2019 NFL Playoffs odds, picks: Chargers are a strong underdog play, plus more best bets
Three picks and a cloud of trust for the NFL Divisional Round
Underdogs have done well in NFL playoff games lately. In last week's Wild-Card Round the four underdogs not only went 4-0 ATS but 3-1 straight up. The only favorite to survive was the Cowboys. This was not a new phenomenon. Instead, it was a continuation of last season's trend.
Including last year's entire NFL playoffs and last weekend's Wild-Card Round, underdogs have gone 14-1 ATS in the previous 15 NFL playoff games. The previous favorite to cover the spread was the Patriots, who beat the Titans 35-14 as a 13.5-point favorite in the Divisional Round last season. Since that game, 10 straight dogs have covered.
Now, even if underdogs have historically been better bets in NFL playoff games (70-52-3 ATS since 2007), this current trend doesn't mean you should go out and bet every underdog this weekend. But you should take a few of them.
I mentioned the underdog trend, but I have another fun one for you. Since the 2006 season, teams hosting games at home in the Divisional Round after having a bye have gone 19-28-1 ATS. As favorites, those same teams are 17-28-1 ATS. For whatever reasons, teams that receive the first-round bye typically don't cover their first game. Now, that trend combined with the underdog trend isn't why I'm taking the Colts here. I'm taking the Colts because I've felt all season long that the Chiefs defense was going to cost them in the playoffs.
You can get away with an awful defense during the regular season if you have a great offense, but come playoff time, you're only facing good teams. And good teams can exploit your flaws. I'm not predicting that the Chiefs will lose this game, but the combination of a bad Chiefs defense going against Andrew Luck and Patrick Mahomes making his first career playoff start has me leaning toward Indianapolis. Oh, and here's another fun fact for you. Since the 1970 merger between the AFL and NFL, Kansas City has hosted nine playoff games at home. It is 0-9 ATS in those games. That doesn't mean they can't cover this week, but it does lead to a little extra confidence in my Colts pick. Chiefs 28, Colts 24
What NFL picks can you make with confidence during the NFL's divisional round? And which top Super Bowl contender goes down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which NFL teams are winning more than 50 percent of simulations, all from the model that has beaten 98 percent of experts over the past two years.
Chargers (+4) at Patriots
It's scary betting against Tom Brady and the Patriots at home in a playoff game. As I've already mentioned, though, underdogs have done much better as of late, and teams coming off a bye tend to struggle ATS. Also, while it may seem contrary to the results considering Brady and New England have won five Super Bowls together, in his playoff career Brady teams have only gone 16-18 ATS. My guess is because more people gamble recreationally on playoff games than regular season games, and they see Brady and New England and think "well, of course, they'll cover," and this leads to more money on New England, which can inflate lines.
That's not what is happening here. In fact, as I write this, there's currently more action on the Chargers than the Patriots. Maybe the public has caught on to the underdog trend. Still, I like the Chargers here for football reasons. They've done very well on the road all season long, and I don't think the environment in Foxboro will be a problem for them. Plus, the one thing that has always bothered Tom Brady is a good pass rush, and the Chargers certainly have one of those. I think the Chargers harass Brady enough to stay within this spread, if not pull off the upset outright. Patriots 21, Chargers 20
I like the Saints in this matchup, but the spread is just too large. I think New Orleans and Drew Brees are better equipped to take advantage of the Eagles makeshift secondary than Mitch Trubisky and the Bears were, particularly at home in the Superdome. It's just, I think the Eagles will have success on offense too.
The Saints defense has been great against the run this year, but it's been susceptible to passing attacks, and I think Nick Foles and company can exploit them there as well. Which is one of the biggest reasons I don't want to touch this spread, because I think the Eagles are good enough to cover, but I don't want to bet against the Saints at home in a playoff game. Thankfully we have this total, which I believe is just a little too low. Saints 34, Eagles 24
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