NFL Playoff Preview: Las Vegas Favors Falcons, Patriots, Steelers, Vikes

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Eight teams still have Super Bowl dreams, but four will have their hopes dashed this weekend as the NFL Playoffs kick off the divisional round on Saturday. Three of the favorites are playing at home. But in a somewhat rare sportsbook occurrence, at least at this stage of the post-season, one team will take to their own turf as an underdog.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick
Despite a recent ESPN column suggesting a feud has arisen between the quarterback and coach, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are ready to chase their sixth Super Bowl title. (Image: USA Today)

Below I break down the games for a quick overview of how the matchups are looking from a Las Vegas perspective.

Philadelphia (+3) vs. Atlanta

In a battle of bird teams, the Philadelphia Eagles will enter Saturday’s 1:35 pm PT game at Lincoln Financial Field as a 3-point underdog against the Atlanta Falcons.

Tied for the best record in the NFL, Philadelphia finished the regular season 13-3 and would have been a comfortable favorite over the 10-6 Falcons prior to star quarterback Carson Wentz going down with a season-ending injury against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 14.

The Eagles did go on to win their next two games, with veteran Nick Foles under center. And their season-ending loss to Dallas was a game where Philly mostly played backups.

But the healthy Falcons, fresh off an impressive road victory over the heavily favored Rams in the Wild Card round, have momentum in their favor. Winning consecutive road games in the playoffs is never easy, however, which could have bettors rethinking which team is most likely to wake up and fly right.

Key Betting Stat
The point total has gone UNDER in Atlanta’s last five games. The over/under for Saturday is 41.5 points.

New England (-13.5) vs. Tennessee

Don’t bother reading the recent ESPN (fake news?) column that suggests there is turmoil inside the New England Patriots locker room when handicapping Saturday’s game against the Tennessee Titans, starting at 5:15 pm.

Tom Brady is going to do what Tom Brady has done for the past 15 years: show up as prepared as anyone to for a big game. Playing at home, the 13-3 Patriots are 13 or 13.5-point favorites, depending on which Las Vegas sportsbook you visit.

New England is attempting to win its third title in four seasons, and sixth in the Brady-Bill Belichick era. The quarterback and coach, a recent ESPN article suggests, no longer see eye-to-eye. But it probably isn’t a smart idea to base your wager on alleged tension between two individuals who have been winning at the highest level together for many years.

However, if you’re looking for a legitimate reason to bet on the Titans, a team that got every lucky bounce en route to a miraculous comeback victory over choke-prone Kansas City last week … Tennessee is 6-1 in its last seven games against the spread.

Pittsburgh (-7.5) vs. Jacksonville

Is this the game where we’ll see point-spread domination? The Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3) begin their quest for their seventh Vince Lombardi trophy at home, where they’ll be a 7.5-point favorite over the 10-6 Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, at 10:05 am.

That point spread is based on a few factors: perception that Pittsburgh is a better team, home-field advantage, and a Jacksonville squad that hasn’t exactly been playing its best football recently.

The Jaguars limped into the playoffs by losing its final two regular season games, and then squeaking by the 9-7 Buffalo Bills last week, 10-3, in a pitiful display of offensive football from both teams.

Bettor’s Paradox
Jacksonville is 4-1 against the spread in their last five games at Pittsburgh. But the Steelers won five of their last six home games during the regular season.

Minnesota (-4) vs. New Orleans

Virtually no one predicted the Minnesota Vikings would finish 13-3 at the season’s start. Even head coach Mike Zimmer never could have envisioned such a phenomenal run.

But many pundits out there believe this team is ready to fizzle in the playoffs. The Vikings will have an opportunity to prove their naysayers wrong on Sunday, when they host the 11-5 New Orleans Saints at 1:40 pm.

Minnesota, mostly due to home field advantage and the general public’s perception that a team with a superior record is better, is a 4-point favorite.

New Orleans came out victorious against a talented Carolina Panthers team last week in the Wild Card round, but must now prove they can win a tough road game in a hostile environment.

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