Both of Saturday’s National Football League Divisional Playoff games have stayed pretty stagnant in terms of their lines and I don’t think you’ll see too much in the way of changes. The only exception might be the night time tilt where the Carolina Panthers will be without a key defensive player.
Baltimore (+7) at New England (O/U 48) - Tom Brady has lost just three times at home in the NFL Playoffs but two of those losses were to the Baltimore Ravens who come to town yet again. The Patriots are typically very good coming off of a well-deserved bye, but questions will certainly arise about whether they are all in sync with the time off.
The Ravens come to Gillette Stadium with nothing to hide. They know they have a pedestrian secondary and will rely heavily on the pass rush to slow down the Patriots. Offensively Joe Flacco will need to be his unflappable-self in order for the Ravens to win and advance. Ultimately however, the Patriots’ offensive line will do a better job than did Pittsburgh’s and Tom Brady will expose that secondary.
Trends: The total has gone UNDER in six of Baltimore’s last eight games on the road in New England… The Patriots are 16-1 straight up in their last 17 games at home… The Ravens are 3-4-1 against the spread in their last eight games on the road in New England… The Pats are 2-3-1 ATS in their last six home games against the Ravens.
The Pick: There is no reason this game shouldn’t be another close one. It’s just what these two teams have done in the playoffs and I don’t see this being any different. I like New England to cover but it’s going to be with a late score and take the OVER.
Carolina (+11) at Seattle (O/U 40) - This is more than likely going to be the least interesting game of the weekend yet somehow it has garnered the Saturday night primetime spot. That probably isn’t fair because if the Carolina defense can limit the Seahawks’ offense then there’s a chance this could be a close game.
My gut tells me otherwise though. Cam Newton is less than 100% and running back Jonathan Stewart can only do so much. I have to believe the Seahawks will be primed for this game as a return to the playoffs has been their top goal since day one.
As I mentioned in the opening, the Panthers will head to Seattle bigger underdogs then they had planned as stud defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is out with a broken foot. The Carolina defense was already facing an uphill challenge in stopping the running of Marshawn Lynch and QB Russell Wilson. Whether or not Lotulelei’s absence will force the line to move I can’t say, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see it bump another point.
Trends: The total has gone OVER in six of Carolina’s last seven road games… Seattle is 6-1 straight up in their last seven game at home… The Panthers are 2-4-1 straight up in their last seven games on the road… The total has gone UNDER in nine of the Seahawks’ last 13 games at home.
The Pick: While anything is possible the playoffs, I just don’t see the Panthers hanging around with the defending champs. Take Seattle to over and the UNDER.