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The format for the postseason is a little bit different. Since there are only four games, you’ll need to pick the winner against the spread and whether or not each game is going to go over or under the specified total. You’ll also need to answer two specific questions: Which team will score the most points and which day will feature the most touchdowns.
Each correct pick earns you a point, and the higher you finish on the leaderboard, the more money you earn. Check out the contest at the DraftKings Sportsbook Pools page or by downloading the DraftKings Sportsbook app.
Let’s take a look at all four NFL contests slated for this weekend’s DraftKings Sportsbook Pro Football Divisional Round Predictions Pool, including my five favorite selections.
Baltimore Ravens @ Buffalo Bills (-2.5)
The Pick: Bills -2.5
The Bills weren’t overly impressive last week vs. the Colts, but they managed to squeak out a narrow victory. Meanwhile, the Ravens and Lamar Jackson were able to vanquish their demons against the Titans, and they’ve now won six straight games. The momentum is clearly on their side, and they have essentially pulled even with the Bills in terms of odds to win the AFC and Super Bowl on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Still, I’m not convinced that this team is actually all that good.
Their offense crushed over the final five weeks of the regular season, but it was against some abysmal competition. They did win a huge game vs. the Browns – although they were outgained by more than 100 yards in that contest – but their other four wins were against the Cowboys, Jaguars, Giants and Bengals. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row of competition.
Their win over the Titans wasn’t all that impressive either. Tennessee has been awful on the defensive side of the ball all season, so the fact that the Ravens scored just 20 points is encouraging for their prospects moving forward.
The Bills are going to represent a serious step up in weight class. They have been one of the best offensive teams in football this season, and Josh Allen is arguably playing as well as anyone at the quarterback position at the moment. He is going to put points on the board vs. the Ravens, so the big question is whether or not Jackson and the offense can keep up. Buffalo hasn’t been great on the defensive side of the ball this season, but they have improved as the season has progressed. They rank eighth in Football Outsiders’ weighted defensive DVOA, which puts a higher premium on games that occur later in the year.
Ultimately, I think Buffalo does enough defensively to secure a victory.
Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5)
The Pick: Chiefs -9.5
The Chiefs are the largest favorites of the weekend, but I love their chances of cruising to a comfortable victory.
For starters, the Chiefs’ offense should be able to carve up the Browns’ D like a holiday ham. They rank first in yards per game, second in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA and sixth in points per game. The combination of Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid spearheads the offense, which might be the most dominant QB-head coach combination in league history from a purely offensive standpoint. Reid is nothing short of a genius at designing gameplans, and Mahomes is capable of making throws that other quarterbacks can only dream of.
This combination has been lethal when given additional time to prepare. Between the regular season and playoffs, Mahomes and Reid have been a juggernaut with at least 13 days between games:
· 11/22/20 @ Raiders — 35 points
· 2/2/20 vs. 49ers (neutral field) — 31 points
· 1/12/20 vs. Texans — 51 points
· 12/1/19 vs. Raiders — 40 points
· 1/12/19 vs. Colts — 31 points
· 12/2/18 @ Raiders — 40 points
Those numbers are truly mindboggling. They’ve scored at least 31 points in all three games, and they’ve averaged a ridiculous 38.0 points. The Browns rank just 25th in pass defense DVOA, so they don’t have a shot at stopping this unit.
Overall, Mahomes is historically 4-2 with additional time to prepare, including a perfect 3-0 during the postseason.
I also still think the Browns are a fraudulent playoff team. It gets harder and harder to make that statement each week, but last week’s performance was more about the Steelers shooting themselves in the foot than anything else. Maurkice Pouncey gave the Browns seven points on the first play of the game by directly snapping the ball over Ben Roethlisberger’s head, and Roethlisberger gave them an additional 14 first-quarter points via two interceptions. The Chiefs are not going to make those types of mistakes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints: O/U 51.5
The Pick: Under 51.5
This game is being billed as Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees, but this matchup is really about the defense.
The Saints have blossomed into arguably the best defensive team in the league. They rank in the top three in both rush and pass defense DVOA, and they’ve allowed the third-fewest points per game this season.
They were fantastic last week vs. the Bears. They limited them to just nine points, and six of those came on a meaningless touchdown pass as time expired. The Bears managed only 239 yards of total offense after averaging 388.6 yards over the previous five weeks.
The Saints’ defense also made life a living hell for Tom Brady during the regular season. He finished with just two touchdown passes compared to five interceptions, and he was also sacked six times. The result was an average of 3.55 adjusted yards per attempt between the two contests.
The Saints will also get a big boost with Trey Hendrickson back in the lineup. He missed last week’s game vs. the Bears, but he led the team with 13.5 sacks during the regular season. He was also able to sack Brady three times in their two meetings and getting pressure on Brady has always been the secret to beating him.
Additionally, taking the under on divisional games has historically been a profitable endeavor late in the season. They’ve gone 212-137-5 dating back to 2004, including 11-9-1 during the postseason. That trend was 11-7-1 before last week, so I think it’s due for some positive regression.
Which team will score the most points?
The Pick: Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs will be the most popular choice here, so you could make the case that picking someone else is the best move from a pure game theory perspective. That said, I can’t imagine fading the Chiefs in this spot. Reid is too good with extra time, Mahomes is too good in general and the Browns’ passing defense stinks. Eat the chalk.
Which day of games will have more total touchdowns?
The Pick: Sunday
Sunday was also be the highest-owned choice, but I am once again unwilling to fade it. Not only do the Chiefs play on Sunday – and that game has an absolutely monstrous total – but the game between the Saints and Bucs has the second-highest total of the week.
The only thing I will add is that you’re going to want to make sure that your answers are correlated. If you think the Chiefs are going to be the highest-scoring team, you should probably take the Chiefs to cover, the Chiefs game to go over and Sunday to be the highest-scoring day. That may seem obvious, but there will be plenty of people who don’t correlate their answers in this contest.
Here are the teams I’m targeting for the rest of the slate. Remember, we’re looking to beat the competition and climb up the leaderboard, so I’ll be looking to gain leverage on the field and fade the public in situations where I don’t see a huge edge on the spread.
Los Angeles Rams @ Green Bay Packers (-7.5)
Pick: Rams +6.5
Los Angeles Rams @ Green Bay Packers: O/U 46.5
Pick: Under 46.5
Baltimore Ravens @ Buffalo Bills: O/U 49.5
Pick: Under 49.5
Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs: O/U 55.5
Pick: Over 55.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
Pick: Buccaneers +3.5
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