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.

Texans set to host Chiefs in a pick’em betting matchup on Sunday night

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The prospect of untested linemen trying to block the likes of J.J. Watt has the sharps projecting the Kansas City Chiefs for their first loss of the season. The Houston Texans and the Chiefs, the NFL’s last unbeaten team, meet in a Sunday Night Football matchup that has moved to a pick’em on the betting lines at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Chiefs were initially laying 3.5 points against the Texans, who they are a 3-1 straight-up against in their last four meetings, but QB Alex Smith (ankle) might have to be careful with an injury, while various ailments will mean backups will step in for RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and C Mitch Morse.

Each team takes an extreme against-the-spread trend into this rematch. The Chiefs are 8-0 SU and ATS in their last eight road games. The Texans are 3-21-1 ATS in their last 25 games at night.

The Chiefs, who are 4-0 SU and ATS, have endless ways to attack a defense and get linebackers to take themselves out of the play. That could mean some big opportunities for RB Kareem Hunt in both the rushing and passing phases. Smith, who has the NFL’s highest passer rating, will need to be somewhat nimble to avoid the Texans’ fierce pass rush of Watt, OLB Jadeveon Clowney and OLB Whitney Mercilus.

Houston is allowing 7.6 yards per pass, 23rd in the NFL, so there’s questions of whether the Texans will be able to keep WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce completely contained.

The Texans are 2-2 SU and 3-1 ATS. Three starts into his NFL career, QB Deshaun Watson has shown that his mobility and vision can flummox even legendary defensive minds such as New England coach Bill Belichick and Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau.

Against a pass rush that will once again not have OLB Dee Ford (back) to pair with OLB Justin Houston, Watson might be able to buy some time with his legs. That could give an extra advantage to the WR combo of Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins, who have a tough matchup on the outside against the CB tandem of Marcus Peters and Terrance Mitchell for some long-yardage strikes.

Houston is 1-8 SU in its last nine Week 5 games, but seem to finally have a balanced offense, with RB Lamar Miller churning out yards between the tackles and also catching short-range passes. The total has gone under in three of the Chiefs’ last four games against the Texans, according to the OddsShark NFL Database. The total has gone over in 11 of the Texans’ last 13 games in October.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

 

Sunday Night Football has Seahawks as large favorites hosting the Colts

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October has been the cruelest month for bettors who back the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson for a cover at home, but they are facing a quarterback making his first road start.

The Seahawks are listed as as 13-point favourites against the Indianapolis Colts with a 41.5-point total for their Week 4 Sunday Night Football matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Seattle  is 10-1 straight-up in its last 11 games following losses, and they are 0-5 against the spread in their last five October home games.

The Colts, who are out of the gate at 1-2 SU and 2-1 ATS, will be sending young QB Jacoby Brissett into one of the NFL’s loudest stadiums, CenturyLink Field. Brissett’s chances of success could hinge largely on how much support he gets in the rushing phase, which pits the Colts’ struggling ground game against a Seattle run defense that is third-worst in the NFL.

Based on form and personnel, the Seahawks might be more apt to break out and keep Colts RB Frank Gore below 100 yards.

Indianapolis, which is 6-4 SU and 7-3 ATS on the NFL betting lines in its last 10 games against NFC teams, will likely need to rely on Brissett’s mobility, since the Colts offensive line has allowed 11 sacks and will be up against premier pass rushers such as DE Michael Bennett.

However, Seattle’s opponents have had some success challenging CB Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom secondary, and Colts WR T.Y. Hilton has given Seattle fits in the past (140 yards in a 2013 game).

Taking the Seahawks, who are 1-2 SU and 0-3 ATS, and the points is a gamble as long as QB Russell Wilson and the offense persist in having slow starts. While it’s hard for defensive guys on struggling teams to get noticed, the likes of ILB Jon Bostic and ILB Antonio Morrison have helped the Colts toughen up on that side of the ball. For all its issues with run blocking, the Seahawks have at least identified a primary running back in Chris Carson.

Wilson’s favorite target, WR Doug Baldwin (groin), has an injury that bettors should keep tabs on right up until kickoff. But where Indianapolis is really struggling in pass defense is against throws to the middle of the field, especially to tight ends and running backs. That means there’s a big opportunity for TE Jimmy Graham, as well as Carson, to be X-factors on Sunday.

Seattle is 10-0 SU and 6-3-1 ATS in its last 10 home games against AFC teams, but was a double-digit favorite in all three of those against the spread losses. The total has gone over in seven of the Colts’ last eight games as road underdogs. The total has gone over in 18 of the Seahawks’ last 24 games when hosting a East Coast team.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.