This article is designed to be an early betting preview for this week’s playoff games. I’ll include my personal power ratings, Super Bowl odds, and mini-game previews with recent trends. I’ll also include my bets and leans for the week at the end of the article.
My power ratings are a starting point for point-spread betting between two teams. They take into account recent performances, long-term injuries, coaching, and strength of schedule. These ratings are intended to help predict performances in the present, but they’re not necessarily predictive for the rest of the season.
I will take my Power Ratings into account when I make my weekly against the spread picks for the week, but I’ll also consider current injury reports, home-field advantage, weather, and other factors that may be relevant. I’m baking in about a 1.5-point adjustment for most home teams. I hope you find these ratings useful and good luck with your wagers!
|Rank||Team||Power Rating||2021 Record (ATS)||Ratings Change||Super Bowl LVI Odds|
|1.||Green Bay Packers||8||13-4 (12-5)||—||+350|
|2.||Buffalo Bills||8||12-6 (10-6-2)||+2||+500|
|3.||Kansas City Chiefs||7.5||13-5 (9-9)||+.5||+380|
|4.||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||7||14-4 (10-8)||+.5||+550|
|5.||Los Angeles Rams||6.5||13-5 (9-9)||+1||+750|
|6.||San Francisco 49ers||5.5||11-7 (10-8)||—||+1000|
|7.||Tennessee Titans||5||12-5 (10-7)||—||+850|
|8.||Cincinnati Bengals||4.5||11-7 (11-7)||+.5||+1500|
WILD CARD MATCHUPS
(4) CINCINNATI BENGALS (+1500) AT (1) TENNESSEE TITANS (+850)
Spread: Titans -3.5
Time: 4:30 p.m., Saturday
Forecast: 38 degrees, 5 mph, 5% chance of rain
Mike Vrabel’s team has been the best with extra time to prepare since he took the Titans job in 2018, sporting a perfect 8-0 outright and ATS record when coming off a bye or a Thursday night game. The Titans eked out the one seed despite using an NFL-high 91 players this season and finishing with the AFC’s sixth-best point differential at +65. The Titans will likely get their most important player back for their postseason run with Derrick Henry returning to practice before Week 18. Henry’s initial recovery timeline was set at 6-10 weeks, and he’ll be about 12 weeks removed from his foot surgery this weekend so it looks like he’ll be back barring a setback. He still finished ninth in rushing yards (219/937/10 rushing) despite missing the final nine games of the season. The Titans will start their bid for a Super Bowl after winning their final three regular season games to earn the AFC’s top seed. The Titans are more battle-tested in the postseason with a three-game run during the 2019 season before they flamed out in the Wild Card Round last season in a home loss to the Ravens.
Tennessee might have more playoff experience on their side, but Cincinnati’s dynamic duo of Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase were unfazed in their first NFL postseason action — they did have a postseason run at LSU when they won the 2019 CFP National Championship. Chase went off for 9/116 receiving on 12 targets in his postseason debut, which gives him 27/507/3 receiving in his last three full games. Burrow led the offense to scores on their first four drives against Las Vegas, but the Bengals did settle for four field goals overall in their 26-19 victory as six-point home favorites. Germaine Pratt intercepted a last-minute pass at the goal on fourth down to preserve the win, which was the franchise’s first postseason victory since the 1990 season. They left the game with some major defensive line concerns, which is exacerbated this week going against Henry and Titans’ rushing attack. DT Larry Ogunjobi suffered a season-ending foot injury and DE Trey Hendrickson (concussion) and backup DT Mike Daniels (groin) left the Wild Card Round with injuries, as well. Hendrickson practiced early in the week, which is a good sign that he’ll be available for Saturday’s showdown. The Bengals head into the Divisional Round having won and covered in five straight games. They’ve also covered four straight games as a road underdog and they’re 6-1 ATS in their last seven road games.
(6) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (+1000) AT (1) GREEN BAY PACKERS (+350)
- Spread: Packers -5.5
- Total: 47.5
- Time: 8:15 p.m., Saturday
- Forecast: 17 degrees, 10 mph, 5% chance of snow
The Packers will start their playoff journey against a familiar foe in the 49ers. San Francisco had Green Bay’s number during the 2019 season, scoring two lopsided victories in their march to the Super Bowl, including a 17-point victory in the NFC Championship. The Packers have responded with victories in the last two regular seasons, including their 30-28 victory in Week 3 as 3.5-point road underdogs in a game totaled at 50.5 points. The Packers averaged 1.4 yards per play more than the 49ers (6.0 to 4.6) in late September thanks to a dominant performance from Davante Adams — he posted 12/132/1 receiving on 18 targets — and Green Bay’s defense forced two Jimmy Garoppolo turnovers.
Green Bay’s line has been the weakest link for this offense, but they could be rounding into form as their postseason starts. All-Pro LT David Bakhtiari saw his first action of the season in Week 18 since tearing his left ACL on New Year’s Eve in 2020. Second-round center Josh Myers also returned in the season finale after sitting out 12 weeks for a knee injury. Green Bay’s defense should also get some key reinforcements for the Divisional Round with top CB Jaire Alexander (shoulder) and top pass rusher Za’Darius Smith (back) expected to return. The Packers have played over the total in six of their last seven games and their defense allowed 28+ points in five of those contests. The Packers finished with just the 10th-best point differential at +79, but they entered the postseason with the NFL’s second-best ATS record at 12-5. They’ve cleaned up at Lambeau Field with a perfect 8-0 outright record (7-1 ATS) this season.
The 49ers jumped out to a 16-point lead in Dallas last week thanks to scores on their first four drives — they settled for field goals on three of those possessions — before holding on for dear life at the end. They scored the Wild Card Round’s only upset victory with a 23-17 win as 3.5-point road underdogs against the Cowboys. Deebo Samuel paced the offense with 10/72/1 rushing and 3/38 receiving, and Elijah Mitchell controlled the game with 27/96/1 rushing. San Francisco’s run-centric profile should play well in freezing conditions in Green Bay, and the Packers have been weak against the run, allowing the second-most yards per carry (4.7). The 49ers have some major defensive concerns with DE Nick Bosa (concussion) and LB Fred Warner (ankle) picking up injuries last week. They’ll also lose a day to get healthier with this game slated for Saturday night after playing in Dallas on Sunday afternoon. San Francisco held the NFL’s top total offense to 307 yards with Ezekiel Elliott averaging just 2.6 YPC and Dak Prescott mustering only 5.9 YPA while getting sacked five times. The 49ers are 5-1 outright and ATS over their last six games and they’re 8-2 outright and ATS if you stretch the sample out to 10 contests.
(4) LOS ANGELES RAMS (+750) AT (2) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (+550)
- Spread: Buccaneers -3
- Total: 48.5
- Time: 3 p.m., Sunday
- Forecast: 61 degrees, 10 mph, 15% chance of rain
The Rams are one step closer to hosting the Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium, much like this week’s opponent, the Buccaneers, did when they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy at Raymond James Stadium last season. Matthew Stafford got the monkey off his back with his first postseason victory in his fourth playoff game in 13 seasons. The Rams raced out to a 28-point lead on the hapless Cardinals in the Wild Card Round thanks to Stafford’s near-perfect game. He completed 13/17 passes for 202 yards (11.9 YPA) and two touchdowns and three of his incompletions were drops. Perhaps the biggest development for Los Angeles’ offense this postseason has been Cam Akers’ successful return from a torn Achilles in July. He led Los Angeles’ backfield with a 53% snap share against the Cardinals, turning in 17/55 rushing and a 40-yard catch on two targets. LT Andrew Whitworth picked up an ankle injury on the first play against Arizona and the team rested him in the second half. S Taylor Rapp (concussion) and CB David Long (knee) will also be in a race to play for an already undermanned secondary. Los Angeles owns a 6-1 outright record (5-2 ATS) over their last seven games, and they enter this week with a 2-0 record against the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers. That includes a 34-24 victory back in Week 3 as one-point home underdogs in a game totaled at 55 points.
The Buccaneers are one step closer to becoming the first team to win consecutive Lombardi Trophies since Brady’s Patriots did it during the 2003-04 seasons. Brady’s Buccaneers have dominated the NFC with a 20-8 record over the last two seasons, but the Saints (1-4) and Rams (0-2) have given them by far the toughest time. Brady improved his postseason record to a ridiculous 35-11 (.761 winning percentage) by scoring the first 31 points in their victory over the Eagles in the Wild Card Round. Tampa Bay got RB Giovani Bernard, ILB Lavonte David, OLB Shaq Barrett, and OLB Jason Pierre-Paul back in the lineup last week, but they still have some injury questions heading into this week. All-Pro RT Tristan Wirfs and C Ryan Jensen picked up ankle injuries against the Eagles while RBs Leonard Fournette (hamstring) and Ronald Jones (ankle) were unable to suit up. Mike Evans has been battling through his own hamstring issue, but he served up a dominant performance with 9/117/1 receiving on 10 targets against the Eagles. Tampa Bay owns an 8-1 outright record (7-2 ATS) over their last nine games, and they’ve been dominant at home with a 7-1 ATS mark in their last eight games at Raymond James Stadium.
(3) BUFFALO BILLS (+500) AT (2) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (+380)
- Spread: Chiefs -2.5
- Total: 55
- Time: 6:30 p.m., Sunday
- Forecast: 37 degrees, 5 mph, 0% chance of rain
The NFL saved the most anticipated matchup of the Divisional Round for the last game of the weekend with the AFC’s top two teams squaring off at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs beat the Bills 38-24 in the AFC Championship Game last year as three-point home favorites in a contest totaled 55 points. These teams already met in Kansas City earlier this season and the Bills closed as 2.5-point underdogs in that Week 5 contest in a game totaled at 57.5 points. The Bills easily dispatched the Chiefs in a 38-20 victory in Arrowhead Stadium, averaging 8.1 yards per play to Kansas City’s 5.0 YPP.
Buffalo comes into the Divisional Round riding high off of a 47-17 beatdown of their division nemesis, and they handed Bill Belichick the largest playoff defeat of his Patriots’ tenure. The Bills became the first team in NFL history to never punt, kick a field goal, or turn the ball over in their victory over the Patriots in the Wild Card Round. Their first negative play came when Mitch Trubisky took a knee to run out the clock at the end of the game. Josh Allen set a Bills’ playoff record with five touchdown passes against the Patriots, and he finished with more TDs than incompletions (4). They also had more touchdowns (7) than third downs (6) and they had 484 yards on 51 plays (9.5 YPP) before Trubisky’s three kneel-downs at the end of the game. All 12 of Buffalo’s victories have come by double-digit margins, and they’ve won five consecutive games (4-1 ATS) heading into this weekend.
The Bills have played over the total in eight consecutive games as an underdog and the Chiefs have played over the total in six straight games, so we could see some fireworks in the highest totaled game of the weekend. Kansas City is also riding high coming into this pivotal matchup with a 10-1 record (7-4 ATS) in its last 11 games. They’ve covered in five straight games at home and they own a five-game postseason winning streak at Arrowhead Stadium, which is the longest active streak. Patrick Mahomes finished with a Wild Card Round best 404 passing yards and five TDs with the Chiefs scoring six straight touchdowns after T.J. Watt’s scoop-and-score touchdown put them briefly behind in the early second quarter. Travis Kelce became the first player to throw for a touchdown, to catch a touchdown, and to post 100+ receiving yards in a playoff game. The Chiefs potentially have a new top running back for the rest of the postseason after Jerick McKinnon erupted for 12/61 rushing and 6/81/1 receiving against the Steelers.
BROLLEY’S EARLY BETS
Check out all of my Best Bets for the Wild Card Round.
San Francisco 49ers at GREEN BAY PACKERS (-4.5)
BUFFALO BILLS (+2.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
BROLLEY’S EARLY LEANS
CINCINNATI BENGALS (+3.5) at Tennessee Titans — I grabbed the Bengals +4 at DraftKings on Monday morning but it quickly disappeared by the time I put out my initial Best Bets. I’ll probably give them out as an official pick later this week but I’m waiting to see if the Titans see some money later this week once Derrick Henry is officially cleared for action on Saturday.
LOS ANGELES RAMS (+3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — I picked the Rams to beat the Buccaneers in our Staff Playoff Predictions so I’m inclined to stick with my initial pick, but I was hoping this line would open more in the +4/4.5 range. I’ll wait this line out to see if I can at least pick up a +3.5 closer to kickoff but this line appears more likely to head to +2.5 than +3.5.