Sunday NFL Picks: Why You Should Bet the Chiefs-Browns Under
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images. Pictured: Travis Kelce
Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, breaks down how he’s betting the Divisional Round. Find his favorite spreads, totals and player props outlined below. You can also follow him in the Action app to get notifications on any additional picks — he has a 354-268-4 (56.9%) on NFL bets he’s tracked in the app so far.
NFL Playoff Picks
Browns at Chiefs
The Browns defense, much like all other teams, won’t be able to stop Patrick Mahomes. However, Denzel Ward’s return gives them a huge boost, and his 4.32 speed should allow him to keep up with the human cheetah, Tyreek Hill.
The Chiefs offense should have no problem putting up points when they have the ball. But what if the Browns can play “keep away” instead? That’s what I think the game plan will be from head coach Kevin Stefanski.
The Chiefs are vulnerable against the run, ranking 31st in rush DVOA. It’s a weakness the Browns can exploit with the NFL’s best running back duo in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. They should be able to move the ball and shorten the game with the same run-heavy approach they’ve used all season. Their pace is slow by design — they’re sixth-slowest per Football Outsiders — and I expect them to amply that strategy here, making the 57.5-point total way too high.
This total could also be overreaction to the Browns’ 48-37 win over the Steelers last weekend. The 85 points scored were +30 above my “expected total” of 54.9 points, which attempts to filter out the randomness of big plays and turnovers, and that game had plenty! It’s why the public may be overreacting with 80% of the bets coming in on the over as of late Friday (find real-time public betting data here).
My projected total (54.5) was in line with where this line opened, so I want to lock this under in while it’s at 57.5, considering that’s a key number. Plus 58-60 is a bit of a dead zone for totals, so there’s no reason to wait and see if it gets bet even higher.
Note: All the picks from this point on are for games that already started.
Rams at Packers
One of the more intriguing matchups of the Divisional Round is the Packers offense (first in Football Outsiders’ DVOA) facing off against the Rams defense (fourth in DVOA).
The Rams defense poses significant issues for Aaron Rodgers and the Pack. Aaron Donald should be able to create pressure on Rodgers and the absence of David Bakhtiari could make a huge impact — Rodgers notably struggled during their 38-10 loss to Tampa Bay in Week 6 with the Buccaneers’ 55% pressure rate throwing the entire offense out of rhythm.
Davante Adams will likely face coverage from Rams’ shut down corner Jalen Ramsey, creating a potential situation in which the Packers’ first-round selection of Jordan Love in a draft class loaded at wide receiver could come back to bite them considering they don’t have a true No. 2 option to step up.
Ultimately, the Packers offense should prevail and come away with the win.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams offense could be in serious trouble with Jared Goff and Cooper Kupp expected to play at less than full health. Guard David Edwards is a game-time decision, and his absence would only lower my expectations for the Rams offense even further.
The Packers defense has been heating up, and the first-round bye should mean they’re well-rested heading into this weekend and will have no issues keeping Goff in check. If the Packers can build a lead early, which I think they can, it would create a game script favoring the under.
I would bet the under down to 44.5 (check real-time odds here).
Ravens at Bills
This is arguably the tightest matchup of the weekend, which is why I like getting +3.
The Bills’ only weakness has been their run defense (17th in DVOA), which should be a massive concern against the Ravens. The potential for snow coupled with 15-20 mph winds could benefit a run-heavy team like Baltimore even more. If there were ever a situation in which not having Zach Moss (out) could hurt the Bills, it’s this week.
The Bills have one of the best wide receiver trios in the league with Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley and John Brown. However, the Ravens can counter them with one of the top cornerback trios in the league with Jimmy Smith, Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey.
Last week, the Bills were able to escape with a 27-24 win, but there were a handful of 50/50 plays that went their way. One of the more notable ones was when Colts head coach Frank Reich went for it on fourth-and-goal and failed. It was the correct call at the time, but that play ultimately decided the game.
I have this game projected at Bills -1.5, but the market has pushed this to +3 as of late Friday, and I’m only interested in locking in that key number.
Lamar Jackson Over 75.5 Rush Yards (-110)
Jackson has played out of his mind since returning from the reserve/COVID-19 list in Week 13, averaging 94.3 yards a game over his past six.
The Bills’ weakness has been stopping the run. In fact, their 32nd rank in second-level yards allowed (Football Outsiders) is a huge concern when facing a quarterback like Jackson, who should have no problem getting to the second level (5-10 yards past the line of scrimmage). The Bills were also the fifth-worst in missed tackles, and I’m not sure they’ll answer for Jackson here.
The potential for snow and/or wind should only enhance his rushing upside. I would bet this up to 79.5 yards.
Josh Allen Under 2.5 Pass TDs (-155)
Allen has thrown for three or more touchdowns in six of 17 games (35%), but we have to remember that his ability to run in a score (eight this season) comes at the expense of his passing production.
The potential for snow and 15-20 mph winds combined with the Ravens’ trio of cornerbacks should slow down Allen. The Ravens have allowed only one opposing quarterback to throw for three touchdowns this season (Patrick Mahomes).