The Bettor's edge

Nothing trendy about it

By Ed Ryan
Globe Staff / January 7, 2011

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As we search for winners among the remaining participants, a look into recent history on wild-card weekend does not provide much help.

During the last four wild-card seasons, favorites are just 8-8 against the spread, as are home teams. That tells us nothing, and a closer look reveals home underdogs went 3-2 over that span. But none of those home dogs faced a number greater than 3 1/2. This season, though, Pete Carroll’s division winners will pull on their home jerseys as double-digit underdogs.

With all but one of this weekend’s lines hovering around a field goal, we looked at the record of favorites against lines of 3 1/2 or less. They came in at a not-so-revealing 6-6 during those four years.

Want to know one thing we can learn from these numbers? Gambling is difficult. But that’s why we’re here — to sort through the nonsense and simplify things.

This week’s picks (home team in caps):

Green Bay (+2 1/2) over PHILADELPHIA: Michael Vick may be banged up but the biggest issue I have with the Eagles are the 25.7 points per game they allowed in their last 10 games. Philadelphia survived because of its offensive playmakers, but it is in trouble against Aaron Rodgers. The Packers defense, meanwhile, is more than capable of pressuring, and containing, Vick. Risking $165 to win $150.

New Orleans (-10 1/2) over SEATTLE: A home underdog facing a spread this size is unprecedented in recent seasons, but so is a 7-9 team that wins its division. I remain uncertain about the long-term future of the Saints in the postseason but I am not uncertain about my disdain for the Seahawks. Seattle went 2-5 against teams with winning records, with the last win coming Oct. 17 (at Chicago) and the five losses by an average of 21 points. Risking $165 to win $150.

Baltimore (-3) over KANSAS CITY: The Chiefs — with just one loss at home — are a nice story and have earned their place, but they have reached this point by playing just two playoff teams and beating one of them — the Seahawks. Both were road games. The Ravens are battle-tested and should be able to thrive in a hostile environment after competing in the AFC North. One interesting note about Baltimore: It plays its home games on turf but is 4-0 against the spread on grass — the same surface as Arrowhead Stadium. Risking $110 to win $100.

Last week: 4-0, plus $400. Season: 37-27-1, plus $687.

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