NFL Divisional Round Betting Guide
After another winning week, I find myself on a little 6-2 run as we look to close strong on this season.
If you got smoked last Saturday because Rivers/Goff/Heinicke covered over Allen/Wilson/Brady, you're not alone, but let's get you back on track today.
Rams (11-6) @ Packers (13-3); 3:35pm CT Today
Pick #1: Rams +6.5
Action: 24% of the bets on the Rams
Green Bay is clearly the public side here. It's the #1 seed led by the MVP-favorite with an extra week to prepare against a banged-up Rams team led by a California QB in cold weather who was unreliable before he got surgery on his thumb only a couple weeks ago.
When this opened at GB -7, about 65% of the bets were falling on the Pack, then sharps snagged LAR +7 and drove the line down. At the current price of GB -6.5 that is only more appealing to the public, we're looking at over 75% of the bets coming in on Green Bay.
I don't always chase sharp money, but it's painfully obvious that pros are going with L.A. and I'm with it. If sportsbooks were scared of the public, they would inflate this line back to GB -7 or more, but they're confident that they can rob the public at -6.5 without budging.
I've been hammering it for months, but the Rams D is just that good. DC Brandon Staley is elite at halftime adjustments (ranked #2 in points allowed per 2nd Half at 6.9, nice), and he's afforded that flexibility by having two of the best defenders in the league. Aaron Donald blows up plays despite being double-teamed more than Adriana Chechik, and Jalen Ramsey not only shuts down opposing WRs but also makes babies with their sisters to formally assert his dominance.
On the offensive side, I told you last week that the return of Cam Akers and Andrew Whitworth would be HUGE, and it will only continue to be vital this week to keep Rodgers on the sidelines and support a version of Jared Goff that couldn't throw a spiral with a Vortex.
I'm sure the Packers D will stack the box early in an attempt to force the Rams out of their run-heavy game script, but even with extra defenders I don't think Green Bay's mediocre defense can stop an L.A. rushing attack that ranks #4 in DVOA despite rotating RBs all season. Sharps know the Rams will be able to chew clock because Cam Akers is the truth, and that's a contributing factor to why we've seen this total tick down from 46.5 to 45.5.
Rodgers should be able to pull out the victory because he's ridiculously smart, he literally doesn't sweat, he has the best and most effortless footwork in the league, and he's generally one of the greatest QBs of all-time. As a Chicago guy I packed that all into one sentence to get it out of the way, but basically this game will be closer and lower-scoring than expected, so I'll take the 6.5 points every time.
Ravens (12-5) @ Bills (14-3); 7:15pm CT Tonight
Pick #2: BUF -2.5
Action: 54% of bets on the Bills
This is the ultimate "don't overreact to last week" game. Baltimore's D held the top-5 Tennessee offense to 13 points while the Bills lost the public a LOT of money by only narrowly escaping the Colts as a 7-point favorite.
It feels like everyone has validated Lamar as getting the monkey off his back by winning his first playoff game, but I think we're forgetting that the Titans D is atrocious. 20 points against them is not much an achievement.
In Lamar's young career, we're seeing that it's easy to plan for Baltimore's offense in the playoffs because they're too one-dimensional to make in-game adjustments against a "must-win" defense that is showing its full hand. We'll kick the can down the road on this for a few years because Lamar is a singular talent in a great organization, but by the end of this decade we could be looking back on a QB with a weak playoff record whose career got cut short because his success hinged on double-digit carries per game.
On the flip side, the Buffalo offense is facing a bully, and the only way to beat a bully is to stand up to them. I wouldn't know anything about that because I'm a pussy but the Bills are up for the challenge. Baltimore has a nasty D-line, they blitz at the #1 rate in the NFL (44%), and they rely on their outstanding CBs to man up downfield. This worked against a Titans offense that revolves around their running back, but it's a different ballgame against a more dynamic QB and play-caller who fight aggression with aggression. Just ask the Dolphins (who rank #2 in blitz percentage) how they felt about their scheme that surrendered a 50-burger to the Bills two weeks ago.
It's an all-or-nothing Baltimore D vs. an all-or-nothing Buffalo O. Prior to learning there will be 20+ mph winds in Buffalo, Brian Daboll was already planning to spread the field with 3+ receivers and ask his fearless QB to attack on short dropbacks, and the weather isn't changing that. Josh Allen is "Billt" different (buy a shirt) and his cannon was brought in to specifically cut through these types of Buffalo winter elements. The Bills won't play Baltimore's game, and that's going to be the difference here.
Once this bet hits, you can choose to celebrate any way you want.
Browns (12-5) @ Chiefs (14-2); 2:05pm CT Tomorrow
Pick #3: Browns 1st Half Team Over 10.5
Action: 51% of bets on Chiefs -10 and 75% of bets on the Over 57
Kansas City hasn't won by more than a touchdown since pounding the Jets on November 1st, which has obviously killed KC bettors during this stretch. And on paper, Cleveland's offense looks like a bad matchup here because KC can't stop the run and they get scorched by play-action, which is all the Browns do.
This leads everyone to the same question: "Should I back the Browns knowing that I'll feel like the biggest idiot on the planet if KC 'flips the switch' with the best quarterback/coach combo in the league off a bye and shit-pumps their bottom-third defense?"
My answer: kinda.
I'm sure the Chiefs won't spot the Browns a touchdown on the first snap of the game and turn the ball over five times, but there was a LOT to like about the way Cleveland kept their composure despite missing what felt like half of their players and coaching staff in Pittsburgh last week. I was wrong about the Browns - they have leadership and an identity, and they are indeed "good."
Stefanski will come out with a great gameplan that obviously leans on the run but also gets Baker into rhythm with quick targets on play-action and designed rollouts to beat KC's pressure (huge to get LG Joel Bitonio back). This will work as long as the game is close, but I'm not sure how long that's going to last.
This total opened at a hefty 55 and it has since been bet up to 57 due to both offenses having significant advantages. KC's best defense is their offense because Cleveland will have to abandon their gameplan if KC goes up by double-digits, and a pass-happy Baker is exactly what the Chiefs want. Can't trust a backwards hat guy:
Cleveland's opening game script should work to perfection in a terrible matchup for the Chiefs D, but I want NO part of the tomfoolery that may occur in the second half if the Browns are playing catch-up. Cleveland will give us the couple first half scores we need to cover this one.
Bucs (12-5) @ Saints (13-4); 5:40pm CT Tomorrow
Pick #4: Saints team Over 27.5
Action: 55% on the Bucs +3 and 70% of bets on the Over 52
In a game sporting QBs with a combined age of 85 years, my initial reaction was to go "no bet" and simply watch the fireworks as I would in a rousing viewing of Last Vegas or Wild Hogs, but there's always an angle.
The Saints did not impress offensively last week, but was there ever really a threat forcing them to dig deep in their playbook? I gave out the Bears team total Under 17.5 and they didn't find the end zone until time expired. Always nice to have your home team's season end on a meaningless TD followed by slime.
Knowing that the Saints will be going from Mitch "NVP" Trubisky to the G.O.A.T., they maaaaay want to be a bit more aggressive this time around.
As a bettor it's always frustrating when you know the type of gameplan a coach should be using, but then the team comes out and does something completely different. With Sean Payton, you never have to worry about this - he will always take the smart route. With Tom Brady on the opposing sidelines, Payton knows he needs points and he'll come out blazing.
Despite these two teams having top-5 defenses, sportsbooks opened this total at a robust 51.5 because they know both offenses will be emptying the tank. Brees is the healthiest he's been in months, he finally has his full suite of WRs, and the Bucs biggest defensive weakness is defending pass-catching RBs (bet all the Kamara receiving props you can). Knowing he'll need to keep pace with Brady, look for Sean Payton to build in some deep shots to break tendency of the short/efficient passing attack we've seen from Brees this season for some quick-hitting scores.
These QB legends will elevate each other to maximum aggression and we'll rake some cash out of it on the New Orleans side.
Best of luck and let's keep racking 'em up!