Betting the Spread: Divisional Round

by Shervon Fakhimi · Betting & Props

This is Betting the Spread: Divisional Round! Well, that was fun. The Super Wild Card totally delivered with six outstanding games. Unfortunately, that didn’t mean a lot of success picking against the spread. We went 2-4 last week (note: last week’s Seattle-San Francisco said I picked Seattle. I initially had Seattle but switched to San Fran and forgot to change them on my pick.) but could’ve been much better if the Chargers knew how to hold a lead or if Josh Allen could hold on to the ball. Four more games are on tap this week. Let’s get it!

Jacksonville Jaguars (+9) vs Kansas City Chiefs

Over/Under: 52.5

Pick ATS: Jacksonville Jaguars

Credit to Jacksonville for pulling off that unfathomable comeback last week. Yes, the Chargers are a cursed franchise, but still, coming back from down 27-0 is an incredible accomplishment no matter what. It’s going to be much more difficult this time around. First off, going from game-planning against Joe Lombardi to Andy Reid is like going into a gunfight with a stick (see what I did there? Football joke… okay, moving on).

The Chiefs still matriculate the ball downfield similarly to the Chargers. Patrick Mahomes‘ 7.5 air yards per attempt (No. 23 in the NFL) isn’t far from Justin Herbert‘s 6.5 number (No. 32). The difference is that the Chargers do it by design even though Herbert is also a prodigy at quarterback. Mahomes averages 8.2 adjusted yards per attempt. This ranks No. 2 in the NFL. Herbert averages 6.5 which was good for No. 15 in the NFL. 


The Chiefs’ offense is much more efficient and diverse than the Chargers’ too. The Jags ranked No. 30 in pass defense DVOA in the regular season according to Football Outsiders. That seems like a bad matchup. Mahomes went 26-35 for 331 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception in these teams’ matchup in Week 10 while adding 39 yards on the ground. I’m not expecting much difference from him this week.

Another major difference between the Chiefs and the Chargers is that the Chiefs can run the ball. No, I’m not saying Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon are better than Austin Ekeler, but the Chiefs did rank No. 9 in rush offense DVOA during the regular season. The Chargers ranked No. 20 and ran for 67 yards on 23 carries (12 of those yards came on three Justin Herbert scrambles). The Chargers couldn’t sustain drives nor milk the clock to keep the Jaguars off the field.

Isiah Pacheco‘s 4.8 True Yards Per Carry average over the regular season should allow the Chiefs to churn long drives if they need to. Trevor Lawrence and the Jags do have an advantage over the Chiefs’ No. 20-ranked pass defense according to pass defense DVOA. That should allow them to stay at arm’s length with the Chiefs. The Chiefs win, but I’ll take the points with the Jags and the over.

New York Giants vs Philadelphia Eagles (-7.5)

Over/Under: 48.5

Pick ATS: Philadelphia Eagles

Props to the Giants. I sure as hell didn’t expect them to make the playoffs, let alone make it to the divisional round, in the preseason. But dang it, they’re here. If they’re going to advance any further, Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones‘ legs will have to carry them. The Giants were the No. 7-best rush offense in rush offense DVOA according to Football Outsiders, while the Eagles ranked as the league’s No. 21 rush defense.

The health of Lane Johnson will be a major key as well. The Giants sneakily ranked No. 6 in the NFL in pass rush win rate according to ESPN. In the one game the Eagles played without Lane Johnson against a team that was playing their starters and trying to win, Gardner Minshew was sacked six times, had a QBR of 11.7, and threw a pick-six. That’s a years-on trend for the Eagles.

Fortunately for the Eagles, it sounds like Lane Johnson will return this week from his groin injury. Nonetheless, his effectiveness will be worth monitoring. If the Eagles can keep Jalen Hurts clean and prevent Saquon Barkley (9-28 in their first matchup this season) from running all over them, the Eagles should cruise. The Giants rank No. 22 in pass defense DVOA. Adoree’ Jackson can’t cover both A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith.

Different Beasts

Darius Slay and James Bradberry are far different beasts than Patrick Peterson and Duke Shelley for Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins. The Eagles ranked No. 1 in pass rush win rate in the regular season. The Giants ranked No. 29 in pass block win rate. Daniel Jones has proven he’s the face of the Giants franchise. That alone makes this season an incalculable success. But the Eagles are the far superior team. Give me the Eagles.

Cincinnati Bengals (+5.5) vs Buffalo Bills

Over/Under: 49

Pick ATS: Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals’ offensive line is in critical masse. Alex Cappa is out. La’el Collins is out for the season. Now, Jonah Williams dislocated his kneecap (ouch). In words no fanbase should have to endure, Jackson Carman (oh no) replaced Williams, and did not fare well. This is a big deal for Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ offense. When he’s clean, he’s inevitable.

There are ways around beating pressure. Joe Burrow‘s throwing the ball much quicker than he did before, which is super helpful behind an offensive line in flux. He’s one of the best quarterbacks at maneuvering through the pocket and using his legs to make plays downfield too. The state of the Bengals’ offensive line would scare the jeepers out of me if I were betting them +5.5, but I trust Joe Burrow to work around it.


I also trust that Josh Allen is going to keep the Bengals in it. Allen is great, don’t get me wrong. But he almost cost the Bills a game they had no business losing last week. Granted, you do live with the bad to get great Allen, and one of his interceptions wasn’t his fault. But Allen walks the tightrope often. He had 40 Danger Throws this season, No. 2 among all quarterbacks. His 36 interceptable passes ranked No. 3 among quarterbacks. Since Buffalo’s bye in Week 7, the Bills have played 11 games. Josh Allen has 18 turnovers in those games.

The Bengals ranked No. 11 in defensive DVOA this season. The Bills were more efficient on both sides of the ball in DVOA than the Bengals. I expect them to win this game. If Jonah Williams didn’t get hurt, I think I would’ve taken the Bengals outright. I’ll take them to cover the spread, though. The Bills win a close 27-23 game.

Dallas Cowboys (+3.5) vs San Francisco 49ers

Over/Under: 46

Pick ATS: Dallas Cowboys

I thought the Brock Purdy express’ wheels were going to fall off early last week. He was missing throws, and he left the pocket too early. Purdy showed rookie jitters for the first time. But then, his playmakers took over. Purdy ended the game 18-30 for 332 yards and three touchdowns. 179 of his 332 yards came after the catch. 

That’s not a knock on Brock Purdy. I think he’s significantly better than Jimmy Garappolo, but his ceiling is nowhere near Trey Lance‘s. Purdy’s executing Kyle Shanahan’s offense well enough to put playmakers in positions to succeed. This will be his biggest test yet, however. The Seahawks ranked No. 17 in pass defense DVOA; the Cowboys rank No. 3. The Cowboys were No. 2 in the NFL in pass rush win rate, while the Seahawks ranked No. 28 in that department. The 49ers rank No. 20 in pass block win rate, so there’s a path for the Cowboys to force Purdy, who had 17 Danger Plays and 12 interceptable passes in six regular season starts, into a mistake or two.

A Weakness?

But the Cowboys can be had on the ground. They allowed the No. 11-most rushing yards in the regular season. That’s not what you want to hear when going against Christian McCaffrey (5.7 yards per touch), Elijah Mitchell (six yards per touch), and Deebo Samuel (5.86 yards per carry). I think the Cowboys would take that as opposed to allowing deep bombs all over the place.

The 49ers’ defense seems impenetrable, but there is one weakness: defending the slot. Over the course of the regular season, the 49ers allowed the No. 6-most fantasy points to slot receivers. Here’s how some slot receivers fared against them this season:

Tyler Lockett Week 2: 11-9-107

In Tyler Lockett’s Week 15: 9-7-68

Tyler Lockett Wild Card: 8-6-39

Cooper Kupp Week 4: 19-14-122

Cooper Kupp Week 8: 12-8-79-1

JuJu Smith-Schuster Week 7: 8-7-124-1

Greg Dortch Week 11: 10-9-103

Chris Godwin Week 14: 9-5-54

Curtis Samuel Week 16: 5-5-52-1

CeeDee Lamb Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

That’s a problem with CeeDee Lamb on deck. Lamb lined up in the slot 439 times this season, the No. 6-most among wide receivers. He also ranked No. 8 in Route Win Rate in 2022. Lamb will need to be busy early and often for the Cowboys to move the ball. The 49ers ranked No. 2 in the NFL in rush defense DVOA; Kenneth Walker‘s 15-63-1 is one of the few good games the 49ers have allowed on the ground. The Cowboys’ offensive line ranked No. 28 in pass block win rate; the 49ers ranked No. 5 in pass rush win rate. There aren’t many advantages for the Cowboys offensively, but CeeDee is one of them.

I view this game similarly to the Bills-Bengals game. I think the 49ers ultimately win, but I’ll take the points with the Cowboys and the under. The 49ers win 20-17.