After an interesting (and very busy) wild card weekend, the NFL playoff field has been trimmed down to eight remaining teams. The divisional round slate offers many angles for bettors, whether against the spread, on the moneyline, or on the over/under.
Every week, this column provides a detailed breakdown of our favorite bets, weaving in a preview of exclusive data from BetQL. This compilation serves as a mere sneak preview of all that BetQL offers. Check us out now to reveal our full betting predictions for every game of the divisional round, including projections and best bet ratings from our NFL Best Bet Model.
All data presented is as of Friday morning. You can track all NFL line movement on BetQL’s Line Movement Dashboard.
Divisional Round Betting Picks: Spread pick of the week
Los Angeles Rams (+6.5) at Green Bay Packers
When will people stop doubting the Rams? These guys just keep defying the odds in front of our eyes, and yet Vegas gives them a touchdown this weekend? Sign me up.
Los Angeles has the best defense in the league, led by one of the best pass-rushers in NFL history in Aaron Donald and elite cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Rams D can dominate every level of the field and make the life of an opposing quarterback a living nightmare.
Last I checked, Aaron Rodgers has a pretty poor track record in the playoffs against elite defensive units. That’s not to take away from his insanely impressive regular season, for which he will likely win AP Most Valuable Player honors. For the second time in his career, he finished the regular season with over 40 touchdowns and at least a 115.0 passer rating. Only three other QBs have done that, and all received MVPs during those seasons. According to NFL.com, he’s also the first QB in 10 years to lead the league in both metrics (48 passing TDs, 121.5 QB rating).
But as Rodgers knows all too well, regular season accolades don’t always translate into playoff success. Crazy things happen in the playoffs, and great game plans and defensive execution start to play larger parts in wins. He and Matt LaFleur are obviously jelling, but no D can stop a team dead in its tracks like the Rams.
Just look at what the Rams did against the Seahawks last week. Twelve days after starting QB Jared Goff had thumb surgery, coach Sean McVay made the difficult decision to start backup John Wolford in the first round of the NFL playoffs. This guy had “Finance” listed as his LinkedIn industry before the previous week! Well, Wolford started and got knocked out of the game with a scary hit to the head and neck. Goff came in — throwing thumb still recovering — and did just enough to get LA the win, shouldered mostly by rookie back Cam Akers (28-131-1) and the aforementioned dominance of his defense.
Wolford checked back out of the hospital that same night after being given the thumbs-up (I had to) by doctors to celebrate the big win with his team. He will be watching from the sideline in Green Bay this weekend, as Goff returns to his role as the Rams’ starting QB. Goff, who disagreed with McVay’s decision to start Wolford over him last weekend, said he’s good to go.
In his lone career meeting with the Packers, Goff threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns and posted a 111.0 QB rating. If he duplicates that kind of success this week, this game could be an instant classic. He will need another strong performance from Akers, as well as the veteran receiver tandem of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Rodgers has a pair of tremendous playmakers in receiver Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones, and both have a nose for finding the end zone.
Ultimately, I think the Packers win this game, and Rodgers ultimately squares off against Patrick Mahomes in a Super Bowl that StateFarm could not have scripted better. But I don’t see the Packers running away with it, especially in a cold-weather stadium against one of the more elite defenses this league has ever seen. If Goff can lead the Rams to a 30-20 playoff victory over Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, he can lose by less than a touchdown to Rodgers in the playoffs.
Divisional Round Betting Picks: Moneyline pick of the week
Buffalo Bills (-145) vs. Baltimore Ravens
If you simply need a lock for this week, I would be more apt to go with the Packers over the Rams, or the Chiefs over the Browns, but you will find literally no value whatsoever in those moneylines. Green Bay’s ML is -320. Kansas City’s? A whopping -510. Thus, my moneyline pick of the week is a Bills that’s favored by the fewest points of any this weekend (-2.5).
Oddsmakers seem to be giving reigning MVP Lamar Jackson too much credit while giving 2020 MVP candidate Josh Allen too little. What gives? Jackson has struggled with accuracy and decision-making at times this season, while Allen just continues to get better as the campaign progresses.
Jackson threw for just 179 yards last week in Baltimore’s 20-13 win over the defensively-challenged Titans. He had no passing touchdowns and threw one interception. Much like the many of his games in 2019, the damage he inflicted primarily came on the ground, as he finished with 136 rushing yards and a touchdown. Rookie JK Dobbins, bruising back Gus Edwards, and wideout Marquise Brown combined to add another 100 yards rushing (Brown also had seven catches for 109 yards).
There’s no doubting Jackson’s penchant for making big plays, and “Hollywood” Brown sure seems to be shining at the right time. But, plain and simple, Buffalo has been the better team all season and has shown no signs of slowing down for anyone.
On wild card weekend, Allen led Buffalo to a tough 27-24 win over veteran Philip Rivers and the Colts, who featured one of the better defenses in the league this season. The Bills finished with 397 total yards, 301 of which came through the air.
That was Buffalo’s seventh consecutive victory, and 10th win in 11 games. Its only loss since Oct. 19 came in Week 10 in Arizona, on a last-second, game-winning Hail Mary from Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins. If not for that play, the Bills might have had a shot at the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye.
But this team was meant to keep rolling and probably benefited from having to play last week. It has a lot of fight and a hell of a lot of talent on both sides of the football. Allen’s chemistry with Stefon Diggs has likely guided the veteran receiver to his first All-Pro selection. Diggs led the NFL this season with 127 catches and 1,535 yards, and he put up a line of 6-128-1 last week. He had eight touchdowns this season, one more than breakout rookie receiver Gabriel Davis.
Diggs and Davis join veteran slot receiver Cole Beasley, as well as veteran speedster John Brown, to form an electric foursome of playmakers. Allen has no problem spreading the ball around to whoever finds separation. He has developed an Aaron Rodgers-like level of field vision and pocket awareness, and he’s lockstep with Brian Daboll and his offensive playbook. When defenses sell out to cover the pass, he often burns them with his legs. Case in point: He ran 11 times for 54 yards and a score last week against Indy.
Baltimore has been one of the better defenses in the NFL this season, and Jackson continues to be one of the more entertaining QBs in the game today. The Ravens clearly got a lot of love from Las Vegas after going 7-2 in road contests this season and getting hot late in the year. But there’s a reason they got bounced from the playoffs last year after a 14-2 regular season and a reason they only went 1-1 straight up as a road underdog this season. They do not have a reliable passing game. Baltimore finished the season ranked dead last in yards through the air.
Meanwhile, Leslie Frazier’s Bills defense has made vast improvements down the stretch. The Bills finished the regular season with the second-best turnover percentage (15.3 percent) and the third-most takeaways (26). Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (119 tackles) and cornerback Tre’Davious White (three INT, 11 PD), both Pro Bowlers, lead a gritty, proud unit.
This Buffalo team feels destined to get to the AFC Championship (and maybe beyond). It finished tied for the second-most wins in the league this season, yet it sits as the only favorite with under -150 odds to advance to the next round. The Bills have shown time and time again that if others don’t give them respect, they will go out and get it themselves. Buffalo wins 27-23.
Divisional Round Betting Picks: Over/under pick of the week
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cleveland Browns: UNDER 57
It’s easy to see why 80 percent of money and 97 percent of tickets are on the OVER for this game. The Browns offense has been scorching hot, and Kansas City has somehow managed to improve upon its Super Bowl-winning system. But we at BetQL like the value presented by the UNDER, which our Best Bet Model backs with a five-star confidence rating.
The betting public may have fallen victim to recency bias. The Browns are coming off a 48-37 barnburner win over the division-rival Steelers on wild-card weekend. They scored a defensive touchdown on the first play from scrimmage after Pittsburgh sailed its first snap into its own end zone and Cleveland safety Karl Joseph fell on it. The Browns had a 28-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, which set the tone for sloppy, frenetic play the rest of the game. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger finished the first half with three interceptions, but somehow racked up 500 passing yards and four TDs by the end of the game.
Once you catch your breath from that busy recap, consider a couple facts from that contest. Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, who deserves Coach of the Year consideration, was watching the game from back home in Cleveland after testing positive for COVID-19. Top cornerback Denzel Ward suffered the same fate, a fate dozens of Browns players have met throughout the course of the season.
Without its head coach and its second-best defender, the Browns defense packed it in too early with a big lead. It lost its focus and got gashed for big plays throughout the second half. But the Browns still prevailed with their first postseason win since 1995 and first playoff win on the road since 1969.
Stefanski and Ward are back in action this week, so we at BetQL expect a much different picture than the 87 points we saw in Pittsburgh. After all, Cleveland’s three previous games averaged a total of 37 points.
The Chiefs have a formidable offensive attack, which probably plays a huge part in everyone and their mom pounding the OVER here. But consider a few factors before jumping on the bandwagon:
- 1. Kansas City averaged 25.3 points over the course of its final six games this season.
- 2. The Chiefs committed eight turnovers in their last four contests.
- 3. Defending Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes has not played an NFL game in weeks. He rested during KC’s inconsequential Week 17 tilt with the Chargers, and then enjoyed a first-round playoff bye.
- 4. The Chiefs defense has drastically improved in its first year under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. KC ranked 10th in points surrendered this season.
By all means, go for the OVER if you enjoy rooting for high-scoring theatrics. But 57 points seems way too high for our liking, especially considering the UNDER has hit in four of the seven home games in which KC served as the favorite this season. Our Model projects the first-half total at 27 points and end-game total at 54 points. I personally like the Chiefs to win 30-23.
For more betting analysis and information, head over to BetQL and check out our model’s best bets, sharp data, and much more for every playoff game! You can find all updated NFL lines, spreads, and odds at BetQL!
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