The gambling public loves betting on favorites. That’s amplified even more so in playoff games. For this week’s divisional round matchups, point spreads range from -4 all the way up to -10. Which of the four games looks to offer dog bettors the best chance for a possible outright upset?

Russell Wilson, underdog in the NFL Playoffs?
Oddsmakers suggest the Seattle Seahawks are the underdog with the best chance of pulling off an upset in this week’s divisional playoff round. (Image: Richard Martinez/Getty)

Four playoff games are taking place this weekend. Two games are played on Saturday, including Minnesota at San Francisco and Tennesee at Baltimore. Two more games will be played Sunday, including Houston at Kansas City and Seattle at Green Bay.

Picking favorites is easy. That’s why the betting public prefers wagering on favorites. However, betting on underdogs can be a much tougher thing to do. The objective of this article is to determine not only which underdog(s) appear best suited to cover higher-than-usual point spreads, but also to target which team, if any, offers us a solid chance to pull off an upset and win the game outright.

First, a look at the numbers …

As predicted, all four home teams are favored. It’s no coincidence all four teams were the 1 and 2 seeds in each conference. Each of these favored teams enjoyed a bye last week. So, while the underdogs were forced to travel and play a grueling wild-card game that may have resulted in additional injuries and fatigue, the favorites enjoyed the week off to rest up and heal. That’s definitely an advantage.

The two AFC games have very high point spreads. Baltimore is laying -10 to Tennessee. Kansas City is favored by -9.5 (and -10 in a few spots) over Houston.

The two NFC games are expected to be slightly more competitive. San Francisco is laying -7 to Minnesota. Green Bay is favored by -4 (and -4.5 in a few spots) versus Seattle.

Purely on the basis of numbers, the Seahawks have the best chance to win the game outright … if you believe the oddsmakers and the betting public. In fact, the Packers are favored by roughly 2 to 1 odds over the Seahawks. The money line has priced Green Bay at -210 with a return of about +185 if wagering on Seattle.

By contrast, wagering on the money line and taking the favorites on the other three matchups requires bettors to lay huge odds. The lay price on both Baltimore and Kansas City is as high as -500 (which returns +350 to +375 on the underdogs). The lay price on the 49ers is slightly more affordable at -300 (which comes back at +250 on the Vikings).

Hence, regardless of any handicapping or analysis, just about everyone seems to agree that Seattle beating Green Bay represents the most likely upset to occur.

Now, a look at each game with some best-guesses …

Let’s examine all four matchups and try to draw some conclusions as to the best “live dogs.” A live dog means a team getting points well-suited to not just cover the point spread, but win the game outright.

Minnesota at San Francisco

  • The last six seasons, #1 seeds (San Francisco) are 11-1 straight up and 7-5 against-the-spread in this round of games (note that each conference produces a #1 seed, which is 12 games in 6 seasons).
  • San Francisco is 13-3 SU and 9-7 ATS this season
  • This is San Francisco’s first playoff game in seven years
  • The 49ers are just 3-4-1 ATS at home this season
  • Minnesota is 11-6 SU and 10-7 ATS this season
  • The Vikings have lost 9 of their last 10 games at San Francisco … Their last win was in 2007

Tennessee at Baltimore

  • The last six seasons, #1 seeds (Baltimore) are 11-1 straight up and 7-5 against-the-spread in this round of games (note that each conference produces a #1 seed, which is 12 games in 6 seasons).
  • Baltimore is 14-2 SU and 10-6 ATS this season
  • This is the eighth playoff appearance in the last 12 seasons for Baltimore
  • Tennessee is 10-7 SU and 9-7-1 ATS this season
  • This is only the second playoff appearance in the last 11 seasons for Tennessee
  • Since QB Ryan Tannehill became the starter, the Titans are 8-3 straight up … They have also won four road games in a row, including a playoff win last week at New England

Houston at Kansas City

  • In the last 5 seasons, #2 seeds (Kansas City) are just 3-7 ATS in this round of games (note that each conference produces a #2 seed, which is 10 games in 5 seasons).
  • Kansas City is 12-4 SU and 10-6 ATS this season.
  • In Week 6, the Texans upset Chiefs 31-24 (+3.5) at Arrowhead. Houston dominated segments of that game. They had 35 first downs, outgained KC 472-309 in yardage, and didn’t punt the entire game.
  • This is the Chief’s fifth playoff appearance in a row. Last season, they lost the AFC championship game at home.
  • Houston is 11-6 SU and 8-8-1 ATS this season.
  • The Texans have never advanced past the divisional round in their history. They are 0-3 in their history in this situation.

Seattle at Green Bay

  • In the last 5 seasons, #2 seeds (Green Bay) are just 3-7 ATS in this round of games (note that each conference produces a #2 seed, which is 10 games in 5 seasons).
  • Green Bay is 13-3 SU and 10-6 ATS this season
  • This is Green Bay’s first playoff appearance in three years
  • In the last eight games between these two teams, the home team has gone 8-0 straight up
  • Seattle is 12-5 SU and 9-8 ATS this season
  • Seattle has lost its last eight trips to Lambeau Field … Their last outright win was 20 years ago
  • Seattle went 8-1 straight up in road games this season, including last week’s playoff win at Philadelphia

Finally, a wrap-up of optimal wagers …

Underdog bettors may be in for a treat.

  • Minnesota looks to have some value, based on experience, and is getting a generous +7 on the point spread and +250 on the money line
  • Seattle hasn’t fared well when playing at Green Bay historically, but might be worth a look, especially if you can get +4.5 on the pointspread.
  • There appears to be no value at all with any of the four favorites

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