Wild Card Weekend is in the books, and we have a host of excellent games on the docket for the divisional round. Most of them are pretty fresh matchups, and all of them combine to feature a fascinating group of quarterbacks that very well might be showcasing the long-term future at the position.
Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson have established themselves. Lamar Jackson is about to win MVP. Ryan Tannehill is the new guy on the playoff scene. Only Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson are veterans with Super Bowl rings, unless you want to be a jerk and point out the two that Jimmy Garoppolo has as a backup. There’s no Tom Brady. No Drew Brees. Only one of Russ and Rodgers can advance. We’re looking at a divisional round with a group of quarterbacks where everyone is under the age of 35 for the first time in, well, at least since 2009. It’s also a testament to the strength of the field that only a single division winner (Houston) advanced out of the wild-card round.
Let’s get to the lines. All odds via SuperBook USA. Make sure and.
(1) 49ers -7 vs. (6) Vikings, O/U 45.5
Sat., Jan. 11, 4:35 p.m. ET, NBC (stream on fuboTV, try for free)
San Francisco was dominant this season, and as such the 49ers are a pretty hefty favorite against the Vikings, despite Minnesota pulling off a shocking road upset of the Saints. The Vikings were a similar longshot in that matchup as well, closing as a seven-point ‘dog against the Saints.
This is a more difficult matchup: the 49ers had a week to rest and have a substantially better pass rush at their disposal than the Saints do. Pressure on Kirk Cousins is a major problem if it prevents the Vikings from getting their run game going or operating with a ton of play action. On the other hand, you can make the case New Orleans, despite its seed, was a better team closing out the season than the 49ers. But it shouldn’t be surprising to see this line given the location of the game and the 49ers with an extra week to gameplan and get healthy. The total is about right considering how much these two teams like to run the football.
(1) Ravens -9.5 vs. (6) Titans, O/U 48
Sat., Jan. 11, 4:35 p.m. ET, CBS (stream on CBS All Access)
An intriguing line here, considering how much the public adores Lamar Jackson. With the Ravens being a public team and coming off their bye on a huge win streak, it’s surprising this line wasn’t firmly in the double digits. I think a lot of people wanted to back to the Titans getting the full 10, so that might explain the drop in the line from Saturday evening to Sunday. Double digits in a divisional round game is a huge ask, even if the Titans are the 6 seed. They did march into New England and handle the Patriots after all.
The problem in this game is the Ravens probably have a better defense than New England at this point. Falling behind the Ravens is a non-starter in terms of winning the game; the Ravens run downhill and their secondary is exceptional. If the Titans want to win this game, they need to come out and play exceptional defense early and have Derrick Henry take over the way he did against New England.
(2) Chiefs -9.5 vs. (4) Texans, O/U 49
Sun., Jan. 12, 3:05 p.m. ET, CBS (stream on CBS All Access)
Another public team in Kansas City goes against an AFC South team in Houston. This line is similar for similar reasons: the Chiefs are the better team, probably just a touchdown better in a vacuum, but there’s a lot of public action in play here. The Chiefs could absolutely smother the Texans, who have played extremely conservative at times. Or the Texans could beat them! They already did it once this season, albeit at a time when Patrick Mahomes was banged up and the Chiefs’ defense was not nearly as good as it is at this point in time.
This could absolutely be a shootout, although weather could certainly come into play — we’ve seen plenty of snow and whatnot during Kansas City games before. Both of these teams have focused a little more on ball control recently than you might typically expect, so this could provide some value on the under. Either way, we’re getting Patrick Mahomes vs. Deshaun Watson. How lovely.
(2) Packers -3.5 vs. (5) Seahawks, O/U 47
Sun., Jan. 12, 6:40 p.m. ET, FOX (stream on fuboTV, try for free)
The Luck Bowl! The Seahawks play in close games, and the Packers stumbled into the No. 2 seed. Russell Wilson vs. Aaron Rodgers is an excellent historical rematch. The Packers’ pass rush has been nasty over the last few weeks and could be a major problems for a banged-up Seahawks offensive line. If the back end can hang on, they’ll be able to slow down a Seahawks offense that isn’t exactly a monster. Defensively, Seattle isn’t some behemoth either.