-- LAS VEGAS -- Here are ESPN Chalk's NFL betting recaps for this past weekend's wild-card playoff round -- with an emphasis on the word "betting." As usual, the four division winners that didn't earn first-round byes -- the Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers -- hosted the four wild-card teams and were thus the better seeds. All four not only won, but they all covered the spread.
Sometimes it's clear from the opening kickoff that a team is going to win and/or cover the spread. Other times it looks like one team is going to coast to victory before the other one rallies, causing bettors to wonder how they could have possibly lost that game. That's when you'll hear the cries of "bad beat!" And, of course, there are the back-and-forth, 50-50 games that are virtual coin flips.
This season, we started this new column, which will also include my handicapping takeaways from each game. It is intended to be a quick overview for those who have to work or otherwise aren't able to watch all the games. So let's run down the action. We'll also include Rufus Peabody's numbers to give an analytical look at which teams should have covered, based on the fundamentals and statistics that Massey-Peabody considers predictive.
Note: We'll point out crazy over/under results, but this is primarily a recap of the against-the-spread (ATS) results.
Easy covers (clearly right sides)
Saturday: Houston (-4) in 27-14 home win over Oakland; over 37.5
The Texans jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter with a Nick Novak field goal, followed by? Jadeveon Clowney's interception of Connor Cook, which set up a Lamar Miller 4-yard touchdown run. The Raiders did cut the lead to 10-7 before the end of the first quarter, but it was clear that Houston's No. 1-ranked defense was in control. The Texans then scored 17 unanswered points to lead 27-7.? Brock Osweiler threw for one touchdown and ran for another before the Raiders scored again in garbage time.
The game really showed the drop-off from Oakland's injured Derek Carr to Cook, who went 18-for-45, with only 161 yards and a trio of interceptions. While the Houston defense did its job, the offense wasn't as efficient as it would have hoped. Osweiler, though playing better than we saw for the majority of the season, was just 14-for-25 for only 168 yards. Meanwhile, Miller gained 73 yards but needed 31 carries (2.4 yards per carry) to do so.
Massey-Peabody numbers say: Houston played 9 points better than Oakland.
Sunday: Green Bay (-5) in 38-13 home win over New York Giants; over 46.5
This could have easily been put in the 50-50 category, as the Giants led 6-0 until late in the first half and were back within the spread at 14-13 with 5:16 to play in the third quarter. However, the way the Packers dominated the second half and pulled away to win by 25 has me admitting they were the right side -- even though I was on New York.
The Packers, who were held to negative yardage until well into the second quarter, didn't take the lead until Aaron Rodgers' 5-yard TD pass to Davante Adams with 2:20 left in the first half. The Packers had regained momentum, but the real turning point of the game was when Rodgers connected with Randall Cobb for a 42-yard Hail Mary on the last play of the half -- his third Hail Mary of the last two seasons. That not only put Green Bay up 14-6, but covered a 3-point first-half spread for Packers backers.
A failed fourth-down attempt by Packers coach Mike McCarthy midway through the third quarter helped set up an Eli Manning-to- Tavarres King 41-yard TD pass to cut the lead to 14-13, but the Packers responded with Cobb's second of three touchdown receptions and dominated from there, scoring the last 24 points of the game. Green Bay showed some weakness on both sides of the ball, but McCarthy and his staff get major kudos for in-game adjustments.
Massey-Peabody numbers say: Green Bay played 8 points better than New York.
50/50 ATS Results
Saturday: Seattle (-8.5) in 26-6 home win over Detroit; under 45.5
Just because all the favorites covered doesn't mean that they all coasted to easy victories without any doubt. The Seahawks, whose backers were laying more than a touchdown, played a scoreless first quarter with the Lions and didn't get on the board until Paul Richardson's controversial 2-yard TD reception from Russell Wilson with 7:07 to play in the half.
They did extend their lead to 10-0 on a Steven Hauschka 43-yard field goal, but the Lions pulled back within the spread at 10-3 on a Matt Prater 51-yard FG with 0:20 left in the half. Prater added another field goal in the third quarter, so it was only 10-6 heading into the fourth quarter. Hauschka's 27-yarder extended the Seahawks' lead to 13-6 early in the fourth quarter, but they didn't get back over the spread until Thomas Rawls' 4-yard TD run with 8:49 to play.
Seattle didn't put themselves more than a single score above the spread until Wilson's 13-yard TD pass to Doug Baldwin with 3:36 left. Seattle's defense thoroughly dominated, but the more encouraging news for a potential Seahawks' playoff run came from Rawls racking up 161 yards rushing to complement the passing game.?
Massey-Peabody numbers say: Seattle played 13 points better than Detroit.
Sunday: Pittsburgh (-11.5) in 30-12 home win over Miami; under 47.5
The Steelers jumped out to a 14-0 lead with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown hooking up on 50- and 62-yard TD passes on their first two possessions. Then after a Miami field goal, they scored another touchdown on their third drive with Le'Veon Bell punching in a 1-yard run after having an apparent 26-yard TD run overturned by replay.
The Steelers seemed in control at 20-3, but there were some tenuous moments. The Dolphins pulled with 20-6 on a second Andrew Franks field goal and marched to the Steelers' 8-yard line in the final minute of the half. The first-half line was Pittsburgh -7, so bettors would have had to settle for a push if the Dolphins were able to get in the end zone. However, Miami QB Matt Moore fumbled on a strip-sack by James Harrison to end the threat. That wasn't the end of it, as the Dolphins took the second-half kickoff and were in Pittsburgh territory again before another strip-sack, this one by safety Mike Mitchell, ended that drive.
The Steelers extended their lead to 30-6 by the end of the third quarter, but Moore finally got the Dolphins into the end zone on a 4-yard TD pass to Damien Williams.?Even though they still trailed 30-12 after missing on the 2-point conversion, they were still within a touchdown of the inflated point spread. Even though I'm still calling it a 50-50 ATS result, the Steelers did dominate with Bell rushing for 167 yards. Roethlisberger didn't have to do much after throwing for 159 yards in the first quarter.
The defense was equally as impressive, especially in holding Jay Ajayi to 33 yards and forcing three turnovers. It helps that Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree are back at linebacker (they didn't play in the earlier loss to the Dolphins, and the Steelers are 4-0 since Dupree's return), giving Pittsburgh a better defense than their stats might indicate.
Massey-Peabody numbers say: Pittsburgh played 23 points better than Miami.