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NFL Divisional Round Predictions

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Glendale, AZ (My Sportsbook) - Week one of the NFLs second season saw a couple of great 60-minute games and two close 30-minute contests, which eventually turned into blowouts.

Saturday nights Dallas-Seattle match-up will be remembered for a long time, especially in Irving, Texas.

Mysportsbook.com

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Tony Romo still has an opportunity to become a great quarterback, but come this off-season, he might want to work on how to hold on to a football.

Romos muff cost the Cowboys a shot at advancing to round two of the playoffs and a date with the Chicago Bears. Instead, it will be the Seahawks who get that chance. Seattle trailed for most of the second half but received the biggest gift imaginable. Seattle won the game 21-20 but failed to cover the two-point spread.

The other fantastic finish came on Sunday when Philadelphia kicker David Akers booted home the game-winning field goal as time expired, lifting the Eagles past the Giants, 23-20. Once again, the home team won but couldn't cover.

Both teams struggled at times, especially against the run. The G-Men had no answer for Brian Westbrook, who rushed for 141 yards. New Yorks inept run defense was true to form, especially on the last drive of the game. The Giants had just tied the score at 20 on an Eli Manning 11-yard TD pass, and all they had to do was prevent Philly from getting into David Akers territory.

Unfortunately, that was easier said than done, as Westbrook broke off runs of 11, 5, 5 and 13 to go along with a couple of short Jeff Garcia passes. All of a sudden, the Eagles were at the Giants' 19-yard-line with less than two minutes left. Besides driving down the field with relative ease, Philadelphias rushing attack chewed up the final five minutes, giving New York zero chance to mount another comeback.

The Eagles have a couple of question marks heading into their next game with New Orleans. Cornerback Lito Sheppard dislocated his elbow late in the fourth quarter and will miss the game. Also, Phillys run defense played just as poorly as New Yorks and allowed Tiki Barber to rush for 137 yards and a 5.3 average. Barber, in his last NFL game, dominated the right side of the Eagles defense, which is something Andy Reid and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson have to be aware of heading into New Orleans.

AFC WILD CARD GAMES

The other two first-round match-ups were blowouts, although both the Jets and the Chiefs had their opportunities. New York only trailed by a touchdown late in the third quarter, but a critical failed lateral pass by Chad Pennington sucked out all its momentum. The Patriots outscored the Jets, 17-3, the rest of the way to win, 37-16.

Kansas City was outgained 435 total yards to 126, but somehow only trailed Indianapolis, 9-0, at the half. Peyton Manning characteristically threw three picks, continuing his postseason troubles. If the Chiefs had any offensive ability whatsoever, this game could have gone the exact opposite.

Despite the three picks, Manning misfired on only five other passes and chewed up the middle of the field, dumping the ball off to Dallas Clark at will. Its highly unlikely the Manning-to-Clark combo will be as effective against the Ravens, the best defensive team in the league.

DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF HISTORY

For the first time since the NFL realigned from six divisions to eight, no wild card team was able to defeat a division winner in the first week of postseason play. That happened in two of the four games last year and three times in 04.

With that in mind, lets take a look at the last 10 years of the divisional playoff round. Overall, the teams that had a week off have combined for a 31-9 SU record, but only 22-16-2 ATS. The NFC teams with a bye enjoyed greater success than the AFC, winning 17 of 20 games while going 13-6-1 ATS. The AFC was 14-6 and ended up below .500 ATS at 9-10-1.

Number-one-seeded teams finished 16-4 SU and 13-7 ATS, but once again, the NFC out-performed the AFC. Top-seeded teams from the National Football Conference were an outstanding 10-0 SU and 9-1 ATS, with the only non-cover coming in 2003 when Philadelphia was favored over Green Bay by five and only won by three.

The top-seeds in the AFC won only 60% of their games (6-4) and once again finished below .500 ATS at 4-6. Its interesting to note that the two-seeds from the AFC actually have a better SU and ATS record, going 8-2 SU and 5-4-1 ATS. The two-seeds in the NFC fail in comparison to the top seed, having gone 7-3 SU and 4-5-1 ATS.

How have things changed for the teams that had a week off since the league went to eight divisions? The NFC teams, which had an 11-1 SU and 8-3-1 ATS record the six years prior, stumbled a bit with a 6-2 SU and 5-3 ATS mark. The AFC clubs also saw their fortunes drop. From 1996-2001, the squads with a bye finished 8-4 SU and 6-5-1 ATS but fell to 5-3 SU and 3-5 ATS the last four years.

THIS WEEKENDS GAMES

The Saints already disposed of the Eagles at the Superdome, but that contest was under totally different circumstances. Donovan McNabb was under center and Philadelphia was coming off an emotional home win over Terrell Owens and the Cowboys. In fact, the Eagles were favored in that game but are a five-point underdogs here, despite winning their last six.

Playing their first home playoff game since 2000 surely will provide a lot of emotion for the Saints, but in terms of postseason history and success, one has to lean to the Eagles and the points. Remember, the number-two seed in the NFC is below .500 when it comes to the spread in the last 10 years.

Take Philadelphia plus the points.

The other Saturday game pits Indianapolis at Baltimore. The Colts are 1-3 SU and ATS in road playoff games under Tony Dungy. They have also failed to win their last four contests away from home this season, losing to the likes of Houston and Tennessee.

Facing Kansas City is one thing, but going up against Baltimore is another. The Ravens allowed only 64 points in their final seven games. An incredible number, considering it spans almost half the season. For all the talk last year of how great Chicagos defense was, Baltimore actually gave up one less point this year than the Bears did last season.

The Ravens will be able to contain Indys offensive attack and put up just enough points to get the victory.

Go with Baltimore minus the points and the UNDER.

Like the Saints-Eagles game, Sundays NFC match-up is another rematch as the Bears host the Seahawks.

Back on October 1, Chicago demolished Seattle, 37-6, but Shaun Alexander was not in the lineup. Seattles running backs combined for a mere 58 yards on 18 carries.

Matt Hasselbeck threw for 68 yards in the first quarter, but a pair of second- quarter interceptions paved the way for 10 Chicago points and the game was over before halftime. Can this contest go any different for the Seahawks? Not if they continue to play the way they did vs. Dallas.

The Bears offense has been a thing of beauty the past month as Rex Grossman threw five TDs with zero picks in the three games prior to the last regular season contest. The OVER/UNDER line for this game is very low, considering the Bears have gone over the total in 10 of their last 13 games.

Take the OVER as the main play along with Chicago minus the points.

New England travels to San Diego for the last of the four games. One thought that I have trouble getting out of my head is how right at home the Jets looked facing the Patriots last week. In fact, throughout the first half, it seemed as if New York was controlling the play and should have been the team leading at halftime.

True, the Pats have been on fire since Miami shut them out one month ago, but San Diego has been waiting patiently for its time to shine and that will come this Sunday. The result won't be as bad as the last time these two teams met, a 41-17 San Diego win in Foxboro, but it will be a double-digit win nonetheless.

The Chargers have won 10 in a row and have scored 20 points or more in every game but one this season. They also have not lost at home. It is true New England rarely loses on the road (7-1), but the Patriots also played seven of those eight games vs. non-playoff opponents.

Go with San Diego minus the points.


Posted by MySportsbook January 12th, 2006, at 11:12 AM ET
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