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N.F.L. Playoff Predictions: Our Picks within the Divisional Round

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A football game is absolutely contested amongst 4 teams: two offenses and two defenses. In recent seasons, though, explosive offenses have dominated much of the coverage. Each playoff team’s likelihood is often discussed by way of offensive output, while defenses have to be as dominant because the 49ers’ to define a team’s identity.

The Bills and Bengals are able to scoring outbursts and got here away with wild-card wins last week as big favorites. But each teams did not cover the spread after struggling to contain opponents that began backup quarterbacks.

The remaining playoff teams are as evenly matched as they’ve been all 12 months, and that’s very true of the offenses. Of the eight teams left within the postseason, seven finished the regular season in the highest 10 for offensive efficiency, while only five have top-10 defenses. Those stronger defenses should provide the sting on this weekend’s divisional round matchups.

Last week’s record: 2-3-1

All times Eastern.

No. 4 Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 1 Kansas City, 4:30 p.m., NBC

Line: Kansas City -9 | Total: 52.5

The Jaguars have played their best after they’ve been expected to do the least. After starting with a 3-7 record that left Jacksonville way outside the playoff picture, the team won six of their final seven regular-season games to force its way in. Within the wild-card round against the Chargers, Trevor Lawrence threw 4 picks in the primary half, seemingly burying the Jags with a 27-0 deficit. However the Jaguars rallied for one in every of the most important comebacks in playoff history.

By that logic, the underdog Jaguars could placed on one other show in a game they’re not expected to win — playing top-seeded Kansas City, who had the N.F.L.’s best regular-season offense. Because Kansas City has been so good, the team has laid big numbers in game after game and won loads of games it did not cover. In its last nine home games, they’re 1-7-1 against the spread. That might be since the market is giving them too many points for home-field advantage. It also might be a consequence of a defense that likes to get aggressive when fiddling with a cushty lead.

Kansas City’s defense — which ranks twentieth in passing defense, per Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (D.V.O.A.) metric — takes more probabilities with their pass rush when ahead. It’s a high-risk, high-reward scenario that may often end games with a quarterback sack or hand over big plays late. Time running down, playing from behind, that’s when Lawrence and company have shined. Pick: Jaguars +9

No. 6 Giants at No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles, 8:15 p.m., Fox

Line: Eagles -7.5 | Total: 48

All season, the Giants thrived on climbing back into games they trailed, with 4 fourth-quarter comebacks within the regular season. But Daniel Jones can have given one of the best performance (301 passing yards and 78 rushing yards) of the wild-card weekend, when the Giants scored 4 touchdowns and played from ahead most of the best way in an upset of the Vikings. The lead owed as much to the team getting back defensive starters from injury and their limiting the Vikings’ big plays.

The defense may have to re-up on that effort against the Eagles and Jalen Hurts, who enter the sport rested due to last week’s bye. The Eagles beat the Giants in each of their regular-season meetings, but those games are probably not terribly predictive: The Giants had significant offensive-line injuries in the primary meeting (Philadelphia won, 48-22), and so they rested their starters in a 22-16 loss in Week 18.

Despite Jones’s dual-threat abilities and the re-emergence of running back Saquon Barkley in contract seasons for each, the Giants feasted on a loser’s schedule this season. Against top-10 defenses, the team went 2-4-1. Those games were all nearby: All but one were decided by eight points of fewer.

Philadelphia ranks sixth in defensive D.V.O.A. and first in passing D.V.O.A., and the Eagles are particularly dangerous pass rushers: They’re the N.F.L. sack leaders (70), led by Haason Reddick’s 16 and three other players with double-digit totals.

The road opened at 7, and sharp motion on the Eagles quickly moved it to 7.5. Since then, the Giants have taken the overwhelming majority of the cash, however the line hasn’t gone back to 7 yet. It’s possible that by kickoff this spread gets even greater, not smaller. Pick: Eagles -7.5

No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals at No. 2 Buffalo Bills, 3 p.m., CBS

Line: Bills -5 | Total: 48

The Bills needs to be playing on emotion on this rematch of the Week 17 game that was canceled after Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest in the course of the contest. Hamlin reportedly will probably be in attendance on the Bills’ sideline for the primary time, and that would give a serious morale boost. However the Bills have struggled with turnovers, particularly when quarterback Josh Allen’s opportunistic throws ignore easy, clock-controlling short pick-ups.

The Bengals have locked up opponents late thanks largely to defensive adjustments made in-game by the coordinator Lou Anarumo that limit big plays long enough for the Bengals’ offense to do damage (and in some cases, defensive linemen have forced turnovers that led to touchdowns).

Cincinnati might have the assistance putting up points. The offensive line’s injury woes continued last week when Jonah Williams went down with a knee injury within the wild-card win over the Ravens. Williams and Alex Cappa, one other starter on the road who injured his ankle in Week 18, didn’t practice Wednesday. Joe Burrow has adapted to the pressure: He’s been getting the ball out in a median of two.49 seconds, the second fastest within the league behind Tom Brady.

Buffalo’s defense hasn’t been as strong within the last half of the season, especially since losing Von Miller to a knee injury in November, and so they’ve been forced to blitz greater than they probably need to. Miami exploited Buffalo’s secondary, with the receiver combo of Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill getting 113 yards on 10 catches. If Skylar Thompson can do this, imagine what Burrow can do with Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase spreading the sector. Pick: Bengals +5

No. 5 Dallas Cowboys at No. 2 San Francisco 49ers, 6:30 p.m., Fox

Line: 49ers -3.5 | Total: 46

The Dallas Cowboys notched their first road playoff win in 30 years last week to establish this throwback to the rivalry games of the Nineteen Nineties. There have been some stylistic updates for each franchises, though.

Brock Purdy is just not Steve Young, and he hasn’t needed to be. The 49ers have won 11 straight, with the rookie backup Purdy under center for seven of those games. His bevy of options, from tight end George Kittle to running back Christian McCaffrey to Deebo Samuel, are fast and hard to tackle, and so they rack up yards after the catch.

This won’t be an offensive bonanza for either side, though, after each teams absolutely wrecked their opponents within the wild-card round. The market has made the San Francisco a 3.5-point favorite, the narrowest spread of the weekend, and the entire of 46 points is its lowest. The 49ers’ Nick Bosa and Cowboys’ Micah Parsons are the 2 leading contenders for the defensive player of the 12 months, so these quarterbacks needs to be pressured greater than they’ve been all season.

Dak Prescott is the higher of the 2 quarterbacks, but he’ll need his running backs, Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott, to assist keep the 49ers’ defense honest. San Francisco is healthier at defending the pass than the frenzy, and went 2-4 in games by which they allowed 99 or more yards on the bottom. Assuming the 49ers are capable of neutralize receiver CeeDee Lamb in addition to other teams have recently, the Cowboys might have to depend on Dalton Schultz, and for Prescott to avoid a disaster turnover. It’s quite a bit that should go right, but that’s why Dallas is getting the points. Pick: Cowboys +3.5

A fast primer for individuals who aren’t acquainted with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents what number of points they have to win by to cover the spread. Buccaneers -2.5, for instance, implies that Tampa Bay must beat the Seahawks by at the least 3 points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers also can bet on the entire rating, which is whether or not the teams’ combined rating in the sport is over or under a preselected variety of points.

Betting-market data is taken from Motion Network’s Public Betting data, and contours are taken from Unabated’s real-time-odds tracker.

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