-- It's NFL wild-card weekend and ESPN Chalk's Vegas experts have you covered with comprehensive betting previews for all of the Saturday and Sunday's action, included together in one handy file.
Last week: 3-2 against the spread with best bets (marked with an *); 1-4 with over/under best bets; 7-3 on ATS leans; 1-0 on O/U leans.
Season to date: 51-46-3 (52.6 percent) on ATS best bets; 44-29 (60.3 percent) with O/U best bets; 78-69-2 on ATS leans; 11-15 on O/U leans.
Last week: 5-11 on ATS best bets; 5-11 with O/U best bets.
Season: 91-91-6 (50 percent) on ATS best bets; 86-88-2 (49.4 percent) on O/U best bets; 1-0 on ATS leans.
Last week: 1-3 on ATS best bets.
Season: 14-21 (40 percent) on ATS best bets; 21-17 (55.3 percent) on O/U best bets; 7-3 on ATS leans; 3-4 on O/U leans.
Last week: 5-2 on ATS best bets; 0-1 on O/U best bets, 0-1 on ATS leans, 1-0 on O/U leans.
Season: 29-37-3 (43.9 percent) on ATS best bets; 18-22 (45 percent) on O/U best bets; 13-8-2 (61.9 percent) on ATS leans, 8-5 on O/U leans.
Note: All odds courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook as of Thursday morning.
Spread: Opened Pittsburgh -9.5; now Pittsburgh -10
Total: Opened 47; now 46
PickCenter public consensus pick: 51 percent Pittsburgh
Public perception: Oddsmakers knew the public would be rushing the windows to bet the Steelers with the Big 3 ( Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown) starting their first playoff game together, so they pushed the line high enough to get balanced action.
Wiseguys' view: Some early sharps joined the public is laying Pittsburgh -9.5, but there are more siding with Miami getting double digits, and true sharps are waiting to see if this line continues to steam to 10.5 or 11.
Dave Tuley's take: Everyone is talking about the Big 3 starting together for the first time in a playoff game, but they all started the Week 6 game when the Dolphins beat the Steelers 30-15 as 7.5-point home underdogs. OK, I understand the Steelers are now home and the cold temperatures work in their favor, too. However, I can't ignore that earlier game, even if Roethlisberger got hurt during it. The Steelers led 8-3 in the first quarter but didn't score again until trailing 23-8 in the fourth quarter. Watching the game, it didn't look like a fluke. The only time the Dolphins were double-digits 'dogs was Week 1 at Seattle and they fought hard before losing but covering, 12-10. The Dolphins had Ryan Tannehill in the first meeting, but the key was Jay Ajayi rushing for 204 yards and two TDs. I expect them to rely on him again to control the clock and keep the Steelers' offense off the field.
The pick: Dolphins 10* (lean to Under 46)
Rufus Peabody: For the season, Miami has averaged more yards per play than its opponents, but the Dolphins did it in a way that the Massey-Peabody model doesn't think is particularly sustainable -- via an edge in "chunk" plays. New England was able to prevent those big plays in Week 17, giving up only one pass play of 25-plus yards and no rushes of more than 15 yards, and won big as a result. The model also is not a huge believer in backup quarterback Matt Moore?despite his adequate play so far. It's tough to evaluate a quarterback who hasn't really played in the past five years, but that fact alone says a lot. In a league where teams are desperate for good quarterback play, no team thought Moore could be "that guy." He's a career backup, and he's facing Roethlisberger in the playoffs in Pittsburgh in what is forecast to be a cold game.
The Dolphins have been proving people wrong so far this season, but I think the Cinderella run stops here. I give the Steelers an 80.6 percent chance of advancing to face Kansas City in the divisional round.
Massey-Peabody Line: Pittsburgh -10.7; Total: 44.8
88.5 receiving yards by Antonio Brown (O/U -110)
John Parolin: It was just another dominant year for Antonio Brown, who finished one reception shy of Larry Fitzgerald's league-leading 107 catches. He joined Marvin Harrison (1999-2002) as the only receivers in NFL history with four straight 100-catch seasons. Brown caught at least 10 touchdowns for the third consecutive season, and no wide receiver in the league caught passes on a higher percentage of his routes than Brown's 18.8 percent. Playoff games bring stiffer competition, but Miami's pass defense has been pedestrian. Only the Raiders and Bills allow more yards after catch per reception than the Dolphins (5.7). Miami's pass defense is fairly average -- the Dolphins are tied for 17th in completions allowed and rank 16th in both yards and completion percentage allowed.
The game being at Heinz Field helps as well -- Brown topped 89 receiving yards in three of his last four games at home, being held to an "under" by only the Giants. The Big Blue secondary is flat-out better than the Dolphins' secondary, and Brown should see plenty of opportunities to put up yards.
The play: Over
Spread: Opened Green Bay -4.5; now Green Bay -4.5
Total: Opened 44; now 44.5
PickCenter public consensus pick: 52 percent Green Bay
Public perception: The public almost always sides with the Packers, and though it's not as lopsided as usual, Aaron Rodgers is obviously going to get some love after leading the Packers to six straight wins since he said they had to run the table (and 5-1 ATS for backers during that stretch).
Wiseguys' view: Sharps are mostly split on this matchup, though it was sharp action that took the Giants at the 4.5 opener and bet the line down to 4 at a lot of books before the public (and some sharps as well) pushed it back to 4.5.
Dave Tuley's take: Anecdotally, I know that one of my favorite playoff angles has been Eli Manning and the Giants on the road. Rob Nelson of ESPN Stats & Information points out that it's even better than I'm remembering, as he has Manning at 7-1 SU and 8-0 ATS in his playoff career. That's seven outright upsets, including at Lambeau Field after the 2007 and 2011 seasons on their Super Bowl runs. However, it's the New York defense that has me most confident in the upset here, as it's really come together and is facing a Packers offense that, while certainly better than it was earlier in the season, still has limitations that the Giants should exploit.
The pick: Giants 4.5*
Rufus Peabody: The New York Giants are considered legitimate Super Bowl contenders by the public -- at least that's what their Super Bowl odds at the Westgate imply -- but I think perception differs from reality in this case. The Giants had those two incredible Super Bowl runs in the past 10 years, and Manning has a reputation as a quarterback who can step up his game in the postseason. Our friend Michael Salfino wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal last week looking at the most aggressive and conservative head coaches. His conclusion? Ben McAdoo is the NFL's most aggressive head coach. Is that the reason that they have overachieved (relative to our Massey-Peabody ratings)? Doubtful.
The Giants' defense has unquestionably been very, very good this season, but that offense? Not so much. Massey-Peabody ranks the unit 24th in the NFL. While Green Bay's defense has had its struggles -- especially against the pass -- my numbers just don't like the Giants here. If the line drops to -3.5, I lean to the Packers, and make them a big play if it somehow drops to -3.
Massey-Peabody Line: Green Bay -6.1; Total: 46.3
79.5 receiving yards by Jordy Nelson (O/U -110)
John Parolin: Among the windfall from New York's spending spree was Janoris Jenkins, a major piece of the improved Giants defense. New York ranked as the top QBR defense in the NFL this season and only the Broncos and Chiefs had a better completion percentage allowed than the Giants. Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and budding star safety Landon Collins make a unit formidable enough to contend with Rodgers' powerhouse passing game -- the Giants are allowing a 56.8-percent completion percentage to wide receivers this season, fourth-best in the NFL.
Plus, Jenkins already has done it once against Nelson specifically. Back in Week 5, Rodgers threw for 259 yards in a 23-16 home victory over the Giants. Rodgers threw 193 of those yards to Cobb and Davante Adams, while Nelson caught 4-of-12 targets for 38 yards. Jenkins spent much of that game shadowing Nelson, and his first career playoff game brings another opportunity to prove his Week 5 performance was no fluke.
The play: Under
Picks from Saturday:
Spread: Opened Houston -2; now Houston -3.5
Total: Opened 37; now 36.5
PickCenter public consensus pick:? 59 percent Houston
Public perception: The public is siding with the Texans here, but it has more to do with the Raiders starting Connor Cook (and him making his first NFL start) as opposed to what the Texans are doing (starting Brock Osweiler over Tom Savage).
Wiseguys' view: This line opened Houston -2 but that was when it looked like Matt McGloin might still be able to go for the Raiders. Early sharp support was on the Texans with lines under a field goal, but it's more split now.
Dave Tuley's take: It's amazing how much the Raiders' stock has dropped in such a short time with the loss of Derek Carr (and it didn't help when the rest of the team didn't step up with a chance to clinch the No. 2 seed against the Broncos). If McGloin were able to play, I would probably be on the Raiders here, but instead I'm on the under. The Texans are 9-6-1 with the under and obviously rely on their No. 1 defense (allowing just 301.3 yards per game). The problem for the Texans is they average scoring only 17.4 points per game and aren't likely to be able to take advantage of Oakland's No. 26 defense, so I'm expecting a tight, low-scoring game.
The pick: Under 36.5* (lean to Raiders 3.5).
Rufus Peabody: Oddly enough, who is the quarterback of each team won't affect the Massey-Peabody line much, as we have both sets of signal callers (Tom Savage/Brock Osweiler and Matt McGloin/Connor Cook) rated within a half-point of each other. The fact that one of these teams made the playoffs is absurd, as they rate 26th and 28th in the Massey-Peabody ratings. As crazy as this might sound, without Carr, I'd make Oakland a (one-half point) underdog against Jacksonville on a neutral field. I don't see any value on the side, but it's possible I could lean toward Houston if the line drops to -1.5 or -2. Where I do see value, however, is the over. Even with two bad quarterbacks, they're not facing dominant defenses and the game is being played indoors. I like the over at 37 and below.
Pick: Over 36.5
Massey-Peabody Line: Houston -3.5; Total: 40.9
Erin Rynning: Just one quick look at the tape of last Sunday's Raiders loss to the Broncos is all one would need to quickly realize the Raiders' better option for a downfield passing attack is with Cook over McGloin. However, riding with the rookie quarterback with next to nothing for NFL experience can lead to turnovers, which could lead to an uphill battle for the Raiders. Yes, the Texans offense continues to have issues, but the Raiders' defensive problems loom large. Oakland finished dead last in the NFL in yards per play, allowing 6.1. The Texans did show strong balance and moved the football well in their earlier meeting this season in Mexico City. With Carr leading the charge all season, the defensive problems were often masked, but they are now magnified with a rookie under center. Cook is obviously the wild card, and he could easily account for scoring with both teams. I'll lean to the Texans, but the value is with over the short total of 36.5.
50.5 receiving yards by Michael Crabtree (O/U -110)
Both Houston's offense and defense are not conducive to a heavy passing game for the Raiders on Saturday. Offensively, it's simple: Brock Osweiler and his league-worst 5.8 yards-per-attempt average won't produce enough of a lead to make the Raiders need to throw from behind. Houston's defense ranks ninth in completion percentage allowed and its strength is in the blitz -- something Cook has limited experience with. Only five of his 21 pass attempts came against the blitz, and Houston is sixth in QBR allowed when blitzing. Quarterbacks who can attack downfield against the blitz can put up numbers in a hurry, but Cook was 4-for-10 on throws at least 5 yards downfield in Week 17 against the Broncos. Crabtree isn't in a great spot on Saturday.
The play: Under
Spread: Opened Seattle -7 (-120); now Seattle -8
Total: Opened 44; now 43
PickCenter public consensus pick: 61 percent Detroit
Public perception: The public is siding with the Lions here as they've played teams close into the fourth quarter all season long, though they're on a three-game losing streak (and four straight ATS losses). There's also some public mistrust in the Seahawks, who were 7-8-1 ATS this season, though they were 7-1 SU and 4-3-1 ATS at home.
Wiseguys' view: Sharps have been on Seattle more up to this point as they've long been reluctant to fade the Seahawks at home, especially in the playoffs. The Seahawks will probably also be the most popular teaser play of the weekend.
Dave Tuley's take: If this were a month ago, I would probably take the points with the Lions, but they haven't been as reliable as of late against better offenses, allowing 42 points to the Cowboys and 31 to the Packers (both on the road). Granted, the Seahawks' offense has been inconsistent this year, scoring 12 points or fewer on five occasions, but four of those were on the road. They have averaged 28.4 points at home. For all of the above reasons, I think the total has been set a little bit too low.
The pick: Over 43* (lean to Seattle -8).
Rufus Peabody: Seattle and Detroit both continued their late-season slides last week, with Seattle barely eking out a win over San Francisco and Detroit (predictably) losing at home to Green Bay. Detroit has been mostly the same team all season -- a below-average one -- but was fortunate to pull out a bunch of close games. After an eight-week stretch when he only threw one interception, Matthew Stafford has thrown at least one pick in his last four games. And the defense has done the Lions no favors; it's allowed play success rates of over 50 percent in each of the last three games. I don't anticipate this game being that close. On the season, Detroit has averaged 5.6 yards per play on offense while giving up 6.0 yards per play on defense. Seattle has had the better offense (5.8 yards per play) and better defense (5.1 yards per play allowed).
Pick: Lean Seattle -8
Massey-Peabody Line: Seattle -10.3; Total: 44.1
Erin Rynning: The clock has clearly struck midnight for the overachieving Lions. They enter this contest on a three-game losing streak and the situation sits daunting for the Lions. With the brutal loss on Sunday night, they now are faced with a Saturday contest in the toughest venue in the NFL. Stafford just isn't the same quarterback since he injured his throwing hand. His throws are missing the precise location, which makes the matchup against the athletic Seattle defense difficult. Meanwhile, the Seahawks offense was increasingly enigmatic down the stretch. However, their balance should provide ample opportunity against a Lions defense short on talent. The experienced Seahawks should be sitting on a double-digit win on Saturday night.
67.5 receiving yards by Golden Tate (O/U -110)
John Parolin: During the first five weeks of the season, Golden Tate was a complete afterthought in the Lions offense, totaling 17 receptions for 134 yards in the five games combined. But a Week 6 explosion against the Rams (165 yards) sparked a resurgence. Tate has averaged 85.7 yards per game since Week 6, including more than 7.0 yards after catch per reception -- a figure that would rank third among qualified wide receivers over a full season.
But Tate's brand of success isn't likely to continue against Seattle's secondary, a unit not exactly known for missing tackles. The Seahawks rank 10th in the league with 5.0 yards after catch per reception. Even without Earl Thomas, who missed five of his team's last six games, the Seahawks are still posting the same 5.0 yards-after-catch-per-reception average. That is a critical component of Tate's production, as yards after catch account for 57 percent of his total production. That's a higher percentage than all but three other qualified wideouts ( Cordarrelle Patterson, Adam Humphries and Randall Cobb).
The play: Under