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Take the Packers in the playoffs

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Joe Ellison

Historically, in the NFL Divisional Playoffs, home teams win at the very strong rate of 73 percent. Recently that rate has been a remarkable 83 percent, with all four home teams prevailing last year. Having the previous week’s bye to rest and nurse injuries, and then not having to travel, have proven to be decided advantages. So this week one should expect at least three of the four visitors to suffer defeat.

Carolina at St. Louis – The Rams own current home streaks that are impossible to ignore. St. Louis has won 14 consecutive home games, quarterback Marc Bulger is 13-0 there, and in four contests the city has never hosted a Ram playoff loss. The Rams are a dome team built for their fast turf, as they scored at least 27 points in each home game and averaged 33. St. Louis is 6-1-1 as a home favorite this year, and injured wide receiver Isaac Bruce returns.

Carolina is a good club away from home with a 3-1 record as a visiting underdog, and the Panthers’ worst loss on the road was by only six points. But they’ll be missing cozy Carolina where last week they committed no turnovers and unbelievably were guilty of no penalties versus Dallas. Prediction: St. Louis -7.

Tennessee at New England – The best team to bet on this season was New England. After a Week 1 loss at Buffalo, according to my numbers the Patriots went 11-1-3 against the spread. At home the Pats went undefeated, won all of those games by six or more points, and finished unscathed with a 6-0-2 spread record. This is largely due to the defense which posted three shutouts and gave up a paltry 22 points in the final six home games, and quarterback Tom Brady who threw no home interceptions.

All three Tennessee road losses this year were by seven or more, but the Titans ended up a formidable 3-1 as an away underdog. Still, the Titans are coming off an emotional win over hated Baltimore last Saturday, quarterback Steve McNair and running back Eddie George are playing with injuries, and the Patriots won the teams’ first meeting 38-30. Prediction: New England -6.

Indianapolis at Kansas City – Kansas City head coach Dick Vermeil’s three-year plan worked again as he now has led his third team to the playoffs. At home his Chiefs were unbeaten, covered six of eight, and scored at least 24 points each game.

On the road, Indianapolis was almost equally as strong going 7-1, 5-2-1 against the spread, and a perfect 4-0 as an away underdog.

This should at least be an entertaining game. Indianapolis’ No. 3 offense faces Kansas City’s No. 29 defense, while Kansas City’s No. 2 offense and running back Priest Holmes match up against Indianapolis’ No. 21 rush defense. Both teams have played 10 Over games and went 5-3 Over home and away. Prediction: Kansas City -3 and Over 50.

Green Bay at Philadelphia – The one home team this weekend that didn’t go undefeated this season was Philadelphia with a 5-3 mark. The Eagles struggled stopping the run, recently lost defensive MVP linebacker Carlos Emmons to injury, and now confront Green Bay’s Ahman Green who torched them for a Packer record 192 yards rushing Nov. 10. Philly also just lost Brian Westbrook, the club’s leading rusher, leading receiver out of the backfield, and key special teams player.

In the first meeting on a rainy Monday night, Philadelphia won 17-14 at Green Bay on a touchdown pass with 27 seconds left. Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre had cracked his right thumb two games earlier and experienced difficulty gripping the wet ball. While Philadelphia did not turn the ball over, Favre had three fumbles, lost two, and threw an interception. Favre is not making those same mistakes now, and he has the recent death of his father to inspire him.

This should be a fun playoff to watch as five of the last six Eagle games and four of five Packer games have gone Over. Green Bay was a solid 5-3 Over on the road, while Philly was one of the most consistent teams in the league going 6-1-1 Over at home. Prediction: Green Bay +6 and Over 42.

Joe Ellison is the Nevada Appeal Betting Columnist. Contact him at editor@nevadaappeal.com.