As sure as there are NFL playoff games, the underdogs will have their day before, or perhaps even on, Super Bowl Sunday. So will the puppies start barking as early as the coming wild-card weekend?
Bookies in Las Vegas were quick to make solid favourites out of the four home teams for games Saturday and Sunday. Considering all four hosts are division winners, oddsmakers have little choice but to show them point-spread support.
But can they win and, more importantly for those investing something more substantial than three hours on the couch, can they cover?
Here's a quick look at each game with a case for or against the numbers.
- SEAHAWKS (-4) OVER THE RAMS
For the Fave: Seattle is much different at home and if they can revert to the form they had in September, they shouldn't have too much trouble with their opponent, who are Lambs on the road. If he shuts up by kickoff, running back Shaun Alexander can be among the best. The Seahawks covered and almost won outright in the wild-card round last year, losing in overtime to the Packers at Green Bay.
For the Dog: The Rams won their final two games to get into the playoffs, though at 8-8 that hardly makes them contenders. The key here is confidence. They defeated the Seahawks in both regular season meetings. And remember, Seattle had just a 3-3 record in the NFL's worst division. 'Hawks supporters can't be too happy about the sniping coming from Alexander yesterday though, as he berated his coach for losing the NFL rushing title by a yard to the Jets Curtis Martin.
- CHARGERS (-51/2) OVER THE JETS:
For the Fave: In crafting a 12-4 record, the Chargers have shown a balance on offence and defence. Other than the Colts' Peyton Manning, quarterback Drew Brees is the story of the league and there isn't a more efficient running back than LaDainian Tomlinson. The Jets, meanwhile, have struggled mightily both against teams with winning records and on the road.
For the Dog: At 10-6, the Jets have had their moments but need consistency from quarterback Chad Pennington and a huge day from running back Curtis Martin. It might be difficult to get both on the road. The Jets have won just five of their past 11 but did beat the Chargers 34-28 back in Week 2 and certainly could keep things within three or four points.
- PACKERS (-51/2) OVER THE VIKINGS
For the Fave: After a miserable start, the Packers have been nearly invincible and seem to be able to score with anyone in the league. Lambeau Field isn't quite the daunting advantage it once was but add some snow and cold and watch quarterback Brett Favre go.
For the Dog: The Pack tend not to play much defence and quarterback Daunte Culpepper and receiver Randy Moss could have a big day. The teams have met 87 times in their history but not once in the playoffs. The most recent meeting was on Christmas Eve in Green Bay, and the Vikings stayed with the Pack in a late, 34-31 loss.
- COLTS (-10) OVER THE BRONCOS
For the Fave: The game opened at 81/2 points and bettors pounded the Colts to chase the line higher. Some of that is hype around Manning. Then there's the matter of the 41-10 thrashing the Colts hung on the Broncos on wild-card weekend a year ago.
For the Dog: The Broncos actually have one of the best ranked offences and defences in the league and if quarterback Jake Plummer just behaves himself could keep it close.
The Broncos should be shamed into a better showing and have confidence after beating up on the Colts backups this past Sunday. If they ever take advantage of their running game and control the clock, the Broncs can be the ultimate sleeping dogs of wild-card weekend.