Those who bet on the favorites did well during NFL Divisional Round weekend, except for one notable exception. Outside of the Titans’ surprise dismantling of the Ravens, the three favorites covered the spread. Houston was on the verge of an upset in Kansas City — the Texans lead 24-0 — but then Bill O’Brien tried one of the most inopportune fake punts in recent memory, and the Chiefs ripped off 41 unanswered points.
Bettors rejoiced from sea to shining sea.
With the championship games and Super Bowl coming up, there remain multiple prime opportunities for bettors to turn January into a winning month, but only if they remember the lessons learned from the first two weeks of playoff football. The three top takeaways from the Divisional Round are below. Only follow the advice if you are interested in padding your bank account.
1) Bet the Chiefs over
The over-under for Texans-Chiefs was 51 points, which was surpassed by halftime. With Patrick Mahomes under center, the Chiefs possess the most electrifying offense in the postseason. Their second quarter against Houston, which saw them score four unanswered touchdowns in 9:40 of game time, showed how explosive they are.
The Chiefs scored at least 30 points in four of their first six games this season, before Mahomes went down with a knee injury. He went onto injure his right hand against the Patriots Dec. 8, prompting the Chiefs’ offense to sputter over the next two weeks. But if Mahomes is healthy, the Chiefs are capable of dismantling defenses. It is almost always smarter to bet with supreme talent instead of betting against it.
2) Bet on Titans beating the spread
The Titans may not beat the Chiefs in Kansas City next Sunday in the AFC Championship, but over the last two weeks, they’ve shown they will keep it close. Mike Vrabel’s club plays flawless situational football and doesn’t make mistakes. It is difficult for games to get out of hand when you don’t turn the ball over, attempt disastrous fake punts or allow long kick off returns. The Texans were guilty of all three sins Sunday, which helped prompt Kansas City’s comeback.
While the Titans are the least talented team remaining in the playoffs, there is a lot to be said for poise. The Ravens couldn’t handle themselves after falling down 14-0 Saturday, with John Harbaugh and Greg Roman only opting to rush the ball nine times with their backs. Baltimore ran the ball 56 percent of the time during the regular season, which was the most in 10 years.
Contrastingly, the Titans did not appear to panic when they fell down 13-7 to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium last Saturday, even rattling off a 7-play, 75-yard touchdown drive towards the end of the second quarter. Derrick Henry may carry Tennessee offensively, but as Ryan Tannehill exhibited with his 45-yard strike to Kalif Raymond Saturday, the Titans can score quickly, too.
Ultimately, their offense won’t be able to keep pace with Kansas City’s. But this postseason, they’ve shown they will keep the game close.
3) 49ers are most complete team left in playoffs
San Fransisco possesses a stout defense, persistent rushing attack and a quarterback who is capable of making big plays — and who wins as a starter. The 49ers are the most complete team left in the playoffs, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them replicate their 38-7 beatdown of the Packers from late November in the NFC Championship.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s career record as a starter is 22-5, and eventually, that stops being a fluke. He also carried them to at least one victory in the regular season: their scintillating 48-46 victory at the Saints Dec. 8.
When Garoppolo is considered your weak link, that’s pretty good. As the 49ers showed against the Vikings, their front seven is ferocious, and more than capable of pressuring the quarterback. With Richard Sherman set to be locked in on Davante Adams, Aaron Rodgers will likely have to find his secondary targets if Green Bay, which nearly allowed a dramatic second half comeback to the undermanned Seahawks, is going to have a chance.
Kyle Shanahan’s scheme — the 49ers were perfect on play-action passes in the first half Saturday — can take its second different quarterback to the Super Bowl in four years. And luckily for the Niners, the rest of their squad is Super Bowl-caliber.
San Francisco is not guaranteed a Super Bowl trip, of course. But it is hard to bet against the best overall football team remaining.