Wildcard Week was a disaster for us.
Surprise, the Browns didn’t lose! The Bills were rolling before breaking down midway through the second half. The Titans were in firm control, despite some ultra-conservative play-calling, until they game up a back-breaking Lamar Jackson touchdown run; flipping the momentum completely.
The Buccaneers were also comfortably covering before giving up a late touchdown to Taylor Heinecke to blow the cover. We hit both on the Saints game, but we whiffed hard on the Rams and Browns. It was a tough week from a picks perspective, but it’s been a weird year overall.
2020 Regular Season Record: 258-237 (52.12%)
A breakdown of Divisional Round Week NFL picks
Here we take a look at all the main Divisional Round Week betting lines from the BetRivers Online Sportsbook. Got a minute? Check out a summary of Collin’s picks below. Got some more time? Read on for Collin’s in-depth analysis for his picks this week:
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Rams @ Packers -6.5 O/U: 45.5
Last week, the Rams defense saved the day, again. Coming into the game, all the talk was about Russell Wilson, the Rams QB situation, and the Seahawks’ revamped defense. The Rams defense was an ancillary topic in most discussions leading up to the game.
Though it was a topic of conversation for us last week, Seattle did what we expected they would do. They held Seattle to 20 points, as we projected. However, the big question mark going in was the Rams offense. That’s where we messed up, and where we need to focus this week.
The first game this weekend is an interesting showdown between the Rams and the Packers at Lambeau Field. On paper, it appears to be a mismatch. The Packers are among the league leaders in explosive plays, while the Rams defense is the league leader in limiting explosive plays. From that perspective, this will be what makes or breaks this game.
The Packers have a relatively weak run defense, though it’s been better as of late. Offensively, the Packers can hold their own with anyone in the league. The problem has been a failure to establish a run game in all three of their losses.
The Packers’ leading rushers against the Colts and Buccaneers had 34 and 41 yards. Against the Vikings, the Packers’ leading rusher had 75 yards, but there was no Aaron Jones, and the wind was insane in that game. The rub is, the Packers have to maintain a good run game to free up space for Rodgers. If not, they’ll become too one-dimensional, and they’ll have issues against this stout Rams secondary.
For the Rams, they need to run the ball exceptionally well if they hope to have success in this one. It’s not the same situation as it is for the Packers since Jared Goff isn’t near the same talent as Rodgers. The Rams will have to run the ball well because that’s really all they’ll be able to do in this game.
The Packers have playmakers in the secondary and Goff has an injured thumb. He honestly didn’t do much last week, but the defense played so well and Akers ran so well, it skews our perception of just how inept this offense really is.
I expect the Rams will come out running the ball heavily and utilizing a short passing game. I think we will see a few Robert Woods end-arounds, as well as plenty of screens.
Anytime you have a smart coach and an injured quarterback, you’ll see a tailored offense. The problem here is that I don’t expect it will be very effective. I think the Rams defense will do a lot to slow and stymie this Packers offense, but the Rams offense won’t do enough on their end.
Expect, in a pinch, the Packers to audible Aaron Jones into out wide, looking for favorable matchups with a linebacker. The bottom line is, despite the presence of Aaron Donald, the Packers have more wiggle room to find weaknesses in the Rams defense than the Rams do on their side of the ball. I like the Packers to take care of business at home.
Packers 23 Rams 16
Ravens @ Bills -2.5 O/U: 50
The Ravens and Bills both played pretty solid football in their victories last week. The Bills had the tough task of slowing the Indy rush attack, while thwarting the tricky and volatile Philip Rivers. Though Rivers had a good game and the Indy rush attack was pretty good, Buffalo’s offense was too much for Indy to slow down.
The Ravens had a very impressive defensive performance against a well-balanced Tennessee Titans offense last week. Though the Ravens weren’t able to take advantage of a poor Titans defense as they may have expected, the Ravens defense came up huge, as they were able to escape Nashville with the win.
The Bills are one of the most efficient offenses in the league, though it’s almost completely weighted toward passing and Josh Allen scrambling. Defensively, the Bills secondary has been pretty good but the run defense has been an issue most of the season.
Though the Bills run defense was heavily criticized for most of the year, they’ve limited opposing leading rushers to totals of 47, 18, 61, 69, 29, and 78 over their last six games. Now, it’s true some of the game scripts in those games were so negative, opposing teams stop trying to run the ball as much. However, the Bills have proven to be a better team against the run over the last third of the season.
The Ravens are a dynamic rush offense with a fairly balanced defense. They are prone to stalling on offense, due to Lamar Jackson’s limitations as a passer (yes, I said it). They are also prone to defensive lapses, as seen for many of their games this season.
Yannick Ngakoue and Jimmy Smith returned on defense this week, which had to help the Ravens more than many expected. With those two back this week, the Ravens will have a formidable defense by which to slow down the breakout sensation that is Josh Allen.
This week, the weather is going to be an issue for Buffalo. With their entire offense dependent on the passing game and Allen’s ability to scramble, the windy, possibly rainy weather could impede them. It happened against both the Jets and the Chiefs, so the Ravens would have an advantage there, seeing as how they are a run-based offense.
I anticipate the Bills focusing on a unique defensive strategy designed to hinder Lamar Jackson and JK Dobbins on the ground. I think back to the Chargers’ plan from two years ago in the Wildcard. Though Lamar has progressed since then, the idea of bringing in a safety to give the Bills essentially a 4-4 defensive front should do a lot to plug some holes.
Hollywood Brown might be quiet in this game, as Tre’Davious White will shadow him a good majority of the time. Mark Andrews stands to benefit most from this, as the Bills haven’t been very good lately defending the tight end position.
I think the Bills will force Lamar Jackson to beat them through the air, but I also expect Josh Allen will encounter some issues against the Baltimore pass rush. I think this game will come down to the wire, but a late field goal will send the Ravens to the AFC championship game.
Ravens 26 Bills 23
Browns @ Chiefs -10 O/U: 56.5
Well, I was way off last week with the Browns. In my defense, things snowballed so quickly in that game. Who actually thought, coming in, the Browns would be up 28-0 in the first quarter, losing a tackle, missing a Pro Bowl guard, a solid defensive end, and their head coach? It took the entire country by surprise.
For the Chiefs, they’ve had a relatively quiet stretch to finish off the season. They benched starters in their season finale, but even with the time off, you have to wonder if the Chiefs are going to be able to fall right back into their offensive rhythm in this game.
There’s a long history of teams taking the final week off, plus getting the bye; where that team comes out flat in the divisional round. I worry that might happen with the Chiefs because it’s happened so many times before.
The Browns are built on the foundation of a good offensive and defensive line. Now, the Browns are going to have some guys out on both sides, like the last game. Though, it didn’t seem to matter, as they came out with a ferocity we hadn’t seen in them really since the Titans game.
I expect the Browns might be able to get the early jump on the Chiefs. I think there will be a bit of an adjustment period in the game for the Chiefs just getting back into synch. However, the Chiefs are going to have windows of opportunity to make big plays with Tyreek and Kelce.
Even if the Browns opt for two-deep coverage much of the game, Kelce is going to be open in the intermediate. I believe the Chiefs will have issues moving the ball on the ground, which should allow the Browns to commit more to slowing the air attack.
Offensively, the Browns should be able to find some success on the ground, and I think Baker should be able to stay clean enough to give this offense balance in the game. I see the Chiefs pulling ahead late, but I like the Browns to cover.
Chiefs 31 Browns 24
Buccaneers @ Saints -3 O/U: 51.5
The Buccaneers didn’t play their best football defensively last week. They let Taylor Heinecke pick them apart for stretches of the game. Had it not been for the clutch Tom Brady drive late, it’s possible they could’ve let that one slip away.
The Buccaneers have now played the Saints twice. The first game was a runaway victory for the Saints. The second game was a bludgeoning by the Saints. After both those performances, what can we seriously expect to change much the third time around? The Saints can get to Brady, they can provide adequate coverage, and they can slow the run.
The Saints we fairly sound defensively against the Bears in the Nickelodeon game last week. Offensively, it was a conservative execution from the start. Had it not been for an easy drop in the end zone early, this game may have developed much differently than it did. Instead, the Saints were able to comfortably cruise.
This week’s rubber match between the two has the makings of an interesting game, but it seems the Saints may be the more settled, poised team for this game. The Saints went from beating the Buccaneers by a good margin in a shootout to absolutely destroying them in a lopsided game that got away from Tampa early.
This time around, I expect something in-between the first two games. I think the Buccaneers will come out try to establish some rhythm in the passing game via short routes. The Bucs will try to bypass the Saints pass rush by getting the ball out quickly.
I expect the Bucs could hang very close for a good portion of the game, but the problem will be long down and distances. If Brady tries to drop back in those obvious passing downs, I think it’s eventually going to bite them in the backside. I like for the Saints to pull away late.
Saints 30 Buccaneers 20