The Indianapolis Colts are pulling in the early football betting action for their Divisional Round matchup with the New England Patriots. Expect that to change later in the week.

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013-14, up to January 6 inclusive:

44-39-2 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

11-18-1 Totals

Are the Indianapolis Colts America’s new favorite team? They’re getting pretty darned close. That thrilling 45-44 Wild Card win over the Kansas City Chiefs (–1.5 at home) has everybody’s tongues wagging – Andrew Luck’s fumble recovery/touchdown was one of those moments that’s bound to be played over and over again on NFL Films. In slow motion, with martial music in the background. Or maybe Miley Cyrus. This is The New NFL, after all.

The Colts have a date this Saturday night (8:15 p.m. ET, CBS) with the New England Patriots, who once upon a time were America’s darlings, but have fallen to seventh on the public money charts, five spots behind Indianapolis. The Patriots opened as 7-point home favorites on the NFL odds board and remain there as we go to press; our expanded beta consensus reports show the Colts pulling in 57 percent of the bettors and 68 percent of the money.

Who Needs Luck?

It’s quite remarkable how the Colts (12-5 SU, 11-6 ATS) have managed to make it this far. They were No. 13 on the DVOA charts at Football Outsiders at the end of the regular season, and after beating the Chiefs, they slipped to No. 16 overall (No. 17 offense, No. 19 defense, No. 19 special teams). Don’t forget, Luck threw three interceptions to go with his four passing TDs and that miracle fumble return. And the Chiefs were literally millimeters away from putting themselves in field-goal position in the dying minutes.

Image previewThe Colts have been pulling this Houdini act for a while now. Last year, as you’re probably tired of hearing, they went 11-5 SU and ATS despite registering just 6.2 Estimated Wins. How did they do it? With the softest schedule in the league, and by completing 43 percent of their third-down conversions (No. 7 overall) and 70 percent of their fourth downs (No. 2). This year? Indianapolis had 9.5 Estimated Wins playing the No. 23-ranked schedule, converting 38 percent of the time on third down (No. 14) and just 36 percent on fourth down (No. 24). Better team, less luck, same 11-5 record.

There’s A Spy (In the House of Pain)

The Patriots (12-4 SU, 8-8 ATS) probably don’t feel very lucky, given the injuries and turmoil they’ve endured this year. But New England has been a bit fortunate, too. The Pats check in at No. 2 on the updated efficiency charts (No. 2 offense, No. 24 defense, No. 4 special teams) after playing the No. 18-ranked strength of schedule – thanks, AFC East – and chalking up 11.0 Estimated Wins.

New England was only 37.6 percent on third-down conversions (No. 16) and 46.7 percent on fourth downs (No. 18), so we can’t put the Pats in the same luck-box as the 2012 Colts. Ah, but how about those fumbles? New England recovered 60 percent of its fumbles this year, second only behind the Dallas Cowboys (67.6 percent) and five spots ahead of Indianapolis (55.8 percent). In theory, anything above 50 percent is luck. That’s the way the prolate spheroid bounces.

You know what’s better than luck? Information. The Colts have just signed WR Deion Branch, who played for the Patriots from 2002-2005 and again from 2010 to last year. Branch is 34 years old and hasn’t played at all this season, but his value to Indianapolis is more as a source of information than receptions. I’m liking the Colts more and more in this matchup – and the sharps agree. But I still expect the football betting public to show up for Tom Brady later in the week. Time your NFL bets accordingly.

NFL Pick: Take the Colts +7.5 at BetOnline