NFL Playoffs Betting Preview: Road Teams Present Tempting Options This Weekend

Posted on January 9, 2020

NFL playoffs betting moves into the divisional round this weekend. The eight remaining teams will compete for spots in their respective conference championship games. For bettors, there are some opportunities regardless of who moves on.

The four games which will put their winners just a win away from Super Bowl LIV have some clear favorites at West Virginia sportsbooks. Both DraftKings and FanDuel favor the home teams right now.

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NFL playoffs betting: breaking down all four games

While books favor all four home teams, the degree of that favorite status varies from game to game. For example, WV sports betting sites favor the two AFC home teams by more than twice the margin of the Green Bay Packers.

In a similar fashion, some games present better wagering opportunities than others.  We’ll break down all four regardless. In chronological order by start time this weekend, the action is as follows.

Minnesota at San Francisco, 3:35 p.m. ET, Saturday, January 11

The San Francisco 49ers host the Minnesota Vikings looking to set up a home NFC Championship contest next week. Sportsbooks in West Virginia like their chances.

According to Nate Weitzer over at The Lines, San Francisco has struggled to cover at home this season. Weitzer reports that the 49ers are just 3-4-1 against the spread in home games.

That wasn’t because of a failure to find the end zone, however. San Francisco actually averaged more points per game at home than any other NFL team and the Over hit in five of those eight contests.

The Over starts looking even more tantalizing considering the 49ers’ opponent. In nine of the 17 contests featuring Minnesota this season, the result was the Over.

The Vikings demonstrated an even greater proficiency going against the spread this season, however. Minnesota went 10-7 (including last week’s wild-card contest) ATS and 5-4 on the road.

The stats explain these trends and reinforce these narratives. Minnesota’s rushing attack was fourth in the NFL with 136 yards per game on average. Conversely, San Francisco gave up almost 109 yards per game at home this season.

The 49ers may not have much trouble keeping pace, albeit in a different manner. The Vikings’ secondary fared poorly in road games, with the possible exception of last week, and the 49ers’ air attack should be able to exploit that.

It may not take long for the total in this game to reach 44.5 points if both teams play to their strengths well. Additionally, Minnesota with the points is an interesting play.

Tennessee at Baltimore, 7:15 p.m. ET, Saturday, January 11

If a strong running game can propel a team to a road win, the Tennessee Titans could be even more of a lock than the Vikings. Tennessee’s ground attack was tops in the NFL and it had another strong showing last week.

Juan Carlos Blanco at The Lines points out how the Baltimore Ravens have been impressive at home this season, however. In four of Baltimore’s home wins, the margin of victory was greater than 10 points.

The most enticing line at West Virginia mobile sportsbooks in this contest is the Titans with the points. Tennessee running back Derrick Henry and his offensive line were unphased last week facing a more-statistically imposing New England Patriots‘ defense on its own home turf.

The Titans’ track record backs this assertion up. Tennessee was 6-3 ATS (including last week) as a road team this year while Baltimore went just 4-4 ATS in home games.

Pulling off a victory of nearly 10 points over the Titans will not only require the Ravens to do something no one else has been able to do, slow down Henry, but have its own offense fly high as well. The Titans may not be so accommodating.

Only three teams were more stingy in away games than Tennessee this season, as the Titans gave up a mere 17.6 points to opponents on average in such affairs. If these trends hold, the spread on this game is far too generous to Baltimore.

That will be it for Saturday’s action but NFL playoffs betting continues on to the next day. These two games will be a further test of whether the bye week helped the home favorites.

Houston at Kansas City, 2:05 p.m. ET, Sunday, January 12

The Kansas City Chiefs have a shot to play an AFC Championship game at home for the second consecutive season if they can dispatch the Texans and the Titans pull off their upset. Before they look to reach their first Super Bowl in 51 years, however, they have to deal with a Houston Texans team that could play keep away.

Weitzer recalls how last week the Texans won their wild-card game using their running game to control the clock. Against a potent Kansas City offense with a bad track record of keeping teams off the scoreboard once they get into the red zone, Houston’s best bet is to shorten the contest.

In keeping with our theme, the numbers support taking the Texans with the points. Houston is 6-3 ATS as an underdog and the Chiefs’ record ATS under head coach Andy Reid leaves much to be desired.

Kansas has gone 25-27-2 ATS as the favorite at home with Reid at the helm. In playoff games in that sample, the Chiefs are just 2-5 ATS.

What’s more, the Texans should come in with a lot of confidence. Houston has already beaten this Kansas City team on its home field once this season.

The Chiefs might be able to exploit Reid’s strong history of winning after a bye, however. If they are able to exhaust an opponent that played an overtime game last week, they might move on, but perhaps not by that 9.5-point margin.

Seattle at Green Bay, 5:40 p.m. ET, Sunday, January 12

The weekend’s nightcap has the smallest spread. That doesn’t mean taking the Seattle Seahawks with the points is any less attractive, however.

Weitzer points out how Seattle has played in 13 games decided by one score this season and won 11 of those contests. The Seahawks have gone 19-9-2 ATS in games when they entered as road underdogs with quarterback Russell Wilson under center to boot.

Additionally, Seattle uniquely seems to fare quite well facing teams coming off byes. The Seahawks are 17-2-1 ATS in their past 20 such contests.

Wilson has been extremely efficient on the road. He has not only completed nearly 71% of pass attempts but thrown four times as many touchdowns as interceptions.

Perhaps the Seahawks’ greatest “X-Factor,” running back Marshawn Lynch, is important here as well. His playoff reputation is well known and the Packers’ run defense in home games hasn’t been imposing.

While the experience of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers may be enough to hand Seattle it’s sixth consecutive divisional road game loss, it could easily be a field goal that decides this game.

For NFL playoffs betting on this round, West Virginia sportsbooks seem too optimistic about home teams’ margins of victory.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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