NFL Divisional Round early predictions: Packers vs. 49ers, Chiefs vs. Bills picks, odds
I would argue that NFL Divisional Round weekend is the best football weekend of the year.
These games almost always deliver, and it’s the final time we get more than two games on any weekend until the Hall of Fame game.
Lets not waste time and dive directly into my favorite bets for the Divisional Round.
Packers vs. 49ers prediction
Packers vs. 49ers Odds: Packers -10, Over/Under 50.5
8:15 p.m. ET Saturday, FOX
Since Week 9, Jordan Love ranks in the top three among qualified quarterbacks in Completion Percentage Over Expectation, EPA per Play and Pro Football Focuss Passing Grades.
Hes been playing like an MVP candidate for half a year.
Jordan Love: 91.7 PFF grade since week 131st among all QBs pic.twitter.com/YKdJTJnI6F
— PFF GB Packers (@PFF_Packers) January 16, 2024For me, this was the moment Jordan Love locked in his future as not just the guy, but a special player. pic.twitter.com/RDPijeCKd0
— Tyler (@TylerHerrick) January 16, 2024The 49ers’ secondary is excellent, ranking third in PFFs Coverage grades.
Still, the Packers young, deep and explosive wideout core should get open because Green Bays offensive line should protect Love and allow his routes to develop.
The Packers rank seventh in PFFs Pass Blocking grades nd are the NFLs sixth-least sacked team.
The 49ers rarely blitz and are only about league-average in pressure rate.
The Packers should be able to hold off Nick Bosa, and then Love will slice and dice.
Even better, Green Bay should move the ball on the ground.
Aaron Jones is playing well (118 yards on 5.6 yards per carry with three touchdowns in Wildcard win), and hes thriving in the lead-back role with AJ Dillon sidelined its actually a good thing that Dillon isnt in the rotation because hes the worse back.
Meanwhile, San Franciscos run defense is downright poor. The Niners rank 26th in Rush EPA per Play allowed and 24th in Rush Success Rate allowed.
At the minimum, the front seven is the weak link of the team, ranking 15th in Rush Defense DVOA.
So, the Pack should score and hang around in this game.
And we love backing big dogs that can score because they can keep it close on offense and sneak in the back door with an explosive late drive against prevent defense.
Im scared of the Packers defense, which is downright poor and will allow Brock Purdy and all those San Francisco weapons to run freely in the open field.
Head coach Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers pulls out a red flag to challenge a play during the game against the Chicago Bears. Getty ImagesKyle Shanahan is an elite offensive mind and will out-scheme Packers’ defensive coordinator Joe Berry all Saturday night.
But, again, the Packers can score, score some more, and hang around for 60 minutes.
The public wants to take rested No. 1 seed juggernauts in the Divisional round. Its common sense to pick these teams.
But its not profitable.
Home favorites have covered only 42% of the time over the past 20 years.
The one seed has covered only 35% of the time, including a 10-25-1 ATS mark when favored by 10 or fewer.
Even better, road teams that missed the prior years playoffs are 27-13 ATS in the divisional round. The Packers are a young, up-and-coming team ready to burst through sports bigger stages.
Love is in the air. Love Always Wins. Love Actually. All the cliches.
Gie me the Pack and the points.
As an aside, Ill likely bet the Over. The Packers are a great Over team because they score and allow points like crazy.
Purdy and Co. can score on anyone, and they should drop plenty here, but I think the 49ers defense is a tad overvalued, especially against the run (look at how Baltimores rush-heavy attack dismantled them a month ago).
Packers vs. 49ers Pick: Packers +10 and Over 50.5
Texans vs. Ravens prediction
Texans vs. Ravens Odds: Ravens -9, Over/Under 44.5
4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN
The Houston handicap is similar to the Green Bay one.
Houston is a road dog of 10 or fewer in the divisional round after missing last years playoff. The Ravens are a rested one-seed juggernaut. All the trends point toward Houston.
And similarly, Houston boasts an elite quarterback in CJ Stroud, who has been firing all year.
Stroud ranks 10th among qualified quarterbacks in EPA per Play since Week 9. Take out the games Stroud missed due to injury, and the Texans rank fifth in Pass Offense DVOA.
CJ Stroud against this same Tampa Bay defense: pic.twitter.com/46lY29oJFJ
— Jacob (@Stroud4ROTY) January 16, 2024Itll be tough to beat Baltimores disgusting secondary and all-around pass defense.
The Ravens are so good in the secondary, ranking second among NFL units in PFFs Coverage grades and EPA per Dropback allowed.
But the Cowboys are a similarly good pass defense ranking ninth in PFFs Coverage grades and fifth in EPA per Dropback allowed and CJ tore them a new one.
Even better, Dallas can actually generate pressure behind Micah Parsons.
The Ravens aren’t nearly as good at getting to the quarterback.
Im unsure if Stroud can post a repeat performance, but he should score enough to keep this game within 10. Hell have to, considering Houstons rush game is pathetic.
Houstons defense is bad, but I surprisingly like this matchup for them.
The Ravens are a rush-first attack, ranking first in the NFL in rush rate (50.3%).
They ground and pound every opponent in their way, ranking third in EPA per Rush and first in Rush Offense DVOA.
C.J. Stroud #7 of the Houston Texans looks to pass as he warms up prior to an NFL wild-card playoff football game between the Houston Texans and the Cleveland Browns. Getty ImagesOnly the Bears had more rushing yards this season than Baltimores 2,720.
And theyll be rushing directly into Houstons nasty defensive line.
Behind a front four that ranks second in Defensive Line Yards, the Texans ranked second in Rush Defense DVOA and first in Rush Success Rate allowed.
Only the Patriots posted a lower yards per carry allowed mark than Houstons 3.5.
Lamar Jackson must carry the Ravens to a cover with his arm.
He can do that, ranking top-10 in EPA per Dropback allowed and now battling a porous Texans secondary.
But its not what John Harbaugh wants to do, and if Baltimores rush game gets stuffed, it could throw off the Ravens game plan.
Ultimately, I think Stroud and Houstons defensive line will keep the Texans in this game for 60 minutes, and the explosive passing attack will keep the back door wide open again, I love betting big dogs that can score.
Throw in the trends angle, and Im taking the points with Stroud and Co.
Texans vs Ravens Pick: Texans +9 | Play to 7.5
Buccaneers vs. Lions Prediction
Buccaneers vs. Lions Odds: Lions -6, Over/Under 48.5
3 p.m. ET, Sunday, NBC
Im having too much trouble handicapping this one.
On the one hand, the Lions should bowl through a banged-up Buccaneers team that overperformed and beat down a fraudulent Eagles team in the Wildcard round.
Also, Jared Goff is a much better player in the comfy confines of the Ford Field Dome, and he could shred Tampas relatively lame-duck pass defense (22nd in EPA per Dropback allowed).
On the other, Baker Mayfield can keep the Bucs around by shredding Detroits porous secondary.
Baker is a borderline top-10 NFL quarterback by the metrics, has two elite wide receivers, and is battling a Detroit team that ranks bottom-seven in EPA per Dropback allowed and Pass Success Rate allowed.
The key for the Lions will be generating a pass rush against a hobbled, immobile Baker against Tampas oft-inconsistent front five.
Aidan Hutchison is a monster who generated over 100 pressures this year, and his matchup with right tackle Luke Goedeke will be the spreads deciding factor.
For what its worth, PFF graded Goedeke as the NFLs 29th-best pass-blocking tackle (out of 83).
Hes above average, but Hutch likely has the advantage.
Still, I dont have a good enough feel for this game to recommend a play.
If I had to, Id bet Lions and the Over, expecting a relatively high-scoring indoor shootout between two above-average quarterbacks and two horrific secondaries.
Buccaneers vs Lions Pick: Pass | Lean Lions -6 and Over 48.5
Chiefs vs. Bills Prediction
Chiefs vs. Bills Odds: Bills -2.5, Over/Under 45.5
6:30 p.m.Sunday, CBS
As a favorite or underdog of a field goal or less, Patrick Mahomes is 11-6-1 ATS in the regular season and 5-2 ATS in the postseason.
But hes never played a road playoff game before, and hes going to arguably the most hostile environment in the NFL Bills Mafia is nuts.
I love this Bills team. They were always good, just getting unlucky during the mid-season slump.
They finished second in the AFC in point differential (+140) and third in estimated DVOA wins (10.7).
Josh Allen is explosive on offense, and the defense is rock solid, especially in the secondary (seventh in EPA per Dropback allowed). The Bills are a good all-around football team.
The Chiefs have Mahomes, but they also have holes everywhere.
The receiving core is dreadful.
Even if Rashee Rice is coming into his own, everyone else drops the ball — the Chiefs lead the NFL in drops — and Travis Kelce is regressing with age.
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The pass defense has been good, but the rush defense has been among the leagues worst.
The Bills can move the ball on the ground with James Cook, ranking second in EPA per Rush and Rush Success Rate.
I have to bet the Bills here.
Theyre too good, home-field advantage will be key against Mahomes, and the Chiefs are still an inconsistent team that pieced together an up-and-down year remember, they lost five of eight between October 29 and Christmas.
Also, the Chiefs might be overvalued after the Wildcard win over Miami. The warm-weather Dolphins didnt stand a chance in historically chilly temperatures.
They were doomed from the start, which doesnt make Kansas City a juggernaut again.
Chiefs vs. Bills pick: Bills -2.5 | Playable at number
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