Divisional Round Best Bets: Will the Rams Upset the Bucs?
The NFL playoffs are underway, and you can find updated odds, lines, and predictions for the Divisional Round here. Four playoff games kick off this weekend, including some enticing entertainment options. The race for the Super Bowl starts here and here are the best bets for each game of the Divisional Round.
Divisional Round Best Bets
Cincinnati Bengals vs Tennessee Titans (-3.5)
I’m going against the impulses of my heart and rolling with the Tennessee Titans as a 3.5 point home favorite. I mention the impulses of my heart because I’ve always been a sucker for teams that are fun to watch, and no doubt the Bengals are one of the best watches in the NFL. Between the quartet of Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase, you never know which play is going to be a big one and there’s a certain seductive quality about that I must remain cognizant of as an “objective” arbiter of NFL betting.
With the Bengals heading to Nashville this weekend to face a gritty Titans team, the objective truth here is that Tennessee has the advantage at the line of scrimmage. Coming off two weeks of rest, the Titans get back RB Derrick Henry — their bona fide MVP candidate who was on pace to break Eric Dickerson’s single season NFL rushing record before he went down with a foot injury in week 8. The Bengals, meanwhile, lost their top run defender in Larry Ogunjobi in last weekend’s game against the Raiders and may also be down their second best run defender in Trey Hendrickson who’s currently listed as questionable with a concussion. Cincinnati is going to have to put up points early in this one, otherwise, if Tennessee grabs an early lead, it’s going to be lots of Derrick Henry pounding the ball on all three downs. This Cincinnati offensive line is also the worst line left in the playoffs and Tennessee is good at getting to the quarterback — finishing the season 10th in total sacks. Not to mention the Bengals are coming off a big, emotional playoff win at home and having to follow it up with a road game against a rested team. The second Zac Taylor gave Saturday’s game ball to a local bar, I knew this one was over for the Bengals.
San Francisco 49ers (+6) vs Green Bay Packers
I like the 49ers here because of the mismatch between their rushing offense and the Packers’ rushing defense. The 49ers have one of the most unique run schemes in professional football that utilizes mobile offensive lineman, numerous end arounds, and frequent wide receiver packages with Deebo Samuel. Their ability to both get to the edge and play smash mouth football has posed problems for a number of otherwise good defenses and earned them the seventh highest rated rushing offense in the NFL. The Packers, meanwhile, were run all over by the two best rushing offenses they faced over the latter half of the season in Cleveland and Baltimore. Outside of the mediocre NFC North, they’ve only won 4 games by more than 6 points all season and they’ve given up 30 points or more to the Lions, Bears, Ravens, and Vikings over the last 8 weeks. The 49ers, meanwhile, lead all playoff teams in yards per play and red zone efficiency. I would wait a little bit on betting this line, however, as there’s some lingering uncertainty regarding injuries in this matchup. There’ve been chirpings that Jimmy G may be banged up and we’re still waiting to hear the verdict on Nick Bosa’s concussion evaluation. The Packers may also get Jaire Alexander and Za’Darius Smith back on defense, though their status likely won’t be known until game time.
Los Angeles Rams (+3) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Betting against Tom Brady in the playoffs is always scary but I’m on the Rams here for a few reasons. For one, their defensive line has an incredibly strong interior. If you look at Brady’s history, he’s struggled most against teams that are able to put pressure on him — the Giants in 2007 and 2012, the Ravens in 2009, the Broncos in 2014 and 2015. If you want to beat Brady, the key is slowing down the run game and forcing him to throw in the face of pressure — two things the Rams are capable of. The second big reason is that the Buccaneers are likely going to be without their starting right tackle Tristan Wirfs who hasn’t missed a game for the Bucs since he was drafted in 2020. For an offense that throws the ball more than anyone else, a healthy offensive line is going to be imperative against Aaron Donald, Von Miller, and Jalen Ramsey. Bucs starting center Ryan Jensen was also banged up in Sunday’s game against the Eagles. Finally, Matt Stafford and this Rams receiving core are going to be able to abuse the Tampa secondary. It wasn’t exposed against Philadelphia last week because Jalen Hurts isn’t a great passer and the Eagles have a bad receiving core, but the Rams could not be more different. They have arguably the best receiver in football in Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham continues to get better with this offense each week. Don’t be shocked if the Rams pull off the upset here. They have the healthier weapons across the board and the few requisite pieces needed to get the job done.
Buffalo Bills vs Kansas City Chiefs (-2)
We’re rolling with the Chiefs as 2 point home favorite on Sunday Night. The stock on both of these offenses has never been higher as each team is coming off a 40+ point performance against a strong defense. The Bills perfect game is undoubtedly the more impressive feat of the two but the Chiefs also scored 35 of their 42 points in 2 quarters. The big reasoning behind the Chiefs pick here, though, is that you’re getting Patrick Mahomes at home in a playoff game for less than a field goal. As great as the Bills defense has been this year, and they’ve been great, I don’t see them slowing down Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce — especially with the emergence of Jerick McKinnon and the Chiefs’ run game. I think the Tre’Davious White injury really comes back to bite the Bills here as having an extra corner will prove to be crucial. I love the over as well as I think both teams are going to be able to get their points. I predict this one is going to come down to who has the ball last, and more often than not I like the home team in these spots.