Home teams all are favored in the first round of NFL playoffs

Posted: Thursday, January 06, 2005

So the oddsmakers automatically give the three points for home-field advantage, plus a few more for being better. That's the case as the playoffs start this weekend.

The closest line is in Seattle, where the Seahawks are favored by four over the Rams, even though St. Louis won both meetings between them in the NFC West, easily the league's worst division.

That's one of two division matchups this weekend. The other is in Green Bay, where the Packers and Vikings play for the third time this season. In fact, all four games are rematches, although Broncos-Colts is barely that — Indianapolis played scrubs in Denver last week.

St. Louis (plus 4) at Seattle

The Seahawks' problems this year started in their fourth game, when they were unbeaten and led the Rams by 17 points at home with just over 6 minutes to go. They lost 33-27 in overtime and later fell 23-12 in St. Louis.

It shouldn't happen again, although Seattle is in psychological disarray.

Shaun Alexander ''apologized'' for complaining about not getting the ball for the Seahawks' final touchdown against Atlanta last week and losing the rushing title by 1 yard to the Jets' Curtis Martin. But there was an edge to the apology.

Nonetheless, St. Louis was 2-6 on the road this season, Seattle is more talented anyway and ...


New York Jets (plus 6) at San Diego

Another rematch: New York won 34-28 in Week 2, when the Chargers didn't know they were good.

Since then, San Diego has gotten better and the Jets have gotten worse, in part because Chad Pennington is playing with a sore rotator cuff, something his many critics in New York don't seem to have considered in taking shots at him.

Pennington doesn't have the strongest arm when healthy. Now he can hardly throw deep at all, allowing defenses to stack for Curtis Martin. San Diego will do that and ...


Denver (plus 10) at Indianapolis

The Broncos made the playoffs by beating the visiting Colts, who used Jim Sorgi at quarterback.

These are the Colts with Peyton Manning, who beat Denver 41-10 in last season's first round at the RCA Dome.

That caused Mike Shanahan to revamp his defense, bringing in Champ Bailey and John Lynch to help the secondary. They have, but they're not going to shut down Manning, Edgerrin James and the Marvin Harrison-Reggie Wayne-Brandon Stokley troika.

COLTS, 31-17

Minnesota (plus 6) at Green Bay

The Packers won both meetings this season 34-31, the latest in Minneapolis on Dec. 24. And their secondary is certainly vulnerable to Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss and Nate Burleson, although Moss provoked some discord by walking off the field with 2 seconds left in the Vikings' loss in Washington last week.

Nonetheless, the most telling numbers are these: The Packers won nine of their final 11 games; the Vikings lost seven of their last 10, the second straight season they've done that.

The Lambeau magic isn't what it used to be, but ...

PACKERS, 34-31

LAST WEEK: 7-8-1 (spread), 9-7 (straight up)

REGULAR SEASON: 111-123-6 (spread), 156-84 (straight up)

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