2020 NFL Playoff Picks: Divisional round will feature Vikings, Seahawks with two huge upsets
Picks against the spread for all four games of the 2020 divisional round
For the first time since 2015, we have a situation where three of four divisional round matchups feature point spreads of more than a touchdown. That can be a bit scary after an upset-filled Wild Card Weekend. But history tells us it would be pretty rare for all three of those games to turn into blowouts.
Of the 20 divisional round games since 2010 that featured a team favored by more than a touchdown, the underdog is 12-8 against the spread. Take out the Patriots and the 'dogs are 10-2 against the spread. It stands to reason we should see a couple of these teams compete with the home favorite and perhaps one blowout.
Even of the teams who covered a full touchdown or more over that spread, we're not talking about a ton of easy wins. Outside of New England (again -- I don't need to explain why right?), the three teams covered by a TOTAL of four points. Also worth noting: the teams who didn't cover went 7-5 straight up, which is not exactly an impressive record for teams who are favored by that many points.
Also worth noting Part Deux: in the eight games where the favored team covered, the over is 8-0. The over is just 5-7 in games where the underdog covered. That makes some sense. If a team is going to win by 8+ points, it stands to reason they need to score plenty of points. The teams who covered those spread scored an average of 36.8 points per game. The average over-under in those games was 47.
I'm not entirely sure how predictive all of that can be, but if you think the Chiefs or Ravens or 49ers are going to steamroll their opponent this week, maybe parlay it with the over. (Or just don't also take the under.) There's a live betting spot here too -- if it looks like a team is going to keep it close early, you can hit the under. If it looks like a runaway train, maybe hit the over. Just a thought.
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Vikings +7 at 49ers
One of many regrets from Wild Card Weekend was me not picking the Vikings to beat the Saints outright. I knew it was possible, I just didn't believe. Now I might be making another mistake, but I think the Vikings can hang here too. The 49ers are a very good football team. They're off a bye, they're well coached and, most importantly, they have a strength -- their defensive line -- that matches up really well with the Vikings biggest weakness -- their offensive line. I am extremely concerned about the 49ers pushing around the Vikings front, getting pressure on Kirk Cousins, getting a lead and snuffing out Minnesota with late, aggressive playcalling. But I BELIEVE. This is just the sixth time since 1990 (the current playoff format) we've seen both No. 6 seeds advance on Wild Card Weekend, including 2005, 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2018. However, we haven't actually seen a No. 6 seed beat a No. 1 seed in the following week since the 2010 Jets toppled the Patriots back in the halcyon Kiss the Ring days of Rex Ryan vs. Bill Belichick. The Vikings profile fairly similarly to that Jets team, with a better offense. I'll take my chances they keep it close and cover.
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Titans +9.5 at Ravens
This is one where I would probably want to get the full 10 points if I'm taking the Titans. The Ravens are terrifying. They won 12 games to close out the season, their last loss coming against the Browns, when they gave up a 40-burger to Cleveland. Lamar Jackson has played in the playoffs before. He -- people ! -- so he's not a rookie here. My only concern with the Titans here is similar to that of the Vikings: if they get down early, which happens to a lot of teams against the Ravens, can they come back using only Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown/Jonnu Smith? Their offense is predicated on Derrick Henry pounding the ball and getting downhill on teams. That is not ideal for a big comeback against a dangerous secondary like that of Baltimore. I might consider looking for a live Baltimore bet in the 12-14 range if they get up early, because I think you could see them run away with it. John Harbaugh will not stop being aggressive. The Ravens have no problem stomping on someone's throat. But the Titans are well-coached and have explosive potential on offense and a defense that could, in theory, limit the run game for Baltimore. I think they keep it close but it's scary getting in front of this freight train.
Who should you back against the spread, on the money line and the total in every divisional round game? And which top Super Bowl contender goes down hard? Visit SportsLine to see their divisional round cheat sheet, all from the model that is up over $7,000 on its top-rated picks.
Chiefs -9.5 vs. Texans
Andy Reid, off the bye! Andy Reid, off the bye! A song from the past can hint at the future in certain cases, and I love the Chiefs here. The Texans already beat Kansas City once, but I don't think they're necessarily capable of doing it a second time in a single season. Additionally, the Texans were at full force in that game and the Chiefs were not -- Patrick Mahomes was battling an injury, the offensive line was banged up and the defense wasn't nearly as good as it is now. The Chiefs are the team in football no one is talking about, in my opinion. If Mahomes plays the next three weeks the way I believe he has played over the last seven weeks, the Chiefs will win the Super Bowl. This number is huge and it worries me to bet against Deshaun Watson, but I think the Texans style of play, which involves running the ball on early downs and begging Watson to bail them out, can put them in a seriously problematic spot when the Chiefs start slinging the ball around against a questionable secondary.
I'm done betting against Russell Wilson. It's that simple. The Seahawks might be a luckbox, but they're a luckbox with Wilson at the controls and he simply MAKES THINGS HAPPEN. I know Aaron Rodgers might have one last playoff run left in him, but look at the two worst games by the Packers offense this season. They came against the Chargers (defensive coordinator Gus Bradley) and 49ers (defensive coordinator Robert Saleh). Do you know what those teams have in common? Their defensive coordinators learned under Pete Carroll and they operate the same scheme. It just gives Matt LaFleur's offense fits. Additionally, Jadeveon Clowney is playing for a contract and he knows it, and D.K. Metcalf is morphing into an unstoppable weapon. I don't think the Seahawks will blow out the Packers, but I do think this turns into a wild and crazy playoff game like every Seahawks/Packers game before it. I'll take the points knowing that could happen.
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