NFL Picks

NFL Playoff Picks: Divisional Round

NFL Playoff Picks

This season, I’ll be providing my picks every week for you, our readers. Last year, I was Gridiron’s top NFL Pick’em guru on Tallysight, going 167-99-1 (63%). We’re hoping to have even more success this year! Each week, I’ll give you my picks for the game, and a short write-up centered around the key reason why I’m making the pick that I am. You can also click over to see all our Free NFL picks for the week with more than a dozen Gridiron Experts picking each game.

And we’re off!

Los Angeles Rams @ Green Bay (-6.5) – Saturday, 4:35 PM ET

The Rams surprised many by knocking off the 3rd seeded Seahawks last weekend in Seattle. Their prize? A trip to frigid Green Bay to square off with Aaron Rodgers and the #1 seed Packers. Rodgers & Co. have been resting up for this battle, as they sat out Wild Card weekend with the NFC’s only Bye. Certainly, that Bye week will allow the Packers to be as healthy and prepared as possible. On the other hand, it looks like the Rams will be rolling with Jared Goff at quarterback, even though he came into last week as Los Angeles’ backup after having thumb surgery just a few short weeks before. When John Wolford left the Seattle game in the First Quarter, Sean McVay had to turn to Goff, and the injured QB was able to manage the game to Rams victory. Goff threw the ball only 19 times but did manage to add a touchdown. The Rams’ offense was paced by rookie RB Cam Akers, who added 176 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. Goff will likely need to throw more on Saturday in Green Bay, as the Packers tout the league’s highest-scoring offense (31.8 ppg). When he does, he’ll have WRs Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, one of the game’s most lethal combinations, to rely on. Rodgers has his own slew of weapons on his offense. It all starts with star WR Davante Adams, who averaged just under 100 yards per game and tallied 18 touchdowns in the regular season. On the ground, RB Aaron Jones has been stellar when healthy, adding 9 TDs of his own throughout the year. Rodgers’ 48 TD passes were the most in the NFL by a longshot, as the next closest player (Brad & Wilson) had 40. He’s playing some of the best football of his life right now, and it’s certainly coming at the right time. However, Rodgers will be challenged by one of the league’s best defenses. Unfortunately, star DT Aaron Donald was injured last weekend and has been missing practices so far this week. Should Donald miss Saturday’s showdown, it’d be a huge blow. But even if he’s limited, he’ll have a tough task against Green Bay’s stellar offensive line. At this point with injuries to Donald and Goff still looming, I’m not sure I have confidence that the Rams will pull this upset. Should Donald prove to be his normal self, we might see a different script. However, I don’t think Akers will exploit the Green Bay front as he did against Seattle, and I feel that the Packers will score too many points for McVay’s offense to keep up with. Give me Green Bay to roll at home. Packers 30-20.

Baltimore @ Buffalo (-2.5) – Saturday, 8:15 PM ET

Lamar Jackson is riding high after winning his first playoff game last weekend. He surely put his talent on display with an amazing rushing performance and led the Ravens to victory over the Titans. Jackson logged 136 yards and a score on the ground while adding 179 passing yards. While he did throw an interception, he was simply electric and willed his team to victory. On the other side, the Bills silenced any doubters, knocking off the dangerous Colts in Orchard Park. While Philip Rivers and Indy made a late run, the Bills held them off. Having some fans in the stands gave the Bills a spark and the connection between Josh Allen & Stefon Diggs was on display all afternoon. The duo combined for 128 yards and a TD, while Allen ended up tossing for 324 yards overall. Diggs is one of the NFL’s most dangerous weapons, as he led the league in receptions and yardage for WRs. As he has been all season, Allen remained a dual-threat as the team’s leading rusher, adding 54 yards and a TD on the afternoon. Baltimore’s defense has been stout this season, so Allen will have his work cut out for him on Saturday. With studs like Calais Campbell & Matthew Judon honing in on Allen every play, it might make things difficult for the QB on the rushing side. Buffalo also lost RB Zack Moss for the rest of the year, leaving Devin Singletary as the team’s only other quality option on the ground. Allen can certainly sling the ball to his receivers, though, so look for Brian Daboll’s offense to adapt as the game goes on. Jackson’s offense is also flush with weapons. JK Dobbins has burst onto the scene since he became the lead back for Baltimore, but he still has a very effective partner-in-crime in Gus Edwards. On the outside, Marquise Brown has flashed some brilliance (accounted for 109 of Jackson’s 179 passing yards on Sunday), and Mark Andrews is one of the league’s best Tight Ends. I think we’ll have a thriller in Orchard Park. But, in a close game late, I feel that Allen’s ability to throw the ball is what will separate him in this QB battle with Jackson. While Jackson is capable of taking over any game, I don’t have full confidence in his ability to lead a drive with no timeouts where he needs to throw to the sidelines and stop the clock. Give me Buffalo by a late field goal. Bills 29-26.

Cleveland @ Kansas City (-10) – Sunday, 3:05 PM ET

Cleveland impressed many with their upset of the Steelers. The Browns didn’t miss a beat with Head Coach Kevin Stefanski watching from home, and they put up 48 points on the league’s best defense on the road. Now, they’ll have to head to Kansas City to knock off the defending champions and keep their playoff hopes alive. After scoring 28 points in the first half, they put the game in cruise control and staved off Pittsburgh’s last-ditch effort to come back. Baker Mayfield notched 3 scores through the air, while Kareem Hunt scored twice on the ground to pace the Cleveland attack. Nick Chubb also notched 76 yards, completing this dynamic duo. Hunt and Chubb will need to be a focal point to give the Browns a chance in Kansas City. Should they hope to keep the game close, they’ll need this duo to have success on the ground and control the clock in the process. While I certainly respect Mayfield’s pedigree, things usually don’t go too well when teams try to challenge Patrick Mahomes in a shootout. Mahomes has been his usual, dominant self this year. He also has one of the most lethal sets of offensive weapons the league has ever seen. Travis Kelce was one of the league leaders in receiving yards, while speedster Tyreek Hill notched 1,276 yards and 15 touchdowns himself. With rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire returning to practice, the Chiefs will have yet another weapon at their disposal. While the Cinderella story in Cleveland is awesome to watch, I don’t think they have the horsepower to knock off the reigning Super Bowl champs just yet. While their offense can contend with the best of them, their defense just isn’t equipped to stop the likes of Mahomes, Hill, and Kelce. To have a chance here, the Browns need to get out to an early league and then control the clock. That’ll be no easy task with the Kansas City defensive front bearing down on Cleveland, led by stud DL Chris Jones. However, Kansas City’s offense can strike at any moment from anywhere on the field. Given that, and a quality defense to boot, I think the rested Kansas City squad will take this one comfortably. Chiefs 39-27.

Tampa Bay @ New Orleans (-3) – Sunday, 6:40 PM ET

Last week, Tampa Bay held off the Washington Football Team and unlikely starter Taylor Heinicke. New Orleans, on the other hand, dominated their contest with the Bears from end to end and prevailed 21-9. These teams have already met twice this season, with the Saints winning both games by multiple scores, including a 38-3 rout in Tampa Bay in early November. One of the most impressive improvements we’ve seen out of New Orleans is the quality of their defense. After starting the season a bit slow defensively, they rebounded to post the 5th lowest points allowed defensively in the whole league. Stars like Cameron Jordan, Malcolm Jenkins, and Demario Davis have led the way, but the team as a whole has come together and made things incredibly difficult for opposing offenses. The New Orleans offense is also flush with top-tier talent and a top-5 scoring offense. They’re led by Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees, and tout top 5 options at both the RB and WR positions. Michael Thomas, now healthy, is one of the league’s best receivers and made his mark against Chicago, catching a touchdown for the first time all season. RB Alvin Kamara, on the other hand, is no stranger to the end zone, scoring 21 times this year, including his historic 6-TD performance on Christmas Day. Tampa Bay is also quite potent on both sides of the ball, ranking 3rd in scoring offense, and 8th in points allowed. Tom Brady just continues to churn out elite performance, despite everyone anticipating he’ll slow down someday soon. Brady touts the best set of receivers he’s ever had in his career with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and the new kid on the block, Antonio Brown. In recent weeks, Brown has regained his All-Pro form. In his last 4 games, he’s tallied 315 yards and scored 5 (yes, 5) touchdowns. Not a bad 3rd WR option for the best quarterback of all-time. I see Round 3 of this showdown as an all-time classic, and a back-and-forth affair throughout. At the end of the day, I can’t see the legendary Tom Brady losing to a team 3 times in the same season. With his plethora of pass-catching weapons, and Brown playing as he used to in Pittsburgh, I think the Bucs can take this one on the road. My bet is on Ryan Succop hitting a last-second field goal to give Tampa the win. Buccaneers 31-30. 

Enjoy the games! Until next week…

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