Everything I read going into Wild Card weekend was how many blowouts to expect. According to the experts, last year's Wild Card weekend should have been the ultimate precursor to this year's contest — and last year, the favorites dominated.
Since basing decisions on past results that have nothing to do with the current landscape is a bad betting strategy, those predictions were wrong. All the underdogs covered, including two squeakers on Sunday.
That left me with a 2-2 ATS mark in the Wild Card weekend, since I took the bait on Jacksonville and New Orleans as favorites. They almost covered, but that doesn't get you very far in sports handicapping. This weekend will provide even more drama than the last. Here's my best divisional round NFL playoff picks against the spread.
Playoffs: 2-2 ATS
Overall: 46-57-3 ATS
Atlanta at Philadelphia (+3)
I know Nick Foles isn't Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia offense has looked atrocious, but am I really supposed to believe the Falcons should go from a touchdown underdog to a field-goal favorite in one week?
Especially with this game being on the road?
I think we're overreacting about recent game play. Atlanta looked poised and good in the Wild Card round against Los Angeles. But that was a matchup that worked in the Falcons favor. The Rams can't stop the run. And the Falcons just so happened to rush for more than 100 yards, allowing that offense to consistently move the ball.
That won't happen this week against Philadelphia. The Eagles have been stout against the run all year, giving up less than 4 yards per carry.
And I don't trust Matt Ryan with the keys to that offense by himself. If he has to shoulder the burden, the Falcons are in major trouble. The Eagles don't have the firepower that we saw earlier this season, but this game will be won with the defense.
Don't join the overreaction crowd. — Go Against The Chalk with Philadelphia
Tennessee (+14) at New England
This is probably going to come back to haunt me.
I usually stress to not overthink things. The easy play here is New England. The Patriots are the most likely Super Bowl champion and pretty much dominate every team that comes in their way.
And Tennessee is basically just an average team that has gotten some nice bounces along the way (i.e. Marcus Mariota throwing a touchdown to himself last week).
But, much like last week, I'm worried about the opposition's defense. New England can't stop the run. And that's pretty much all Tennessee can do on offense.
And defensively, the Titans have shown more against the pass, especially clamping down on the Chiefs in the second half of the Wild Card game. This is a lot of points, so I'll give a slight edge to Tennessee, who should be able to keep this within two touchdowns. — Go Against The Chalk with Tennessee
Jacksonville (+7.5) at Pittsburgh
Jacksonville is straight trash on offense. But that defense is good enough to make Pittsburgh sweat a little in this game.
And while Pittsburgh's offense is a formidable opponent to the Jaguars defense, I'm not so sure on the Steelers defense. It's strength against strength, and weakness against weakness.
In those instances, I take defense all day, and that's where the Jaguars shine.
I'm shocked I'm getting more than a touchdown in this game. Blake Bortles is terrible, but even terrible quarterbacks have been able to move the ball at times against this Steelers defense.
The old adage of defense wins championships should be remembered in this game. Don't be surprised if the Jaguars win this one outright. — Go Against The Chalk with Jacksonville
New Orleans at Minnesota (-4)
Had New Orleans' defense showed up in the final weeks of the NFL season, I may have taken the four points.
This New Orleans defense is starting to resemble the unit from days of old. New Orleans ranks 21st in the NFL in yards per play allowed, 19 spots lower than Minnesota's dominating defense.
Offensively, the Saints have been really good, ranking first in the NFL, but the Viking aren't far off, ranking 12th in the NFL in yards per play.
I get a rested Vikings team at home with a defense that can be dominating. Don't buy in to the nonsense of explosive offenses. Sunday will be a day of defense, so pass on that supposed new-look New Orleans defense, and take the favorite. — Go Chalk with Minnesota
Scott Levine is the Associate Editor for the Clinton Herald. During his free time, he blogs about fantasy sports and handicaps games. Check out more at Against The Chalk.
Scott Levine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ScottLevineCH