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Cowboys, Texans betting favorites for NFL wild card Saturday

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The law of averages would suggest one betting favorite covers during the first set of NFL wild card playoff games this weekend, but it won’t be easy.

The Dallas Cowboys are 1.5-point favorites against the Seattle Seahawks on the NFL odds for Saturday with a 43-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. While host teams are 11-3 straight-up in the last 14 wild card games, last season the favored team went 0-4 against the spread while the road team was 4-0 ATS.

The Seahawks, who are 10-6 SU and 9-5-2 ATS, are 11-2 ATS in their last 13 prime-time games as an underdog, as well as 22-5-1 SU in prime-time games with Russell Wilson as their quarterback. The Seahawks’ league-leading rushing attack will face a Dallas defense that allows the fifth-least yards per carry (3.8) in the NFL, but it shapes up as a more favorable matchup in the passing phase for Seattle with Wilson working behind a healthy offensive line that has guards DJ Fluker and JR Sweezy back.

The Cowboys are 10-6 SU and 9-6-1 ATS, including a record of 7-1 SU and 6-1-1 ATS over the second half of the regular season. Dallas will need a pass-run balance, through quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, in order to move the ball consistently against Seattle’s defense, especially since Dallas allowed the second-most sacks (56) in the NFL.

The total has gone OVER in seven of the Seahawks’ last eight games, according to the OddsShark NFL Database, with an average combined score of 53.88 points. The total has gone OVER in five of the Cowboys’ last seven games at home, with an average combined score of 45.0 points.

Meanwhile, the Houston Texans are 1-point betting favorites against the Indianapolis Colts with a 48.5-point total in the earlier Wild Card Weekend matchup on Saturday.

The Colts, 10-6 SU and 8-7-1 ATS this season, have some contrasting trends – 3-1 ATS in their last four games against Houston, but 1-4 SU and ATS in their last five playoff games on the road.

Andrew Luck was sacked a league-fewest 18 times and maintaining that protection will be critical against the Texans, who count on pass rushers Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt to make up for middling coverage. Indianapolis enters the playoffs near the bottom of the Super Bowl odds at sportsbooks.

Houston allowed the fewest yards per carry (3.4) in the league so Luck might face a lot of long-yardage situations that push the game toward the UNDER.

The Texans, who went 11-5 SU and 7-7-2 ATS to win the AFC South, will be trying to shed the baggage that is being 1-3 SU and ATS in their last four playoff games. What might give bettors pause with the Texans is the 62 sacks and 126 quarterback hits, both league worsts, that quarterback Deshaun Watson took in the regular season.

If Houston can patch the protection issues in a matchup that is not shaping up to be an offensive shootout, then Watson and star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins should have success against a Colts defense that, like the Texans, is more generous against the pass (7.4 yards per pass, 15th) than the run (3.9 yards per carry, eighth).

The total has gone UNDER in four of the Colts’ last five games against the Texans, with an average combined score of 44.8 points. The total has gone UNDER in five of the Colts’ last seven games, with an average combined score of 39.71 points.

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

Steelers are road favorites against Texans on Christmas

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On top of missing wide receiver extraordinaire Antonio Brown, the Pittsburgh Steelers also take a dubious track record as a big favorite into their game against the Houston Texans on Christmas Day.

The Steelers are a nine-point road favorite (after opening as 10.5-point chalk) against the host Texans with a 45.5-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com for their NFL Week 16 Monday matchup.

The OddsShark NFL Database states that since 2004, when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was a rookie, Pittsburgh is 5-14 against the spread when favored by 7.5 or more points on the road. The Steelers, however, are 5-0 straight-up in their last five games on a Monday, while the Texans are 0-6 SU in their last six games as an underdog.

The Steelers, who are 11-3 SU and 6-8 ATS, were having enough trouble scoring points on the road when they had Brown, the 1,500-yard receiver. By the same token, Roethlisberger has other reliable receiving complements such as WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR Martavis Bryant and TE Jesse James, who are facing a Texans pass defense that is next-to-last in the NFL in yards per pass (8.2) and touchdown passes (27) allowed.

Despite all their injuries this season, the Texans have played the run well, so it might not be smooth sailing for RB Le’Veon Bell.

The Texans, who are 4-10 SU and 7-7 ATS, are reduced to starting third-string QB T.J. Yates behind an offensive line that has lost three starters since the outset of the season. Yates has completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes, while the makeshift O-line will have to stop Steelers DE Cameron Heyward.

Pittsburgh, which is 3-1 SU and ATS in its last four games against Houston, has been leaky against both the pass and the run lately, though. On the former count, CB Joe Haden is expected to play and help cover WR DeAndre Hopkins.

In the rushing phase, the Texans are reliable but unspectacular with veteran RB Lamar Miller. The success of Miller and the short passing game could help the Texans, who are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 late-afternoon starts, manufacture some time-consuming drives that keep the Steelers offense off the field.

The total has gone under in each of the Steelers’ last seven road games as a favorite of 7.5 or more points. The total has gone under in five of the Steelers’ last seven games in Week 16. The total has gone under in six of the Texans’ last seven games in Week 16.

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.

Seahawks, Texans are the betting favorites for Saturday’s Wild Card games

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The Seattle Seahawks’ sporadic scoring output is something to consider when looking at the big point spread against the Detroit Lions. The Seahawks are listed as eight-point favorites against the Lions in their NFC wild card matchup set for Saturday at CenturyLink Field, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Seahawks are 7-0 straight-up in their last seven home games against teams from the Eastern Time Zone and the Lions are 2-5 against the spread in their last seven road games. However, Seattle scored 10 or fewer points four times at home this season, and none of those instances came against a premier defense.

The Lions, 9-7 SU and 8-8 ATS, are coming into the playoffs on a three-loss skid. One boon to the Lions’ chances is that the Seahawks, without free safety Earl Thomas, have been hopeless at stopping deep passes. Quarterback Matthew Stafford should be able to hit a few deep shots to the likes of Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and T.J. Jones in order to compensate for a nearly nonexistent running game. That could help the Lions, who are 0-8 SU in their last eight playoff games, make it interesting.

The Seahawks, 10-5-1 SU and 7-8-1 ATS, have never lost at home in the playoffs during the Pete Carroll/Russell Wilson era. One can reasonably expect they will find some of their familiar postseason form. Seattle’s pass protection and run blocking has been problematic, so there could be opportunities to disrupt Wilson’s timing. Otherwise, WR Doug Baldwin and TE Jimmy Graham could have big nights.

The total has gone under in eight of the Lions’ last 10 games. The total has gone over in five of the Seahawks’ last six games in the playoffs.

Elsewhere, the Houston Texans are listed as four-point favorites against the Oakland Raiders in Saturday’s AFC wild card matchup.

The Raiders, 12-4 SU and 10-6 ATS, will have rookie third-stringer Connor Cook become the first NFL QB to get his first career start in the playoffs. With Cook playing instead of Derek Carr (broken fibula), Houston might not have to honor the deep pass threat and can thus commit to containing RB Latavius Murray and limiting the damage on short-range passes to WR Amari Cooper and WR Michael Crabtree.

The fact erratic Brock Osweiler is back in at QB might account for why the Texans, who are 9-7 SU and 6-9-1 ATS, are not a bigger favorite against a hobbled team. The Raiders simply haven’t stopped anyone when teams have schemed to slow down edge rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. If Osweiler can curb his tendency to be overaggressive and allow WR DeAndre Hopkins and RB Lamar Miller to have opportunities, the Texans should be able to move the ball steadily.

Keep in mind, though, that the visiting team has gone 4-0 SU and ATS in the last four editions of this matchup. The total has gone over in seven of the Raiders’ last 10 games.  The total has gone under in nine of the Texans’ last 12 games at home.