NFC Divisional Round Betting Preview
Special to Outkick The Coverage from OddsShark.com
The two top seeds in the NFC will try to take care of business as betting favorites this weekend in the Divisional Round of the playoffs and avoid a rematch of last year's conference championship game.
The Carolina Panthers (15-1) and Arizona Cardinals (13-3) each enjoyed bye weeks as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively, but they now must face experienced postseason teams that are coming off road wins in the Wild Card Round.
On Saturday, the Cardinals will host the Green Bay Packers (11-6) as seven-point betting favorites and try to beat them for the second time in a month following a 38-8 rout as six-point home favorites in Week 16.
Arizona's defense disrupted Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the first meeting, sacking him eight times and causing him to have the worst statistical game of his career. The Cardinals also scored two defensive touchdowns on fumble returns.
The Packers are coming off a 35-18 road victory against the Washington Redskins last Saturday though as two-point underdogs, and they have proven to be a dangerous Wild Card team in the past when playing away from home.
Green Bay got to the Super Bowl five years ago by winning three straight on the road in the postseason and then knocked off the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 behind an MVP performance from Rodgers.
Despite the earlier loss at Arizona, the Packers have still won seven of the past 10 meetings, and they are also 8-1-1 against the spread in their last 10 games as dogs in January.
Meanwhile, the two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks (11-6) might be the scariest team of any left in the playoff field because they have been so successful both at home and on the road with quarterback Russell Wilson under center the past three years.
Wilson definitely deserves NFL MVP consideration based on his recent play that has seen him throw 25 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in the previous eight games, including a 10-9 road victory against the Minnesota last Sunday.
Seattle visits Carolina on Sunday as a small three-point underdog after losing an earlier home meeting 27-23 as a seven-point favorite in Week 6.
That impressive victory for the Panthers made skeptics believe in them as Super Bowl contenders, as they were able to tame the top-ranked Seahawks defense along with the raucous crowd at CenturyLink Field when quarterback Cam Newton connected with tight end Greg Olsen on the game-winning touchdown pass with only 32 seconds left.
Plays like that have helped Newton earn MVP cred, and he will need more of those to beat Seattle a second time. Fortunately, he has played even better at home, where Carolina is unbeaten this season and has covered the spread in four straight games.