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NFL Divisional Round Playoff Handicapping

Divisional NFL Playoff Preview

We’ve shed four NFL teams on our path to the Super Bowl. Only eight remain, and we’ll see all eight this weekend in the Divisional Round. The four home teams are all favored, having earned themselves the week off while the four visitors played in the Wild-Card Round. The week off is a major advantage, but over the last two seasons, home teams are 4-4 SU and 1-7 ATS during the Divisionals. The crystal ball suggests at least one of the visiting teams will pull off the upset this week and move on to the Conference Round.

Baltimore at Tennessee

LP Field, Nashville
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS
40% chance of rain/snow, 35 degrees, 10-mph winds
Baltimore: 12-5 SU, 13-4 ATS, Over 9-7-1
Tennessee: 13-3 SU, 12-4 ATS, Over 8-8

The Titans were the dominant team for just about all of the regular season, but this is the smallest spread on the board this week: Tennessee is a 3-point chalk at even juice, so betting $100 wins you $100 if the Titans cash in. They expect both Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin) and Albert Haynesworth (knee) back on the defensive line after sitting out Week 17, but center Kevin Mawae (elbow) is listed as questionable. This is a big problem for the Titans.

Center is one of the most critical positions on the football field. If the current and seven-time Pro Bowler Mawae doesn’t play Saturday, the Titans will be handicapped against the most efficient run defense in the league. Baltimore held Miami (+3.5) and the potent Wildcat offense to 52 yards rushing in last week’s 27-9 Wild-Card win.

Arizona at Carolina

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, FOX
45% chance of rain, 45 degrees, light winds
Arizona: 10-7 SU, 10-7 ATS, Over 12-5
Carolina: 12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS, Over 8-8

The Cardinals proved the value of a strong and balanced offense in their 30-24 Wild-Card victory over Atlanta (-1.5), handing the ball off 16 times to Edgerrin James and another six times to Tim Hightower. Bettors swung heavily toward the Cards last week, and according to market reports are nearly 60 percent on Arizona’s side this Saturday as 10-point puppies.

Carolina finished the 2008 season on a 4-1 SU and ATS streak, but couldn’t quite unseat the Giants for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Panthers defense measures up very well against the pass; however, the ‘Cats allowed 4.4 yards per carry this year, or No. 23 in the league. Arizona is more vulnerable to the air attack of QB Jake Delhomme, although his 414 pass attempts were near the bottom of the NFL among healthy starting pivots. The over is 6-1 in each team’s last seven games.

Begin your Super Bowl betting in the Bodog Sportsbook.

Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants

Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX
20% chance of rain/snow, 30 degrees, 10-15 mph winds
Philadelphia: 10-6-1 SU, 10-6 ATS, Under 8-7-1
New York: 12-4 SU, 12-4 ATS, Over 8-7-1

The Eagles had only a little trouble brushing aside the Vikings (+3) in last week’s 26-14 Wild-Card contest. Every Philly advantage was on display, most notably special teams, where DeSean Jackson had 109 punt return yards on five attempts and David Akers was 4-for-4 on field goals for the winning margin. On Sunday, the Giants figure to have the special-teams advantage with punter Jeff 
Feagles putting 35.9 percent of his punts inside the 20.Sports Betting at the Sportsbook

The Giants also have the far better running game of the two NFC East teams, spearheaded by the now-famous Earth, Wind and Fire trio of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw, each with 5.0 yards per carry or better. In response, the Eagles are fourth in the NFL at a mere 3.5 yards allowed per rushing attempt. This is an even matchup on paper with the Giants favored by four points at home.

NFL odds in the Bodog Sportsbook.

San Diego at Pittsburgh

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Sunday, 4:45 p.m. ET, CBS
25% chance of snow, 15 degrees, 10-mph winds
San Diego: 9-8 SU, 8-8-1 ATS, Under 8-8-1
Pittsburgh: 12-4 SU, 9-7 ATS, Under 8-8

The Chargers had the most notable “upset” of the Wild-Card Round with a 23-17 overtime win against the Colts (-1.5). Again, special teams were San Diego’s savior last week, specifically the return antics of Darren Sproles, who had a combined 178 yards on punts and kicks. The Colts are notorious for their poor return coverage; this is also one of Pittsburgh’s major weaknesses.

Pittsburgh has survived almost entirely on the efforts of the top-ranked defense in the league in terms of efficiency. QB Ben Roethlisberger’s 80.1 passer rating (down from 104.1 last year) is worse than Baltimore rookie Joe Flacco at 80.3, and Big Ben has been sacked 46 times this season. San Diego’s Philip Rivers (105.5 QB rating, best in the NFL) has hit the dirt just 25 times. The Chargers are getting nearly two-thirds of the betting action this week as 6-point road dogs.

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