A Preview of This Weekend’s NFL Divisional Playoff Games

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Saturday, 4:35 (NBC). Vikings at 49ers (-7)

This game is not one that I would feel comfortable betting on. There are a lot of unknowns in this game. 

Yes, Kirk Cousins got the playoff monkey off his back, but how do we know that his newly found playoff mojo will continue? We don’t, and this next test against San Francisco and their 3rd ranked defense will be tougher than the last. Minnesota also has a distinct match-up disadvantage in the trenches. Their offensive line is likely to struggle with the Niners’ stout defensive line. 

On the other side, can we be so sure that Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners’ offense won’t have their own struggles? The answer is no. Minnesota’s defense came to play against the Saints. This will be Jimmy G’s first playoff action that doesn’t involve holding a clipboard for Tom Brady. Jimmy is in a QB-friendly system with some nice weapons and a strong run game. If he takes care of the ball, San Francisco will win.

I predict an ugly, physical game. San Fran wins, 20-14.

Saturday, 8:15 (CBS). Titans at Ravens (-10)

This spread seems crazy to me with how well Tennessee has played since Ryan Tannehill has taken over at quarterback. Tennessee has been consistently undervalued. They’re 6-2 against the spread in their last 8. The Titans seem like the obvious play here from a gambling standpoint.

Last week, the Titans may have ended the Patriots dynasty for good. Astonishingly, they were able to win with Ryan Tannehill throwing for 72 yards. This bodes well for them going forward.

Baltimore has been flat out dominant at times this year. Lamar Jackson has taken a giant leap forward as a quarterback in his second year, and will win MVP. This offense has been unstoppable at times. Jackson’s accuracy has been the knock against him in the past, and that is no longer the case, as he completed 66.1% of his passes this season.

So how do you neutralize Lamar Jackson? Keep him off the field. Derrick Henry is that dude who can help Tennessee do just that. He carried the Titans on his back last week, and he will have to do it again. Tannehill will have to be a bigger factor this week.

This game will be closer than everyone expects it to be. I like Baltimore in a slugfest, 24-21.

Sunday, 3:05 (CBS). Texans at Chiefs (-10).

Once again, this spread seems high. I would have expected something closer to a touchdown. Perhaps it has more to do with the fact that this game will likely be a shootout, and 10 isn’t really a blowout in a high scoring games. 

While the Texans pulled a rabbit out of a hat last week against the Bills, Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense won’t have the luxury of playing a mediocre offense like the Bills. You can’t beat a team like the Chiefs without bringing it from start to finish. If the Texans have a repeat of last week’s first half performance, this game will be over quick.The Texans offense at times is exciting and dynamic, but they have their prolonged slumps as well like we saw in the first half last week. The Chiefs offense is not as vulnerable to those lulls.

Houston won the regular season meeting between these two teams (also at Arrowhead), so that’ll definitely give them added confidence.

Since that meeting, the Chiefs’ defense has improved. The offense has been very good, but has regressed to the mean. Patrick Mahomes’ ankle injury was likely a factor in that regression, but it seems as though he is nearing 100%, bad news for opposing defenses.

I like the Chiefs, 34-24.

Sunday, 6:40 (FOX). Seahawks at Packers (-4.5).

This game has the smallest spread of any of the divisional games, and not surprisingly, it’s the most difficult one to pick. The Packers are not your typical 13-3 team, and the Seahawks aren’t the typical 11-5 team. Both teams have played tons of close games all year.

This Packers team isn’t like the Packers that we’ve become accustomed to. We’re so used to Aaron Rodgers doing Aaron Rodgers things, and winning 35-31 games. Rodgers’ play has declined in 2019, but the running game and defense have picked him up. For the first time in a long time, Green Bay has a top-10 scoring defense. Aaron Jones has emerged as one of the league’s better running backs as well. This team seems to be better equipped for cold, Lambeau Field in January-kind of football than in years past. The fact that they’re doing it without Rodgers being an MVP-caliber quarterback is bewildering.

As I said in last week’s preview, the Seahawks outscored opponents by less than 1 point per game during the regular season. They didn’t exactly dominate an injury-riddled Eagles team either. As they have all year, they make the necessary plays when they have to, and unlike past Seahawks teams, are better on the road than at home. This defense has been below average this year. However, they are pretty damn good when they knock your team’s STARTING FUCKING QUARTERBACK OUT AND DON’T GET PENALIZED!!! GODDAMMIT!!! Whew, got a little carried away there.

No hot take here, I see this being really close. I’ll take Green Bay’s superior defense and running game. 24-20, Pack.

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