NFL: Divisional Round Handicapping

Chiefs at Patriots (-4.5)

I think there is value in the Patriots with this line. A month ago they would be closer to a field goal favorite. New England had an extra week to get healthy, which includes star wide receiver Julian Edelman. I can see the Patriots taking an early lead and the Chiefs having to chase a lead. Alex Smith isn’t the quarterback you want when trying to close a deficit. The Chiefs looked great last week but they returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and took advantage of five Texans turnovers. The Chiefs might seem tempting but I’m not going to overthink this one. It’s Bill Belichick with a two weeks to prepare against Andy Reid. I’m going to side with the Patriots. Pick: Patriots (-4.5) over Chiefs 

Packers at Cardinals (-7)
The Cardinals hosted the Packers in Week 16. The result was ugly for the visitors as Arizona sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times and scored two defensive touchdowns. Green Bay’s offensive performance was one of the worst by any team this season. The Cardinals are a full seven-point favorite in this playoff game. Just a one point adjustment from the Week 16 game where they were six-point chalk. Since then the Packers were a no-show against the Vikings and beat the Redskins in the Wild Card game. The Packers offense looked great against the Redskins but it’s hard to put much stock into beating a Washington team that was a favorite only two times in the regular season. If I had to pick a side in this game, I would lean towards the Packers. However, I have a stronger opinion on the total. I think this games sets up for having a lot of points. The Packers offense will be better than their last time in Glendale and the Cardinals offense will be on track. If the Cardinals score early, then the Packers will be throwing against a prevent defense and might be able to close the margin. It’s not my most confident pick this week but I like over 49.5.
Seahawks at Panthers (-1)
I like the Panthers to win this game and I would wait to get the best point spread for this game. Once Marshawn Lynch is declared active I will like the Panthers even more. I think the Seahawks star running back will disrupt what Seattle’s offense has been doing lately. I don’t think Christine Michael is that much of a drop off to Lynch, who has plenty of miles on him and is slowing down. It’s also a bad situation for the Seahawks. They just traveled to Minnesota and played a physical game in frigid conditions at 10 a.m. pacific time. Now they have another 10 a.m. pacific time game and have to travel all the way across the country against a rested Panthers team. Carolina finished 15-1 and it was a blessing that they fell in Week 16 to ruin their perfect season. Now the Panthers can focus on just winning the Super Bowl and not about their undefeated run. Running back Jonathan Stewart is back in the fold and Cam Newton has carried the offense this season. I also like the Panthers defense especially at home. I won’t make it official until I tweet it out but I will likely be on Carolina no Sunday afternoon.
Steelers at Broncos (-7)
The injuries to Steelers players is obviously reflected in the line. On December 20, the Steelers closed as 7.5-point favorites at home against Brock Osweiler and the Broncos. Now the Broncos have Peyton Manning under center and are giving seven points at home to a Steelers team with a banged up Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams. The spot is as bad as it gets for the Steelers. This will be their fourth straight road game. The previous three were against division opponents. Now they face a rested Broncos team and a healthy Peyton Manning in the altitude of Denver. I don’t see how the Steelers can win this game unless Ben Roethlisberger is lying about his injured shoulder and Antonio Brown passes a concussion test. I don’t have a play on this game and likely won’t unless the injury statues for players become more clear.

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