The Divisional Round gets going in four days, and the first injury reports will start arriving early Tuesday afternoon. Saturday brings the Vikings-49ers and Titans-Ravens matchups, which means they will practice Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Sunday brings Texans-Chiefs and Seahawks-Packers, which means they will practice Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
The injury reports are critical to making final picks, but before that information arrives, it’s helpful to set a baseline for making straight up picks and picks against the spread. These are early leans, with plenty of room to re-consider over the next few days.
Vikings vs. 49ers (-7, 44.5)
The 49ers appear to be getting healthy at the right time, with defensive end Dee Ford, safety Jaquiski Tartt, and potentially linebacker Kwon Alexander all coming back for this game. The big matchup could be Eric Kendricks vs. George Kittle if the Vikings elect to cover the dynamic tight end with a linebacker. That matchup would seem to favor the 49ers. This was a better line at -6.5, but even at a full touchdown, this is one to still lay the points.
Meanwhile, coming off a strong defensive showing against New Orleans, the Vikings will look to give the 49ers offense some trouble. 44.5 puts us just above a key number of 44. I’d lean under for now, but if that comes down under 44, over might end up being the way to go.
Titans vs. Ravens (-9.5, 46.5)
The Titans knocked off the Patriots and are riding high on Derrick Henry. They advance to face the hottest team in the NFL in the Ravens. As good as Baltimore has been, recency bias could have people leaning Tennessee early in the week. As long as this stays in single digits, the Ravens strike me as the play.
Baltimore’s defense has improved as the season has moved along, but they’re not the Patriots in that regard. Look for this game to loosen up a bit compared to last week and hit the over. There’s just too much potentially dynamic offense in play.
Texans vs. Chiefs (-9.5, 50)
If you want to back the Chiefs, this is a lot of points to lay against Deshaun Watson. The Chiefs offense will likely be too much for Houston to overcome for a win, but it’s unlikely this is a blowout. Some will point to the Texans win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead back in Week 6, but Patrick Mahomes was dealing with an ankle issue. He appears to be in top form, but even still, Watson will keep the Texans in this enough to get the cover. Ideally this gets out to 10 points, but I can live getting 9.5 points.
As for the point total? The over is going to be the popular play, and for the time being, it’s hard to go against that — especially if Will Fuller is able to play. That and Texans cornerback Johnathan Jospeh are the two injuries to keep an eye on this week.
Seahawks vs. Packers (-4, 46.5)
The Seahawks are getting a lot of public love, marking the second straight week they’ll go on the road with this kind of backing. They’re an underdog this time around, and people are sleeping on the Packers. Green Bay has had its share of issues this season, but there’s still a ton of talent there. If Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny were playing, I’d be concerned about what they might do to the Packers bad run defense. Marshawn Lynch and Travis Homer do not scare me nearly as much at this point, and that gives the Packers a leg up. Pending the injury reports, I’m leaning Packers -4.
Both teams have spent more time at or under the point total, but this number seems just a little bit too low. A 27-20 or 27-23 type of game makes a lot of sense to me at the moment.