Divisional Round NFL Picks Against the Spread
FILE – Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) talks with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) following a 24-17 Ravens win in an NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y., in this Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, file photo. Buffalo's Josh Allen and Baltimore's Lamar Jackson become the first quarterbacks of the five-member 2018 first-round draft class set to meet in the playoffs as the Bills prepare to face the Ravens in the AFC divisional round on Saturday night, Jan. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/John Munson, File)
- The NFL’s Divisional Round kicks off Saturday, January 16th
- Our Best Bets were 1-2 last week (24-31-2 overall, -9.19 units)
- Read below for analysis on the Divisional Round slate and our favorite ATS picks
The NFL’s Divisional Round is here, which means just eight teams are still standing. This weekend is known for producing the best set of games all season, and will mark the 2020 playoff debuts of number one seeds Green Bay and Kansas City.
But instead of targeting games featuring the Packers and Chiefs, we’re going to look elsewhere for our best bets. We’ve been riding the red-hot Baltimore Ravens for weeks now and that isn’t about to stop despite a touch matchup in Buffalo.
Divisional Round ATS Picks
|Baltimore Ravens vs Buffalo Bills||BUF (-2.5)||BAL (+2.5)||1|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints||NO (-3)||TB (+3)||1|
Odds taken Jan. 14th at FanDuel and DraftKings. See bottom for rest of Divisional Round picks.
The Ravens opened up as a 2.5-point road underdog and the line briefly went to +3, before coming back down to where it started. Pat yourself on the back if you took at +3, but there’s still plenty of value at the current number.
Super Bowl 55 Odds Tracker
Pick #1: Ravens Bully Bills
These are arguably the two hottest teams in football. Baltimore enters play winners of six straight, while the Bills are riding a seven-game winning streak of their own.
The Ravens defense is finally healthy, and have been nearly impenetrable over the last month and a half. Since a 30-24 loss to Tennessee in Week 11, Baltimore has held six of its past seven opponents to 19 points or less.
.@stephenasmith gave “an unequivocal no” when asked about the Buffalo Bills' Super Bowl chances 😳
“Getting through the Baltimore Ravens? I don't see that happening.” pic.twitter.com/yFV94epfn6
— First Take (@FirstTake) January 11, 2021
Now, they’ll try to slow down a Buffalo team that’s averaging 36.6 points per outing during its winning streak, and they just might have the pieces to do so. The Ravens allowed only two 100-yard receivers all season, and surrendered an average of just 44.9 yards per game to number one wideouts. They generate a ton of pressure, primarily thanks to the highest blitz rate in the league, and if there’s one way to slow down Josh Allen it’s by pressuring him.
Marcus Peters gets the CLUTCH INT and Baltimore stomps on the Titans logo 😯
— Overtime (@overtime) January 10, 2021
Allen completed less than 50% of his passes under pressure this season, and his average yards per attempt dips a full 2 yards when facing heat. 6 of the 10 interceptions he threw were while under duress, and he struggled badly versus this defense last season. Allen managed just 146 passing yards against the Ravens in a 24-17 loss in 2019, while fumbling twice and absorbing 6 sacks. Of course, he’s significantly improved his game since then, but Baltimore boasts and elite defensive line and one of the best coverage units in the NFL.
The Bills have won seven in a row, averaging 36.6 points and 425 yards a game. The Ravens have won six in a row, averaging 34.3 points and 425 yards a game. Should be quite a contest on Saturday night in Buffalo.
— Jerry Sullivan (@ByJerrySullivan) January 13, 2021
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens are racking up 34.3 points and 425 yards of offense during their winning streak, and the Bills just surrendered 472 total yards last week to the Colts. Lamar Jackson is back playing at an MVP level, and isn’t likely to face a ton of pressure.
Lamar Jackson: 179 Pass Yards
Ryan Tannehill: 165 Pass Yards
Lamar Jackson: 136 Rush Yards
Derrick Henry: 40 Rush Yards pic.twitter.com/PHBjAd0U5j
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) January 10, 2021
Buffalo managed just one QB hit on 46 Indianapolis pass attempts and Jackson’s QB rating is 106.3 when kept clean. Baltimore also has a major advantage in the run game, as the Bills have been smoked for 5.3 yards per carry over the last month, and no team in football averages more rushing production per outing than Baltimore.
Pick #2: Buccaneers Over Saints
They say the third time is the charm right? Tampa Bay was humbled twice this season by New Orleans, but there’s plenty of reasons to believe they can turn the tide in round 3. The Buccaneers are 3-point road ‘dogs at the Saints, but Tom Brady and company have been clicking on all cylinders recently.
Tom Brady since Week 14:
♦️ PFF Passing Grade (94.3) – 1st
♦️ Yards per attempt (9.7) – 1st
♦️ Passing TDs (14) – 1st
♦️ Passing yards (1,714) – 1st
— PFF (@PFF) January 13, 2021
Tampa Bay leads the NFL in expected points per play over the second half of the season, and are fresh off torching Washington, the league’s third ranked defense by DVOA, for 507 total yards. The Bucs have scored 31 or more points in four straight games, and gave up just an 18% pressure rate against Washington’s ferocious front.
New Orleans’ pass rush wreaked havoc on Tampa Bay during a blowout win in Week 9, but the Bucs were missing left guard Ali Marpet. The Saints took full advantage of his absence, racking up three sacks and forcing three interceptions, but we should expect much better protection from Tampa Bay’s line with Marpet back in the lineup.
Buccaneers guard Ali Marpet has not allowed a sack since Week 6 of 2019 (1,075 pass-block snaps) pic.twitter.com/XlepkjbSXi
— PFF (@PFF) January 12, 2021
On the other side of the ball, the Bucs have done an excellent job containing Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas this season, the two focal points of the New Orleans offense. Tampa Bay has held Kamara to 2.7 yards per carry and 4.28 yards per target, while limiting Thomas to 8.5 yards per catch.
Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis shadows in 2020:
Week 1 vs. Michael Thomas. 67% of routes. 2 catches allowed on 4 targets for 9 yards
Week 4 vs. Keenan Allen. 71% of routes. 1 catch allowed on 3 targets for 9 yards
— Jeff Ratcliffe (@JeffRatcliffe) October 6, 2020
Drew Brees meanwhile, has averaged 4.5 and 5.0 yards per attempt in two games versus the Bucs this season. That approach may have worked in the past, but there’s no chance the Saints can win this game without throwing the ball downfield. No team is better at stopping the run than Tampa Bay, and if New Orleans wants to advance they’ll have to threaten the Bucs’ secondary. I’m just not convinced they have the quarterback to do so.
Divisional Round Quick Picks
- Rams (+6.5) vs Packers: You want to slow down Aaron Rodgers? Generate pressure with a four-man rush. LA can certainly do that and it doesn’t hurt that they boast arguably the best secondary in the league. 6.5 points is too much to lay in this spot. Expect a low scoring, close game.
- Browns (-10) vs Chiefs: You’re not going to stop the KC offense, but Cleveland just might be able to keep pace long enough to cover the spread. The Browns have put up 40+ points in three of their past six games, while the Chiefs have failed to cover in seven of their past eight outings.
Chris began his career at Hockey Night in Canada over 15 years ago. He has since worked at TSN for over 12 years as a writer, line-up producer, field producer, newsroom supervisor for Sportscentre, and presently as a promotions producer.