NFL divisional round playoffs picks against the spread: Vic Tafur’s predictions

Let’s not break our arms patting ourselves on the backs. Yeah, 4-2 was nice. But we needed to go undefeated in the playoffs to make up for the regular season.

The betting lines are particularly tough this week. We do think the Eagles’ number — they’re favored by 7.5 — is too low. the Eagles were 8-5 against the spread despite being favored every week before Jalen Hurts was injured. They then lost the last four games ATS, with Hurts getting the kinks out in the finale.

They are playing at home and their offensive line and running game, with hurts and Miles Sanders, is no joke. The Eagles have rushed for at least 130 yards in 10 games, and will do so again on Saturday. Our other best bet is the cowboys to cover the spread against the 49ers. Again, their offensive line is a big reason. Enough small talk…

Last week: 4-2 against the spread and 2-1 on best bets.

Regular season: 127-139-5ATS; 26-27-3 on best bets.

All odds are from BetMGM and are locked when the pick was made. Click here for live odds.



With eight NFL playoff teams left, which has the best chance to win it all?

the chiefs at home after a week off — Andy Reid is 27-4 after a bye — seems like a no-brainer. Not to mention that Patrick Mahomes made the Jaguars look silly in that 27-17 win in November, completing 26 of 35 passes for 331 yards and four touchdowns before handing the ball off in the fourth quarter.

So … like we all did back in debate class 30 years ago (don’t age me), I tried to find the opposing argument. The Jaguars are on a hot streak playing with house money, and their defense is playing better than it was back then — they have an athletic front seven other Roy Robertson Harris is the real deal. Trevor Lawrence has taken his game to the next level … yada yada yada.


Last week, I picked the Chiefs to beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl and this should be a relatively easy first step in that direction. The Jaguars gave up 40 and 34 points, respectively, to the Lions and Cowboys, the two good offenses they faced in December. And last week’s comeback win might have been more about the Chargersif we’re honest.

The Jaguars really struggled to cover tight ends and Travis Kelce is the best in the business. Jacksonville ranked 32nd in pass defense DVOA vs. tight ends, allowing a league-leading 58 first down or touchdown receptions during the regular season and the third-highest yards/reception on TE targets (13.1).

I imagine they have focused on that in practice this week, but playing chess against Reid is no fun. He will have a lot of other things planned and has other hot hands he can lean on. Kadarius Toney is to X factor other Jerick McKinnon led all players with six receiving TDs off plays inside the red zone from Weeks 13 to 18. (And the Jaguars let seven halfback screens go for 10-plus yards, tied for fourth-most in the NFL.)

The Jaguars also have been prone to slow starts, which is a bad idea in Arrowhead. Mahomes is 4-0 in the divisional round and has never thrown an interception, and he is 3-2 against the spread (4-1 overall) when favored by seven or more points in the playoffs. Make it 4-2.

The pick: Chiefs -8.5

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs should cruise to another AFC Championship Game. (Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today)

ace The Athletic‘s Dan Duggan said, it’s hard to look for clues in these teams’ two matchups this season. the Giants rested everybody in the season finale and then back in the 48-22 loss to the Eagles, they didn’t have Leonard Williams, LandonCollins, Jarrad Davis, Adoree’ Jackson or Xavier McKinney.

The Giants are well-coached, Daniel Jones is playing with a lot of confidence, Saquon Barkley is one of the top five most electrifying players in the playoffs and Dexter Lawrence took over the game last week, pushing the pocket in the face of Minnesota QB Kirk cousins.

I am looking for a tease. I am taking the Eagles. Hurts appears to be healthy and tackle Lane Johnson is back for what really is a still-underrated offense. Sanders ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries in that first matchup and has been slept on all season. He averaged 5.53 yards before contact per carry in that game, his second-highest rate of the season, surpassed only by his Week 8 performance vs. the Steelersbut that one featured just nine carries for Sanders.

The Eagles’ defense, meanwhile, has two shutdown cornerbacks — overkill against New York’s receivers — and it locked down the run in the second half of the season. This spread should be higher, but everyone has Brian Daboll and Danny Dimes feverand while they have been great, the Giants are in the playoffs a year ahead of schedule and we’ll see why Sunday.

The pick: Eagles -7.5



NFL Playoffs expert picks, odds: Predictions for every game in the divisional round

I still don’t know why this game isn’t on a neutral site. I picked the bengals in that season finale matchup and Joe Burrow What shredding the Bills defense before the game was called off following Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest (has tip to Hamlin’s continued improvement in his recovery). Burrow is very comfortable against the Bill’s sub-heavy defense — the Bengals ranked third in success rate vs. five or more DBs during the regular season (46.4 percent). Burrow is patient, as that success came despite the fact Cincinnati ranked 23rd in explosive play rate against five or more DBs (10.5 percent).

Now, I don’t know if he can be patient given all the injuries the Bengals have on the offensive line. They were already missing La’el Collins other Alex Cappa before Jonah Williams went down last week against the Ravens. Neither Cappa nor Williams practiced on Thursday.

The Bengals barely beat the Ravens last week, and their offense bogged down, but I credit the Ravens for that. The Bills without By Miller are not a great pass-rushing team, and they are prone to defensive lapses.

I think the Bengals defense is more balanced than the Bills’ and will contain Josh Allen. The Bills simply don’t beat teams with winning records by a lot of points this season, and a big reason for that is Allen’s generosity. Allen tries to do too much and led the NFL with 19 turnovers this season and had three more last week, when he almost lost a playoff game to Skylar Thompson.

Allen is great, mind you, and if he is dealing on Sunday, we will take our L and soldier on. Among 34 qualified QBs and including the postseason, Allen has the lowest off-target rate on throws of 15-plus air yards (14.6 percent) and he ranks seventh in EPA/DB on these plays. The Bengals defense finished the regular season ranked 11th in success rate (58.5 percent) and sixth in EPA per opponent dropback against throws of 15-plus air yards.

But we’re rolling with Burrow and the Bengals defense. Give us the points.

The pick: Bengals +5.5

We flew close to the sun last week, picking Dak Prescott as our featured photo to go along with our cowboys best bet. Dak was dealing, enough so that he has to give those who picked the 49ers to roll through the NFC some pause. By EPA per dropback, it was the 10th-best QB playoff performance since 2010. It was the sixth-best performance of Prescott’s career (regular season or playoffs) by EPA/DB.

the 49ers are confident because they beat the Cowboys at this time last year but their one glaring weakness seems to be at cornerback, so Prescott and Cee Dee Lamb could make things interesting. They will have to, as it’s tough to see Ezekiel Elliott other Tony Pollard doing much against the 49ers’ run defense.

One thing we should mention about Prescott’s performance last week — by the numbers, the 49ers’ Brock Purdy what better. Purdy had the fifth-best QB playoff performance by EPA/DB since 2010.

One question worth considering (credit to The Athletic‘s Aaron Reiss): Is Purdy raising the 49ers’ offense or is Kyle Shanahan just hitting on all cylinders?

The numbers indicate the latter. Purdy finished the regular season with a completion percentage over expectation of -2. In the wild-card round, his CPOE was -0.5.



Brock Purdy’s 49ers playoff debut was good, but not as good as QB’s stats suggest

It’s still amazing to think of how good Purdy looks since he was the last player selected in last year’s draft. And he particularly shines moving around in the pocket and extending plays. Including the playoffs, Purdy has 85 dropbacks this season in which he took three or more seconds to throw. Jimmy Garroppolo had 93 such dropbacks before suffering his foot injury. Here’s how they stack up. (Note: all numbers/rankings in this note include playoffs):

Purdy: 61.1 percent completion rate, 10.78 YPA, 10.78 air yards/attempt, 47.1 percent success rate (which ranks fourth), 40 percent first down rate, 7.7 percent sack rate.

Garoppolo: 51.3 percent completion rate, 7.27 YPA, 11.44 air yards/attempt, 35.1 percent success rate (24th), 25.8 percent first down rate, 13.3 percent sack rate.

This should be a close game, with the Cowboys’ massive offensive line holding its own against the 49ers’ pass rushers. And the national stage is set for Micah Parsons to make a superstar turn. Dallas played down to the level of its opponents all season, but I think the Cowboys are in a great spot to at least lose by a field goal Sunday night. Give us the points.

The pick: Cowboys +4

TruMedia research courtesy of NFL editor Aaron Reiss.

(Graphic: Sean Reilly / The Athletic; photo of Miles Sanders: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)

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