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On the line from Vegas: Favorites open the playoffs on fire

By Tim Graham

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III looked like an unnaturally akimbo action figure when he crumpled to the FedEx Field turf.

Had he remained ambulatory last Sunday, the Redskins likely would have beaten the visiting Seattle Seahawks based on how well the Redskins played at the beginning of the game.

Joel Staniszewski, a Las Vegas oddsmaker from Sloan, pointed out that Griffin's injury helped favorites sweep the NFL's wild-card playoff round. A savvy gambler, he said, shouldn't expect all four favorites to go undefeated again this weekend.

"Realistically, all four favorites can't cover again this week," Staniszewski said. "That would be the equivalent of all four No. 1 seeds in March Madness making it to the Final Four. I think that's happened once.

"All four favorites winning in the first round is one thing. All four winning in the second round is not going to happen. This is where you really want to pick and choose which trends you follow."

Let's take a look at today's matchups.

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

Spread: Denver minus-9.5

Total: 46 points

  • • The favorite in this series is 4-0 against the spread in the past four meetings.
  • • Baltimore is 9-4 against the spread in its past 13 road playoff games.
  • • Baltimore is 4-1 against the spread in its past five games after gaining more than 350 yards the previous game.
  • • Baltimore is 1-5 against the spread in its past six divisional playoff games.
  • • Baltimore is 0-16 straight up as an underdog of nine or more points (including games before relocating from Cleveland).
  • • Denver is 4-0 against the spread in its past four games after a straight-up victory.
  • • Denver is 6-1 against the spread in its past seven games after scoring more than 30 points its previous game.
  • • Denver is 1-4-1 against the spread in its past six January games.

Staniszewski's take:

"When the season started, I didn't necessarily want to like Denver and all the Peyton Manning hype. But as the season progressed, they've looked unstoppable. You saw Manning throwing some dead ducks early in the season. Now the team is clicking on offense. In my opinion, they're destined for the Super Bowl.

"Steer clear of the total. All of Baltimore's trends tell you the game is going under. All of Denver's trends tell you the game's going over. Plus, it's going to be really cold there, and you don't know how that's going to effect teams."

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Spread: San Francisco minus-2.5

Total: 44.5 points

  • • Green Bay is 5-0-1 against the spread the last six games in San Francisco.
  • • Green Bay is 8-1 straight up in its past nine games versus San Francisco.
  • • Green Bay is 5-1 against the spread in its past six playoff games.
  • • Green Bay is 4-1 against the spread in its past five playoff road games.
  • • San Francisco is 5-1 against the spread in its past six home games against a team with a winning record.
  • • San Francisco is 1-4 against the spread in its past five playoff games.

Staniszewski's take:

"This, to me, is the game you play the money line. Take a value play and give it a shot. The Packers have done well in San Francisco. The over also looks good. Four out of the last five games between these teams has gone over."


On the line from Vegas
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |