NFL Football Betting: NFC Playoff Preview

The divisional playoff round is here, and the two NFC Divisional Playoff Games are notable for the fact that the points spreads in both games are multiple points greater than each of the AFC Divisional Playoff games. With these comparatively larger spreads, are these traps to fall into, or do these larger spreads truly reflect the gap in talent and skill between the two teams involved? That is the decision bettors must make before kickoff:

Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
NFL Divisional Betting Odds: Rams -7

This is the large-spread game which seems like an invitation to take the underdog plus the points. The Cowboys’ defense has been very good down the stretch. Dallas held the New Orleans Saints to only 10 points. It held the Seattle Seahawks to just 14 points in the first 58 minutes before giving up a garbage touchdown when leading 24-14. Dallas hasn’t given up more than 23 points in regulation since November 5 (Tennessee) except for a meaningless Week 17 game against the New York Giants. Dallas had already clinched the NFC East title heading into Week 17, due to two head-to-head wins over the Philadelphia Eagles. It had already clinched a home game in the playoffs. There was no need to win that game in New York, and Dallas’s defense played like it, allowing 35 points. In every game which has truly mattered for this team, its defense has been very solid.

Couple this reality with the fact that the Rams, who were averaging close to 34.5 points per game in their first 11 games before a bye week in late November, have averaged fewer than 28 points per game in the five games since their bye week, and that includes a measly six-point showing against the Chicago Bears, another team with a very strong defense. The Rams might win the game outright, but they are not likely to score a huge number. This game is likely to be a one-score game. The Dallas defense should keep this game close.

Pick: Cowboys +7

Philadelphia Eagles vs. New Orleans Saints
NFL Divisional Betting Odds: Saints -8

This is the game which looks like an easy cover for the favorite. Nick Foles is incredible in playoff situations. He won three playoff games last year, another playoff game this year, and he won three must-win games for the Eagles in the regular season after they were 6-7. Foles is therefore 7-0 in his last seven must-win games. Plenty of people will look at that and think Foles is ready to make more magic. However, the Saints beat the Eagles 48-7 the last time these teams played earlier this season. Yes, it is generally harder to face an opponent for the second time in a season, but the Saints have been the best team in the NFC for most of the season. They got a week of rest. They are at home. The Eagles also weren’t that convincing against the Chicago Bears. They needed the Bears to miss a field goal in the final seconds to escape with a win in that game. The Saints and Drew Brees, playing on the fast turf inside the Superdome, are likely to score a large number of points, and the idea that Foles will keep up in a shootout is not that realistic. The Eagles need to make this game ugly to have a real chance.

Pick: Saints -8