By Chris Mueller | Last updated 1/14/21
Four out of six favorites won on wild card weekend, but the two upsets were seismic; the Rams humiliated the Seahawks for the majority of their matchup, stifling Russell Wilson so badly that Seattle fired Brian Schottenheimer, and will now have to find a new offensive coordinator to try and fix an offense that was progressively more broken as the season went on. That upset paled in comparison to Cleveland’s demolition of the Steelers, however. The Browns, barely able to practice, and down five coaches and six players, demolished Pittsburgh, and in the process, may have kick-started an offseason of changes for the Steelers. The Rams’ reward for their win? A date with Green Bay, possibly in the snow, at Lambeau Field. And the Browns? They get a crack at the defending champs at Arrowhead Stadium, this time with a much healthier team; Kevin Stefanski will be back on the sideline; Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson will all be back in the lineup, and Bill Callahan will be in his normal post as offensive line coordinator. Only Joel Bitonio, as of this writing, is still in limbo. The other two games? They aren’t shabby, either. The Ravens and Bills meet in what might be snowy conditions in Buffalo, and the Saints try to beat the Buccaneers for the third time this season. The divisional round, as it almost always does, features compelling, interesting matchups, so let’s get to the games.
Point spreads are from BetOnline.ag and are current as of 1 p.m. ET Thursday.
Pick with spread is in bold.
Last week: 3-3
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LA RAMS (11-6) AT GREEN BAY (13-3) (Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET)
TV: FOX LINE: Green Bay -6.5
What you need to know: Aaron Donald looks like he’s going to go for the Rams despite a rib injury, and if he’s able to play anything like he normally does, that’s trouble for the Packers. Donald and Los Angeles’ defensive front completely disrupted everything Seattle wanted to do offensively, and their greatness, coupled with Jalen Ramsey’s shut-down abilities in the secondary, frustrated the Seahawks and left them mostly out of answers. The Rams will go with Jared Goff at quarterback in this one, as John Wolford is out. That hurts Los Angeles, as Wolford’s mobility gives defenses more to think about, and Goff was underwhelming, to put it mildly, against Seattle. We know that Aaron Rodgers can play in the snow, and we know that he’s been great this year – great enough that he’s a likely bet to win his third MVP award – but he hasn’t seen a defense like Los Angeles’ this season. The closest thing was New Orleans in Week 3, and Rodgers did strafe them for three touchdowns in a 37-30 road win. Green Bay’s offense runs through Rodgers and Adams; will they be able to operate well if Ramsey is able to win his individual matchup with Adams? Green Bay’s ability to implement a “plan B” might determine the outcome of this game.
On the spot: Rams CB Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey might be the best in the business, but Rodgers and Adams are as close to unstoppable as any duo in the league. If Los Angeles wins, it will be because of defense, but they can only thrive if Ramsey plays one of his greatest games.
Packers TE Robert Tonyan: If there is anything resembling a weak group on Los Angeles’ defense, it is their linebackers, but even they have been very good. That said, Tonyan, second on the Packers with 11 touchdown catches, needs to take full advantage of all the attention Adams will command.
The Pick: Packers 24 Rams 23
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BALTIMORE (12-5) AT BUFFALO (14-3) (Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
TV: NBC LINE: Buffalo -2.5
What you need to know: Lamar Jackson has no experience playing in the snow, which is not altogether surprising for a guy who went to high school in Florida and played his college ball in the ACC. He might have to figure things out on the fly because forecasted conditions suggest that fresh powder could be a distinct possibility. If the conditions aren’t great, however, it might work to Baltimore’s advantage; the Ravens’ running game got going against the Titans, and while Jackson is at his most lethal when he’s able to hit shots downfield to complement his running, he’s still plenty dangerous when utilizing the short passing game and running the ball. Playing at Wyoming, Josh Allen absolutely has more experience with inclement weather than Jackson, and his raw arm strength could be a major factor if conditions include swirling winds. Buffalo won’t have Zack Moss for the rest of the playoffs, robbing them of their most straight-ahead running back, which is going to make Cole Beasley, who himself isn’t close to 100 percent, that much more important on possession downs. The Bills’ defense hasn’t been great this season, and couldn’t get regular stops on Philip Rivers in the wild card round, but they’ll have to be disciplined and tackle better against Jackson and the Ravens.
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