The NFL playoffs are underway, and you can find updated odds, lines, and predictions for the Conference Round here. The 49eres and Rams will square off for the third time, but this time the winner will head to the Super Bowl. The Bengals knocked off the Titans, and the Chiefs beat the Bills in a barnburner to set up an exciting rematch in the AFC Championship. Predictions & Picks will be updated early week.
Divisional Round Record: 2-2 SU, 3-1 ATS, 3-1 O/U
My Playoff Record: 7-3 SU, 7-3 ATS, 6-4 O/U
My Regular Season Record: 172-99-1 SU (63.2%), 161-110-1 ATS (59.1%), 146-123-2 O/U (53.6%)
NFL Divisional Round Odds
Cincinnati Bengals Vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs and Bills played in a remarkably entertaining game on Sunday that came right down to the wire. With 13 seconds on the clock, the Bills scored a go-ahead touchdown and 2-point conversion that looked like it could be the decider in the game. However, Patrick Mahomes came through in the clutch as he has done so often in his short career and delivered two strikes to Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill to set his team up in field goal range. From there, the Chiefs won the overtime coin toss and went on to win 42-36. For all of the discussion of how the overtime rules need to be changed, I wanted to focus on how Mahomes embarrassed the defense that came in as the #1 scoring unit and the best defense in DVOA. Mahomes completed 75% of his passes for 378 yards and three touchdowns, all to different receivers, and added another 69 yards and a score on the ground. We’ve seen some legendary performances from Mahomes, but I believe this one may take the cake.
The Bengals, meanwhile, won in a way that I didn’t quite see coming. I waffled on their game last week and ultimately picked the Titans as I believed they would pull out another big win like they have done all season behind Mike Vrabel’s excellent coaching. In my eyes, Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase dominating through the air was their only path to victory. However, Burrow had a quiet game as he was sacked a whopping nine times, but the Bengals won anyways as they picked off Ryan Tannehill three times, each interception more puzzling than the last. Burrow did finish with 348 passing yards, but the team’s only touchdown came by way of Joe Mixon on the ground. Rookie kicker Evan McPhearson had an incredibly clutch game with four made field goals, including the final game-winning attempt to push the game to 19-16 in favor of Cincinnati.
When the Bengals and Chiefs played earlier this year, it was an instant classic in which Burrow threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns while Ja’Marr Chase cemented himself as the Offensive Rookie of the Year with 11 catches for 266 yards and three touchdowns. The Chiefs lost Tyrann Mathieu early in the game against the Bills, and their secondary was often confused and out of place as they allowed big play after big play. If Mathieu cannot go this week, it would be a massive problem against Chase and Tee Higgins, two elite wideouts. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine Burrow being held without a touchdown for a second straight playoff game. In that game against the Chiefs, the Bengals’ defense stepped up in a big way to keep Kansas City to just 3 points in the second half. However, they benefitted from some horrible calls against the Chiefs, and they still allowed 414 total yards of offense for the game.
The significant loss for the Chiefs going into the postseason was starting right tackle Lucas Niang, a standout rookie whose absence was an even bigger issue without Mike Remmers healthy. However, as much as I discussed the Bills’ pass rush being improved, Mahomes was only sacked twice last week and wasn’t under duress too often. Even when he was, he took off and ran for some of the best rushing production of his career. The Bengals could be without Cameron Sample, their starting defensive end, and are already without Larry Ogunjobi. Trey Hendrickson has been a revelation in his first year in Cincy, but I expect the Chiefs’ new-look offensive line to keep Mahomes upright. Cincinnati will also likely have some issues keeping Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill in check, especially now that Hill is much healthier than a few weeks ago.
It will be essential to keep an eye on the injury report this week, as if Mathieu and Rashad Fenton can’t play, Burrow could take advantage of a banged-up Chiefs secondary. However, this year, the Chiefs were trending towards a blowout with a 28-17 halftime lead over the Bengals earlier, and I expect them to finish the job here. In two games this postseason, the Chiefs have only had four penalties go against them, much fewer than the ten they picked up against the Bengals. I’ll pick the Chiefs to do enough to cover at home in a clean, efficient offensive performance.
Cincinnati Bengals: DE Cameron Sample (groin) Q, OT Riley Reiff (ankle) IR, DT Larry Ogunjobi (foot) IR
Kansas City Chiefs: S Tyrann Mathieu (concussion) Q, RB Darrel Williams (toe) Q, CB Rashad Fenton (back) Q, OT Lucas Niang (kneecap) IR, OT Mike Remmers (knee) IR
Matchup To Watch: Orlando Brown (KC OT) vs. Trey Hendrickson (CIN DE)
My Prediction: Chiefs win 37-27, Chiefs cover, over 54.5 points
San Francisco 49ers Vs. Los Angeles Rams -3
Don’t be fooled by the massive injury reports below; I included all of the season-ending injuries for both teams to show how much attrition each has had to go through to get to the NFC Championship. In particular, the Niners have lost two starting defensive linemen, their top cornerback, top running back, and starting right tackle. Still, they have upset the Cowboys and Packers on the road in the postseason and are now one win away from returning to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years. The game against the Packers was the diametric opposite of the games we saw on Sunday as the two teams battled it out in the snow and freezing cold at Lambeau Field. Jimmy Garoppolo was not at his best with just 131 passing yards and an interception, but he didn’t need to be. The 49ers’ defense held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to just 263 yards of offense and 10 points, and their special teams sealed the deal with a critical blocked punt returned for a touchdown late in the game.
The Rams, meanwhile, survived a second-half onslaught from the Buccaneers to eke out a win that was far closer than it ever should have been. Despite holding a 27-3 third-quarter lead, the Rams almost coughed up the game on the heels of an incredible four fumbles. Cam Akers looked great against the Cardinals the week prior, but he averaged just 2.0 YPC against the Bucs and fumbled twice. It will be interesting to see if Sony Michel gets more of the starting workload this week after just one carry against Tampa. While he did fumble, Cooper Kupp came up clutch in the game’s closing moments with two critical receptions to get the Rams into field goal range. Kupp finished with nine catches for 183 yards and a touchdown, and he’s borderline uncoverable right now. Matthew Stafford was pristine in the game, with 73% passing for 366 yards and two touchdowns. The big story was the Rams’ pass rush as Aaron Donald, Von Miller, and Leonard Floyd were constantly on Tom Brady’s heels.
The big national media outlets will all be discussing Kyle Shanahan’s 6-0 record against Sean McVay, and it’s definitely a real story. However, the teams have never met with these stakes – win, and you’re in the Super Bowl. This year, the Rams held a 17-0 lead against the 49ers in their Week 18 meeting before relinquishing points and ultimately losing in overtime. The first matchup wasn’t even close as the Niners won 31-10, with Deebo Samuel generating 133 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. The Rams did a better job of keeping him in check in the second matchup until he broke loose on a 43-yard catch-and-run late in the game that was critical to San Francisco’s comeback bid. Finding a way to slow down Samuel will be vital to the Rams winning this week, and while his ankle injury took him out of the game on Saturday, I’d be surprised if he’s unable to play this week. Keep an eye on the injury reports for Trent Williams, who also suffered an ankle injury. X-rays came back negative for Williams, and the Niners need him at his best to combat the Rams’ elite pass-rush.
Cooper Kupp is the key to the offense for the Rams, and he averaged nine catches for 120 yards in the two games against San Francisco this year. With all of the secondary injuries the Niners have suffered, Kupp should be able to take advantage yet again. The potential absence of Ambry Thomas could be significant, as well, as the rookie cornerback had started to emerge as a reliable starter as of late. Odell Beckham Jr. has also become a more consistent part of the offense, and it’s been fun to see the talented wideout work with a coach in Sean McVay and a quarterback in Matthew Stafford who will allow him to showcase his talent. The potential absence of Andrew Whitworth would be significant for the Rams against Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, but Joe Noteboom held up very well in his start against Tampa last week. The Rams offensive line has been hit-or-miss this season, and Stafford was sacked five times against the Niners in Week 18. That can’t happen again if the Rams win this game. The emergence of a more consistent run game with Akers and Michel should help.
The Rams opened as 3.5-point favorites in this game, and I believe it’s a decent number given their production on both sides of the ball over the last two weeks. If they hadn’t fumbled four times against the Bucs, that game was also trending towards being a blowout. Stafford has been excellent in this postseason run, and he should be able to keep it going against an exploitable San Francisco secondary. So long as the Rams limit their miscues and turnovers while maximizing their defensive talent, they should be able to exorcise some demons and finally beat their heated rival 49ers.
San Francisco 49ers: CB Ambry Thomas (knee) Q, OT Trent Williams (ankle) Q, WR Deebo Samuel (ankle) Q, CB Jason Verrett (knee – ACL) IR, OT Mike McGlinchey (quadriceps) IR, DT Javon Kinlaw (knee – ACL) IR, RB Raheem Mostert (knee – meniscus) IR, DE Dee Ford (back) IR, CB Tarvarius Moore (Achilles) PUP
Los Angeles Rams: OT Andrew Whitworth (knee) Q, S Taylor Rapp (concussion) Q, RB Darrell Henderson (knee – MCL) IR, WR Robert Woods (knee – ACL) IR, DT Sebastian Joseph-Day (pectoral) IR, CB Robert Rochell (chest) IR, LB Ernest Jones (ankle) IR, S Jordan Fuller (ankle) IR
Matchup To Watch: Alex Mack (SF C) vs. Aaron Donald (LAR DT)
My Prediction: Rams win 28-24, Rams cover, over 46.5 points
Conference Round ATS Confidence Rankings
- #1: Rams -3.5
- #2: Chiefs -7