NFL Betting: AFC Divisional Previews
by Matt Severance - 01/09/2009
All four NFL playoff games this weekend are rematches of regular-season matchups, and both AFC lower seeds playing this weekend lost to their respective opponents way back in 2008.
On Saturday, the Ravens visit the Titans, who won in Baltimore, 13-10, in Week 5. Yet that win might be a bit misleading, as the Ravens mostly dominated. They held Tennessee to just 47 yards rushing, had eight more first downs and held the ball for nearly 10 minutes longer. A questionable Terrell Suggs penalty late in the game kept a drive alive and allowed Kerry Collins to throw a game-winning touchdown.
Baltimore lost the following week to Indy to hit a low point on the season but has fallen only twice since. And that defense, led by Ed Reed, has been outstanding of late, allowing only one team (Dallas) to score more 13 points since Week 11. Reed has been ridiculous - in his last seven games, he has 10 interceptions and three defensive touchdowns. He has had two picks in each of the past three games, and Dolphins QB Chad Pennington probably is still having nightmares about him.
Bodog has a prop bet on whether Reed will get a pick in Saturday's game at Tennessee, with yes at +175 and no at -215. For what it's worth, Reed did not get one in the first meeting with the Titans, who aren't going to be throwing a ton. Bodog even offers Reed at 20/1 as the first player to score a touchdown in this game. That might be worth a flier, and Baltimore is 7-0 this season when scoring a defensive touchdown. Also be aware that the Ravens are 0-4 ATS in the past four meetings with Tennessee.
Injury-wise, the Ravens are in great shape. Tennessee does get defensive linemen Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch back but won't have All-Pro center Kevin Mawae, which could be trouble.
While Reed might the focus of the Saturday AFC game, all eyes probably will be on San Diego's Darren Sproles for Sunday's game at Pittsburgh. He might be the smallest player on the field, but he could have the biggest impact.
Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson has a torn groin and basically has admitted he's very unlikely to play. He left last week's win vs. the Colts in the second quarter and didn't return. Sproles, all of 5-foot-6, more than made up for his absence with 328 all-purpose yards (105 rushing, 45 receiving and 178 on kick returns). He scored two touchdowns on runs of nine and 22 yards, the latter the game-winner in overtime.
"I've played against him and seen a lot of film of him," Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu said, "and I've never seen anybody get a great hit on him."
In Week 11 the Steelers beat the Chargers 11-10 (the first-ever NFL game to end with that score). Sproles had just one carry and one catch in that game, so perhaps he is a wrinkle that will give the Steelers troubles despite Pittsburgh having the top-ranked defense in the league. Bodog has a prop bet of Sproles having over/under 22.5 receiving yards, which seems like stealing to me (i.e. take the over). He also is at 4/1 to score the first touchdown in the game.
The forecast for Pittsburgh on Sunday calls for a high of 25 degrees with snow showers, so if it's icy that could potentially limit Sproles' quickness.
San Diego is just 2-13 all-time in the Steel City, and the Steelers have covered in their past five playoff games.