Top Picks for NFL Divisional Playoff Round Sunday

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The Divisional Playoffs weekend has arrived in the NFL. Six teams remain alive in the hunt for Super Bowl LV after Saturday’s two games. Everywhere you turn, there are factors to be considered, opportunities for bets to be placed and money to be made.

Sunday’s most intriguing matchup will come in the late game when six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on another legendary quarterback in Dree Brees and the Saints in New Orleans. The early game will feature its own showdown of two considerably younger quarterbacks in Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield.

Here are the breakdowns and best bets available for this Sunday’s two Divisional Round games, as the No. 6 seed Browns take on the top seed in the NFC, the Chiefs; and Tampa Bay, the No. 5 seed in the NFC behind the seemingly ageless Brady, takes on another ageless wonder in Brees and the No. 2 Saints. All odds provided by MyBookie.

3:05 p.m. ET – No. 6 Cleveland at No. 1 Kansas City (-9.5) O/U: 57

Teams Spread Money Line Total Points
Cleveland Browns +10 (-120) +370 O 57½ (-115)
Kansas City Chiefs -10 (+100) -500 U 57½ (-105)

The Browns secured their first playoff win since 1994 last Sunday night with a 48-37 triumph in Pittsburgh. Cleveland jumped out to a 28-point lead in the first quarter and was able to keep the Steelers at stiff-arm’s length the rest of the evening. The Chiefs, meanwhile, finished their regular season resting their starters against Los Angeles in a meaningless 38-21 defeat two weeks ago. Interestingly, taking week 17 out of the equation, the Chiefs have not won a game by more than one score since Week 8.

Cleveland’s path to victory is much easier said than done. The Browns will have to utilize their rushing attack, which ranks third in the NFL with 148.4 yards on the ground per game. Kansas City has been known to fall behind early in games this season and the Browns will need to exploit that one weakness by grabbing an early lead and draining the clock with long, methodical drives. The Chiefs’ rush defense allows 122.1 yards per game on the ground, ranking 21st in the NFL. The 49ers ran the ball all over the Chiefs in the Super Bowl last season to get out to an early lead and expect the Browns to try and follow that blueprint.

The only way to defeat Patrick Mahomes and the electric Kansas City offense is to keep them off the field.

While betting the Over is tempting, Cleveland simply does not have the consistent offensive firepower that Kansas City possesses and can ill afford to get into a high-scoring shootout like the one it ultimately did in its wild-card win over Pittsburgh. Thus, the Over/Under is difficult to predict in this one. If the Chiefs get up early, the game will go Over with the Browns being forced to get aggressive in the passing game. But if the Browns can find a way to get up early and follow their blueprint of running the ball and the clock, the Over is no lock.

There are better better options. With the Chiefs rarely routing teams this regular season, 9.5 points is far too many to give a competent Browns’ team that will attempt to limit the number of Chiefs’ possessions. So the play is to take Cleveland and the points. The next-best plays for this game are the Overs on Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce’s receptions and receiving yards. The Cleveland linebackers are not going to be able to hold Kelce down. Plus the Browns’ secondary will be busy all day long trying to prevent, or at least limit, the number of home-run balls Mahomes and his wide receivers, particular the explosive Tyreek Hill, connect with down the field. According to BetOnline, Kelce is +100 to register 111+ receiving yards. And if you’re feeling really frisky, take a flyer on Kelce to rake in 9+ receptions (+216).

The Bets
Cleveland +10
-115
Travis Kelce Over Receptions/Receiving Yards
+216

6:40 p.m. ET – No. 5 Tampa Bay at No. 2 New Orleans (-3) O/U: 52

Teams Spread Money Line Total Points
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3 (-105) +135 O 52 (-110)
New Orleans Saints -3 (-115) -165 U 52 (-110)

Tampa Bay defeated Washington on the road last Saturday 31-23 to advance to play New Orleans for the third time this season. The Saints defeated the Bears 21-9 last Sunday, making easy work of an inept Chicago offense. The second regular-season matchup between these teams featured a 38-3 rout at the hands of the Saints. Per NBC Sports, since 1990 when one team has defeated another twice in the regular season and met them again in the playoffs, a clean 3-0 sweep has been the result in 13 of those 17 instances. In the same matchups occurring in the Divisional Round or later, the two-time winner completed the sweep on five of those six occasions.

So do Brady and the Buccaneers even have a shot? Despite history being against the Bucs, they have hit their stride in the second half of the season, winning their last five games. Wide receiver Antonio Brown has become a legitimate weapon in an already formidable Tampa Bay receiving corps, allowing the offense to reach the potential that was thought possible when they signed Brown back in Week 8. With additional weapons like fellow wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, plus long-time Brady target favorite Rob Gronkowski at tight end, the Bucs might have a shot at covering (+3).

But it is wise to avoid the Bucs’ player props as Brady will likely spread the ball around, making their stats hard to predict.

New Orleans has quarterback Drew Brees back after he missed time earlier in the season with 11 fractured ribs and a collapsed lung. But questions remain surrounding his ability to expose defenses with the deep ball. The Saints will need running back Alvin Kamara to carry the brunt of the offense by catching short Brees passes and running the football. Expect Kamara to cash his Over receptions prop early in this one as the offense relies heavily on his receiving ability.

When it comes to determining the outcome of this one, New Orleans’ defense will play a greater role than Brees and the offense. The Saints rank in the top five in the NFL in scoring, rushing and passing defense. The Saints’ defense will make Tampa Bay one-dimensional and they are far too talented to be beaten through the air if they know it is coming. Take the Saints to win this game by a touchdown in a low-scoring affair that should also make the Under of 52 hit.

The Bets
Saints -3
-115
UNDER 52
-110
Joe Menzer / Author

Joe is an award-winning writer and editor who has covered the NBA, NFL, NASCAR, golf, various collegiate athletics and other sports for newspapers, Turner Sports, Fox Sports and ESPN. He has been on the beat for seven Super Bowls, six Daytona 500s and numerous NBA playoff series and All-Star Games. He once was dispatched to Rome, Italy to spend time with an NBA draft choice who opted to play overseas, after which he produced an award-winning series of stories. He also is passionate about fantasy sports and breaking down games in ways that even novice gamblers can use to make their most intelligent wagering decisions.