Bettor’s Playbook: NFL Playoff Week 1 Post Mortem, Betting Tips For NFL Division Games

Written By Dave Bontempo on January 7, 2020 - Last Updated on April 30, 2021

The wacky, wild and wonderful Week 1 of betting on the NFL playoffs in New Jersey provided a betting extravaganza at major sportsbooks.

Two overtime battles, giving William Hill and SugarHouse Sportsbook bettors payouts of between 8-1 and 10-1 for predicting overtime in two separate games, spoke to the balance of NFL playoff teams.

Also, so made three home losses by division champions:

  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • New Orleans Saints
  • New England Patriots

It was the end of the road for the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots, whose postseason run was already on fumes because they lacked explosive skilled-position players.

Week 2 NFL playoff matchups consist of:

  • Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers
  • Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers
  • Houston Texans vs. Kansas City Chiefs
  • Tennessee Titans vs. Baltimore Ravens

The weekend resembled the famed movie Any Given Sunday starring Al Pacino, in which the coach told his football team:

“The inches we need are everywhere around us.”

What were some of those small, but essential details at New Jersey sports betting establishments in NFL playoffs Week 1?

Don’t underestimate the wonder of the under

Punts helped under bettors playing the over/under point-total prop.

That was forecast in this space last week regarding increased field-position play as coaches retreated from reckless gunslinging in the playoffs. 

Would they switch back to conventional form? Yes, they would. 

There were 38 punts in the four games over the weekend, likely double the total we see during the regular season. That helped all four playoff games finish under the projected total. 

One significant factor was punts driving teams back inside their own 10. Even if the teams were good enough offensively to mount a long-scoring drive, the first set of plays, which were designed to obtain operating room, chewed blocks of time off the clock. 

For an under bettor, that was gold.

Two-minute drills for the money

NJ sportsbook apps in-game betting alert: The three teams who scored a touchdown in the last two minutes of the first half to take leads won the games outright. Not only that, they never trailed in the second half.

Tennessee went up 14-13 on New England with a late first-half score and never gave up another point.

Minnesota never trailed after a touchdown provided a 13-10 edge in New Orleans.

Seattle broke a 3-3 tie with Philadelphia in the final two minutes of the first half and won 17-9. Scoring last in the half may never have been as valuable as this past weekend.

The end of the first half for New England symbolized the end of its dynasty

Leading 10-7, the Patriots had first-and-goal at the Titans one-yard line, about to go up 10 points. The crowd was delirious. They had seen the Patriots put countless teams away from this position. But not this time; they didn’t get in. When do you say that about New England?

An inspired goal-line stand by Tennessee forced a Patriots field goal. On the next possession, Tennessee went down and scored. New England never enjoyed another lead in its season.

Wentz’s playoff debut didn’t last long

The Eagles suffered a major hit when quarterback Carson Wentz was knocked out of the game from a blow to the head in the first quarter.

Backup Josh McCown played admirably with no turnovers, but could not get the Eagles into the end zone. The Eagles rose and played inspired ball around McCown, but it seemed as though Wentz would have converted at least one of the five trips they had in scoring range into a touchdown.

The Eagles often do the opposite of what their bettors predict but, this time, Seattle’s substantial betting edge of 62% on the SugarHouse Sportsbook moneyline was accurate.

Does the 17-9 score sound familiar? It should. Seattle beat the Eagles by the same score in Philadelphia on Nov. 24.

Road warrior cha-ching

Visiting teams continue to thrive in the first round of the playoffs, enriching their gambling base. They covered all four games last year and at least three this time. 

The possible exception would be the Buffalo Bills, who lost in overtime to the Houston Texans 22-19 as a 2.5-point underdog Saturday at some sportsbooks and as a 3-point dog at others, which would have constituted a push.

The game of inches was absolutely real to the New Orleans Saints.

One week earlier, the Seattle Seahawks missed defeating the San Francisco 49ers by a couple of inches on the final play of the NFL regular season. That gave San Francisco a first-round bye and made New Orleans play the Vikings on Sunday in the Wild Card round.

The Saints were 7.5-point favorites at FanDuel Sportsbook. Oops!

Their season ended with Minnesota’s inspired effort and important win of the coin flip in overtime. Minnesota never let New Orleans get the ball, gaining a touchdown on the first possession.

New Orleans could have sat home, waiting out the Wild Card Weekend, had Seattle gotten that inch against San Francisco. Now the Saints are home for the whole winter, a great season and budding postseason destroyed.

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Saints aren’t marching in

Go figure that New Orleans, which had averaged 40 points per game over the last four weeks, would rediscover old problems. 

As great as he is, Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees can’t make plays with his feet. When the blocking broke down, he was sacked.

The Saints’ best player was Taysom Hill, who should become their quarterback sooner rather than later. He ran for critical first downs, threw a bomb that led to a score and caught a touchdown pass. The Saints erred by not getting him more involved.

Coach Sean Payton was also reckless at the end of the first half. Holding the ball while leading 10-6 late, he rushed a play call seconds ahead of the two-minute warning. He called a play, Brees was intercepted deep and New Orleans surrendered a long runback.

Minnesota then was able to run a play before the two-minute warning, saving the time out. Minnesota scored a touchdown just before halftime and never played from behind again. 

Strangely bad plays from a tremendous team. New Orleans had time to milk the clock, try to score and keep Minnesota from getting the ball. Minnesota was a different team after that turnover and score.

Bettors’ rejoice: Minnesota’s moneyline win was not only joyful for the 16% of PlaySugarHouse bettors who took the Vikings, but it was a boost for all betting establishments.

Books can light a bonfire with spent parlay tickets if a big moneyline favorite gets beaten.

Houston Texans: Can they do it again?

The Texans stole their playoff win over the Buffalo Bills, storming back from a 16-0, third-quarter hole and taking advantage of some gifts from the inexperienced Bills.

The carryover will be more than the victory. Teams who turn imminent playoff losses into victories now play with the house money and should step up a notch the following week.

Most of the sportsbooks initially posted Houston as an 8-point underdog against host Kansas City. By Sunday night, it was already 9.5 at DraftKings Sportsbook and William Hill Sportsbook. Watch the fluctuation in this line.

A Texans bettor should sock away a couple of early bets at that number and wait for additional opportunities. The Texans already have a win there this season against the Chiefs and quarterback Pat Mahomes. It was a 31-24 thriller back in October. For some reason, the Texans play better away from home.

This game will boil down to the offensive line blocking of Houston, which excelled in the second half and overtime against Buffalo versus the big-play ability Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce.

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Buffalo Bills: Unable to finish

The Buffalo Bills were simply unable to close the deal Saturday.

A costly holding penalty hurt them when trying to build upon a 16-8 lead late in the third quarter. So did a fumble by Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen, preventing Buffalo from answering Houston’s first touchdown.

Buffalo blew a 16-0 third-quarter lead, built upon completely outplaying Houston. But by kicking three field goals rather than scoring at least one touchdown, Buffalo did not get enough mileage from the dominance. The Bills left the door open and Houston stormed through it.

From the perspective of bettors, the game changed on two 2-point conversions by Houston. One made it 16-8, The other made it 19-16, covering the 2.5 number at most sportsbooks in NJ.

Allen made several bad decisions down the stretch and will learn from them. But perhaps the costliest mistake for Buffalo was a block in the back call by an offensive player, knocking the Bills out of what would have been a long but makable game-winning overtime field goal.

Buffalo gets credit for fighting back after trailing and the Bills did everything but win this game.

Here’s something everybody missed.

Houston should have been assessed a delay-of-game penalty on the third-and-18 play from its own 19. It went for a first down to initially keeping the game-winning drive alive. The play-clock numbers hit zero and the ball had not been snapped.

Although the play was reviewed for the spot, nothing was mentioned about the clock, which was a huge miss for Buffalo.

Tennessee Titans two-step into Baltimore

The Titans bore out all the optimism of their backers in their inspirational 20-13 victory over the New England Patriots.

Like all good teams advancing in the playoffs, the Titans were mistake-free, caught the ball and tackled well.

For their efforts, they obtain 9.5 points in going into Baltimore, according to FanDuel. The Ravens have been on another planet, winning 12 straight.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson has been playing in his league, far above the normal NFL orbit, because of his instinct to make a defense reset in the middle of a play.

Jackson can dart left or right, appear ready to commit to the run and then back up quickly to fire a pass. No other quarterback in the league, not even Mahomes, accomplishes this rare feat so well.

One key to this game is whether Houston can force Jackson to throw off-balance while backing up from the pressure.

The other strategy is working the clock, via Derrick Henry, as the Titans did against New England. Titans’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill will have to keep the Ravens defense honest by establishing a deep threat. He has the weapon A.J. Brown, who was quiet against New England.

The over/under for both contests is 49. That total will be determined by how close to the vest that coaches want to be in a do-or-die game.

Henry continues to be the league MVP this side of Jackson. Not only did the AFC rushing champion get more than 200 yards in Tennessee’s win over New England but, at one point, he owned an insane statistic for a running back. He had gotten the last 91 yards of offense, spreading over several plays.

Largely because of Henry, Tennessee is an astounding 28-for-32 for scoring touchdowns in the Red Zone, since the emergence of Tannehill, now 8-3.

Seattle: Most consistent team?

Bettors always know which Seattle Seahawks team will show up. 

They were the opportunistic team that defeated the Eagles and unveiled a weapon that could impact the second-round matchup against the Green Bay Packers.

D.K. Metcalf owned the Eagles, scorching them for a long touchdown, 160-yards receiving and key third-down catches. Seattle, in general, does less to hurt its chances than most teams.

FanDuel has them as +4 going into Green Bay. That game, and Minnesota receiving 6.5 at DraftKings, are the two games with less than a touchdown differential.

Current NFL Division Championship Odds at NJ sportsbooks

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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others. He writes significantly about the emerging world of legal New Jersey sports betting.

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