The Divisional Playoffs weekend has arrived in the NFL. Eight teams remain alive in the hunt for Super Bowl LV, including four wild-card teams and four division winners.
It is an exciting time, with legendary but aging quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Drew Brees and likely 2020 NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers in action, as well as young bucks such as recent MVPs Pat Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield.
There is intrigue with injuries, such as the one to the thumb on the throwing hand of Jared Goff, another young QB to watch only if we’ll be watching to see if he can accurately throw the football with any kind of consistency for the Los Angeles Rams vs. Rodgers and the top-seeded Green Bay Packers. The Rams also enter the weekend with at least some mild injury concerns about their top defensive player, the dynamic defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Here are the breakdowns and best bets available for this Saturday’s two Divisional Round games, as the No. 6 seed Rams take on the top seed in the NFC, the Packers; and Baltimore, the No. 5 seed in the AFC behind the rejuvenated Jackson, looks to keep its six-game winning streak alive with a trip up north to No. 2 seed Buffalo, led by Allen. All odds provided by MyBookie.
4:35 p.m. ET – No. 6 Los Angeles at No. 1 Green Bay (-7) O/U: 45.5
|Teams||Spread||Money Line||Total Points|
|Los Angeles Rams||+7(-115)||+260||O 45½ (-115)|
|Green Bay Packers||-7 (-105)||-320||U 45½ (-105)|
Breaking Down the Rams
The Rams upset NFC West division rival Seattle 30-20 last Sunday to earn a crack at the best the NFC has to offer in the Packers. Against the Seahawks, Los Angeles started undrafted quarterback John Wolford, whose day was cut short on its second drive of the game due to a neck injury sustained on a hit delivered by safety Jamal Adams. Wolford was briefly sent to hospital, and his availability for this Divisional Round showdown is unknown. But Wolford was relieved vs. Seattle by Goff, the Rams usual starting quarterback, and all signs point to Goff getting the nod again despite undergoing surgery on a broken thumb on his throwing hand back on Dec. 28.
Goff was satisfactory against Seattle and nothing more, completing 9 of his 19 pass attempts for 155 yards and one touchdown. Another factor to consider in the Los Angeles passing game is the status of leading receiver Cooper Kupp, who exited last Saturday’s game in the fourth quarter and has been dealing with bursitis in his knee. While he is expected to play against the Packers,, the fact that he did not practice leading up to this game and his recent injury woes has cast uncertainty over how effective Goff’s favorite target will be.
They obviously will need another big ground game anchored by Akers to have a shot at pulling off the road upset Saturday. Per BetOnline, Akers is +117 to rush for 96+ yards and +137 to rush for 106+. Both seem like safe bets. If you want to get really crazy, if you think Akers has another huge game in him despite the fact that Green Bay is likely to load the box against him, he’s +225 to rush for 126+ yards and +300 to rush for 136+. At +700 to score the game’s first touchdown, Akers also might be worth a look.
The Rams’ defense is the team’s real strength anyway. It was able to hold Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson in check last Sunday, holding him to 174 yards through the air on only 11 completions. The leader of the Los Angeles defense is undoubtedly Donald, who is in line to possibly be names the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year for a third time. Donald will play, and in fact told reporters he is experiencing no pain after suffering an apparently very painful injury to his ribs vs. Seattle. But it will be worth keeping an eye on to see if he is as effective as usual, which will be a key in the Rams’ ability to get after Green Bay’s Rodgers and possible harass the veteran QB into an uncharacteristic mistake.The Rams’ defense held opponents to a league-low 18.5 points per game in the regular season.
Breaking Down the Packers
Green Bay finished its regular season campaign with 13 wins and earned the right to host the path to Super Bowl LV on “The Frozen Tundra” of legendary Lambeau Field. Behind the arm of MVP favorite Rodgers, the Packers’ explosive offense led the NFL in points per game by averaging a staggering 31.8 points per game. So his game features a matchup between the league’s top scoring offense in Green Bay and the league’s stingiest defense in Los Angeles. The Rams’ defense held opponents to only 18.5 points per game in the regular season.
On the surface, Green Bay seems to be all about Rodgers. His 48 touchdowns passes led the NFL (against only five interceptions), as did his .707 pass-completion percentage. But Mr. Rodgers is surrounded by all kinds of talent in his potent offensive neighborhood, led by wide receiver Dante Adams (league-leading 18 touchdown catches on 115 receptions and 1,374 receiving yards despite missing two games). He also has a very capable running back in Aaron Jones, an emerging star at tight end in Robert Tonyan and others. Per BetOnline, there are some interesting prop bets to consider here: Rodgers is +114 to throw three or more TD passes, and Adams is +450 to score the game’s first touchdown.
The Packers’ defense has been middle of the road at stopping the run all season and it’s obvious that the Rams will try and exploit that to limit the number of possessions in the game to keep Rodgers off the field as much as possible. Even so, it looks like it will be virtually impossible to keep the Green Bay offense completely silent for the entire game.
The bottom line on the Rams vs. Packers
The Rams will not light up the scoreboard, and their head coach Sean McVay knows that. Expect McVay to try and make this game as ugly as possible, as the Rams’ only path to victory likely will be a 20-17 type of win. This game will be within the 7-point spread the entire game and with possessions at this much of a premium, the side to back is the underdog. Green Bay will advance to the conference championship, but it will not look pretty. It is more likely to be closer than the oddsmakers think and low-scoring.
The Rams are going to try to run the ball and keep Rodgers off the field as much as possible. Despite the potential explosiveness of the vaunted Green Bay offense, that makes the Under of 45.5 points a great bet, especially when considering that the Rams also boast the top pass defense in the NFL, allowing only 190.7 yards per game.
8:15 p.m. ET- No.5 Baltimore at No. 2 Buffalo (-2.5) O/U: 50.5
|Teams||Spread||Money Line||Total Points|
|Baltimore Ravens||+2½ (+100)||+125||O 49½ (-110)|
|Buffalo Bills||-2½ (-120)||-145||U 49½ (-110)|
Breaking Down the Ravens
Baltimore was able to advance past the wild-card round courtesy of a 20-13 win against AFC South champion Tennessee on the road last Sunday The Ravens fell down 10-0 early, which may not seem like much but Jackson was 0-6 as a starter when the Ravens fell behind double digits before last week. The game displayed the maturity of the Ravens and Jackson, as they never panicked and were able to control the rest of the game and secure the 7-point road win.
It turned when he crafted a nifty 48-yard TD run in the second quarter, which again reminded everyone that he is more dangerous with his legs than his arm. And he is not the only member of the Baltimore offense who can get it done on the ground. Thanks to Jackson and the running back tandem of emerging star J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, the Ravens boast the top rushing offense in the NFL. Per BetOnline, Dobbins at +100 to rush for 72 yard or more and Edwards at +108 to rush for a mere 48 or more seem to be solid prop plays. Jackson’s odds on rushing yards are not as attractive.
Breaking Down the Bills
Buffalo won its first playoff game since 1995 last Saturday, defeating the No. 7 seed Colts 27-24. Josh Allen connected to Stefon Diggs for a 35-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to give the Bills a seemingly comfortable 24-10 lead. While the Bills did hold on to win, the rest of the game was spent on their heels as the Colts stormed all the way back and had a possible a game-winning Hail Mary chance as time expired.
Allen was phenomenal for the Bills, as he has been pretty much all year. He totaled 324 yards passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions to go along with 54 yards rushing against the Colts. He obviously is the motor that revs the Buffalo offense. He has size and stands tall in the pocket, and has developed a better feel for when and if it is collapsing around him. Slowing him will be a key if the Ravens are to pull an upset on the road. Like Jackson (well, no one is quite like Jackson), Allen can run effectively if plays break down. That makes him an attractive prop bet at +750 to score the game’s first touchdown (courtesy of BetOnline).
While the Ravens own the top rushing offense in the NFL, the Bills rank third best in total passing offense. Both teams have elite offenses, ranking in the top seen in points per game this season. However, this game likely will be decided by what the defenses bring to the table, or do not bring to the table in Buffalo’s case. Buffalo’s defense vs. the rush is ranked a pedestrian 17th in the NFL, allowing 119.6 yards per game. For a team that won 13 games and was primarily winning those games in blowout fashion largely because of their explosive passing ofense, that is a glaring issue and one of concern heading into a contest against a team like the Ravens that has proven it can run the ball effectively. Although the Bills led Indianapolis for the entire second half last week, the Colts were still able to rush for 163 yards in the game.
The bottom line on Ravens vs. Bills
The Ravens have a one-dimensional offense, but that will not be an issue if that one dimension exploits a big enough weakness to win them the game. Buffalo also has a one-dimensional offense, ranking 20th in rushing yards per game. The difference in their matchup is that the Ravens rank sixth in passing yards allowed per game. The Bills will have to beat Baltimore at what its defense does well, while Baltimore has to only beat Buffalo’s biggest weakness. The Over/Under totals for this game should be avoided because Baltimore can bring this game Over with explosive runs or drag this game Under with long, methodical drives. The bet is to take the Ravens to run all over the Bills and secure their first AFC championship appearance of the Lamar Jackson era.