: 226.9 (No. 25)
Rushing yards allowed: 101.4 (No. 16)
Super Bowl odds: 25-1

Head-to-Head

The Ravens bowled over the Dolphins 27-13 in Week 7 as 3-point road dogs. Miami is still 7-3 SU and ATS in its last 10 meetings with Baltimore dating back to 1992. The over got paid in this year’s game to even things out at 5-5.

Analysis

Baltimore and Miami are both hot at the right time, but the Ravens have been consistently grabbing the cash all year; their win over the Dolphins was the start of a 9-2 SU and ATS romp to the Wild Card. Miami has won five in a row and covered three of its last four.

Both teams are healthy, as well. The Ravens rushing offense is at full capacity with Willis McGahee (105 yards on 19 carries in Week 7) back and contributing alongside power runner Le’Ron McClain (3.9 yards per carry this year, 10 TDs). The Dolphins’ run defense is vulnerable in this matchup. Miami is ranked No. 24 in the league stopping opponents in short-yardage situations (third- or fourth-down, two yards or less).

Dolphins supporters hope first-year coach Tony Sparano’s vaunted Wildcat schemes can throw a wrench into Baltimore’s defense. However, the Wildcat was only used five times during their regular-season matchup, gaining just four yards under heavy blitzing from the Ravens. Handicappers engaged in live betting need to watch out for more advanced trickery from the Fish this time around, as they used the Wildcat in new and different ways to beat the Jets in Week 17. On the other side of the ball, Baltimore has the information advantage that comes with having Cam Cameron (Miami’s head coach in 2007) in the fold as offensive co-ordinator.

Football betting at Bodog Sportsbook.

Philadelphia at Minnesota

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn.
4:30 p.m., FOX
Odds: Minnesota +3 (+105) 

Philadelphia Eagles

9-6-1 SU, 10-6 ATS, Under 8-7-1
Points: 26.0 (No. 6)
Points allowed: 18.1 (No. 4)
Passing yards: 244.2 (No. 6)
Rushing yards: 106.3 (No. 22)
Passing yards allowed: 182.1 (No. 3)
Rushing yards allowed: 92.2 (No. 4)
Super Bowl odds: 11-1

Minnesota Vikings

10-6 SU, 6-10 ATS, Over 9-7
Points: 23.7 (No. 12)
Points allowed: 20.8 (No. 13)
Passing yards: 184.7 (No. 25)
Rushing yards: 145.8 (No. 5)
Passing yards allowed: 215.6 (No. 18)
Rushing yards allowed: 76.8 (No. 1)
Super Bowl odds: 28-1

Head-to-Head

These two teams last met in Week 8 of the 2007 campaign, with Philadelphia (+1) prevailing 23-16 at the Metrodome. That improved the Eagles’ record to 4-0 SU and ATS this decade against the Vikings, and 7-3 SU (9-1 ATS) in their last 10 meetings stretching all the way back to 1988. 

Analysis

The Vikings went 5-1 (3-3 ATS) down the stretch to win the NFC North, but only covered three of their last four games. Minnesota also came perilously close to losing against winless Detroit in both Week 6 and Week 14. Against teams outside of their milquetoast division, the Vikings were 6-4 SU and 5-5 ATS. The Eagles survived the double-tough NFC East by going 6-3-1 SU and 8-4 ATS against non-divisional foes.

Neither team got to take it easy in Week 17, although the Eagles were able to rest some of their starters as they ran up the score against Dallas. The Vikings have the main injury concern with 320-pound nose tackle Pat Williams; he broke his right scapula in Week 15 and was originally expected out 2-6 weeks. Although Williams has been medically cleared to play Sunday, he still has to prove in practice that his shoulder is strong enough to carry the load. If not, Minnesota loses the one advantage it had in this game, especially with Philadelphia RB Brian Westbrook’s knee acting up again.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an article on Tuesday proclaiming Chris Kluwe to be the Vikings’ “best punter ever.” Mark Craig cited Kluwe’s team record 47.6-yard gross average, but Kluwe is all power and no direction. Only 31.5 percent of his punts landed inside the 20, leaving Minnesota No. 17 in the league in that department. The Eagles get solid punt returning from DeSean Jackson, who brought one back 68 yards to the house against the Titans.

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