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NFL Divisional Round Betting Strategies

Cam breaks down the NFL Divisional Round games to find the optimal betting strategies.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 13: C.J. Stroud #7 of the Houston Texans drops back and looks to pass during an NFL wild-card playoff football game between the Houston Texans and the Cleveland Browns at NRG Stadium on January 13, 2024 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

We have entered the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. For gamblers the playoffs are like the Christmas Season. The culmination being Christmas morning…I mean, the Super Bowl. Gambling spikes, with more casual fans laying bets (for added entertainment value).

In that vein I am writing this quick strategy. There is an adage in betting that says to only bet the underdog if you think they have a chance of winning. I think both underdogs on Saturday have a chance to pull out a victory.

Recently, with the new playoff structure, only the no.1 seeds get the bye week. Last year that advantage saw each no.1 seed carry that edge into the Super Bowl. It’s logical, one fewer game, and every game played at home.

I don’t like crossing sports when talking about gambling because each sport has its own nuances. But I will to make a point with this particular strategy. In baseball there are occasionally double headers. And normally the same team is favored in each game of that double header. If the odds are extreme in each game, 8.5-10 or 9-11, it is a good risk to simply take the underdog in each game.

A quick explanation of baseball odds…if a game is 9-11, it means you have to risk $110 on the favorite to win $50, and conversely, risk $50 to win $90 on the underdog. If there is a double header with each game posting those odds and you take the underdog in each game you’ll win a net $40 if the teams split, which often happens in double headers. If the underdog win each game you’d win $180, risking $50 in each game.

Now back to football…normally odds aren’t that dramatic in playoff games, pitting two good teams against each other. But that’s not the case today. The Green Bay Packers play the no.1 seed San Francisco 49ers. And in the other game, the Houston Texans face off against the no.1 seed Baltimore Ravens.

The Texans are getting 9.5 points and the Packers are getting 10 points. If you are leaning that way, snag the points and hope for a cover. But if you think at least one of them has a shot at winning, I’d say to take the moneyline in both games.

The Texans are +350 and the Packers are +390. Those numbers are crazy for a playoff game. This means if you bet $100 on Houston and they win, you’ll win $350, and $390 if you take the Packers. If both of these underdogs prevail, you’ll win $740, risking $200. If only Houston wins, you’ll win $350 and lose $100 on the Green Bay side, netting $250. If only Green Bay wins, you’ll win $390 and lose $100 on the Houston side, netting $290.

Is there a chance that the two, more rested home teams wipe the floor with Green Bay and Houston? Absolutely, it is why each are nearly double digit favorites. And if you are leaning this way, this type of strategy isn’t for you. 

However, if you like the dogs, this could be a way to maximize your bankroll. You could do both, bet them with the points, and with the moneyline. If each team covers but doesn’t win outright, those wins will cover the losses on the straight bets. But if both underdogs win outright, you’ll win all four bets, and with four $100 bets, walk away with $940. 

For giggles I looked up the odds of parlaying Houston and Green Bay to win outright…they are +2150. If you were to get extremely frisky, you could risk $100 to win $2150. If you were to pursue this, and Houston does prevail in the first game, you could turn around and hedge with the Niners in the second game, guaranteeing a positive outcome for the day.

Whatever you do, only risk what you can afford and never bet beyond your means. Never go on tilt, and don’t chase. Enjoy this weekend of games.