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NBA-Friday night – Betting previews

Both these squads are sitting in the top eight of the Eastern Conference heading into Friday’s action. However, each team is looking to bust out of a funk as Washington has lost two straight, while Detroit is looking to snap a three-game skid.

The Wizards (25-20 SU, 19-26 ATS) were smoked in the first half at Charlotte on Wednesday by allowing 77 points in a 133-109 setback to the Hornets. Washington has been horrific against the number recently by failing to cover in seven consecutive games, while Scott Brooks’ team owns a 1-6 ATS mark in its last seven road contests.

The Pistons (22-21 SU, 24-17-2 ATS) are sitting slightly above the 76ers for the final playoff spot in the East, but Detroit has slipped to a 2-6 record in January. The latest setback came in Wednesday’s 96-91 loss at Toronto, but the Pistons managed a cover as 8 ½-point underdogs. Detroit has struggled as a home favorite of late by covering in only one of its last five opportunities when laying points at Little Caesars Arena.

Washington has owned Detroit over the years by winning eight of the past 10 meetings since February 2015, including a pair of victories at Capital One Arena this season. The Wizards have split the last four visits to Detroit, as three of those matchups were decided by four points or less.

Both the Spurs and Raptors enter Friday’s contest at Air Canada Center with 30 wins apiece. Toronto (30-13 SU, 24-19 ATS) improved to 16-3 at home after holding off Detroit on Wednesday, halting a two-game skid. The Raptors couldn’t cash tickets as an 8 ½-point favorite, as Dwane Casey’s team fell to 0-4 ATS the last four opportunities when laying points. However, Toronto’s defense has stepped up at home of late by limiting seven of its past nine opponents to less than 100 points at the ACC.

San Antonio (30-16 SU, 24-20-2 ATS) has alternated wins and losses in each of its past 11 games, coming off a 100-95 road triumph at Brooklyn on Wednesday to barely cash as 4 ½-point favorites. The Spurs embark on a long stretch without last season’s MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, who remains sidelined with a quad injury. San Antonio has cashed the UNDER in four consecutive games, while looking to beat Toronto for the fifth straight time since April 2016.

It’s a lost season for the Grizzlies (15-28 SU, 17-24-2 ATS), who have been without point guard Mike Conley, Jr. since November 13. However, Memphis has played better recently by winning three of its past four and posting a 7-2 ATS record the last nine games. The Grizzlies are fresh off a pair of home victories over the Lakers and Knicks, while knocking off New York on Wednesday, 105-99 without center Marc Gasol, who sat due to an illness.

Memphis hosts Sacramento (13-31 SU, 17-24-3 ATS), who begins a six-game road swing following Wednesday’s 15-point home loss to Utah. The Kings are sliding fast by dropping six consecutive contests, but Sacramento has compiled a 6-5 ATS record in its last 11 away games, including a cover as 12-point underdogs in a 95-88 loss at Oklahoma City on Monday. Memphis ripped Sacramento in their previous matchup at Golden 1 Center on New Year’s Eve, 114-96, while the Grizzlies are 4-1 SU/ATS the last five home meetings with the Kings.

The Jazz (18-26 SU, 22-22 ATS) are coming off only their fifth road victory of the season in Wednesday’s 120-115 win at Sacramento as four-point favorites. Utah hit the 120-point mark for the first time since scoring 126 points against the Clippers on November 30, while improving to 5-15 the last 20 games. The Jazz have dropped three straight games in the role of a home favorite, while getting limited to 98 points or less in each of those defeats.

The Knicks (20-25 SU, 23-22 ATS) travel to Salt Lake City trying to improve on a dreadful 5-16 record away from Madison Square Garden. New York won its first matchup with Utah in mid-November, 106-101, but has dropped its last three visits to Vivint Smart Home Arena since 2015. The Knicks are riding a five-game OVER streak, including cashing the OVER in five of the past six road contests.

Since knocking off Orlando and Minnesota to begin 2018, the Nets (16-29 SU, 27-18 ATS)have lost five straight games at Barclays Center. Brooklyn has covered four consecutive home contests earlier this month, but have failed to cash in recent losses to Detroit, New York, and San Antonio. The Nets host the Heat before hitting the road for five games starting Sunday in Detroit. Brooklyn ripped Miami in its past matchup at American Airlines Arena in late December, 111-87 as six-point ‘dogs, but have lost eight straight home meetings with the Heat since 2014.

The Heat (26-28 SU, 20-22-2 ATS) remain atop the Southeast division following Wednesday’s 106-101 triumph at Milwaukee as 4 ½-point underdogs. Miami has won eight of its past nine games, while posting an impressive 5-1 SU/ATS last six road contests, including victories at Toronto and Boston. The Heat are in the midst of a five-game away swing, as Erik Spoelstra’sclub has eclipsed the OVER in four of the past five contests away from South Florida.

The Nuggets (23-22 SU, 20-23-2 ATS) have slumped to a 2-5 record the last seven games, coming off Wednesday’s 109-104 setback to the Clippers. Denver failed to cash as 4 ½-point underdogs, while blowing a double-digit lead as the Nuggets dropped to 2-7 with no rest. The Nuggets return to the Pepsi Center to host the Suns, as Denver has won the past seven matchups with Phoenix, including a 134-111 home win on January 3.

Phoenix (16-29 SU, 21-22-2 ATS) lost its third consecutive game on Tuesday at Portland, 118-111, but the Suns cashed as 11-point underdogs thanks to outscoring the Blazers, 39-26 in the fourth quarter. The Suns are 0-7 ATS in the last seven meetings with the Nuggets, while the past five matchups have eclipsed the OVER.

Indiana (24-20 SU, 25-19 ATS) continues its four-game road swing in Los Angeles to face the Lakers for the first time this season. The Pacers head to Staples Center with no rest following Thursday’s 14-point setback at Portland, as Nate McMillan’s squad has lost six of nine games in the second of a back-to-back set. Much of Indiana’s success can be attributed to having leading scorer Victor Oladipo in the lineup, as the Pacers have won five of their last seven games since the guard returned following a bout with knee soreness.

The Lakers (15-29 SU, 21-23 ATS) will likely be without guard Lonzo Ball once again, who missed Wednesday’s loss at Oklahoma City with a knee sprain. Los Angeles fell to 0-8 this season without the rookie from UCLA, while fellow backcourt mate Kentavious Caldwell-Popeis out with an Achilles strain. The Lakers had won four straight prior to consecutive losses to the Grizzlies and Thunder, but L.A. is riding a three-game winning streak at Staples Center.

NBA-Wednesday night-10 games on track,games previews

Game of the Night: Nuggets at Clippers – 10:35 PM EST

The Clippers (22-21 SU, 24-18-1 ATS) forged above the .500 mark on Monday by grabbing their fifth consecutive victory. Los Angeles knocked off old friend Chris Paul and Houston, 113-102 in a chippy game to say the least as tensions were high on both sides. Nonetheless, former Rocket Lou Williams burned his old squad with 31 points, while Blake Griffin posted a 29-point, 10-rebound effort as the Clippers cashed outright as 4 ½-point underdogs. Doc Rivers’ squad has won 11 of their past 14 games since a three-game skid in mid-December.

The Nuggets (23-21 SU, 20-22-2 ATS) travel to Staples Center with no rest after holding off the Mavericks on Tuesday, 105-102. Denver was on its way to a cover as 6 ½-point home favorites, but the Nuggets were outscored by the Mavericks in the fourth quarter, 33-19. Only three Nuggets scored in double-figures, but all three posted at least 22 points as Nikola Jokic(29 points, 18 rebounds), Gary Harris (25 points), and Will Barton (22 points) helped Denver to its fourth home win in five tries.

Denver has struggled with no rest this season by compiling a 2-6 SU and 3-4-1 ATS record, while meeting up with L.A. for the first time in 2017-18. The Nuggets had their way with the Clippers last season by capturing three of four meetings, but Denver is 2-10 SU and 4-7-1 ATS this season on the road following a victory.

On Sunday, the Heat (25-18 SU, 19-22-2 ATS) cruised past the Bucks as two-point home favorites, 97-79. Now, these two Eastern Conference squads are hooking up once again, but this time in Milwaukee. Miami’s seven-game winning streak came to a halt on Monday in Chicago, as the Heat continue a five-game road swing tonight. The Heat allowed 119 points to the Bulls, the most they have yielded since giving up 123 in a home loss to Golden State on December 3.

Milwaukee (23-20 SU, 18-20-5 ATS) snapped a two-game skid in Monday’s comeback victory at Washington, 104-95 as 5 ½-point underdogs. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 27 points and 20 rebounds, as the Bucks knocked off the Wizards for the second time this month. The Bucks cashed the UNDER for the sixth straight game, but Milwaukee looks to improve on a 2-4-1 ATS record in their last seven contests at BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The Pelicans (23-20 SU, 23-19-1 ATS) have been heating up of late, coming off a pair of road overtime victories at New York and Boston. On Tuesday, Anthony Davis torched the Celtics for 45 points and 16 rebounds in a 116-113 triumph at TD Garden to cash as 5 ½-point underdogs and extend New Orleans’ winning streak to three games. The Pelicans have won five of their last seven games away from Smoothie King Center as they travel back south to face Atlanta.

The Hawks (12-31 SU, 23-18-2 ATS) stunned the Spurs as 5 ½-point home underdogs on Monday, 102-99 to grab their eighth win of the season at Philips Arena. Atlanta has turned into a solid home ‘dog recently by covering in their last four opportunities, including outright victories over Portland and Washington during this stretch. The Hawks look to avenge a 106-105 defeat at New Orleans in mid-November, as these two teams have split their season series each of the past four years.

Or Lonzo Ball is just out as the Lakers’ guard is sidelined for tonight’s contest at Oklahoma City with a left knee sprain. The span style=”font-weight: bold;”>Lakers (15-28 SU, 21-22 ATS) had won four consecutive games prior to Monday’s 123-114 setback at Memphis as 3 ½-point underdogs, in spite of guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope knocking down six three-points and scoring 27 points. Los Angeles was embarrassed by Oklahoma City at Staples Center on January 3 in a 133-96 blowout loss as five-point underdogs, while allowing the Thunder to shoot 60% from the floor.

The Thunder (24-20 SU, 17-27 ATS) fell to 0-4 ATS the last four games at Chesapeake Energy Arena after failing to cash in Monday’s 95-88 win over the Kings. Oklahoma City led by 16 points with four minutes remaining, but was outscored 14-5 down the stretch as the Thunder couldn’t cover as 11 ½-point favorites. The Thunder have dominated the Lakers at home over the years by compiling a 10-0 SU and 9-1 ATS record the last 10 meetings in Oklahoma City, while L.A. hasn’t busted the 96-point mark in the past four visits.

The defending champion Warriors (36-9 SU, 21-23-1 ATS) have actually been more impressive this season away from the Bay Area than at home. Golden State owns a dazzling 20-3 road mark, including 13 consecutive away victories, capped off by Monday’s 118-108 triumph at Cleveland to pull off a sweep of the Cavaliers. Steve Kerr’s team has gone 8-5 ATS in this 13-game road winning streak, including a 4-2 ATS mark as a favorite of eight points or more.

Kerr and the Warriors continue their five-game road swing in Chicago against the Bulls (17-27 SU, 26-17-1 ATS), who are riding a three-game hot streak. The Bulls are coming off back-to-back home victories over the Pistons and Heat, while evening their record at the United Center to 11-11. Chicago has picked up the pace from a scoring perspective by sailing OVER the total in 15 of the past 18 games, including six consecutive OVERS at the United Center.

The Hornets (17-25 SU, 18-21-3) have been one of the bigger disappointments this season in the NBA, but they will get their head coach back on the sidelines tonight. Steve Cliffordmissed the last 21 games due to headaches caused by sleep deprivation, as Charlotte put together a 9-12 record without their head coach. Charlotte has been up and down of late by alternating wins and losses in their past five games, coming off Monday’s 118-107 victory at Detroit.

Charlotte will look to find some consistency with a home contest against Washington (25-19 SU, 19-25 ATS), who embarks on a five-game road trip. The Wizards have been horrible against the number recently by failing to cover in six consecutive games, coming off Monday’s home defeat to Milwaukee. However, Washington has fared well in the underdog role by compiling a 10-3 ATS record, while trying to avenge a 129-124 overtime loss at Charlotte from November.

— The Spurs seek the season sweep of the Nets for the third straight season after beating Brooklyn in the first matchup, 109-97 on December 26. San Antonio travels to Barclays Center looking to improve on a 2-5 record in its last seven road contests. Brooklyn has dropped five of its past six games, including four straight at home following Monday’s 15-point defeat to New York.

— The Pistons and Raptors are hooking up for the first time this season after Toronto grabbed three of four meetings last season. Detroit has stumbled on the highway of late by losing six of its past seven games away from Little Caesars Arena, while Toronto tries to halt a two-game skid following a pair of defeats to Golden State and Philadelphia.

— The Knicks haven’t won consecutive games since mid-December as New York is coming off a 119-104 victory at Brooklyn on Monday. New York travels to Memphis seeking a season sweep of the Grizzlies as the Knicks captured the first matchup at Madison Square Garden, 99-88 in early December. The Grizzlies have fared well against the number of late by compiling a 6-2 ATS record the last eight games, while winning four of the previous six contests at FedEx Forum.

— Both Utah and Sacramento have slumped of late as the two Western Conference foes meet at Golden 1 Center. The Jazz have lost five of their last six games, while the Kings are riding a five-game skid. Utah took care of Sacramento last season with three victories in four matchups, while the Kings’ lone win came by one point in Salt Lake City.

NFL-Play offs- 2018- Saints at Vikings game preview

In most cases, the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings would take a strong look at their Week 1 matchup as they prepare for Sunday’s NFC playoff game.

In this case, what happened in that Sept. 11 opener is indicative of the teams meeting in Minnesota for the second time this year.

Both teams underwent significant changes since the Vikings’ 29-19 victory.

Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford completed 27-of-32 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting, earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Bradford played only a single half the rest of the season as Case Keenum replaced the injured Bradford and put himself in MVP consideration.

New Orleans jettisoned former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson after a miserable four-game run and thrived with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara, becoming one of the league’s most dangerous running back duos. The Saints’ defense also started to find its way.

“They’re a different team than they were Week 1, but so are we,” said Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph, who scored a touchdown in the first game. “Everyone in the NFL is trying to find their identity early on. They’re different from a personnel standpoint and they’re also different from a team, like us, who has found their identity.”

The teams found their identity but had plenty of personnel changes along the way. The Vikings’ defense is healthy, but Keenum has taken hold of the starting quarterback spot and rookie running back Dalvin Cook, who ran for 127 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting, has been out since Week 4 because of a torn ACL.

“There are some similarities in regards to scheme, but I think when you go through a course of an NFL season and you look at the attrition that takes place, there are eight or nine of our starters that are playing in that game that aren’t playing in this game, and I’m sure the same exists for Minnesota,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton told reporters this week, according to the team’s website. “And you begin to take shape as the season progresses to who you become and I think both teams have done that.”

In the Saints’ case, they altered their offensive identity to rely on Ingram and Kamara. New Orleans ranked fifth in the league in rushing this season as Ingram ran for a career-high 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. Kamara led the league with 6.1 yards per carry as the Saints had an NFC-best 4.7 yards per carry as a team.

Peterson had six carries for 18 yards in the first meeting in Minnesota. With the carries being split three ways, Ingram had six carries and Kamara touched the ball 11 times on offense.

“They got a little bit of everything,” Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said. “Ingram’s more of a downhill runner. Kamara is definitely a guy that can bounce to the outside. He’s got speed to hit the edge and they’re both really good in the screen game.”

The Vikings were second in the league in run defense, allowing 83.6 yards per game. They’ve held two of their past three opponents to fewer than 46 yards.

Selling out to stop the run isn’t a solid strategy either. In last week’s win against Carolina, the Saints ran 22 times for 41 yards as the Panthers dared New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees to beat them.

Brees had 376 passing yards and two touchdowns, and receivers Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn each had more than 100 yards receiving against the Panthers.

“We’ve been telling y’all all year, man, don’t sleep on Drew,” Ingram told the New Orleans Times Picayune. “And if you’re going to stack the box and try and stop the run and take us out the game, he’s going to hurt you. We’ve been telling you he’s the best quarterback in the league and he’s still Drew Brees. He proved that (Sunday).”

Perhaps the biggest change for the Saints has been the development of the defense. After allowing 470 total yards to Minnesota in Week 1, New Orleans gave up 555 to New England the following week. Slowly, communication improved on the back end combined with the play of rookie Marcus Lattimore and Ken Crawley at cornerback.

The Saints were third in the NFL and first in the NFC with 20 interceptions in the regular season. Lattimore led the team with five.

“He’s a good player,” Vikings Pro Bowl receiver Adam Thielen said of Lattimore. “He’s physical. He can run with anybody. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. He’s got great ball skills. He’s pretty much got everything you need to be a really good corner in this league.”

New Orleans also pressures the passer. Cameron Jordan tied Minnesota’s Everson Griffen for fourth in the league with 13 sacks. As a team, the Saints’ 42 sacks were tied for seventh in the NFL.

Like Brees, Keenum didn’t make mistakes once replacing Bradford. He threw seven interceptions, one fewer than Brees, and the Vikings allowed the seventh-fewest sacks in the league behind a patchwork offensive line.

“He is playing well,” Payton told the team’s website of Keenum. “You can see him getting the ball to a lot of different guys. These guys, I think, have done a great job on offense. I think they are playing a game really that suits both sides of the ball.”

Minnesota should head into Sunday healthy, including the return of rookie center Pat Elflein from a shoulder injury.

New Orleans is battered. Left guard Andrus Peat and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel were placed on injured reserve this week. Receiver Brandon Coleman also missed Wednesday’s practice with a neck injury. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (back), left tackle Terron Armstead (thigh), defensive end Trey Hendrickson (ankle), defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (ankle) cornerback P.J. Williams (ankle), Jordan (knee) and defensive tackle David Onyemata (thumb) were limited in the week’s first practice.

NFL-Play offs-2018- Jaguars at Steelers game preview

The Jacksonville Jaguars don’t have near the playoff experience as the Pittsburgh Steelers.

acksonville, though, has winning experience at Heinz Field.

The champions of the AFC South (Jaguars) and AFC North (Steelers) will meet Sunday in the divisional round with the winner advancing to the AFC Championship Game against Tennessee or New England on Jan. 21.

Jacksonville trounced Pittsburgh 30-9 on Oct. 8 at Heinz Field, forcing Steelers two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into a career-worst five interceptions.

The Steelers (13-3) went on to win 10 of their last 11 games to secure the AFC’s second seed and first-round bye.

“We’ve evolved since then,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “They have evolved a lot since then. (The first game) is a good physical reference in terms of the matchups. … I am sure that they are as different as we are since the last time we’ve seen them.”

The Jaguars are hoping that the evolution has been minimal, especially the passing game. Roethlisberger said last week he was hoping the Steelers would get to play the Jaguars.

Jacksonville All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey helped grant his wish with his interception in the final seconds to seal Jacksonville’s 10-3 victory over Buffalo in the wild-card round Sunday at EverBank Field. The win was Jacksonville’s first in the playoffs since the 2007 season, its last appearance.

The Jaguars (11-6) returned two Roethlisberger interceptions for touchdowns in the first meeting.

The 35-year-old Roethlisberger wondered “if he still has it” after the loss when meeting with reporters.

Ramsey said with the Bills game behind them, Big Ben’s comments about wanting a rematch have their attention.

“I’m sure it will be brought up a couple times this week,” Ramsey said. “I would want to play us again too. He threw five picks and was contemplating retirement saying whether he had it or not after playing us. They had a good season after our game. But, sometimes you have to be careful what you ask for. We’ll see Big Ben and the Steelers on Sunday. We’ll see what happens then.”

Ramsey intercepted a pass in the Pittsburgh win and deflected four passes. One breakup resulted in strong safety Barry Church intercepting a pass and returning it 51 yards for a touchdown.

Roethlisberger was quick to praise the Jaguars’ defense this week.

“This is one of the best defenses I’ve ever played against,” Roethlisberger said.

The Steelers finished the season ranked third in the NFL in passing yardage, with the Jaguars first in pass defense.

“They play to our strengths,” Ramsey said. “They think that passing is their strength. Defending the pass is our strength. Any team that tries to pass the ball on us 40 times hasn’t had success on us and I don’t think will have success on us. We have to grind this week though. They’re a good team coming off the bye. We’re going to have to have a great game plan and execute.”

Ramsey will be in the headlining matchup Sunday as he goes up against Steelers All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown, who caught 10 passes for 157 yards on 19 targets in the first meeting.

Brown injured his calf on Dec. 17, but is expected to play Sunday. The eighth-year veteran led the NFL in receiving yards this season with 1,533 (89 more than No. 2 Julio Jones), despite missing the final two games of the season.

Pittsburgh will also try to lean more on All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, who was held to 93 total yards in the first meeting.

“He’s not one-dimensional,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “It’s not like this guy is going to take the ball and run downhill and run you over every single time he takes it. He can do that. He can also get the ball outside. He has excellent patience. He has a really good understanding of the blocking scheme. He’s a natural catcher.”

The big question is how much will Pittsburgh really need to score? Jacksonville’s offense has been sluggish lately, scoring 20 total points in its last two outings combined.

Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles wasn’t effective in the first meeting. He completed 8-of-14 passes for 95 yards with no touchdowns and an interception for a 48.2 passer rating.

The Jaguars’ top-ranked run offense had one of its best days of the season, generating 231 yards. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette carried 28 times for 181 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-clinching 90-yard score.

“Hopefully, we can throw less,” Bortles said. “That would be awesome. Leonard goes off again and those guys up front play as well as they did last time, we can run the ball up there and not have to throw at all. It was something that happened last time, but you never know.”

NFL-Play offs – 2018- Falcons at Eagles betting preview

he Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs will begin Saturday at 4:35 p.m. Eastern in the City of Brotherly Love, where the second-seeded Eagles will host the sixth-seeded Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field.

As of late Friday afternoon, most betting shops had Atlanta (11-6 straight up, 8-9 against the spread) installed as a three-point favorite at an even-money price. For bettors looking to back the home underdog, they must pay a -120 price to get the Eagles at plus three. The total was 41, while Philadelphia was +130 on the money line (risk $100 to win $130).

For first-half wagers, the Falcons were favored by 1.5 points with a total of 20.5 (with most books shaded to the ‘under’ with some extra juice). The Eagles were +120 on the money line in the first half.

Some offshores have Atlanta as a minus one-half point ‘chalk’ for a +120 return in the first quarter. Gamblers can take the Eagles at +110 on the money line in the opening stanza or plus one-half point at an expensive -150 price. Most spots have Atlanta’s team total at 21.5 or 22, while Philadelphia’s team tally for ‘over/under’ bets is 20 (‘under’ -120).

Dan Quinn’s team advanced to the NFC semifinals with a 26-13 win at Los Angeles as a six-point underdog, hooking up money-line backers with a +220 return (paid $220 on $100 wagers). Atlanta raced out to a 13-0 lead on a pair of Matt Bryant field goals and a three-yard touchdown run from Devonta Freeman.

However, the Rams trimmed the deficit to 13-7 with 2:34 remaining in the second quarter on a 14-yard TD pass from Jared Goff to Cooper Kupp. Then after forcing an Atlanta punt, L.A. pulled to within 13-10 on Sam Ficken’s 35-yard field goal with three ticks left in the first half.

Atlanta took the opening kick of the third quarter and drove deep into the red zone, covering 76 yards on 16 plays while chewing up more than eight minutes in time of possession. But the Falcons had to settle for a 25-yard FG from Bryant.

L.A. was able to get a first down on a third-and-10 completion from Goff to Robert Woods, but the drive stalled three plays later. Atlanta’s second drive of the half ate up nearly the rest of the third quarter. After going 45 yards on 10 plays, Bryant gave the Falcons a 19-10 lead with 19 seconds left in the third.

Los Angeles would answer with a 63-yard drive that ended with a 32-yard FG from Ficken, who made it a one-possession game again. But Atlanta responded with an 83-yard drive on eight plays that was capped by a brilliant, off-balance throw to Julio Jones for an eight-yard TD pass.

With 5:48 remaining in the fourth quarter, every coach with a clue (this obviously excludes Butch Jones) knows that there’s no difference between a 12 or 13-point lead. Due to this fact, it is a given that you go for two when your team moves ahead by 12 with a fourth-quarter TD. Nevertheless, Quinn went for one to put Atlanta in front 26-13.

The knucklehead mistake didn’t cost Atlanta at The Coliseum in Tinseltown this past Saturday. The Falcons held when the Rams went for it on fourth-and-goal from the five with 2:11 left.

Ryan completed 21-of-30 passes for 218 yards and one TD without an interception. Jones hauled in nine receptions for 94 yards and one TD, while Mohamed Sanu had four catches for 75 yards. Freeman rushed for 66 yards and one TD on 18 attempts, and Tevin Coleman gained 40 rushing yards on 14 carries. Coleman also had three receptions for 28 yards.

Deion Jones, the second-year linebacker out of LSU, had seven solo tackles, three assists and one tackle for loss. Keanu Neal, another second-year player from the SEC (Florida), recorded six solo tackles and two assists for the Falcons, who have another second-year player out of the SEC in Brian Poole, who had four solo tackles at L.A. Poole has carved out a niche in the Atlanta secondary from the moment he joined the team as an undrafted free agent out of Florida. Quinn, who was Will Muschamp’s defensive coordinator in his first season at UF, recruited Poole and Neal to come to Gainesville.

Jones is well on his way to becoming one of the NFL’s premier LBs. His interception of Drew Brees in the end zone at crunch time of a crucial division showdown gave Atlanta a 20-17 home win over its bitter rival. During the regular season, Jones recorded 91 solo tackles, 47 assists, 11 tackles for loss, one sack, nine passes defended and three interceptions. Neal had 83 solo stops, 33 assists, four TFL’s, one interception, six passes defended, three forced fumbles and a pair of fumble recoveries.

Ryan didn’t produce the MVP numbers that earned him that award in 2016, but he started all 16 games this year and threw for 4,095 yards with a 20/12 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Jones remains his favorite target and perhaps the best receiver in the NFL. He had 88 receptions for 1,444 yards and three TDs during the regular season.

Sanu had 67 catches for 703 yards and five TDs, while TE Austin Hooper had 49 grabs for 526 yards and three TDs. Freeman rushed for 865 yards and seven TDs, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He also made 36 catches for 317 yards and one TD. Coleman ran for 628 yards and five TDs while averaging 4.0 YPC. The University of Indiana product had 27 receptions for 299 yards and three TDs.

Atlanta has won six of nine road assignments, but it has struggled to a 3-6 spread record. The Falcons are 2-4 ATS in six games as road ‘chalk’ this year. Regardless of the venue, they’re 7-2 SU and 6-3 ATS in their past nine games.

Philadelphia (13-3 SU, 10-6 ATS) went 7-1 SU and 5-3 ATS in eight regular-season home games. The Eagles were home underdogs just once, but it’s irrelevant because it was in Week 17 when they rested starters and lost 6-0 vs. Dallas as 3.5-point ‘dogs.

Doug Pederson’s club ripped off nine straight wins while going 8-1 ATS before venturing out West for more than a week. In the first leg of the trip, Philadelphia saw its winning streak snapped in a 24-10 loss at Seattle. Then it spent the week in California prepping for a game at the L.A. Rams. The Eagles won a 43-35 thriller as one-point road underdogs, but it was a bittersweet triumph.

Carson Wentz, the second-year franchise QB who had thrown for 33 TDs compared to merely seven interceptions, suffered a season-ending knee injury while running for a TD. Adding insult to injury, the TD run was called back for offensive holding anyway.

Now if you’re going to lose your franchise QB to a season-ending injury during a strong run to a division title, there aren’t many back-ups you’d choose ahead of Nick Foles. The University of Arizona product is a six-year veteran who spent his first three seasons with the Eagles before one-year stints in both St. Louis and Kansas City ended with him returning to Philly in a reserve role.

Foles enjoyed a career year in 2013, completing 64.0 percent of his passes for 2,891 yards with a remarkable 27/2 TD-INT ratio. He also rushed for 221 yards, three TDs and 15 first downs. But in ’14, he struggled with just a 59.8 percent completion rate. Foles threw for 2,163 yards with a mediocre 13/10 TD-INT ratio. Then he was traded to the Rams for Sam Bradford in the winter of ’15.

Foles has only played in one postseason game, a 26-24 home loss to New Orleans on Jan. 4 of 2014. He completed 23-of-33 throws for 195 yards and two TDs without an interception.

Foles replaced Wentz with the Eagles trailing the Rams, but he led them into field-goal range for Jake Elliott’s 33-yarder that put them in front. They got a defensive TD while the Rams were trying wild laterals on the game’s final play.

In his first start of the year, Foles led Philadelphia to a 34-29 win at the New York Giants as a 7.5-point road ‘chalk.’ The veteran signal caller connected on 24-of-38 passes for 237 yards and four TDs without an interception.

Next, Philadelphia knocked off Oakland 19-10 but failed to cover the number as a 10-point home favorite. Foles didn’t play well against the Raiders, connecting on just 19-of-38 passes for 163 yards and one TD with one interception. For the season, Foles has completed 56.4 percent of his throws for 537 yards with a 5/2 TD-INT ratio.

LeGarrette Blount has rushed for a team-high 766 yards and two TDs while averaging 4.4 YPC. Jay Ajayi, who was acquired from the Dolphins in a mid-season trade, has run for 408 yards and one TD with a 5.8 YPC.

Philadelphia TE Zach Ertz has a team-high 74 receptions for 824 yards and eight TDs, while Alshon Jeffery has 57 catches for 789 yards and nine TDs. Nelson Agholor has 62 grabs for 768 yards and eight TDs.

This is the fourth time these franchises have met in the playoffs. In Atlanta’s first-ever postseason game, it beat Philadelphia 14-13 in 1978 at Fulton County Stadium. Then in 2002 one week after Michael Vick and the Falcons handed Green Bay its first-ever postseason loss at Lambeau Field, the Eagles beat Atlanta 20-6 in the NFC semifinals. Finally, in the 2004 NFC Championship Game, Philadelphia knocked off the Dirty Birds by a 27-10 count as a 5.5-point favorite.

In the regular season, Atlanta has won three of the last four head-to-head meetings with Philadelphia both SU and ATS, but the Eagles won a 24-15 decision as two-point home favorites on Nov. 13 of 2016. The ‘under’ has cashed at an 8-3-1 clip in the last 12 games of this rivalry. Also, the home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five encounters, and the Falcons are 2-6 ATS in their last eight games at Philadelphia.

The ‘over’ hit in all 10 of Atlanta’s home games in 2016 and went 16-3 overall. That hasn’t been the case this season, however. The ‘under’ is 12-5 overall for the Falcons, 6-3 in their nine road outings. They’ve seen the ‘under’ prevail in six consecutive games. This will be the lowest total Atlanta has seen all season. The previous low was 42 in a 20-17 loss at Carolina that saw the ‘under’ connect.