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Monday, Jan 9

   by Larry Ness - 01/09/2006

The NFL expanded its playoff-field to 12 teams in 1990. Heading into last year's wild card round, home teams had DOMINATED this round of games, winning 42 of the 56 previously played. However, the Colts were the only home team to win in last year's opening round of the postseason and for the second straight year, just ONE home team was able to prevail in this year's wild card round.

The two-time defending champs, the New England Patriots, beat the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night, 28-3. In the three other games, Washington won at Tampa Bay 17-10, Carolina won at New York 23-0 and Pittsburgh won at Cincinnati 31-17. The Redskins won despite gaining just 120 yards, the fewest-ever for a playoff winner in NFL history. Carolina handed the Giants the team's first playoff shutout in 20 years and the Giants became the first team to be shut out in a playoff home game since the Rams beat the Bucs 9-0 in Tampa, in the 1979 NFC Championship Game (was played in January of 1980).

My free play tonight is on the Toronto Raptors over the Chicago Bulls (see reference below). In college hoops I'm featuring a rare triple 10* report (most recent was a winner on 12/21). Don't miss this combination of QUALITY and QUANTITY that I feel is the "best value in the industry!"

Heading into the weekend's action, home favorites were 28-23-3 ATS in the wild card round with home 'dogs' going 5-1 ATS (since 1990). This past weekend's results saw home favorites go 1-2 ATS and the lone home dog (Bengals), also lose. Home dogs had been 8-1 ATS in wild card history (began in 1978), but following a season-long trend that's seen road favorites cash 62.3 percent of the time, the Steelers won and 'covered' as a three-point road 'chalk'.

Of course, it's hard NOT to speculate "what might have been", if Carson Palmer hadn't been lost for the game on his first pass attempt? Three of the four games this weekend went 'under' the total. All four losing teams featured QBs making their first-ever postseason start and that may bear watching when Chicago (Rex Grossman makes his first-ever playoff start) hosts Carolina next Sunday (pun intended!).

Speaking of next weekend's games, all four matchups involve teams that played each other during this year's regular season. Washington is at Seattle (Seahawks are favored by nine with a total of 41) and New England is at Denver (Broncos are a three-point favorite with a total of 43 1/2), on Saturday. Sunday's games feature Pittsburgh at Indianapolis (Colts are favored by 9 1/2 points with a total of 47 1/2) and Carolina at Chicago (Bears are a three-point favorite with a total of 30 1/2).

Tonight's sports schedule features a five-game NBA card, a four-game NHL slate and 15 games in college hoops. While not a marquee game, Toronto at Chicago offers some interesting history. The Bulls will be trying for their 11th consecutive win over the Raptors. Prior to winning 10 straight over Toronto, Chicago had lost 16straight to the Raptors. Prior to Toronto's 16-game winning streak over the Bulls, Chicago had won EIGHT straight over the Raptors (confused yet?). In tonight's game, Chicago is a 5 1/2-point favorite (surprisingly, the Bulls have been favored in just three of their previous 10 wins!) with a total of 202 1/2.

In college hoops, it's "Big Monday." ESPN starts with Cincinnati at U Conn at 7:00 ET (Huskies are favored by 7 1/2 with a total of 156 1/2) and then it's Texas at Iowa State at 9:00 ET (Longhorns are favored by 4 1/2 with a total of 144 1/2). At midnight ET, ESPN2 carries Gonzaga at Santa Clara (Bulldogs are favored by 8 1/2 with a total of 143).

Ness Notes is available Monday through Friday by 1:00 ET and on Saturday and Sunday at 7:00 ET.

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