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NFL Divisional Round Preview

Super Bowl LVIII is creeping closer, but we’re no clearer on who will be there as eight teams remain to battle out the rest of the NFL season.

Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens ended the NFL’s regular season as the in-form team of the league while Lamar Jackson will likely be handed the Most Valuable Player trophy.

Still, beware of this Houston Texans team.

C.J. Stroud is that guy; the Texans can beat anybody on their day.

The Ravens’ 13-4 record ended up as the best in the NFL. However, they’ve not performed particularly well in the playoffs recently. They’re just 2-5 in the post-season since winning Super Bowl XLVII and have won just one of their last six. Sure, the Texans are 0-4 in the divisional round. This is a different Texans, though. They became only the third team since 1950 to win a playoff game with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback.

While the prospect of a rookie quarterback taking on a proven performer in Jackson and the Ravens is a concern, he has performed well against teams with a winning record this season. Where other young quarterbacks have struggled, Stroud has thrown 21 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

The Ravens are deserving $1.24 and -8.5 favourites, though. They’re an elite team on both sides of the ball. Ranked No.1 in defensive DVOA and No. 4 on offence, Baltimore poses a different threat. We’re at the point in the season when the great teams separate from the good. As good as Stroud and the Texans have been, this great Baltimore outfit looks good to correct their recent post-season form.

Bet Now Houston Texans v Baltimore Ravens

Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

Nobody thought the Green Bay Packers would be here…

In hindsight, it’s not a massive surprise. The Dallas Cowboys have a history of crumbling in the biggest moments, and this young Packers team went into the game under no pressure. And it showed.

This game is shaping up as a beauty.

He was slightly slow to start the NFL season, but Jordan Love is well and truly one of the best quarterbacks in the league right now. He has been superb since Week 13 and piled up 272 yards and three touchdowns in his playoff debut against the Cowboys.

Meanwhile, Brock Purdy has been a revelation. The early-season calls of Purdy being overrated were silent by the end of it. Among the favourites to win the Most Valuable Player award at one point, one bad game ruled him out. Still, with the weapons he has around him and with the arm he’s displayed so far, it was only a matter of time before he boucned back. Few have felt it necessary to mention that he will be making his playoff debut in this one, too.

The 49ers are the best offensive team in the league. Nobody has been able to contain them at any level of reliable success this season. The Packers will be the next team to fail. However, they’ve proven capable of keeping up in a shootout. This wide receiver group is young, fast and explosive. If the offensive line can contain Nick Bosa, which is no easy feat, Love will have enough time in the pocket to move the chains.

San Francisco were the best team in the NFL for much of the season. While they’ve had their dips, the major losing streak came when they were dealing with injuries. Now, they’re rested, ready, and determined to win three more games. They’re big $1.21 and -9.5 favourites and should get the job done at home.

Bet Now Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions got the job done last week, but only just. Some better clock management from Sean McVay and it could have been the LA Rams in this spot. Nonetheless, Jared Goff and the Lions extended their stellar season and are favourites to go at least one game further as $1.35 and -6.5 to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Inconsistency has been a bit of a problem for the Lions all season. Just last week they were inconsistent across one game scoring 21 points in the first half and only three in the second against the Rams.

We could look back at Detroit’s win over Tampa Bay back in Week 6 for evidence leading into this one. However, inconsistency has plagued Baker Mayfield and the Bucs, too. It’s a lottery as to which version of the two teams will turn up at Ford Field.

History suggests a high-powered offence will be there for the Lions at the very least. We’ve cashed in on Goff indoors a few times this NFL season already. Detroit scores 30.5 points per game at home and only 24.1 on the road. If the Mayfield of last week also runs out onto the field, the 48.5 total (Over – $1.88) won’t be big enough. Mayfield finished up with 337 passing yards and three touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round.

While it’s difficult to get a reliable read on either team, 6.5 points is a big number. The Buccaneers are a lot more capable of causing an upset than the early line suggests.

Bet Now Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Detroit Lions

Kansas City Chiefs @ Buffalo Bills

Strap yourselves in for this one.

The NFL Gods blessed us with the Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins decider in Week 18. Now we’ve been blessed with the fourth playoff installment of one of the best rivalries in the league right now.

At one stage unlikely to even reach the playoffs, form and healing injuries have come together at the right time for Buffalo to be the team nobody wants to face right now. They beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the five-game winning streak that put them in a position to host this game. Now they’re -2.5 favourites to make it to the Conference Championship.

Remarkably, this marks the first road playoff game in Patrick Mahomes’ career.

It’s not often that Mahomes is an underdog but he has performed well in the spot. Meanwhile, Josh Allen and the Bills are 35-8 straight up as home favourites.

The trends don’t offer an edge either way.

There would be little to read into them, even if they didn’t point in a particular direction.

This is the worst offense of the Mahomes era but they still rank 8th in offensive DVOA. Allen, on the other hand, is coming off another good game last week, plays with the 3rd ranked offence in DVOA, and are into their seventh consecutive week playing at a playoff intensity.

Kansas City isn’t the team they were last season. Even their 26-7 win last week flatters them given the four field goal involved. They will need more than two touchdowns to beat the Bills in this one.

It’s a small -2.5 line but there is a strong argument that the Bills should be bigger favourites.

Bet Now Kansas City Chiefs @ Buffalo Bills

 

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