01/06/2011 5:00PM

Numbers look a little high in pair of NFL playoff games

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LAS VEGAS – A lot of people are saying this was the strangest NFL season in memory. I’m not so sure about that as every season has Cinderella stories (at least until midnight strikes) and underachieving teams.

As we often discuss, the oddsmakers often adjust to the ebbs and flows of the season, and a lot of betting records even out. For instance, underdogs were barking big early this season, flirting with 60 percent against the spread though the first month and a half, yet by the end of Week 17 dogs were up just 128-118-7 (52 percent or not even good enough to show a profit when laying 11 to win 10).

In fact, half of the league’s teams (16 out of 32) finished between 7-9 and 9-7 ATS. Still, there are a few notable exceptions.

The Lions finished with the best ATS record at 12-4 after beating the Vikings 20-13 in Week 17 as a 3 1/2-point favorite (all records are based on the ViewFromVegas closing consensus numbers). If you bet the Lions every week of the season, you could have actually went 13-3 if getting the Lions +2 1/2 vs. the Bills in Week 10 before it closed +1 1/2.

The best ATS teams to make the playoffs are the Falcons at 11-5, the Patriots at 10-5-1, and the Steelers at 10-6.

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But the best way to judge if a team has overachieved or not is to look back at the over/under season win totals that were on betting boards here in Las Vegas before the season. The Patriots exceeded their total the most as their over/under season win total was 9.5 and they went 14-2.

The Buccaneers were next with a +4.5 differential as their projected win total was one of the lowest in the league at 5.5 and they won 10 but didn’t make the playoffs. The teams that did exceed expectations the most and did make the playoffs were the Falcons (over/under season total of 9.5, won 13 games), Bears (over/under 7.5, won 11), and Chiefs (over/under 6.5, won 10).

On the other end of the spectrum, the biggest underachieving team was the Panthers as they had and over/under of 7 but won just 2 games. They also were the worst team ATS at 4-12, even worse than the Cardinals (who they actually covered against – as favorites no less – in Week 15). The other notable underachievers finishing four full games under their totals were the Bengals (over/under 8.5, won 4 games) and Cowboys (over/under 10, won 6).

Playoffs kick off this weekend

But now back to the teams that are still playing as the 12-team NFL tournament gets under way. The Patriots are the 13-10 favorite (at the Las Vegas Hilton) with the Falcons and Steelers next in line at 5-1. As you can see, even though they Pats are much lower, they’re still not “odds-on” as we’re sure to hear several experts say this weekend. Sorry, just an editorial comment there. Anyway, the rest of the odds to win the Super Bowl have the Bears at 10-1; the Saints, Eagles, and Packers at 12-1; the Ravens at 15-1; the Colts at 20-1; the Jets at 30-1; the Chiefs at 40-1; and the Seahawks at 200-1.

Back to the betting board

I was able to navigate the Week 17 minefield and went 2-0 last week with the Titans +10 vs. the Colts and Bengals +10 vs. the Ravens as both teams lost the games but covered the spread. That brought me to 27-19 (58.7 percent) on the season heading into the playoffs. I’ll just go with two plays in this space this weekend (for those interested, I like the Jets vs. the Colts but bet it at +3 earlier in the week and am not as confident recommending +2 1/2 from a betting-value standpoint, though I certainly think they can win the game, and prefer Ravens over Chiefs but most readers know my allergy to chalk).

Seahawks +10 1/2 vs. Saints

This line has been much discussed as we all have heard by now that the Seahawks are the first team to make the playoffs at 7-9 and they get to host a wild-card game. Just about everyone’s knee-jerk reaction was to say they would bet the defending Super Bowl champ against Seattle, but here’s a case where the oddsmakers obvious saw that coming and jacked up this line to the biggest road favorite in NFL playoff history. And people are still betting the Saints. It’s my feeling that this number is overinflated, and I have to jump in on the home underdog, which are 19-8 ATS in NFL playoff games since 1980. The loud crowd in Seattle does usually give the Seahawks a good home-field advantage (though they did get routed by the Giants, Chiefs, and Falcons at home this year), and I do expect it to be a hostile environment for the Saints, who have never won a road playoff game. This could be the first, but I’m counting on it being in the single digits.

PLAY: Seahawks for 1 unit.

Packers-Eagles Under 46.5 points

This is the highest total of the wild-card weekend, and I think it’s inflated too high. Both teams have high-powered offenses, especially with their respective quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Michael Vick, healthy, but it’s interesting to note that the Packers are tied for the best “under” record in the NFL at 10-6. Only three of their games exceeded 50 points this year – which you need if betting this to go over – and have been just as likely to post scores like 9-0, 7-3, and 10-3 (last week’s win over the Bears). In fact, in the season opener, the Packers beat the Eagles 27-20, just over this total, but that was in better weather and without a playoff atmosphere where the teams might play it closer to the vest.

PLAY: Under for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-0 for a profit of 2 units. NFL regular-season record: 27-19 for a net profit of 6.1 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1).