- NFL playoff odds are back after another week of winning football betting.
- The Bengals’ underdog status is a key indicator of their present issues.
- Avoid Jacksonville’s backdoor cover potential with a Kansas City 1H bet.
- The Cowboys are live to win outright in San Francisco.
The NFL playoffs are rolling on this weekend, which means it’s time to start considering how to bet the divisional round.
As I do at the end of every week during football season, I’m sharing some of my favorite NFL betting lines from the upcoming weekend of NFL playoff games. Tail or fade at your leisure.
In this week’s column, I’ll explain how I feel about each of the four games before outlining what bets (if any) I like for the game.
Best Bets: NFL Divisional Round Expert Picks
After I’ve handicapped the whole board each week, I publish my best plays from the wider canon of NFL odds.
I’ll provide a short explanation of why I like each bet, so you don’t have to go on faith alone.
If you prefer an audio version of this weekly article, you can always subscribe to The Lion’s Edge, my weekly handicapping podcast for BetMGM. More on that in a little bit.
One rule to keep in mind: Any time there’s an underdog in the range of +3 to +7, I’m almost always sprinkling a quarter-unit moneyline play on top of the spread play.
There’s an even greater emphasis on straight moneyline plays in the playoffs. Because playoff games nearly always end with either a favorite cover or an outright underdog victory, additional moneyline bets should be strongly considered.
Last week’s Wild Card Weekend NFL bets were 3-1.
Jaguars at Chiefs (-8.5)
This is the most David vs. Goliath matchup we’re likely to have in this year’s NFL playoffs, as the upstart Jags head to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. The Chiefs have appeared in four straight AFC Championship Games, and a win against the AFC South champs will make it five straight.
This game is a fascinating handicap. Very few bettors in the NFL odds market are willing to give Jacksonville a chance at the outright upset, but there is a healthy appetite to bet the Jags plus the points. The game opened at Jaguars +9.5 but has since slid down to +8.5 on the back of some sharp betting.
My gut tells me that Kansas City will jump out to a big lead and coast to a victory, but that still leaves Jacksonville open for a backdoor cover. The backdoor is always open when the number is this big.
Rather than guess what the fourth quarter of this game might look like, I’m going to isolate a period I feel more confident in: The first half. Jacksonville was soundly beaten in the first half by both Kansas City (Week 10) and the Los Angeles Chargers (last weekend), only to mount second-half comebacks. This is kind of what Trevor Lawrence does.
I think Kansas City will give us a similar show in the opening 30 minutes of this weekend’s game, so I’m moving to grab Chiefs -5.5 before it moves down to -6, which is a key number in NFL betting odds.
Play: Chiefs 1H -5.5
Giants at Eagles (-7.5)
I always try to be candid and transparent with my handicaps, so I admit I have zero idea what to do with this game.
The Giants feel like a team that’s figured itself out in the season’s final few weeks. Daniel Jones is playing the best football of his career, and I suspect Brian Daboll is a better coach than Nick Sirianni.
But the key here is what kind of Eagles team will show up. Is Jalen Hurts truly 100% healthy? Are we going to see peak NFL MVP candidate Hurts or a diminished version?
Has Philadelphia resolved its degrading play around the line of scrimmage? Will the Giants be able to run on them like they did in Week 18 when they got north of six yards per carry with their backups against the Eagles’ starters?
These two teams played each other in Week 14 and again in Week 18. The Eagles crushed the Giants at Metlife in the first meeting, 48-22. But a month later, when the game swung to Philly, and the Eagles needed the game to clinch the No. 1 seed, the Eagles had to hang on for a tight 22-16 win.
If you feel like you know which Eagles team we’ll see on Saturday, then bombs away. But that makes you a better handicapper than me, I think. Because so far, the only thing I know is that this game will set a record for BetMGM employees. A majority live in and around the tri-state area, which means there’s going to be a whole lot of trash talk in Microsoft Teams this week.
Play: No bet yet
Bengals at Bills (-4.5)
The Bengals are a preposterous 22-5 ATS across their last 27 games. They’re also one of the premier favorites in the AFC. That’s about where the handicap starts and ends for many bettors. If you’re going to give a team like that 4.5 points, what’s not to like?
Unsurprisingly, about three-quarters of bettors have gotten money down on the Bengals side of this game at the BetMGM online sportsbook, as of Wednesday.
However, I have to ask myself why the sportsbook is comfortable taking that kind of massive liability on Cincinnati in the first place. If the Bengals are so good, why are they on the wrong side of a key number like 4?
One possible answer is that the Bengals all of a sudden have huge concerns along the offensive line, and Cincinnati was lucky to have the success that it did last year with such foundational problems.
Another is that the Bengals’ defense is allowing a dangerous amount of EPA/play that doesn’t suggest long-term playoff success.
Another is that the sportsbook may be leveraged on Buffalo futures, and so it is comfortable accepting greater single-game liability on Cincinnati to offload some of its leverage in the futures market.
Any of these are good thoughts, and any of these could be completely and totally wrong. But my feeling is ultimately the same as what I thought a few weeks ago when they lined up to play on Monday Night – if Cincinnati is so good, why is Buffalo favored to beat the Bengals on the road?
Play: Bills -4.5
Cowboys at 49ers
This is the game where I see the most betting angles. I think both defenses will outplay both offenses, and we’ll get a game similar to last year’s playoff matchup between these two teams.
That was a 23-17 win for San Francisco. At 46, I think the under in this game is probably my favorite bet of the whole weekend.
But I’m also tracking a lot of early sharp movement on the Cowboys. This line opened at Cowboys +4.5 but has sunk a whole point, despite the fact as of Wednesday about three-quarters of point spread bettors are laying it with the 49ers.
The football analyst in me isn’t all that convinced the Cowboys can get this done. San Francisco hasn’t lost a single game since Brocky Purdy became the 49ers’ starting quarterback, which makes the Cowboys a bold side to take. Dak Prescott hasn’t been consistently sharp. You’d like to see a little more meat on the Dallas numbers if you’re going to bet against San Francisco.
But the reverse line movement suggests a clear game script. Purdy has yet to play a defensive unit anywhere near what the Cowboys are on a good day. He hasn’t played a defensive game wrecker anywhere in the league of Micah Parsons.
I got involved with this game at Dallas +3.5 to make sure I got the Cowboys on the right side of the key number of three. If this continues to move toward Dallas throughout the week, I’ll likely buy some back on San Francisco to cover my outlay and try for a middle. Until then, I’m positioned for the cover and the outright upset.
Play: Cowboys +3.5; Cowboys +150; Cowboys/49ers Under 46
NFL Divisional Round Parlay
Like last week, I’m offering a couple of different looks at potential parlays for this weekend.
- Chiefs -3 (-350)
- Eagles -3 (-250
That’s a two-team parlay of alternate favorite spreads, available for -125.
Here’s another one. Last week’s over parlay was a pretty easy cash; if you think the offensive playoff trend is likely to continue, then I’d consider this:
- Jags/Chiefs Over 53
- Giants/Eagles Over 48
- Bengals/Bills Over 48
That’s a three-team parlay of totals available at +595.
NFL Divisional Round Predictions
Looking for the full NFL divisional round breakdown? Don’t forget to subscribe to The Lion’s Edge for intelligent, weekly insights into trends and betting tips across the online sports betting world. It’s available on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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