NFL Football Betting: AFC Playoff Preview

The divisional playoff round is here, and the two AFC Divisional Playoff Games are the closer games in terms of the Vegas point spreads. Do we have surprises in store for bettors, or should one go with the tried-and-true options?

Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City Chiefs
NFL Divisional Betting Odds: Chiefs -5.5

These two AFC games both have a reliable play and an outside-the-box play. The reliable play in this game is to pick the Colts, partly because the Colts are 4-0 straight up against the Chiefs in the playoffs since the 1995 season, but also because Andrew Luck has beaten the Chiefs in a playoff game earlier this decade. The other really big reason to pick the Colts is that the Chiefs’ defense has looked very shaky in recent weeks. Kansas City’s secondary got torched in a 38-point disaster against Seattle in Week 16. The Chiefs allowed 33 points to the Oakland Raiders a few weeks before that game. The Chiefs allowed 29 points to the Los Angeles Chargers just before that Seattle game.

What also makes the Colts a “reliable” betting play is that Kansas City has not been able to win this game – with home-field advantage in the playoffs – since the current system of playoff byes for top seeds was introduced to the NFL roughly 40 years ago. The Chiefs made the 1993 AFC Championship Game, but they did so as a wild card team which did not have a bye. They have never made the AFC title game from this position.

Yet… for all of that, the Colts played a full season and their wild card game in the AFC South, which is one of the weaker AFC divisions alongside the East. The Chiefs spent the whole season competing with the Chargers for first place in the AFC West. The Colts did not play the Chargers. They lost to New England by 14 points. The Colts have played just one AFC team outside the AFC South since the start of November: Miami on Nov. 25… and they barely won, by three points. The Chiefs played the Ravens, Chargers and Seahawks – three playoff teams – all in the month of December. They are much more tested here. They are at home. They are rested. This is Kansas City’s game to lose.

Pick: Chiefs -5.5

Los Angeles Chargers vs. New England Patriots
NFL Divisional Betting Odds: Patriots -4

You can slice and dice this game in so many ways, and you can make many convincing arguments for the Chargers, such as their pass rush taking over the game and pounding Tom Brady into the turf. You can argue that Philip Rivers’ multiple road wins in playoff games and his overall playoff experience give him a good chance of winning here. You can point out that the Chargers, despite having to play two games against the top seed in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs, still finished with a better record (12-4) than New England (11-5).

Those are all good points for the Bolts. Yet, it remains that New England is 8-0 at home this season, and it also remains that New England has won its last eight playoff games at home, over the past several seasons. If the Chargers win, it would buck a lot of historical trends. This is the reliable pick in this game. The Patriots are the better choice.

Pick: Patriots -4