It's time for the divisional round of the NFL season, the quarter-finals if you will, where all the teams who are here deserve to be here and the best football of the year is usually played! – Last week showed that there were some teams who had no right in being in the post-season with some big blowouts for the Eagles and Steelers as expected as well as the Cardinals who put in their worst showing of the season in a true stinker against the Rams. The 49ers pulled off the only official upset of the weekend beating the Cowboys in their own stadium but other than that it all went to seeding.
NFL Divisional round weekend.
Cincinnati Bengals +4 @ Tennessee Titans: 48.
It was the Bengals first post-season win in 31 years, and this has been a weird week for me as a fan with a lot of people jumping on the Burrow bandwagon, and a lot spouting nonsense about it being a lucky win, and that they scraped the result. – Sure red zone efficiency was an issue, and has been for a lot of the season, but they scored in 6 of 8 drives and it went very similarly to the regular-season game between the teams, despite defensive injuries they felt the defense had what it took to hold the Raiders out of the endzone.
The Bengals didn’t play the Titans this year, but beat them quite easily last year with Burrow under center, the only game last season he didn’t take a sack. They have developed a pass rush this year, mainly through Autry and Simmons. The secondary is fine, but if the Bengals play well on offense they’ll score points. They have the players to be able to put up points on any team in the league with Joe Burrow at the helm.
He and Ja'marr Chase took the AFC by storm this year with the rookie finishing with a record number of yards for a WR in his first year, he added to that tally last week with over 100 yards and wasn't just running deep routes as he did earlier in the season, he was targeted with the first throw of the game and that carried on throughout. If the Titans pay more attention to him then the likes of Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and CJ Uzomah should be available against a Titans secondary which gave up a lot of yards this year, and if not they can dump it off to Joe Mixon who had a fair few receptions last week as well.
The big news for the Titans is the return of King Henry as Derrick Henry returns from injury to play his first game since the middle of the season. He still finished 9th in rushing yards which is crazy and shows just how much they were using him. This is a changed Titans team though they found out they could use Foreman and Hilliard to run the ball as well so I would imagine they won't just give Henry every single carry but will let D'onta Foreman carry on his good form as well
This is the first game since Halloween where they’ll have Julio, AJ Brown and Henry available, and they went 4-1 earlier in the year with their big 3 playing. It's AJ Brown who worries me most as a Bengals fan, he's a large man who looked healthy last time out and has the ability to take any pass to the house, the battle of him vs. Awuzie will be one to watch. Julio Jones isn't what he used to be but if he makes it through a quarter without an injury he can have an impact.
Neither offensive line is very good, the Bengals line is still talked about as one of the worst in the league, but the Titans only allowed 4 fewer sacks this year, and both pass rushes are capable of getting home, look for Autry and Hendrickson to rack up a sack or two each here.
It's a tough one to call, I thought it would be 4-5 points for the Titans, so I’ve got to say I’d take the Titans on the spread, but my selection for here will be the OVER on the total. I think there's a fair chance this ends as the highest scoring game of the weekend. TD: Chase @ 13/8, Higgins at 21/10 are both generous prices; Prop: Tannehill o14.5 rush yards
San Francisco 49ers +5 @ Green Bay Packers: 47
It’s going to be cold. Windchill could apparently take it to 0f, that’s not good for Jimmy G who’s never played in weather that cold. He’s apparently fine to go, but the shoulder and thumb injuries hurt them in the second half last week where he looked somehow even more average than normal with a helmet on. He’s always got a rick in him and that could be the thing that costs his team in this one.
On paper the 49ers set up well against the Pack, they run the ball well and the Packers are bottom 5 in the league in run defense. You’ve got to think this is an Eli and Deebo game… which is the same as most weeks in fairness, but even more in this one. Both of them scored last weekend with Mitchell making it 4 in his last 5 games and Deebo 10 TDs in his last 9 games, It may well mean a lot more blocking for Kittle who’s arguably the best TE in the league at that job and he’ll mix in if required, his numbers haven't been great recently but he won't be fussed with that as long as the team is winning.
Deebo will be used in the passing game as well, Aiyuk led the team in rec. yards last week, that's a few big games in a row for him, and Jauan Jennings has been chipping in well too in the final month of the season as well as finding the endzone a few times. They have talent all over and one of the better coaches in the league, they're definitely not without a chance.
The Packers hit 13 wins for the third season in a row despite having injuries to key players at various points in the season, this game will be the healthiest they’ve been for quite a while, offensive line-man David Bakhtiari returned in week 18, Jaire Alexander will be back and the Smith bros. will on the field, so that's protection, coverage and pass rush all improved over where they have been for most of the season.
Davante Adams should have a good game against a fairly poor 49ers secondary, he's averaged 120 yards a game and over a TD in 4 career appearances against the 49ers. Allen Lazard finished the season well with 4 TDs in his final 3 games, while MVS has been the deep threat but is probably missing this one through injury. They do welcome back Randall Cobb though who has a good post-season record and is bestest buds with Aaron Rodgers.
The run game has a great 1-2 punch and after a couple of weeks of rest, I would imagine Aaron Jones might take over the majority role that he'd lost to AJ Dillon in recent weeks, however, I'm not sure on that as Dillon tends to have big games in the cold weather that's expected here. Jones tends to get the passing downs and I wouldn't be shocked if he took over the game.
It's a close one, but I’m taking the Packers covering the 5 points. The weather, the week off, the health of their team it all leans their way for me. TD: Adams @ 5/6 (Coral/Ladbrokes), Prop: Cobb o2.5 receptions.
I'll be back with previews on the Sunday games tomorrow morning! Check back here!
Adam (@TouchdownTips on twitter)