NFL Playoff Picks We’ve Already Bet For the Divisional Round
Joe Robbins/Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Rodgers
Wild Card Weekend is over, the bracket is set for the Divisional Round — and our staff has already made picks for next weekend.
NFL Playoff Picks
Rams at Packers
Matthew Freedman: In the Divisional Round, I like to bet against No. 1 seeds as home favorites, but I must make an exception for the Packers and Aaron Rodgers.
I’m a simple person: I like to bet on quarterbacks who win, and Rodgers wins.
For his career, he’s an A-graded 119-84-5 against the spread (ATS) for a 14.7% Return On Investment (ROI). And he has been especially dominant at home, going 61-35-4 ATS (23.3% ROI) at Lambeau Field.
Best of all, Rodgers is coming off the bye, and he's 10-5-1 ATS with 12-15 days to rest and prepare.
I would bet them to -7 (-110).
Brandon Anderson: I was bummed when this line opened at -7 because I was so ready to hit Green Bay at anything below a touchdown, but now that the line has edged under that key number, I'm grabbing it before it's gone.
The Packers are really, really good, and they're even better at home. They lead the league at 31.8 points per game, and that includes the one clunker with 10 points against the Bucs. Otherwise, the Packers have averaged more than 33 points per game with by far the most consistent offense.
Aaron Rodgers has been every bit as good as Patrick Mahomes this season and will probably win MVP. Davante Adams has been unguardable all year and scores a touchdown virtually every game. Aaron Jones adds a run game that will only be more valuable in the playoffs.
This offense is flying, and the week off isn't going to slow the Packers down. The Rams defense might, of course. This is the best unit left in the playoffs, and Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey are matchup nightmares — they're the case for an L.A. cover or win.
If Ramsey locks up Adams and Donald gives the Packers nightmares with stud left tackle David Bakhtiari suddenly missing, the Rams can limit the Packers offense and find just enough scoring against a beatable Packers defense. It's plausible, but I don't buy it, and the public is likely to push this back to Packers -7 by kickoff.
Donald is not healthy, and he's a beast, but that takes away some of his upside. I would be shocked if he doesn't play, but if he's out, that swings the line. That could be the case for Jared Goff or Cooper Kupp, too, both of whom are laboring through injuries and clearly not healthy.
There's also the weather factor — it's Green Bay, after all. It's gonna be cold, and the Packers will have fans in the stands, and maybe we'll even get some snow. The Rams play in L.A., and Goff is a California kid and has an injured thumb, which affects his ability to grip the ball. Sound like trouble to you?
The Packers are 13-3, and 12 of those 13 wins came by at least seven points. They do not let teams hang around, and the Rams offense is not built to play from behind, so once the script starts to turn the Packers' way, it could turn in a hurry. You do not want to have your money on a banged-up Goff, deer in the headlights, with the game or cover on the line late. You want the MVP and the best team in the NFC.
Grab the Packers at -6.5 before you lose the hook and more.
Ravens at Bills
Raheem Palmer: This is an ideal matchup for the Ravens.
With the Browns' shocking upset of the Steelers in the Wild Card Round, not only do the Ravens move to the opposite side of the bracket to avoid the Chiefs in the Divisional Round, but they do so to face an overvalued Bills team that just gave up 472 total yards on 6.2 yards per play to the Colts on Saturday.
This Bills defense provided very little resistance on Saturday, allowing the Colts to do whatever they want, including crossing the 50-yard line on nine of their 10 drives. In many ways, the Colts did everything possible to lose the game given their failed fourth down decision towards the end of the second quarter, the missed field goal, the failed 2-point conversion and the general lack of urgency to move the ball on the last possession of the game.
Still, the Colts out-gained the Bills in total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, first downs, total plays and time of possession while having the chance to tie or win the game down the stretch.
This Bills defense ranks 12th in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA and 18th in defensive expected points added per play, but they’ve played the 20th-ranked schedule of opposing offenses and particularly struggle against the run, ranking only 17th in defensive run efficiency and 27th in rushing success rate (per Sharp Football Stats). They give up a whopping 163 rushing yards per game (third-most in the NFL) and 4.6 yards per carry.
The Colts had struggled to run the ball for most of the year until the emergence of rookie Jonathan Taylor, and the Bills still gave up 163 yards on 5.4 yards per carry. Now they face Lamar Jackson, J.K Dobbins, Gus Edwards and a Ravens rushing attack that averages a league-leading 191.9 rushing yards per game with a 43.7% rushing success rate (seventh in the NFL).
The Ravens are coming off a game against the Titans in which they ran for 236 yards on 6.7 yards per rush, including Jackson's 48-yard scamper for the game-tying touchdown and his 33-yard run to ice the game.
More concerning is that, despite Phillip Rivers’ lack of mobility, the Bills couldn’t come close to putting any pressure on him — they finished the wild-card matchup with zero sacks. We've also seen Kyler Murray lead the Cardinals to a 32-30 win over the Bills, completing 22-of-35 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 61 yards and two scores — and I believe the Ravens are a big step up offensively compared to Kliff Kingsbury’s team.
As a whole, the Bills should struggle defensively. They've lost two of the three teams they've faced that rank in the top 10 of offensive efficiency — the Chiefs, Titans and Seahawks — and the Ravens rank 11th.
This 2.5-point spread simply isn’t indicative of reality.
For the second week in a row, the Bills are overvalued after closing out the regular season winning nine of their last 10 games, including six straight wins. My projections made the Bills a 4.7-point favorite in the Wild Card Round while the market had them at -6.5 to -7. This week my projections make the Ravens a 2.5-point favorite against the Bills. Given the lack of home field advantage, I see no reason to adjust downward and give an additional edge to the Bills in this matchup.
On the flip side, the Ravens are being undervalued for the second week in a row — my projections made them a 5.8-point favorite last week. In many ways, the final score of their 20-13 win over the Titans didn’t tell the whole story of the Ravens' dominance. Baltimore out-gained Tennessee in first downs, total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, yards per play, total plays and time of possession.
If the score board actually showed what we saw in the box score, we would see this line a pick'em — not the Ravens getting points.
I'll be betting the Ravens to cover +2.5, to win outright (ML +117) and adding them to 6.5-point teasers. And, if you have some gamble in you, I would recommend selling points and betting the Raven -2.5 (+132).