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Early Lines: Wild Card Round

Tuesday, January 1, 2019


This article is designed to get you thinking about the weekend betting lines. We’ll review each game, check in with some relevant stats around each game and especially take note of any inefficiencies to help guide your wallet. Later this week, check back for injury updates that affect betting odds, best bets and prop bets we like for the weekend. All lines are from Westgate Sportsbook in Las Vegas and are current at the time of publication.

The first thing that jumps out about the Wild Card round is that Vegas is setting initial lines pretty conservatively. The second thing that jumps out is that despite the trend over the past several years toward pass-dominant offenses, the playoffs are full of defensive powerhouses.

Let’s have a look…

Indianapolis at Houston: Total 47.5 points, Texans -2.5

These division rivals split the regular season series, with Indy breaking Houston’s nine-game win streak in Houston. Both games were decided by three points. Houston went 6-2 at home this season, though as I just said, one of the losses was to the Colts, who have won nine of their last 10 games (the 0-6 debacle vs. Jacksonville being the one loss). Houston hit the under nine times this season, and the Colts have come in under in six of their last 10 games.

Houston has won with strong defense (allowing the fourth-fewest points per game this season (19.8 points)) and by controlling the clock with a strong run game (eighth-most rushing yards per game (126.3 yards)). Lamar Miller and Deshaun Watson are running the ball well over the last month, while DeAndre Hopkins has proven impossible for even the best secondaries to cover, and Indy is not one of the best.

Early bet: Houston -2.5 and the under

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Seattle at Dallas: Total 42 points, Cowboys -2.5

These teams met way back in Week 3, where the Seahawks won handily in Seattle, 24-13. Both Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson have come a long way since then, and I expect a more competitive game this time around. However, there are some interesting trends to note. Seattle has won six of their last seven games, and hit the over in seven of their last eight. They are scoring 26.8 points per game (sixth in the league) but are 4-4 in road games this season.

Meanwhile, Dallas has dominated at home, going 7-1 in AT&T Stadium, and allows just the sixth-fewest points per game (20.3). However, the Cowboys only rank 22nd in points scored per game (21.2) and have hit the under nine times. Seattle’s games finished over the total nine times, including in seven of their last eight.

The game is likely to come down to who can run the ball. Seattle, with Chris Carson and friends, leads the league in rushing yards per game (160), but Dallas allows the fifth-fewest rushing yards per game. Ezekiel Elliott faces a mediocre run defense with two weeks of rest. The home field advantage is going to be big here.

Early bet: Dallas -2.5 and the over

LA Chargers at Baltimore: Total 42 points, Ravens -2.5

This is a primetime rematch of a Week 16 Saturday night special, in which the Ravens stunned the home crowd in LA with a 22-10 win over the Chargers. That was the Chargers only loss in their last six games, as their defense has come on strong to close out the season. LA is a balanced team, ranking sixth in points scored (26.8 PPG) and allowing the eighth-fewest points per game (20.6). The Chargers are 8-8 on the over/under this season, but boast an impressive 7-1 record on the road.

Baltimore has won its last three games as Lamar Jackson has given life and dynamism to the Ravens offense. They are 6-2 at home this season, and also have the balance that will make them a fun playoff team to watch. Their defense allows the second-fewest points per game (just 17.9 PPG), fourth-fewest rushing yards, and fifth-fewest passing yards, while they rank second in rushing yards per game on offense (152.6 yards) thanks again to Jackson. They skew slightly toward the under (nine games).

This line is well set, but I think the more experienced Chargers have a better chance at adjusting in response to the recent home loss to the Ravens.

Early bet: Chargers +2.5 and the over

Philadelphia at Chicago: Total 41.5 points, Bears -5.5

The Bears are 7-1 at home this season, winning their last four games and nine of the last 10. They face an Eagles team that barely limped in as the six-seed, winning their last three games and five of the last six. Nick Foles is in playoff shape, it appears. Philly, however, is just 4-4 in road games. They’ve gone under the Vegas total nine times, and covered just six times.

I’m afraid the Bears’ formidable defense is all that matters this game. They allow the fewest points per game in the league (17.7), have 27 interceptions (most in the league by a mile), rank third in sacks… The lack of a strong run game may not be a huge factor for the Eagles this week because the Bears don’t let anyone run on them (allowing the fewest rushing yards per game (80)).

On the offensive side, Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears do just enough to win games. They average a respectable 26.3 PPG, and have covered the spread an incredible 13 times this season but have hit the under in each of the last four games.

Early bet: Chicago -5.5 and the under



Renee Miller, Ph.D. is a neuroscientist and has been a daily fantasy sports fanatic since 2011. She is the author of "Cognitive Bias in Fantasy Sports: Is your brain sabotaging your team?". You can find her on twitter @reneemiller01.
Email :Renee Miller



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