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Winners cover at stunning rate in NFL wild-card weekend

Updated January 4, 2019 - 6:57 pm

The best advice I have for NFL wild-card weekend is to pick winners and don’t get obsessed about the lines.

Steve Makinen, editor of VSiN’s Point Spread Weekly, found that the outright winner has a point-spread record of 37-4-1 ATS in the past 42 wild-card playoff games. I was stunned when I saw this.

But there were two noncovers a year ago. Jacksonville (-9) edged Buffalo 10-3, and New Orleans (-6½) failed to cover against Carolina, winning 31-26. But those clearly were rare exceptions.

With that in mind, let’s jump into the four games.

Saturday’s games

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans

1:30 p.m., KTNV-13, ESPN

Line: Texans -2; total 48

This is the only game that matches divisional opponents. The Colts and Texans won on the other team’s field, and that’s not a fluke. In the past five years, the road team in their matchups has gone 7-1-2 ATS. Andrew Luck and the Colts have been especially good against better defenses. Against teams that allow fewer than 20 points per game, Indy is 7-0. But I have a bias against NFL teams playing consecutive weeks on the road. The Colts played an elimination game Sunday night at Tennessee, so I’m going to back Deshaun Watson and the Texans. Last year, two road teams advance in the wild-card round — Tennessee at Kansas City and Atlanta at the Los Angeles Rams — but both winners played Week 17 at home.

Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys

5 p.m., KVVU-5

Line: Cowboys -2; total 43

The Seahawks are the road team that I like the best. With less than a week’s rest, they are 7-1-2 ATS away from home. Coach Pete Carroll does a good job preparing his teams emotionally. The last time these teams met in the playoffs was 12 years ago, and everybody remembers Dallas quarterback Tony Romo fumbling the snap on a potential winning field goal. Seattle has won the past three meetings, including 24-13 in Week 3.

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Sunday’s games

Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens

10 a.m., KLAS-8

Line: Ravens -2½; total 42

Two weeks ago, the Ravens won 22-10 at Los Angeles. The AFC’s best defense held Philip Rivers and the Chargers to fewer than 200 total yards. Everyone knows that the Chargers are dangerous on the road, and as Makinen points out, they are 24-11-1 ATS in the past 10 years against teams with a winning record. A lot of money will come down on the Chargers as a result of that stat, but my travel bias reminds me that this game starts at 10 a.m. West Coast time, so I will side with the Ravens.

Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears

1:30 p.m., KSNV-3

Line: Bears -6½; total 41½

Santa Foles, as he’s being called in Philadelphia, is one of the best stories of the playoffs. But it says here that the defending champions’ run ends against the NFC’s best defense. Nick Foles will quarterback the Eagles with extra padding to protect his bruised ribs. On the other side, Chicago’s Mitch Trubisky has not thrown an interception in the past three weeks. I’m riding with the Bears.

Finally, my teaser specials are two 6-pointers — the Bears and the under on the game, and the Seahawks and the under.

Brent Musburger’s betting column appears Saturday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His show on the Vegas Stats & Information Network can be heard on SiriusXM 204 and livestreamed at reviewjournal.com/vegas-stats-information-network.

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