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NFL Divisional Round Weekend

Written By Ivan Kolev on Thursday, January 12, 2012 | 3:15 AM

Philadelphia, PA –  Two years ago, three of the four wild round winners came up short failing to cover their games in the next 2 mark, both straight-up and the-spread. Green Bay and the Jets easily covered their games, while Seattle and Baltimore were unable to continue their winning ways.

Still, wild card-round winners have covered their divisional round games more often than not since 2005 with an overall 15-9 record. That is a solid 63% winning percentage. An additional trend to keep in mind is how heavy favorites fare in the divisional round. There have been many teams over the last seven years that have given the opposition a touchdown or more, with a major divide between the two conferences in terms of the results.

In the NFC, the betting choice has come through with a 7-2 SU record and a 6-3 ATS mark. However, AFC favorites have not been so lucky with an unbelievable 0-6 ATS record and just a 2-4 SU mark.

Last year, both Chicago and New England were favored by a touchdown or more and the trends held true as the NFC club won and covered while the AFC squad lost outright. This year, three of the four games have teams favored by a touchdown or more. Green Bay is giving eight points to the Giants in the NFC, while Baltimore and New England will both try to become the first AFC teams to cover since 2003.

With those numbers in mind, it's time to tackle this weekend's matchups.

SATURDAY GAMES

New Orleans is giving 3.5 points on the road to San Francisco. This is the only game of the four that is not a repeat matchup from the regular season. These two teams met on Sept. 20, 2010 and the Saints (-5) pulled out the 25-22 victory. It was the sixth straight victory for New Orleans over San Francisco. However, four of those contests were played in the Superdome.

This matchup is a game of contrasts as the 49ers finished the regular season as the No.1 defensive team in the NFC in both scoring and total defense. On the other hand, New Orleans led the conference in total yards averaging 467 per game. The next closest was Green Bay with 405.

The Saints were No.1 in the entire league in passing (344 yards per game) as well as completion percentage (71%), while San Francisco was tops in the NFC holding opposing quarterbacks to 57.5%. (Incidentally, New Orleans was second at 57.8%.)

The bottom line to this game is its location. The Saints lost three of their eight road games this season and two of the five wins came by three points apiece. Look for the 49ers to keep this one close and cover the spread.

Take San Francisco plus the points.

Tim Tebow will try to continue his magic against the best team in the AFC - the New England Patriots. The first meeting was not pretty for the Broncos as they fell at home 41-23. Their offense, including Tebow, was not the problem as the defense gave up 41 points and over 450 total yards.

Despite those dreadful totals, Denver only trailed by 11 points midway through the fourth quarter despite three turnovers that led to 13 New England points. The Pats are heavily favored this time around so look for the Broncos to keep the final score within the number.

Take Denver plus the points.

SUNDAY GAMES

Baltimore hosts Houston in the first game. The Ravens are 18-1 in their last 19 home games so they have the decided edge going into the rematch. The two teams already met this season in Baltimore with the Ravens walking off with a 29-14 win. Still, the lead was just two points heading into the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, the Texans did have Matt Schaub at quarterback and a 2-0 turnover differential advantage. On the other side, Andre Johnson was not on the playing field and his presence will undoubtedly help T.J. Yates as Houston prepares for its first-ever road playoff game.

It is interesting to note that the two teams are extremely close when it comes to overall scoring numbers this season. The Texans averaged 23.8 ppg and allowed 17.4 ppg. The Ravens picked up 23.6 ppg and gave up 16.6 ppg. Despite those totals, Baltimore is favored by 7.5 points - a shocking total considering the Ravens are just 4-11 ATS in their last 15 games when favored by more than a touchdown.

Take Houston plus the points.

Green Bay and the New York Giants meet for the second time this season but the first in Wisconsin. The Packers needed a late field goal to beat the Giants 38-35 on Dec. 4. Both teams moved the ball with ease in that contest compiling 896 total yards. That number will decrease with temperatures expected to be in the mid-to-low 30s this time around.

The Giants are not as bad as their 10-7 record indicates as three of their last five losses came by seven points or less. They have an offense that can match Green Bay's and a defense that should perform better than the unit that gave up 38 points to the Packers last month.

Take New York plus the points and the under.


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