Last week, we were blessed with four entertaining Wild Card Weekend playoff games. Now we will see four more matchups with the top two seeds in each conference hosting the winners from last week in the Divisional round. The Ravens, Chiefs, Packers and 49ers are back in action and add a ton of star power to this slate. On the NFL betting side, we have more lopsided matchups with the teams coming off a bye but there are still a few spots I like to target for my NFL picks.
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Divisional Playoff Schedule
Saturday 4:35 p.m. EST: Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers -7, O/U 44.5
Saturday 8:15 p.m. EST: Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens -10, O/U 46.5
Sunday 3:05 p.m. EST: Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs -10, O/U 51
Sunday 6:40 p.m. EST: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers -4, O/U 46.5
Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers
The Vikings certainly were the winners of Wild Card Weekend, as they were the big underdog on the slate and went emerged from the Superdome with an overtime victory. Adding to an already marquee win was the fact that Kirk Cousins made big plays down the stretch including throwing the touchdown in overtime to Kyle Rudolph. Critics have been on Cousins for years about not being able to win a big game and this was a gigantic step forward for him and the Vikings.
San Francisco was sitting at home relaxing during Wild Card Weekend. The dramatic win in Week 17 against Seattle was the difference in seeding and avoided what could have been a much tougher road for them. They are led offensively by a trio of backs and an emerging threat at wideout with Deebo Samuel and superstar tight end George Kittle. The Vikings defense stood up against Drew Brees last week and they don’t have a glaring weakness, ranking inside the top 10 in DVOA against both the run and the pass. Still, the 49ers presents a new challenge for the Vikings and one that will certainly test them this week.
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On the offensive side, as I mentioned, Cousins stepped up in a big way last week and now draws another brutal matchup against San Francisco. They rank second in DVOA against the pass and with a stout defensive line, they are always generating pressure. However, San Francisco will be tested now that the Vikings are healthy, as Dalvin Cook was fantastic last week racking up 94 yards and two touchdowns on a healthy 28 carries. He makes Minnesota’s offense go and the two week of rest were huge in getting him healthy for a playoff push.
The 49ers have to be considered a favorite and I cannot think of any team benefiting more from an off week. At the end of the year, they were banged up and a team that I was looking to short if they didn’t get healthy. Fortunately for them, they got the bye and now are coming into this game in a much better spot. On defense, Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander and Jaquiski Tartt are all expected to go in this game and are three major contributors to this top-ranked unit. The addition of these players should transform San Francisco back into the Super Bowl contender we saw most of the year.
My Pick: 49ers -7 (search for -6.5 out there)
Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs
The Texans were able to hold serve in one of the weirdest wildest games I’ve ever seen last week against Buffalo. Houston looked dead after a lifeless first half but they were able to get a spark. Then Deshaun Watson showed his ability to lead them back and grabbed the win in overtime. It wasn’t pretty but Houston is where they expected to be, which is matching up with a Kansas City team they faced earlier in the season. That game was one of their best showings of the season, as they went into Arrowhead and emerged with a 31-24 win.
Kansas City was resting last week as the Patriots gave them a gift with their loss to Miami. We saw how costly that was as New England is already eliminated and the Chiefs got healthier and now get to play in the brutal environment of Arrowhead. Patrick Mahomes is long past his knee injury and gets the 26th-ranked DVOA passing defense that he should have a major advantage against.
Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce lead this passing attack and will test the Texans secondary in ways that the Bills were unable to. In the first matchup against Houston, Hill caught two touchdowns but never exploded for major yardage. The Texans are likely hoping to hold this offense to a point total in the 20s to give their offense the opportunity to steal a huge road win.
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One of the major things to monitor is the status of Will Fuller for this game. Last week, Fuller was unable to go and he is a gigantic piece to the Texans offensive attack. If he can go, that will put a lot more pressure on this Chiefs secondary and should open up more room for DeAndre Hopkins, who they can move inside and outside against some exploitable matchups.
The other major gameplan to explore would be keeping the ball on the ground for long, methodical drives and Carlos Hyde will need to play a role in this game script. In the Week 6 game, Hyde had 26 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown. He needs to replicate that for Houston to complete the almost-impossible two wins in Arrowhead in a single season. The Chiefs rank 29th DVOA against the run so it is one of the most exploitable matchups across the entire slate.
This spread sits in double digits with Houston a 10-point dog on the road. Traveling to Arrowhead for a rematch against a team off a bye is a tough spot but the Texans can do some things to cause problems. I just mentioned how weak the Chiefs front is against the run and that is a key component the Texans need to exploit. Stopping Mahomes is going to be a challenge but I believe Houston will control tempo and that should set up a close, competitive game. Add in that Fuller could be back and I will grab 10 points and hope Houston can keep this within single digits.
My Pick: Texans +10
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Good Luck everyone!