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Seahawks, Packers headline betting favorites for Wild Card Weekend

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Neither Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks nor Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions are on a hot streak, but home field and primetime could factor heavily into their matchup.

The Seahawks are listed as eight-point favorites against the Lions with a 42.5-point total in their NFC wild card game matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Seattle is 7-0 straight-up in their last seven home games against teams who hail from the Eastern time zone, and are also 20-4-2 against the spread in their last 26 primetime games.

The other similarity between Wilson and Stafford is the lack of a supportive rushing attack. The Lions’ pass-rush woes, apart from DE Ziggy Ansah and Kerry Hyder, might allow Wilson to get in a groove. The Seahawks’ pass defense has lost some of its identity since the season-ending injury to FS Earl Thomas, but Stafford will have to be pinpoint if he is to bring Detroit their first road playoff victory in 59 seasons.

The Green Bay Packers are 4.5-point favorites against the New York Giants with a 44.5-point total. The Giants, held together by FS Landon Collins, have perhaps the toughest pass defense of any team in the playoffs and could pose a riddle to red-hot Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay’s injuries at cornerback might hamper their ability to slow down Eli Manning and WR Odell Beckham Jr., whose team is 4-0-1 ATS in their last five games against Green Bay.

In the AFC, the Houston Texans are favored by 3.5 points against the Oakland Raiders, who are down to a 0.4 % chance to win the Super Bowl at PredictionMachine.com, with a 36.5-point total on Saturday. The Texans contain short passes well and it might be too much to expect Raiders rookie QB Connor Cook to furnish a downfield threat.

While the Raiders’ defense is generous yardage-wise, they have an impressive 16 interceptions, which is coincidentally the same number that Texans QB Brock Osweiler has thrown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 10-point betting favorites against the Miami Dolphins with a 47-point total in the AFC betting matchup on Sunday. Traveling north with backup QB Matt Moore seems daunting for Miami, although Pittsburgh still has the the run-defense issues that led to Jay Ajayi scooting for 202 yards during a Dolphins win in October.

Miami is also 13-4 ATS in its last 17 games as a double-digit underdog. However, Miami can also be soft against the run and Pittsburgh, 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven games as a favorite, has RB Le’Veon Bell.

The favored team is 3-7-2 ATS in the last three years in wild card games. Twelve of the 16 wild card games over the last four seasons have gone under the posted total, with one push.

The New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs (the top two seeds in the AFC), as well as the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons (the top two seeds in the NFC) have a bye week before hosting divisional-round games on January 14 and 15. The lowest surviving seeds head to New England and Dallas next week.

Packers underdogs against the Falcons in NFC Championship game

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The best defense is an unstoppable offense, and Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons simply haven’t been stopped when they are a healthy favorite.

The Falcons are listed as five-point favorites against red-hot Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers with an eye-popping 60-point total on the NFL lines for the NFC Championship Game at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

It is the sixth time this season the Falcons have given between 3.5 and 6.0 points, and while they are 3-2 straight-up and against the spread in that scenario they scored at least 28 points every time.

While the Falcons have to turn around some negative trends – such as 1-6 SU in their last seven games against the NFC North, according to the OddsShark NFL Database – it’s doubtful any collapse would be attributable to their offense.

The Packers, who are 12-6 SU and 10-7-1 ATS, have relied on Rodgers and his stellar pass protection to shred opposing defenses during their eight-win streak. It seems the only way to contain Rodgers is to blitz him. Although OLB Vic Beasley had 15.5 sacks in the regular season, the Falcons play straight defense more frequently than the NFL average.

It’s possible the Packers could repeat the scenario of recent weeks, with Rodgers getting scads of time to wait for a receiver to get open. That is contingent on the health of those receivers. Leading receiver Jordy Nelson (ribs) is a remote shot to play while Davante Adams (ankle), Geronimo Allison (leg), Jeff Janis (quadriceps) are each banged up.

Both RB Ty Montgomery and TE Jared Cook have become reliable cogs for the Packers since their loss to the Falcons last week. Atlanta does not have an overly strong run defense.

The Falcons, who are 12-5 SU and 11-6 ATS, do have to be concerned with how many snaps WR Julio Jones (toe) will be able to play on Sunday. The true linchpins in Atlanta’s attack, though, are RB Tevin Coleman and RB Devonta Freeman, whose versatility as ball carriers and receivers has to be accounted for at all times.

The Falcons are very physical in the rushing phase and it will be interesting to see whether the Packers are up to it after so many do-or-done games, including last week’s instant classic against Dallas where they gave up 125 yards to the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott.

Jones, WR Taylor Gabriel and WR Mohamed Sanu are facing a Packers pass defense that has struggled all season. Green Bay was among the NFL leaders in sacks, but the Falcons’ continuity along the offensive line (all five starters have been intact all season) should help them with making adjustments.

The favored team is 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS in the last three years in conference championship games.  The total has gone over in seven of the last 10 conference championship games.

Brady, Patriots betting favorites hosting Steelers in AFC Championship game

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The feeling that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have one creaky effort out of their system spurs the idea they can continue to be nearly automatic at home. The Patriots are listed as 5.5-point betting favorites against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 50.5-point total for the AFC Championship Game, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Not only has New England long enjoyed the upper hand against the Steelers – 10-3-1 against the spread in their last 14 matchups – but they are also 9-2 ATS on the NFL betting lines in their last 11 home games at Gillette Stadium and 8-1 SU in their last nine home games against teams with winning records.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, who are 13-5 SU and 11-6-1 ATS, are on a nine-win streak thanks to building their offense around shifty and tireless RB Le’Veon Bell. New England’s run defense is far stronger than what Pittsburgh has seen so far in the playoffs, but it’s doubtful Bell’s production will completely dry up since the Patriots are too smart to over-commit to stopping him.

While WR Antonio Brown can be nightmarish to cover, the Steelers’ lack of receiving threats beyond him might make it tough for Roethlisberger to pick apart the Patriots’ pass defense, although his offensive line should be able to give him time to throw.

Having success as an underdog in January is not a role in which the Steelers historically thrive; they are 3-10 SU in their last 13 playoff games as an underdog according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

The Patriots, who are 15-2 SU and 11-6 ATS, have only been stopped this season when Brady and the offense encounter a dominant pass rush. After a slow start in that phase, Pittsburgh has improved immensely due to the trio of OLB Bud Dupree, ageless OLB James Harrison and DE Stephon Tuitt, who will have to get by the strong pass protection of Patriots RT Marcus Cannon and LT Nate Solder.

The Steelers pass defenders have occasionally been beaten deep. Among the Patriots’ speed receivers, Chris Hogan (thigh) seems more likely to be 100 percent than Malcolm Mitchell (knee). Martellus Bennett and Julian Edelman also offer the potential to spread the Steelers thin.

New England, the Super Bowl 51 betting favorites, used leading rusher LeGarrette Blount sparingly in the Divisional Round, which could have been a factor in the Patriots’ offense being sporadic. Blount has had a full week of practice this time.

The visiting team is 0-6 SU and 1-5 ATS in the last three years in conference championship games. The total has gone under in the Patriots’ last six AFC Championship Game matchups. The total has gone under in nine of the Steelers’ last 11 games as an underdog.