Dec 12, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) changes a play in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Picks Against the Spread - Divisional Round

Come all ye office-pool players, casual bettors, wiseguys, and degenerate gamblers: the NFL Picks Against The Spread column is here to help you win mountains of cash and/or bragging rights. They say you need to win at least 53% of your games to actually make a profit betting on NFL games. Well you and I know that I’ll probably only hit about 45% at the most, so go ahead and play the opposite of all my recommended Best Bets and you’ll be sure to make some money.

I’m not one to toot my own horn. In fact, I don’t even track my record in this NFL Picks Against The Spread column because it’s probably horrible. But that’s why I always repeat the above disclaimer that you should actually bet against my picks if you want to make money. But last week in the Wildcard round I was 3-0-1 (I pushed on the 49ers -3, but did say they would win).

So that means I’ll be lucky to get just one pick right in the Divisional round of the playoffs this weekend. Let’s get right to the games and take ‘em in the order they’ll be played.

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
Gotta admit, I could make a case for either side of this game. Seattle is favored by 8, and that just seems like too many points to give Sean Payton and Drew Brees, even if the Seahawks are rested off the bye with a tremendous homefield advantage while the Saints went down to the wire in Philly to get their first-ever road playoff game and now have to fly across the country to play a truly dominant defense in Seattle. Nothing would really shock me in this game: a Saints upset for the outright win, a Seahawks blowout, like the beatdown they handed the Saints on a recent Monday Night, or another “great game” in which the home team prevails but fails to cover the spread. So my Best Bet would be to “tease” the Seahawks with the Under. [For the uninitiated, a “teaser” allows you to move the spread 6 points in your favor, but both parts have to win. So for this game, you'd tease the Seahawks from -8 to -2, and the Total from 44 up to 50 and bet they dont combine for more than 49 points.] The forecast is calling for a 90% chance of rain with gusty winds, so neither team will be too inclined to trying any long field goals in lieu of punting and playing the field position game. And both teams will be looking to establish the run and protect their QBs. Not only does the Seahawks defense only give up about 14 points per game, keep in mind that New Orleans only scores about 18 points per game on the road. The Saints won’t go away easily, but Seattle escapes with the win, 24-21.

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
There could be some nasty, windy weather in New England as well, but I think these teams will still manage to score some points. The Patriots are banged up on defense, and the Colts just gave up 44 points at home to an Alex Smith-led offense that lost RB Jamal Charles on the first series. So I’ll recommend another teaser: Patriots and the Over. New England is favored by 7.5 and the Total is 51. I think the Patriots win this game, and Indy’s LUCK finally runs out (sorry). But I don’t trust this particular Patriots team to lay more than a TD, especially given Andrew Luck’s late-game heroics and the aforementioned depleted defense for New England. But this teaser gets you the Patriots minus a half point (they just need to win) and the QB duel should be able to combine for more than 45 points, if not 50+. The Colts have a bright future, and the window might be closing on the Belichick/Brady dynasty, but the Patriots won’t be “one and done” this year as they eliminate the Colts, 28-24.

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
Both teams have great defenses, solid running games, and dual-threat QBs. But the Niners are probably the more complete team, since they have TE Vernon Davis and WRs Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, while the Panthers are stuck with a hobbled old Steve Smith. Also, San Francisco has the coaching advantage of Jim Harbaugh over Ron Rivera. But I have a weird feeling that Carolina wins this game. The Niners have had a long few weeks. After going all the way across the country to beat Tampa, they came back home and had to outlast the Falcons in a classic Monday Night thriller that lasted all 60 minutes. Then they went on the road to grind out a win over a physical Cardinals team and then had to travel to Green Bay to play another down-to-the-wire game to beat the Packers in subzero temperatures on a last-minute field goal, and that was against a weak Packers defense that was missing Clay Matthews. Now they face a dominant defense (again traveling across the country, this time to play a team coming off a week of rest). Other than that, I really don’t have any reasons to back it up, and while I often trot out a bunch of fancy trends and stats in this column, but picking NFL games is more of an art than a science. The Panthers grind out another win over the 49ers, 16-14.

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
Did you know that the last four Super Bowl winners ALL played at Philadelphia for the Eagles’ home opener? Guess who the Eagles played in their first game in Philadelphia? Yep, San Diego. And did you know that for seven seasons in a row, the Washington Redskins have played the eventual Super Bowl champions (winning that game the last three years)? Washington was only 3-13 this season, but guess which one of the remaining playoff teams they beat? That’s right: the San Diego Super Chargers. Well all that stuff’s just a bunch of hooey. Phillip Rivers and the Chargers are hot right now, but they’re not winning the Super Bowl. In fact, they wont repeat their upset of the Broncos in Denver from earlier this season. Peyton Manning and the Broncos will manage to get by the Chargers and we can all fulfill our football destiny of seeing another Manning vs. Brady showdown with a Super Bowl berth on the line. But Denver wont cover the 9.5 to 10-point spread; that’s way too high. These are division rivals who know each other well. Chargers head coach Mike McCoy was the Broncos offensive coordinator last year, and this year San Diego held the Broncos to two of their lowest scoring outputs of the year (winning one 27-20, and losing one 28-20). Let’s also not forget that Denver gives up 25 points per game, and the Chargers just don’t get blown out. Their worst lost was by only 10 points (and that was at Oakland in that weird late Sunday night game). Their other losses were by 3, 3, 6, 8, 4, and 7. Manning and company might jump out to a lead and coast to a victory, but the back door will always be open. Broncos win, 38-30, but Chargers cover. Take the points.

Tags: Against The Spread Andrew Luck Anquan Boldin ATS Best Bets Bill Belichick Cam Newton Carolina Panthers Colin Kaepernick Denver Broncos Drew Brees Free NFL Picks Indianapolis Colts Michael Crabtree Mike Mccoy New England Patriots New Orleans Saints NFL Divisional Round Picks NFL Picks Against The Spread Nfl Picks Ats Peyton Manning Philadelphia Eagles Philip Rivers Picks Against The Spread Russell Wilson San Diego Chargers San Francicso 49ers Seattle Seahawks Steve Smith Tom Brady Vernon Davis Washington Redskins

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