And then there were eight.
The NFL divisional round gets underway with two games Saturday and two more Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers enter the fold after their first-round byes, Lamar Jackson squares off with Josh Allen and how about that Sunday nightcap with Tom Brady against Drew Brees? Inject it all straight into my veins.
Let’s go to work.
Rams at Packers (-6.5, 45.5)
Rams team total Under 19.5 (-110)
Talk about the worst-case scenario for the Los Angeles Rams. Starting quarterback Jared Goff and his dislocated throwing thumb head to the Frozen Tundra to play the Packers in 30-degree Green Bay. Yikes.
The Rams’ struggles in cold weather have been well chronicled, and I think they’re really going to struggle to move the football against a Green Bay defense that has improved immensely over the last two months. For all the talk about Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, the Pack have allowed 16, 24, 16, 14 and 16 points in their last five games.
There’s a reason this point total is set at 45.5 — bookmakers know LA is offensively limited and that it wants no part of a track meet against Rodgers. The final scores that keep calibrating in my head are in the area of 27-13 or 24-17 Green Bay. Go Under 19.5 Rams points.
Ravens at Bills (-3, 49.5)
Ravens +3 (-115)
Buffalo has been the public darling this season and the song remains the same this weekend. One Vegas bookmaker told me that 70 percent of the betting slips at his shop have been written on the Bills laying the points. That’s certainly not the end-all, be-all, but the disrespect for Baltimore continues to show.
Ironically enough, the Ravens are cooking with gas — they’ve won six straight and covered seven straight. John Harbaugh’s bunch has found its stride, and momentum is a dangerous thing in the postseason.
Last week, Buffalo allowed Indianapolis to move the ball at will (472 total yards) and was truly lucky to get out of that game alive. A rejuvenated Lamar Jackson and that strong Ravens running attack will open up everything in play-action and read options. Plus, you get the better defense catching points. I like Baltimore to win outright and advance to the AFC Championship Game.
Buccaneers at Saints (-3, 52)
Saints -3 (-110)
If one more person says Tom Brady can’t lose three times to the Saints, I’ll like this pick even more. Since 1970, NFL teams that beat an opponent twice and meet again in the playoffs are 14-7 in that third meeting. So much for that narrative.
Bettors love to bet on Brady and that’s no different in this matchup. Tampa Bay’s offense has drastically improved over the last six weeks and Antonio Brown has provided much-needed balance. But I believe in the Saints’ defense and its ability to apply pressure.
Let’s not forget that New Orleans is rounding into form on offense, too, with Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas all finally healthy. I’ll take the more complete team at home to win by a touchdown.
RECORD: (12-4-1, +7.7)