The 2017 NFL season was a wild one, featuring a whole host of teams who hadn't seen the playoffs in a while make it back to the postseason. It seemed fitting that the NFL playoffs would come out swinging with some wildness. And Wild Card Weekend did not disappoint, with a pair of underdogs winning outright on Saturday and a pair of very close games going down Sunday.
Partly due to underdogs winning early, especially in a year with some big-time favorites, we're seeing several large opening lines the divisional round. And that doesn't include the Eagles, who just completed a dominant 13-3 season where Week 17 didn't matter because they clinched home-field advantage, being underdogs at home to the Falcons, who snuck into the playoffs in Week 17 with a win over the Panthers.
Let's break down all four of the games with the point spreads and our early leans on them.
Falcons (-2.5) at Eagles
Saturday, Jan. 13 at 4:35 p.m. ET (NBC)
Atlanta looked fantastic the past two weeks in games that were -- for Week 17 -- essentially a playoff game and in the wild-card -- a literal playoff game -- playing fast on defense and shutting down the Panthers and Rams in must-win situations. Matt Ryan has been fine and was efficient against the Rams, making the throws he needed to make.
But this is wild: the Eagles are the first-ever team to be a No. 1 seed in the playoffs and be a home underdog in its first playoff game, per David Purdham of ESPN. It's easy to understand given that Carson Wentz won't be playing and Nick Foles will. Foles is as streaky as it comes for a backup quarterback, and it's totally possible he goes off for three touchdowns and doesn't turn the ball over. But Atlanta's defense is flying all over the place right now; Takkarist McKinley is adding a layer and Deion Jones is a total freak, he has no business really being a linebacker. Julio Jones is back to being a destroyer of worlds.
It's crazy to think, but the Falcons could easily end up climbing into a spot where they're favored for more than a touchdown. 63 percent of the best are on the Falcons as of Sunday night, per Sports Insights.
Saturday, Jan. 13 at 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS)
Welcome to the AngerDome, Mike Mularkey. The Titans coach, who was almost fired by his team -- or at least had rumors percolating about his potential departure -- will probably be miffed about being counted out in this one too, especially when he's going up against the two guys -- Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia -- who are going to be coaching on the other side.
Unfortunately for Mularkey, he's also up against a team that just had a story about Tom Brady and Robert Kraft like one another.unleashed against them. The Patriots, who went 13-3 this season and are the No. 1 seed, got handed a chip on their shoulder because of people questioning whether Bill Belichick,
It should be no surprise that the Patriots are double-digit favorites, but it is surprising to see the line moving down (it's headed to Pats -13) despite all the bets being on the Patriots (83 percent, per Sports Insights).
Sunday, Jan. 14 at 1:05 p.m. ET (CBS)
A big-time rematch here of a game where the Jaguars annihilated the Steelers and picked off Ben Roethlisberger five times before Leonard Fournette ripped off a bunch of long runs. That was the game where the Jaguars established themselves as a legit contender.
So naturally the Steelers are favored by seven points! It shouldn't be surprising, though, because the Jaguars looked just putrid on offense for the third straight week against the Bills. They struggled in San Francisco (we wrote it off to them already having the division in hand before the game kicked off), they struggled in Tennessee (we wrote it off to a young team being locked into the No. 3 seed) and they struggled at home against Buffalo.
The Jags were not good stopping LeSean McCoy, and Le'Veon Bell is not going to be a 75 percent Shady. He'll be healthy and he could gash the Jaguars. That's why the line is a full touchdown -- it could climb up to 7.5 too, as a lot of the action is on Steelers early (76 percent).
Sunday, Jan. 14 at 4:40 p.m. ET (Fox)
Another massive rematch that's going to be fascinating to watch from the spread perspective -- don't be surprised to see this line move up to 4.5 points, which would be pretty wild considering how great Drew Brees and the Saints looked against the Panthers.
The Saints secondary wasn't fantastic against Cam Newton and the Panthers in the second half, but Cameron Jordan is a monster right now. He's worthy of DPOY talk (although Aaron Donald should get it). The Vikings rank fifth against the run on defense by DVOA; bottling up Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram is critical. Carolina did it, which opened up the floodgates for Brees to wing the ball around. Except unlike Carolina, the Vikings are a top-five defensive team against the pass by DVOA.
Offense on defense, this is going to be fun. Early action is on the Saints (58 percent), except the line is trending towards becoming Vikings -4.