NFL Picks: Divisional Playoffs

Eight teams remain as the conference playoffs advance to the Divisional round this weekend. Will there be a surprise?
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Although the Indianapolis Colts were eliminated in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Buffalo, the picks keep coming for the remaining four games in this weekend’s second round.

In the interest of summing up the picks year for Colts games, the final tally was 12-5, one win better than the team’s record. Unfortunately, the Bills pick was correct, but the Colts had a legitimate shot against the second seeds before losing 27-24 last Saturday.

The slate of four games to determine conference finalists has a little bit of everything, but perhaps the most intriguing matchup is in “The Big Easy,” where future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Drew Brees share the field in New Orleans. Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers will try to erase the memory of two regular-season defeats against Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

Quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints will try to win for a third time against quarterback Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC Divisional Playoff game at New Orleans.

Drew Brees and the Saints have beaten the Bucs by double digits twice.

While every picker is different, this game was the toughest for yours truly. It’s understandable for many pundits to think Brady won’t lose a third time, especially with so much riding on the playoffs. But the Saints won the season opener 34-23 in New Orleans and crushed the Bucs 38-3 in a stunning Monday Night Football round rout in November at Tampa Bay.

Some are saying this time will be different, that these Bucs have improved since the last time these teams met. But the pick is to stick with Brees.

The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs have had two weeks of rest after sitting starters in Week 17 and getting a first-round bye as the AFC’s No. 1 seed. The Cleveland Browns are the surprise opponent, based on how they overcame the COVID-19 adversity of not having several players as well as head coach Kevin Stefanski in a 48-37 road rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Put simply, there’s more faith in the Chiefs defense getting stops than the Browns being able to thwart quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Perhaps the Chiefs will have some rest from the inactivity, but don’t count on that. Mahomes and his offense are that good.

The L.A. Rams stunned the Seattle Seahawks to earn a visit to the NFC top-seeded Green Bay Packers, who like the Chiefs have enjoyed some rest. It’s the classic confrontation of a Hall of Fame quarterback in the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers facing the NFL’s No. 1 defense led by defensive tackle Aaron Donald. How much the Rams can slow down Rodgers and wide receiver Davante Adams is key. The Packers defense isn’t exactly stingy, but the Rams are banged up at quarterback with Jared Goff playing with a broken thumb suffered in Week 16.

Perhaps Goff can lead the visitors to the weekend’s biggest surprise, but the hunch is that Rodgers will find a way. It’s too hard to pick against him.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen scrambles away from Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner in an AFC Wild Card Playoff home win.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen won his first playoff game last Saturday.

The other game in the AFC is another contrast as the high-scoring Bills, led by quarterback Josh Allen, host the Baltimore Ravens and dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson. Both quarterbacks are coming off their first career playoff wins. Allen has had a better year, and he can run, too. That said, the Ravens defense would appear to be better than the Bills defense.

There’s that old adage about defense wins championships, but again, that’s old and doesn’t always apply to today’s NFL, where offenses tend to have the upper hand. The Bills will have trouble trying to keep Jackson from making impact plays, but the Ravens will have similar difficulty in slowing down Allen.

The hunch is that Allen will make more plays because he’s the better passer and has been playing at a superior level. The Bills were pushed to the limit by the Colts, but endured because that offense was too strong. Don’t be surprised if the Bills wear down the Ravens.

Good luck, pickers!

PhilB’s Picks

Rams at Packers — Packers

Ravens at Bills — Bills

Browns at Chiefs — Chiefs

Buccaneers at Saints — Saints

Wild Card — 4-2 (.667)

Overall — 177-84-1 (.677)

(While these picks are for entertainment purposes only, SI recently launched our Premium Betting Membership backed by Vegas Insiders. SI Fantasy PRO members get real-time betting alerts whenever information comes in. Our NFL, CFB, and MLB plays and information delivered to SI PRO members have gone 177-118-2 YTD so far in 2020.)