I've often found betting the NFL playoffs to be a bit easier than regular-season games for one simple reason: a lot more people bet on NFL playoff games than regular-season games. I mean, even considering how much more action an ordinary Sunday afternoon game between the Jaguars and Bengals might get compared to any other game in any other sport, the playoffs still see a surge in public action.
This sometimes leads to a lot of value on underdogs, particularly when they're going against the No. 1 seed in each conference. If you blindly bet against the No. 1 seed in the divisional round every year, you'd make money. Yet, here I am, in this divisional round taking two No. 1 seeds.
Maybe I'm an idiot, or maybe they're just the right plays. I'll explain my rationale, and you can decide for yourself.
There's been a lot of talk about playing in cold-weather conditions regarding this weekend's games, and we just cannot overlook the fact that Aaron Rodgers really does play well in cold weather. In a season without a home-field advantage thanks to empty stadiums, this is an area where the Packers have a serious one. Rodgers and the Packers know how to play in these conditions and are built to take advantage of them. The Rams aren't.
It's not a large sample size, but we've seen Jared Goff make two starts in temperatures below freezing. Both came in the 2018 season on the road against the Broncos and Bears. Goff completed only 47.2% (34/72) of his passes for 381 yards (5.3 YPA) with no touchdowns and five interceptions. Both Goff and Rodgers are from California and played at Cal. One has adapted to adverse weather conditions. The other hasn't. Back the one who has.
Projected score: Packers 24, Rams 14
Best bet: Packers -6.5 (-110)
We've also heard this week about how Lamar Jackson has never played in snow before. Current forecasts are calling for cold and snow in Buffalo because it's Buffalo in January. I'm just not sure how much of an impact that will have on Lamar because while he hasn't played in the snow, he has played in the cold. It's not like division rivals Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati are in warm-weather climates. I don't see the weather impacting one team more than the other.
Instead, what I see is the weather impacting the way each team plays. It's not only going to be cold with snow in the forecast, but high winds as well. The weather may force both teams to keep the ball on the ground more often than usual, and it could impact Josh Allen and Buffalo's desire to throw downfield. You know, assuming there's any force in nature that can affect Josh Allen's lasers. Either way, I see the weather putting a cramp in both offenses and affecting the kicking game as well, so with all that in mind, this total seems a little too high.
Projected score: Bills 23, Ravens 20
Best bet: Under 50 (-110)
It sounds crazy to say it about an NFL playoff game, but this has to be a letdown spot for Cleveland, right? I mean, not only did the Browns end their playoff drought this season, but they won a playoff game! And they did so against the team in their division that has tortured them for decades! All while their coach was stuck in a basement isolating. I mean, the Browns have already won their Super Bowl, and now they have to face what might be the best team in the NFL.
Also, while the Browns won last week, I can't ignore how the win came. The Steelers essentially handed the Browns a 28-0 lead in the first quarter. Once the Steelers stopped turning the ball over repeatedly, they outscored the Browns 37-20 over the final three quarters. Something tells me that the Chiefs aren't going to open the game by snapping the ball 20 yards past Patrick Mahomes into the end zone. The Browns defense hasn't been good this year, and now it's facing one of the two best offenses in the game. I don't expect this one to be all that competitive.
Projected score: Chiefs 34, Browns 17
Best bet: Chiefs -10 (-105)