NFL divisional round picks: Chiefs fend off Deshaun Watson in high-scoring affair, Ravens roll over Titans
Lock in these teams to advance to the AFC and NFC Championship
Wild-Card Weekend certainly had the flair for dramatics. Not only did we see two overtime contests, but in the games where extra football wasn't played we had the defending Super Bowl champions fall and the Seahawks roll to victory after Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz went down due to injury.
Thanks to all that craziness, I split the opening playoff slate at 2-2. I expected the Titans-Patriots game to be close and liked the Texans to cover against Buffalo, but Minnesota's upset over New Orleans was a stunner in every sense of the word. The Saints were looked at favorably almost across the board and even owned the second best odds to come out of the NFC and win Super Bowl LIV, despite being the No. 3 seed. Picking the Eagles as my upset of the weekend also didn't pan out thanks in part to Wentz's injury.
As we turn our attention to the divisional round, I have a feeling that after a wild Wild-Card Weekend, we're in for a more chalky outcome to level things out. I see all but one home team covering this weekend, but ultimately believe that the week of rest will do a lot of these elite clubs well.
Before we get to the picks, here's where we stand heading into the weekend.
Playoff (ATS): 2-2
Regular season and Playoffs (ATS): 126-129-5
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.
Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers (-7)
Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET (NBC)
The Vikings pulled off the stunner of Wild-Card Weekend by beating the No. 3 seeded Saints in New Orleans. Kirk Cousins finally got the monkey off his back and was able to produce a signature win, which included a beautiful pass to Adam Thielen in overtime to set up the game-winning touchdown to Kyle Rudolph. While Minnesota may be riding some serious momentum into San Francisco on Saturday, I just don't see lightning striking twice. The 49ers have a tremendous defense (No. 2 in the NFL in DVOA) that can not only disrupt Cousins, but also give him and his receivers fits in the secondary. As for the Niners offense, Jimmy Garoppolo is making his first postseason start, but has shined when facing elite opponents this season. His yards per attempt increased against playoff opponents this season, he had eight touchdowns to just two picks and the 49ers averaged 30.4 points per game. If that trend continues on offense, I simply just don't see Cousins and the Vikings being able to keep up with that type of production against this sturdy San Fran defense.
Pick: 49ers 28-17 over Vikings
Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens (-9.5)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS)
While the Vikings take the cake for upset of the weekend, the Titans had one heck of a win of their own, stunning the Patriots in Foxborough to send them packing the earliest they've seen since 2009. They did that primarily on the shoulders of running back Derrick Henry, who gashed the top-rated run defense of New England for 182 yards on the ground. While Henry was sensational, the rest of the Titans offense was stagnant with quarterback Ryan Tannehill passing for just 72 yards in the win. That simply won't be enough to keep up with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense, who are the clear-cut favorites to win Super Bowl LIV behind that dynamic offense and stout defense. Mike Vrabel will certainly have his team ready to roll into that hostile environment, but the Ravens are simply too talented.
Pick: Ravens 30-13 over Titans
Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5)
Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET (CBS)
There's no denying that this head-to-head matchup between Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes is the headliner of the divisional round slate. Watson put the Texans on his back and essentially willed Houston into the divisional round, beating the Buffalo Bills in overtime last weekend. He and the Texans face another matchup against the Chiefs in Arrowhead and I expect this game to be a high-scoring affair similar to what we saw in Week 6. With that in mind, I like taking the points here with the Texans, but ultimately think that Mahomes will pull off the win late thanks to the better compliment of weapons around him. The Chiefs quarterback didn't throw up eye-popping stats to end the year as he recovered from his knee injury, but I think that changes after getting the bye week to rest up.
Kansas City's run defense has also improved dramatically over the final six games of the season, which only bodes well for Sunday's matchup. As a whole, Kansas City's defensive unit is surrendering just 16.4 point per game since that Week 6 matchup with Houston.
Pick: Chiefs 33-27 over Texans
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Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (-4.5)
Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET (Fox)
If we were strictly speaking about the quarterbacks, I give the edge to Russell Wilson over Aaron Rodgers in this matchup. Unfortunately for Seattle, there's a bit more to it than that. While I may like Wilson a bit more than Rodgers this season, the Packers have the better roster around their starting quarterback on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The Seahawks almost need a Deshaun Watson-like effort from Wilson in all these matchups, while Rodgers can take a backseat to the likes of Aaron Jones if he gets cooking. Seattle doesn't have that type of alternative weapon to compliment Wilson at the moment, despite D.K. Metcalf's historic Wild-Card Weekend. Green Bay is also home at Lambeau, so I see them covering rather easily.
Pick: Packers 24-14 over Seahawks
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