After an up and down regular season in which I needed a furious finish to end up over .500, I couldn’t have started the playoffs out with any more momentum. I nailed all four games last week, and I’m even going to give myself extra credit for making the Giants -3 my lock, since they delivered the most dominant win of the weekend.
Now it’s time to move onto the divisional round.
This is my favorite weekend of NFL playoff football. There are four games, most of the borderline playoff teams like Cincy and Atlanta have been removed, and the best of the best are all in action. Of course the most anticipated game nationally is Denver-New England, and with good reason, but each game provides its own level of intrigue.
We will have previews of every game later in the week. To kick off our Divisional Round coverage here at MSF, below are the spreads, the TV schedule, and my picks for each of the four games on this week’s schedule.
- All times are ET.
- Spreads are as of Monday morning.
- Announcer info via Fang’s Bites.
- If you want updated spread info, visit our friends at DocSports: NFL Playoffs Odds and Lines
Bettor’s Guide: NFL Playoffs Divisional Round
Picks – Point Spreads – Over-Unders
Lock of the Week – TV Schedule
New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers
- Saints-49ers Date, Time, and TV: Saturday, January 14th at 4:30 ET on FOX
- Saints-49ers Announcers: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, and Tony Siragusa
- Saints-49ers Point Spread: Saints -3.5
- Saints-49ers Over-Under: 47.5
- Saints-49ers Pick: I wrote about this game yesterday after listening to the ESPN talking heads discuss the Saints as if their ticket to the NFC Title Game has already been punched. It hasn’t. They have to play away from their precious dome against a team that is 7-1 in their home park and features the best defense in the league. This game is anything but a sure thing, and the spread – the closest of all four games – is indicative of that. Last year, the Saints won 25-22 in San Francisco on a last second field goal. A lot of the players have changed, of course, but I think this game will be similar. It will be a close, competitive matchup that someone will win by a field goal. Give me San Fran with the home field advantage and the points. 49ers-Saints free pick: 49ers +3.5
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
- Broncos-Patriots Date, Time, and TV: Saturday, January 14th at 8:00 ET on CBS
- Broncos-Patriots Announcers: Jim Nantz and Phil Simms
- Broncos-Patriots Point Spread: Patriots -13.5
- Broncos-Patriots Over-Under: 51
- Broncos-Patriots Pick: That’s a big spread, a very big spread, especially to give a team that has not won a playoff game since the AFC Championship game in 2008 and that features an atrocious defense. I know that Tom Brady is really good, and Bill Belichick will surely cook something up on defense to confuse Tim Tebow, but with the confidence Tebow and the Broncos gained against Pittsburgh they are going to come into New England ready to deliver their best shot. ALL of the pressure is on New England in this game. They’ll probably win it because of Brady, but this isn’t going to be any kind of cakewalk. Not anymore. And with that big of a spread, this is a no-brainer. Broncos-Patriots free pick: Broncos +13.5
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
- Texans-Ravens Date, Time, and TV: Sunday, January 15th at 1:00 ET on CBS
- Texans-Ravens Announcers: Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf
- Texans-Ravens Point Spread: Ravens -9
- Texans-Ravens Over-Under: 35.5
- Texans-Ravens Pick: I am tempted to pick the Texans, because they run the ball so well and have a solid defense, but I just can’t do it. T.J. Yates was fine managing the game against Cincinnati, but facing the Ravens’ defense in Baltimore is a whole different ballgame. The Ravens are rested, and while their defense isn’t what it once was, they can still get after the QB when motivated, at home, in a big game. Just ask San Francisco, which dealt with it on Thanksgiving night. I think that’s the Ravens’ D we see on Sunday, and it won’t bode well for Yates. Offensively, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice will do enough to make this a relatively smooth victory. Texans-Ravens free pick: Ravens -9
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
- Saints-49ers Date, Time, and TV: Sunday, January 15th at 4:30 ET on FOX
- Saints-49ers Announcers: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
- Saints-49ers Point Spread: Packers -9
- Saints-49ers Over-Under: 52.5
- Saints-49ers Pick: My gut reaction to the spread is that it’s just too many points. Green Bay is excellent, and they will surely put up more than the two points Atlanta scored on New York – probably 15-20 times over – but I don’t think the Packers’ D has any answer for Eli and his three receivers, plus a now-healthy tandem of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. The game they played earlier in the year went down to the wire. Even though the venue is different this time around, I see no reason to think this one won’t go down to the wire too. Giants-Packers free pick: Giants +9
Lock of the Week: Divisional Round Edition
It’s really tough picking a lock this week. My first instinct is to go with the Broncos +13.5 simply because that is so many points, but I don’t know that I trust the Broncos’ defense enough to do that. If the Patriots hang 35-40 points on Denver, a very real possibility, they may be able to cover. I don’t think that’ll happen, but it does make me lean towards the Giants keeping it within nine points of Green Bay.
The Packers haven’t been overly impressive their last few times out. They’ve been very good, don’t get me wrong, but not great like they were as they were mowing down opponents left and right. Frankly, the Giants have been more impressive the last few weeks, which should lead to an excellent game in Green Bay. I’ll take the Giants as my lock again, this time getting 9 points against a Green Bay team they already came thisclose to beating.