Bleacher Report's Expert NFL Divisional Round Picks & Predictions

NFL StaffContributor IJanuary 15, 2021

Bleacher Report's Expert NFL Divisional Round Picks & Predictions

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    On the last four NFL Wild Card Weekends, favorites have gone just 3-15 against the spread. But the divisional round is a whole different ballgame. On the last two weekends of Divisional Playoff action, favorites have gone 6-2 ATS

    That might have something to do with the fact teams benefit greatly from home-field advantage on two weeks' rest, but this year, that only applies to the top-seeded team in each conference. 

    Bleacher Report NFL correspondents Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski went 3-2-1 ATS with their consensus selections in the Wild Card Round, with Sobleski leading the way individually at 4-1-1. It's appropriate that their first selection this week is a unanimous call in favor of a home team coming off a first-round bye. But beyond that, it all goes haywire. 

    Here's where the crew lands on all four games. 

                       

    Lines are from DraftKings as of Thursday, Jan. 14, at noon ET. Check DraftKings for the latest odds info. Information on public betting trends courtesy of the Action Network.

No. 6 Los Angeles Rams (11-6) at No. 1 Green Bay Packers (13-3)

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    Scott Eklund/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET

    Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay

    TV: Fox

    Referee: Ron Torbert

    LineGreen Bay -6.5

    Fans in attendance: 6,000

    Los Angeles Rams injuries to watch: All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald is dealing with a rib injury, but he'll be in the lineup. There's also uncertainty about the severity of Jared Goff's thumb injury (which he played with last week), while wide receiver Cooper Kupp is hampered by a knee injury. 

    Green Bay Packers injuries to watch: The Packers' primary injury focus will be adapting to life without stalwart left tackle David Bakhtiari, who suffered a season-ending knee injury prior to Week 17. Other key players Za'Darius Smith (ankle, thumb), Kevin King (Achilles), Allen Lazard (core, wrist), Equanimeous St. Brown (knee, ankle) and Rick Wagner (knee) are banged up but have been able to practice in limited fashion. 

    Key Rams stat: The Rams surrendered a league-low 18.5 points per game during the regular season, with that mark dropping to 14.6 in their last five games. 

    Keys Packers stat: The Packers scored a league-high 31.8 points per game during the regular season, and they've committed just one offensive turnover in their last six games (all wins). 

The Pick: Green Bay -6.5

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    Davenport: The underdogs are at least somewhat appealing here, if only because the Rams have the kind of defense that can keep them in games. But the Packers are playing as efficiently on offense as any team in the league, and the confidence level in the Los Angeles offense with a banged-up Jared Goff and Cooper Kupp isn't high. Add in that this game will be played on the frozen tundra at Lambeau Field, and the Pack are going to cruise into hosting their first NFC title game of the Aaron Rodgers era.

    Packers 27, Rams 13

           

    Sobleski: The Rams defense is good. Really good. But Aaron Rodgers will almost certainly be named the league's MVP and Davante Adams is a different type of receiver than DK Metcalf, who Jalen Ramsey shut down three times this season. Plus, Aaron Donald probably won't be at full strength.

    Packers 27, Rams 17

         

    Gagnon: The Rams' injuries didn't get to them against an extremely flawed Seattle Seahawks team in the Wild Card Round, but the Packers are coming off two weeks' rest and playing at an entirely different level. Green Bay has won its last four home games by an average margin of 16.0 points per outing. And while hot Rams back Cam Akers could give his team a chance against a vulnerable run defense, that unit showed signs of improvement down the stretch and did a great job against David Montgomery in Week 17. I'd need to get more than a touchdown to take Los Angeles. 

    Packers 28, Rams 21

            

    Consensus ATS pick: Green Bay -6.5

    Consensus score prediction: Packers 27-17

No. 5 Baltimore Ravens (12-5) at No. 2 Buffalo Bills (14-3)

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET

    Where: Bills Stadium, Orchard Park, New York

    TV: NBC

    Referee: Carl Cheffers

    Line: Buffalo -2.5

    Fans in attendance: 6,700

    Baltimore Ravens injuries to watch: The Ravens are extremely healthy considering it's the middle of January, but starting defenders Matthew Judon (illness) and Marcus Peters (back) missed practice time this week. The latter is questionable, but expect both to suit up. 

    Buffalo Bills injuries to watch: Wide receivers Cole Beasley (knee) and Stefon Diggs (oblique) were again limited in practice this week, but both played despite dealing with those injuries on Wild Card Weekend. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (hamstring) was also limited at times this week but doesn't have an injury designation. Buffalo will be really healthy. 

    Key Ravens stat: While the focus is understandably on Baltimore's dynamic, high-scoring offense, the Ravens have somewhat quietly allowed 14 or fewer points in four consecutive games and fewer than 20 in six of their last seven. The schedule hasn't been tough, but you can't control who you play, and they shut down Derrick Henry and the hot Tennessee Titans offense last week. They haven't lost since Week 12.

    Keys Bills stat: In his last four games, Bills breakout quarterback Josh Allen has thrown 11 touchdown passes to one interception for a passer rating of 124.2, with Buffalo scoring at least 27 points in each of those outings. 

The Pick: Baltimore +2.5

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    Davenport: This is easily the hardest game of the week to handicap, but at the end of the day it comes down to the two defenses for me. Buffalo has admittedly been great offensively this season, but Baltimore's defense is as stout as any in the AFC—the Ravens allowed well under 100 total yards over the final three quarters of last week's win over the Titans. The Bills aren't bad defensively, but they aren't great either—14th in yards allowed and 16th in points allowed. The Ravens are the better bet to be able to move the ball consistently in this game, and that sets them up to win a close one and advance to the AFC Championship Game.

    Ravens 24, Bills 21

           

    Sobleski: Only six teams allowed more yards per carry during the regular season than the Bills. Normally, the stat doesn't play a huge role since the Bills can build a lead with an explosive offensive attack. But the Ravens are different as the league's top ground game. Baltimore creates chunk plays through its run-dominant system, which should allow the Ravens to control the game to some degree.

    Ravens 34, Bills 31

         

    Gagnon: If not for Kyler Murray's Hail Mary against Buffalo in Week 10, the Bills would be riding an 11-game winning streak. They shouldn't be giving up points at home, regardless of how hot the Ravens are. And yeah, Lamar Jackson got that playoff monkey off his back. He could certainly tear up any defense right now, but the Bills limited him to 40 yards when these two met during Jackson's MVP 2019 campaign. That might not happen again, but Buffalo has enough defensive talent to keep this close while Josh Allen—who also should have more confidence following his first playoff win—carries the Bills to close win. 

    Bills 27, Ravens 24

            

    Consensus ATS pick: Baltimore +2.5

    Consensus score Prediction: Ravens 28, Bills 27

No. 6 Cleveland Browns (12-5) at No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs (14-2)

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    When: Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET

    Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City

    TV: CBS

    Referee: Clay Martin

    Line: Kansas City -10

    Fans in attendance: 16,000

    Cleveland Browns injuries to watch: The good news for the Browns is head coach Kevin Stefanski is healthy and back at the team facility; top cornerback Denzel Ward, fellow corner Kevin Johnson and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge have come off the reserve/COVID-19 list; and they should also get veteran guard Joel Bitonio back from that as well. But it's fair to wonder what kind of condition they'll be in, and now starting right tackle Jack Conklin (hamstring, knee) is a question mark. 

    Kansas City Chiefs injuries to watch: The Chiefs have benefited from a long stretch off. They might get top back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle, hip) back, but they're still without right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Corner Rashad Fenton (foot, ankle), linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (ankle) and frequent playoff producer Sammy Watkins (calf) have all missed practice time this week. 

    Key Browns stat: Cleveland's third-ranked running game is rated seventh in terms of DVOA, while Kansas City's run defense ranks 31st in that metric. 

    Keys Chiefs stat: Kansas City has won 23 of its last 24 games with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, but each of the last seven have come by six or fewer points. 

The Pick: Cleveland +10

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    Justin Berl/Associated Press

    Gagnon: Including the playoffs (and last year's Super Bowl), Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is 25-5 in his career following a bye week. In this case, he'll have benefited from basically three weeks off, but he didn't know his opponent for this game until the Browns beat the Steelers on Sunday night. I still think he and Patrick Mahomes win this one, but the Browns look inspired with nothing to lose and should be in better shape this week than they were against Pittsburgh. Look for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to perform well against that beatable run defense as Cleveland hangs around. 

    Chiefs 30, Browns 24

         

    Davenport: Per Hank Goldberg of Sportsline, over his last three games, Mahomes has completed just 59.2 percent of his passes, thrown seven touchdowns and four interceptions and has a passer rating of 87.6. The Chiefs haven't won a game by double digits since Week 8. And the Browns should have success running the ball against a Kansas City defense that allowed 4.5 yards per carry in the regular season. Kansas City's starters haven't played since Week 16 either, so the Chiefs could come out rusty. That's going to open the door for Cleveland to build an early lead (not like last week's, but still), and the Browns will ride Chubb and Hunt to the biggest postseason upset in recent memory. Do you believe in miracles?

    Browns 31, Chiefs 30

         

    Sobleski: The Browns shocked the world with their impressive victory Sunday against the Steelers. However, Cleveland's secondary is poor. Sure, Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson have been taken off the COVID-19 list. What type of shape will they be in to cover Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman? Those names don't even include all-world tight end Travis Kelce. A shootout is the only way the Browns can win and they don't have quite the same offensive firepower.

    Chiefs 35, Browns 17

            

    Consensus ATS pick: Cleveland +6.5

    Consensus score Prediction: Chiefs 30, Browns 24

No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5) at No. 2 New Orleans Saints (13-4)

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    When: Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET

    Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

    TV: Fox

    Referee: Shawn Hochuli

    Line: New Orleans -3

    Fans in attendance: 3,000

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers injuries to watch: Guard Alex Kappa suffered a fractured ankle last week, forcing the Bucs to move the inexperienced Aaron Stinnie into the starting lineup. Star wide receivers Mike Evans (knee) and Chris Godwin (hip, quadricep) were limited in practice but should be good to go, as should top corner Carlton Davis (groin). There's less certainty about top rusher Ronald Jones II, who is fighting to return from a quad injury. 

    New Orleans Saints injuries to watch: Quarterback Taysom Hill (knee), running back Latavius Murray (quadricep) and cornerback Patrick Robinson (hamstring) missed practice time to start the week, but all of them suited up last week with those injuries. Beyond that, the Saints might get top sack man Trey Hendrickson back from a neck injury after the edge defender returned to practice on a limited basis to start the week. 

    Key Buccaneers stat: In his last five games, 43-year-old Bucs quarterback Tom Brady has 14 touchdown passes to one interception and a 126.9 passer rating. Tampa Bay has averaged 35.8 points per game during that winning streak. 

    Keys Saints stat: The New Orleans defense has surrendered a grand total of 16 points the last two weeks. That same unit held the Bucs to just three points on the road in November. 

The Pick: New Orleans -3

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    Brett Duke/Associated Press

    Davenport: This third meeting between the Drew Brees-led Saints and the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers will be closer than the last one, but after watching New Orleans destroy the Buccaneers 38-3 in Tampa in Week 9, it's hard to get on board with the road team here. The Saints also downed the Bucs in the season opener, in no small part because the Buccaneers had turnover issues in both meetings. The Saints are the more balanced team, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas are healthy, and I'm not giving up just yet on my preseason Super Bowl pick in the NFC.

    Saints 31, Buccaneers 27

           

    Sobleski: As The Athletic's Greg Auman noted, 14 of the 21 teams that swept their rival during the regular season also beat them during a playoff meeting. The Saints have Brees back at full health, enough weapons on offense to offset the Buccaneers' sixth-ranked defense and a good enough defense in their own right to slow Brady and Tampa Bay's offense.

    Saints 28, Buccaneers 24

         

    Gagnon: I hate to do this, but I think the Saints winning by a field goal at home is by far the most likely outcome here, so I'm essentially suggesting you avoid this one. Picking the Bucs is too risky considering how much trouble they've had with the Saints, who are finally pretty healthy. So without an option to predict a push, I'd back New Orleans. But for all intents and purposes, I'm predicting a push in this spot.

    Saints 34, Buccaneers 31

            

    Consensus ATS pick: New Orleans -3

    Consensus score Prediction: Saints 31, Buccaneers 27

         

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