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Handicapper backs underdog Packers, Seahawks in weekend NFL playoff games

When Roy McAvoy was rejected by psychiatrist Molly Griswold in the movie “Tin Cup,” he warned her that her boyfriend, David Simms, wasn’t who he appeared to be.

“Well, I’m going to qualify for the U.S. Open and kick your boyfriend’s (expletive),” Kevin Costner’s character said. “And whatever you think of me, you should know he hates old people, he hates children and he hates dogs.”

The same was essentially said of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a Bleacher Report story posted two days before Green Bay was blown out by the Redskins on Nov. 20, its fourth straight loss to fall to 4-6. According to the article, Rodgers is self-centered and ultrasensitive, has alienated several teammates and hasn’t talked to his family in two years, going so far as to mail back Christmas gifts sent by his parents.

No word if Rodgers also dislikes babies and puppies, but he clearly can’t stand losing. Since saying “I think we can run the table” after the aforementioned loss, the ultracompetitive Rodgers has carried the Packers to seven consecutive victories (6-1 against the spread), including Sunday’s 38-13 wild-card win over the Giants.

The Hail Mary master has thrown for 18 touchdowns and no interceptions during the hot streak and handicapper Doug Fitz expects him to continue his roll in Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Fitz (Systemplays.com), who has alternated first and second place in the Review-Journal NFL Challenge the last two seasons with assistant sports editor Allen Leiker, said the Packers, 4½-point underdogs, are his best bet of the weekend.

“Even without (receiver) Jordy Nelson, the Packers getting over a field goal with Aaron Rodgers is just a bonus. It’s something I couldn’t pass up,” Fitz said. “Dallas is very young with (quarterback Dak) Prescott and (running back Ezekiel) Elliott in their first playoff game.

“I think this one pretty much goes right down to the wire and I wouldn’t be shocked whatsoever if Green Bay wins straight up.”

Fitz, 93-75-2 ATS (55.3 winning percentage) the last two years in the NFL Challenge, said he also plans to play the Packers on the money line (plus-180).

Rodgers is 5-1 ATS as a postseason road underdog and went 5-1-1 ATS this season against playoff teams.

“He relishes that role as an underdog,” Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito said. “Giving Rodgers points here, he’s got to be licking his chops a little bit.”

Leiker, who won this season’s contest with a 47-34-4 ATS mark (58.0) and is 92-73-5 ATS (55.7) the last two years, said the Cowboys are his best bet.

“Their offensive line is so good and will overpower the Packers defense,” he said. “This line would be higher if Rodgers didn’t have the Packers on such a roll right now.”

Fitz also likes the Seahawks getting 5 points from the Falcons and Leiker is siding with the Steelers as 1½-point ‘dogs to the Chiefs .

“The Seahawks have been inconsistent this year but the bottom line is they still have a much better defense than Atlanta,” Fitz said. “It really applies a lot more in the playoffs but in general the better defensive team getting points is normally the side you want to look at.”

The public has been all over high-powered Atlanta, pushing the line to 5 at most Las Vegas sports books after it opened at 3½.

“The money on that one is 5-to-1 in favor of the Falcons right now,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said. “The general public is on the Falcons and the wiseguys are laying in the weeds waiting for a big number they can get right before kickoff.”

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is 13-3-1 ATS as an underdog and Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is 1-4 straight up in the playoffs and 0-4-1 ATS.

“There’s a lot more pressure on Atlanta than Seattle,” Esposito said.

The Steelers opened as 1½-point favorites but the line flipped soon after Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger showed up at his postgame news conference Sunday wearing a walking boot.

“His ankle injury isn’t serious at all,” Leiker said. “The Steelers’ three Killer B’s (of Ben, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell) will be too much for the Chiefs to overcome.”

On the flip side, Kansas City coach Andy Reid is the bye week king, guiding his teams to a 16-2 record after a bye in the regular season and going 3-0 in the playoffs.

The Patriots are favored between 15½ and 17 points over the Texans. While double-digit favorites in the NFL have been a historically bad bet, they’ve been a good bet this season, with New England going 4-0 ATS in that role and covering 17 in a 41-3 rout of the Jets in Week 16.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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