NFL Playoff Odds, Picks, Predictions: Bet Chiefs and 49ers, Plus Spread Picks For Rams-Bucs and Bengals-Titans
Getty Images. Pictured: 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, Chiefs TE Travis Kelce
- Betting analyst Brandon Anderson makes his final spread picks for every game in the Divisional Round of the 2022 NFL playoffs.
- Find out why he likes the Chiefs and 49ers to cover, plus what his leans are on the Rams-Bucs and Bengals-Titans spreads.
- He also outlines other bets he's making for each matchup.
NFL Playoffs Odds, Picks, Predictions
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Editor’s note: Sections labeled “analysis” were written earlier in the week and may contain stale information.
Bengals vs. Titans Odds
|Kickoff||4:30 p.m. ET on Sat|
|Odds via DraftKings|
Final Bengals-Titans Pick
- Final Pick: Lean Titans -3.5 (but no further)
- Previously: Lean Titans -2.5 (to -3.5)
- Other Bets: Titans Q1 -1 (+100)
The Titans can win this game by dominating in the trenches.
The Bengals are contending with the critical loss of DT Larry Ogunjobi, their key run-stopper, at just the wrong time with Derrick Henry coming back. It does look like Trey Hendrickson will try to play, but he could be limited in his return and dictates this whole pass rush. And the Titans’ front four pass rush is rested and should find success against a poor Bengals offensive line.
If this were still at Titans -2.5, I’d feel great. I’ll be more cautious at -3.5 unless the public money comes in on the underdog and pushes the line back down (check real-time NFL odds here).
This game script could go the Titans’ way early, though. The Bengals rank fourth worst in first quarter DVOA, per Football Outsiders, and second-to-last on first downs defensively. Expect a rested Titans team to establish itself early and often. I like them to take a first quarter lead and hold throughout, so I’ll play the Titans first quarter cover, too.
Click to expand Brandon’s full analysis from earlier this week
I waited all season to bet against the Titans in the playoffs. I picked all 272 regular-season games; I backed the Titans in exactly two. I’ve been fading them all year. And I was practically drooling over the chance to fade this fraudulent 1-seed into oblivion.
But you have to play the matchup in front of you.
The Titans did juuust enough to eke out a three-point win over the terrible Texans in the regular-season finale, barely hanging onto the 1-seed and grabbing a bye week thanks to their sixth one-score victory in eight such games. And then the bracket broke perfectly. The two heavy AFC favorites will face off in the other matchup, the Patriots are out, and the Colts and Chargers didn’t even make it.
Instead, the Titans get to face a similarly-average team for a shot at the AFC title game.
That’s the Bengals, of course, and the numbers say these teams are relatively equal. They’re both below-average in season-long DVOA, per Football Outsiders, and neither finished top 10 in rushing offense or defense — nor passing offense or defense. The Titans and Bengals played in 17 one-score games combined. Tennessee’s DVOA profile is similar to Cleveland or Chicago Browns. Cincinnati’s is closer to Vegas or Minnesota.
Are we excited yet?!
Both of these teams went 4-2 against eventual playoff teams, but those records are not created equal. If the Colts and Chargers had won in Week 18 as expected by books, the Titans would have been 6-2 against playoff teams with comfortable wins over the Chiefs, Rams and Colts, while the Bengals would have been 1–3. Instead, the Bengals padded their record with wins over the mediocre Raiders and Steelers, while the Titans lose credit for those Colts wins.
But Tennessee still has the far more impressive resume.
The best unit on the field will be the Titans defense. It finished the season eighth in weighted DVOA and was especially strong against the run.
The Bengals have remained over-committed to the run, which could really hurt here. They had inefficient running metrics all season and made the same mistake on Wild Card Saturday against the Raiders, keeping the Raiders in the game with 21 early down runs at -0.23 Expected Points Added (EPA) per play, just a 19% success rate. Joe Burrow and the passing attack have gotten very good, but the Bengals are still not passing enough, and the poor play calling is crippling the offense.
Cincinnati benefited from playing a very soft schedule. The offense hasn’t been as reliable against good defenses, and the defense has struggled against strong attacks.
Are the Titans that?
They weren’t late in the season, but they should get Derrick Henry back, plus rested and healthy A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. The Titans ranked sixth in rush DVOA with Henry before falling to 24th without him, and he opens up the play-action, making the passing game far more deadly. Cincinnati will struggle to cover Brown and Jones — this is exactly why Tennessee traded for Jones.
The Bengals defense ranked 31st in DVOA on first downs in the regular season. When the Titans are at their best, they run the ball well and hit on play-action early to put Ryan Tannehill in positive down situations. They can do that here.
The Bengals also ranked 29th in first quarter DVOA, so the Titans could get out to an early lead.
And don’t forget the obvious advantage: Home field and a week of rest. The rest should give Tennessee a much healthier offense and passing attack, and home-field advantage could be huge. Cincinnati’s offense ranked ninth in DVOA at home but just 25th on the road, and Tennessee’s defense ranked 17th on the road but seventh at home.
The Bengals’ best performances this season came at home, but this young team is mostly unproven on the road.
I waited all season to fade the Titans in a huge playoff spot, but we need to wait one more week. This line is showing too much respect to a young Bengals team with weaknesses the Titans are built to exploit. I’ll hope they win comfortably and set up an inflated line for the AFC Championship Game.
49ers vs. Packers Odds
|Kickoff||8:15 p.m. ET on Sunday|
|Odds via DraftKings|
Final 49ers-Packers Pick
- Final Pick: Bet 49ers +6 (to +4.5)
- Previously: Bet 49ers +6 (to +4.5)
- Other Bets: 49ers ML (+205); George Kittle 70+ Rec Yards (+240)
This was the matchup we wanted for the 49ers, but we had to wait for injury updates.
It looked bad at first with news that Jimmy Garoppolo was a question mark with thumb and shoulder injuries, but he’s expected to play. Fred Warner’s ankle looks fine, too. Neither were on the final injury report. And Nick Bosa (questionable) has also seen limited practice, so there’s optimism he could return from concussion protocol.
That’s about the best 49ers injury report we could hope for as backers, and all the better that the line has moved in our favor and bought us even more points.
My read on this game hasn’t budged — I love the 49ers here. This is the exact wrong matchup for the Packers, as I detailed in the “analysis” section below. Maybe Aaron Rodgers can do it all on his own, but he might have to. There’s a reason no MVP has won a title this century. Since 2003, 1-seed favorites of 10 or fewer points in the Divisional Round are just 8-22-1 (27%) against the spread (ATS), per our Action Labs data.
I’ll back the better all-around team. We’re definitely playing the moneyline, too — the 49ers can win this one.
Click to expand Brandon’s full analysis from earlier this week
This is the matchup I’ve been waiting weeks to see.
Remember when I recommended betting on the 49ers to win the NFC at +2500 odds as well as the Super Bowl at +5000 odds heading into Week 18? It was because I loved how they matched up against their likely playoff opponents — specifically the Packers.
Once the Niners got past the first round, this was the likely opponent, and the matchup I wanted for San Francisco.
And it’s all about the run game and playoff football.
Green Bay’s defense ranked 22nd in Football Outsiders’ DVOA on the season, including 28th against the run. That’s a bottom-five unit that’s been a serious problem all season, but will be a massive one against a creative, run-centric offense like San Francisco.
The 49ers feature the best tight end in the world in George Kittle as well as the league’s finest offensive lineman in Trent Williams. Each has a case as the most valuable non-QB in the NFL. The rest of the O-line is terrific, too, as is do-everything fullback Kyle Juszczyk. The Niners win in the trenches, and they win with Kyle Shanahan’s scheme. Elijah Mitchell has been terrific as a one-cut rookie runner while Deebo Samuel is a dynamic weapon out of the backfield.
The 49ers are built for playoff football. They gash opposing defenses, especially bad run Ds like Green Bay, and they’re built to win in the trenches and play in the cold.
Sometimes, the best defense against Aaron Rodgers is simply keeping him on the sidelines. The Niners chew up clock and go on long, sustained drives. Green Bay ranked 24th in DVOA defensively on first down this season and 26th on second down. San Francisco’s offense ranked first on first and early downs. That is a ginormous problem for the Packers.
Kittle could also be a major issue. Green Bay ranks 28th in DVOA versus opposing tight ends, so he could have a monster game.
This San Francisco offense is the exact wrong matchup for a shaky Packers defense that’s gotten worse, not better, late in the season. But of course, the Packers aren’t here because of defense — Green Bay will score, and Rodgers could have a big game throwing to Davante Adams.
San Francisco’s weak spot is its secondary, with key injuries and a lack of depth all season, and ranks second-to-last against opposing WR1s with 88 yards per game allowed. Barring weather issues in the tundra, Rodgers should be able to pass on this defense. But it’s worth noting San Francisco ranked inside the top four of defensive DVOA over the final eight weeks of the regular season, including first against the run and a respectable 10th against the pass.
The Niners can hold their own defensively.
They finished top-seven in DVOA on offense and defense. And while the Packers offense is definitely better — and while Rodgers is far more reliable than Jimmy Garoppolo — the 49ers offense is more versatile and their defense can do things, too. They certainly did their job against the Cowboys and Rams with the season on the line the past two weeks. They can pass the ball, too — they have the NFL’s second-best passing attack over the last eight weeks, right behind the Packers.
The truth is that the advanced metrics suggest these teams are about equal. Heck, San Francisco actually ranks higher than Green Bay in season-long DVOA. The Packers defense drags down their ranking, and so does their worst-in-the-league special teams.
The 49ers are the more balanced team and they’re playing better football late in the season.
Injury news will be key this week.
The 49ers saw their defensive stars Nick Bosa and Fred Warner sidelined on Sunday; Bosa is their top pass rusher while Warner mans the middle of the field. Bosa will have to pass concussion protocols, and Warner looked in a lot of pain but came back late against the Cowboys. They would be big losses, but neither will be on the field much if San Francisco runs the ball down Green Bay’s throat all game.
The Packers will also try to get Jaire Alexander and Za’Darius Smith back after missing all season. Neither will help the shoddy run defense much, but those two are stars. So is LT David Bakhtiari, who was good in his brief Week 18 return.
I’m on the 49ers all the way here, but it’s reasonable to think we could get a more favorable line later. The public may panic on San Francisco after its late scare and Green Bay is always a super public team. The injury news could lean Green Bay’s way, too. It would be awesome if we got to that +7 key number.
But I’ve waited long enough. This is the one. This is the matchup I wanted.
The Packers start slow, and their leaky defense could put them in a hole all game. I’m grabbing the points with the 49ers and playing the moneyline, which is as high as +200 as of writing (shop for the best line here).
I think the 49ers go to Lambeau, put the Packers defense on their heels all game, and win outright. Watch the injury news and line movement and pounce when the time is right. I’d love the +7, but also don’t want this to fall past +4.5, and I bet the moneyline already.
Rams vs. Bucs Odds
|Kickoff||3 p.m. ET on Sunday|
|Odds via DraftKings|
- Final Pick: Lean Bucs -2.5 (to -3)
- Previously: Bet Bucs -2.5 (to -3)
- Other Bets: Gio Bernard Reception Overs
I was ready to back the Brinks truck up for the Bucs on Monday, but I’m souring on this matchup as the week goes on. I’m convinced the Bucs are the better team, but I’m not convinced they’re necessarily better in this matchup, or that they’re healthy enough for it to matter.
With one day of practice left as of writing, the injury picture is still cloudy at best (check the Bucs’ official report here). Stud RT Tristan Wirfs looks unlikely, and C Ryan Jensen remains limited. The one Achilles heel for Tom Brady his entire career has been pressure, especially interior pressure. Well, the Rams led the league in pass rush win rate, so this is not the right time for the line to go missing.
I’m worried this might be a redux of last year’s Super Bowl — with the better QB under pressure all game and the other roster simply better.
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David was still limited in practice this week, too, and didn’t move well last weekend. And we know their corners aren’t in good shape. The saving grace might be the Rams’ injuries, though. LT Andrew Whitworth is a big question mark after back-to-back missed practices, so both lines could have issues. And Matthew Stafford is still Matthew Stafford and not fully healthy himself.
I couldn’t live with myself if I took Stafford on the road over Brady, not with all we know about those two. But I’ll play this much more cautiously as a “lean” unless we get great offensive line news on the injury front before kickoff — follow me in the Action app to see whether I end up playing a full unit.
Click to expand Brandon’s full analysis from earlier this week
The Rams are all-in on this team. They mortgaged their future for Matt Stafford, then added Von Miller, Odell Beckham Jr. and Eric Weddle at various points during the season. And they looked the part on Monday night, blowing out the hapless Cardinals for a win that was over by halftime.
They also looked the part back in Week 3, when they had their most impressive win of the season, a 34-24 victory over these Bucs in LA. Both teams started slow before the Rams scored on six straight possessions. Each team put up huge yardage in a heavy passing game, but LA was 10-of-15 on third downs. The Bucs were never really in it, the final score closer than it seemed thanks to a late garbage touchdown.
The Bucs lost that early one but are now 6-1 against playoff teams, and they’ve won eight of nine heading into Sunday’s game. They finished the season with the best offense in the NFL by Football Outsiders’ DVOA. The\y ranked No. 2 on first downs, No. 3 on second downs, and No. 1 on late downs. Tom Brady led the league in passing yards and touchdowns, and the Bucs were a top-five rushing attack too, too.
This Bucs offense is a juggernaut.
Tampa’s defense has also been very good.
The Bucs finished ninth in Defensive DVOA, and the D was far better at home (fourth) than on the road (16th). They struggled on the road all season, and the Rams offense is a high-flying attack at home but not the same on the road, so the venue change from Week 3 is very significant. So is the extra 36 hours of rest for Tampa.
The Rams are 3-5 against playoff teams now, but that Bucs win is the only one that’s definitely good. The other two wins came against this reeling Cardinals team late in the season, while the Rams had non-competitive losses to the Cards, Titans, 49ers and Packers.
When the Rams look good, they look great, but they’ve had far more questionable performances against good teams.
A once dominant Rams offense has faded down the back half of the season. They rank just 14th in Weighted DVOA offensively, and the passing attack has fallen off mightily. It ranked third over the first 10 weeks but has fallen all the way to 16th since.
LA is also struggling to run the ball. Cam Akers looked bursty on Monday, but Arizona’s run D has been a sieve, so we need to take that with a grain of salt.
The numbers tell us the Rams were an elite offense the first half of the season, but a very average one late.
If the Rams want to go on the road and win in Tampa, it’ll have to be the defense.
Aaron Donald and the defensive line gave the Bucs major problems in the first meeting. Brady was sacked three times, compared to just 19 in his other 16 games. The Rams D has been terrific early in games but poor late. It’s also been much better against the run but leaky against the pass, in part because Jalen Ramsey is about the only starter left in the secondary. That didn’t matter against an awful Kyler Murray, but you better believe it’ll matter against Brady.
The Rams are excellent defending tight ends, but Gronk is not just any tight end. I expect a big receiving game from Gio Bernard, too. He caught five balls on Wild Card Weekend and had nine catches in the first matchup, so I’ll play his receptions over again. Mike Evans could also have a huge game against this secondary, though the Bucs don’t have many receivers left behind him.
Tampa’s injury list is long and growing.
Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones are question marks at RB, the corners remain banged up, and most of the receivers are missing. Now the new concern is the offensive line, where RT Tristan Wirfs and C Ryan Jensen played through injuries this past Sunday but remain question marks going forward. These are Pro Bowl linemen, and they’re badly needed against this Rams pass rush.
Brady might be the GOAT, but the best way to beat him has always been getting constant pressure on him.
The Rams secondary is a big problem, both by talent and health, and Stafford and LT Andrew Whitworth don’t look fully healthy either. Stafford picked up a toe injury in Week 18, then took a huge hit to the solar plexus in the second half on Monday. He wasn’t tested much by the Cardinals, but he’ll be asked to do much more against the Bucs.
And in the end, that’s the matchup I simply can’t get past: Stafford vs. Brady.
I’m not expecting either team to run much, or even try. Both coaches are aggressive and want to get it downfield. And both secondaries are beatable. I’m eyeing the over 48.5 in a potential shootout — remember, 58 points last time — and if both of these quarterbacks throw 40 or 50 times, there’s only one way we can lean.
Stafford has his first playoff win, but he’s still 11-41 in November or later against teams over .500, including an abysmal 14-35-2 against the spread (ATS), covering under 29% of the time. That includes 4-33 as an underdog outright.
Stafford has beaten a winning team in November or later four times in his entire career. Ever.
Tom Brady? Yeah, he’s beaten a few winning teams.
Brady is 76-48-7 (61%) ATS as a favorite of seven or fewer points. He’s 35-23-4 (60%) ATS in coin-flip games with a line at three or fewer points in either direction. And that’s in the regular season. In the playoffs, he’s 9-3 (75%) ATS in such games, covering by an average of 6.2 points and in each of his last six such games.
Sometimes it really is that simple.
Sometimes it really does just come down to the quarterback.
I love that the Rams looked invincible against a Cardinals team that they hadn’t been good against in October. But this one win doesn’t erase how terrible Stafford was down the stretch, with eight interceptions over his last four games. This big Rams win and the one earlier this season are buying us significant value on the Bucs.
I’m betting Tampa all the way while we’re still at -3 or lower.
The injury report will be very important, so if the line moves to -3.5 or higher (check real-time NFL odds here), I’ll need to wait to see the names for both teams. In particular, the Bucs need Wirfs and Jensen ready to go, or this whole thing could flip. But I’m optimistic they’ll be ready.
I’ve been waiting to fade Stafford and the Rams in the playoffs for a month — this will be our last shot.
Bills vs. Chiefs Odds
|Kickoff||6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday|
|Odds via DraftKings|
- Final Pick: Bet Chiefs -1.5 (to -2)
- Previously: Lean Chiefs -2.5 (to -3)
- Other Bets: Back the team you like here to win the AFC
We didn’t get any key injury news, but we did see the line move. And with the Chiefs favored by fewer than two points now, this has moved into “bet” territory for me.
When Patrick Mahomes is a field goal favorite or shorter, he’s 14-4-1 ATS, covering 78% of the time and winning nine of the last 11 matchups. It’s huge getting this at -1.5 since both two and three are key numbers now. Remember, the Chiefs have a huge special teams advantage, and the Bills missed two extra points last week and bounced a third in, so that point could be the difference.
Both of these teams are fantastic, but I still have to take the QB and coach I trust more, especially now that this is nearly a coin-flip. This is the de facto AFC Championship Game, which means it’s a smart bet to also back the team you like here to win the AFC.
Click to expand Brandon’s full analysis from earlier this week
Oh, baby — the AFC Championship Game comes a week early.
This is the title game we got last winter, and it’s the rematch we waited for all offseason. It’s the matchup Buffalo built its roster around, and it’s the fourth time these teams will play in two seasons. We took some lumps along the way, but these were the two best AFC teams all year. The winner will likely be favored in the AFC Championship Game, even if it’s in Tennessee.
So what can we learn about those past three meetings? Maybe not much.
The Bills lambasted the Chiefs 38-20 in Week 5, scoring 17 unanswered points in the second quarter, then all but ended it with a pick-six in the third. The Bills racked up 436 yards and won the turnover battle, 4-0. Josh Allen had a monster game at 0.62 Expected Points Added (EPA) per play while Patrick Mahomes was at -0.02.
But the Chiefs defense has been transformed since that early matchup, and a totally-remade offensive line was still gelling then. Mahomes had no time, and the Chiefs defense had no shot.
The late-season Chiefs are an entirely different team.
They swept the Bills last season. After going down 9-0 in the AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs went on a 38-6 run to win with ease. Mahomes was at 0.57 EPA per play while Allen was the one below zero at -0.01. But this season’s Bills defense is nothing like the one that got destroyed last year. This season’s defense is the best in the league.
The Chiefs won 26-17 in the regular season game last year, a late kick icing it, and Mahomes was fantastic again. And actually, that was the most lopsided game of the three. Mahomes was awesome and the Chiefs doubled the Bills in yardage (466 to 206) and almost the same in time of possession (38 to 22). Allen didn’t do much , but he hadn’t turned from barely-NFL-starter to the perfect-playoff-game MVP candidate we saw this weekend.
Every game is different, and we dare not read too much into any of those past matchups. We shouldn’t read too much into this weekend’s blowout wins, either. The Steelers were DOA while the Bills have been one of the league’s highest variance team – when they’re good, they’re really good. Still, that Bills win earlier this season might be buying us a little Chiefs value on the line.
This feels like the most evenly-matched meeting yet. Allen has closed ground on Mahomes, and the Bills defense has been the best in the NFL while the Chiefs offense has taken its lumps.
Earlier this season, Buffalo was legitimately better than Kansas City. Now? I’m not so sure.
The defenses are trending in opposite directions. Buffalo smashed New England, but the Bills run defense ranks 16th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA over the last eight weeks and the overall defense has been more great than elite. And the Chiefs defense is night and day from that early matchup — they rank 10th in DVOA over the past eight weeks, top-11 against both the run and the pass, after an ugly 31st the first 10 weeks. The unit has also been much better at home.
Still, we’re gonna get some scoring. Both offenses are trending up.
The Chiefs have the league’s No. 1 passing DVOA over the last eight weeks after ranking just 15th the first 10 games. And suddenly, the Bills rank No. 1 in rushing DVOA over the same stretch after starting 25th the first 10 games, and that run game could be big as Buffalo tries to keep Mahomes on the sidelines.
Both of these teams will move the ball and score.
The midseason addition of Melvin Ingram changed the trajectory of this Chiefs defense. They’re legitimately good now and have a much better shot against Allen this time. This could also be a game where Buffalo really misses stud corner Tre’Davious White — it would have been his job to take away Tyreek Hill. The Bills pass defense has been best in the NFL against opposing WR2 and other receivers down the depth chart, but star WR1 and tight ends can give them problems. Hill and Travis Kelce will eat.
This should be a close, great game. And when it’s close, I inevitably come back to the quarterback and the coaching. And as awesome as Allen, Sean McDermott and Brian Daboll have been, I still give the edge to the Chiefs.
When you play king of the hill, the challenger still has to dethrone the king.
The Chiefs also have a serious special teams edge, both in the return game and at kicker. Don’t underestimate that in a close game.
The old adage says defense wins championships, but I don’t buy it. Elite offense beats elite defense in 2022. I trust the Chiefs to score on the Bills. But which Bills offense will show up? Will Allen be perfect like he was against the Patriots? Or will he make those two to three typical back-breaking mistakes? And is the Chiefs defense as good as it has looked? Will it hold up against a great offense?
I don’t know the answer to those questions. None of us do, and it’s why I won’t go too nuts on this game. But I make this line Chiefs -4, and that means we’re getting a little value on Kansas City, especially past a key number.
It’s still Pat Mahomes and Andy Reid, at home, with the season on the line. And that means I’m still backing the most talented quarterback on Earth.
When Mahomes is a three-point favorite or shorter (including an underdog), the Chiefs are 14-4-1 (78%) against the spread (ATS) lifetime, per our Action Labs data. They’ve won nine of the last 11 — the two losses coming in the Super Bowl and that Bills game earlier this season.
Maybe I’m still putting too much trust in the past, but I know what the Chiefs are, and I know what Mahomes can do. If I’m going down with the ship, this is a ship worth riding all the way to the bottom.
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