LAS VEGAS – The NFC West, NFC North and AFC West Divisions are not deserving of respect.
And oddsmakers didn’t give them any when setting lines for this weekend’s opening-round NFL playoff action.
All four wildcard teams are favored. That’s four road favorites.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Mike Seba, a senior oddsmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants.
The AFC East was a step up compared to the AFC West, but the Miami Dolphins also are an underdog to wildcard Baltimore.
No knock against the Dolphins. They are well-coached, had the NFL’s fewest turnovers and are 9-1 since losing to Baltimore. But the Ravens aren’t your ordinary wild-card entry. They are good enough to be a No. 2 seed with the league’s No. 2-ranked defense and a bruising ground attack.
Asked if the Dolphins could have been a home favorite, Seba said, “Not the way the Ravens have been playing with their defense and veteran leadership.
“I give them (the Dolphins) all the credit in the world for what they accomplished after going 1-15. But I think they’re overmatched here.
“The Dolphins were the beneficiaries of an easy schedule because they went 1-15 last year. Just compare their schedule to the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
LVSC’s opening line recommendation was Ravens -2.5. By Monday afternoon, Baltimore had settled in at -3 with extra juice. So it appears the Ravens could be headed to becoming 3 ½-point favorites.
The LVSC linesmakers were split on the Atlanta-Arizona line. They ended up sending out Falcons -1.5 to their many Nevada hotel clients. Seba’s line on the game was pick. The line on Monday afternoon was between Falcons -1 and -2.5.
The Cardinals had looked terrible since clinching their first division title since 1975. But they may have gotten their confidence and swagger back after beating Seattle, 34-21 at home on Sunday.
Kurt Warner is in the MVP talk mix after throwing for 4,583 yards and 30 touchdowns. He holds a strong edge on good-looking rookie Matt Ryan.
“Ryan has played well, but he’s a rookie on the road in the playoffs,” Seba said.
The pass-crazy Cardinals may have caught a break drawing the Falcons instead of Carolina, a more physical team.
“I could see the line coming down to pick,” Seba said.
Seba could also see the Indianapolis-San Diego line coming down to pick, too. A few places opened the Chargers a one-point favorite. There was much activity Sunday night with the Colts up to 2 ½-point favorites at one point, before settling in at their current number of 1.5 or one-point favorites.
LVSC’s opening-line recommendation was Colts -2.5. Seba had the Chargers at -1.5. He sees the line closing at pick.
“It’s hard to go against the Chargers at home,” he said. “Closer to post you have your amateurs starting to bet, and they are more secure taking home teams.”
The Chargers look like they are peaking with four consecutive victories. However, the Colts have won nine in a row and became the only team in NFL history to win at least 12 games in five straight seasons.
Seba’s biggest disagreement was on the Philadelphia-Minnesota line. The Eagles were up to -3.
Apparently a lot of people were impressed with the Eagles destroying Dallas, 44-6, and not impressed with the Vikings nipping the New York Giants junior varsity on a last-second long field goal.
Seba thought the Eagles should be minus one at best, certainly not a field goal favorite.
“The Cowboys were in such disarray that they could have been beaten by anybody,” he said. “I could make the Eagles a slight favorite (versus Minnesota), but not that high.”
Those betting early disagree. The Vikings will have a fired-up Metrodome crowd behind them and Adrian Peterson on the ground. The Eagles have a huge quarterback edge, better coaching and playoff experience.
So, could the line climb to 3.5?
“I don’t see it going to 3.5,” Seba said. “But I didn’t think it could be three.”