Wild Card weekend certainly lived up to its name! We got to see four close games, some upsets, walk-off touchdowns, and, of course, a controversial call regarding the Saints. Ah, ’tis the season.
While it was a crazy weekend of games, we were able to dissect the matchups and find the best bets, going a perfect 3-0 in our bets. The Divisional Round is another animal entirely, with four home teams being well-rested against four away teams coming off big wins over good teams. In the past decade, 30 of the 40 Divisional Round games have ended with the 1 or 2 seed moving on to their respective conference championship game, but the spread in these games seem to reflect that pretty accurately.
Let’s pick up where we left off last week and find the value on this four-game slate. These are three of my favorite NFL bets for the Divisional Round in the NFL Playoffs.
Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers (Under 45)
This looks to be a game between two talented pass rushes, especially with the 49ers getting healthier over their bye week. Aside from the pressure expected from both teams, the defenses match up pretty well. The Vikings are the top team against tight ends, allowing only a 60.3 passer rating when quarterbacks target that position. They have also been a solid run defense, shown by them shutting down Alvin Kamara last week. The 49ers fly around and are good at keeping players in front of them, suffocating the offense. This takes away the downfield shots, forcing quarterbacks to check it down for meaningless gains. The Vikings are also traveling on a short week, which could cause offensive troubles for them. Look for a hard-fought win in this game with no points coming easy.
Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens (-9.5)
I understand the Titans hype because their style of play clearly shows their grit and guts. However, the reality is that there are too many weaknesses that don’t match up well with Baltimore. The Titans have one receiving threat: A.J. Brown. He got shut down last week, which resulted in Ryan Tannehill totaling just 72 yards. Luckily, Derrick Henry was able to run over the Patriots, while the poor New England offense was held in check. Brown will get shadowed and likely shut down yet again, but this time by Marlon Humphrey. The Ravens will be able to key in on stopping the run better than the Patriots did since the Baltimore secondary is healthier and can be trusted with one-on-ones. Meanwhile, the Titans’ defense has to face the Ravens’ offense, who nobody has been able to stop. Tennessee does not have a shutdown corner, and their pass rush can struggle when facing a solid offensive line like Baltimore’s. The spread is certainly large, and I would feel better by teasing it down a couple of points, but I am still confident that this Ravens team and their +249 point differential will dominate another game.
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (-4)
The Seahawks beat an injury-depleted Eagles team that had Josh McCown in at quarterback by just eight points. I feel like that should be enough of an argument, but I will continue. The Seahawks’ pass rush averaged just 1.8 sacks per game (tied for second-fewest this season). They did not just turn their game to another level in their seven-sack game last week. Simply, the Eagles were missing the entire right side of their offensive line. The Packers have a +6.1-point differential average at home this season, and it gets even tougher to win at Lambeau Field in January. Matt LaFleur knows how to game plan on offense, shown by his 6.8 average first-quarter points this season (third in the NFL). Playcallers have a script to begin games, and LaFleur’s game script has been as good as anyone’s. With an extra week to prepare, I expect to see the Packers come out hot against this non-conference rival. Keep Brandon Bostick away from the state of Wisconsin, and the Packers will cover the spread against the Seahawks. The only player I am worried about is D.K. Metcalf, but Green Bay should be able to have some combo coverages to slow down the massive rookie.
Wild Card Results: 3-0
Season to Date: 44-40-4