After three Wild Card games on Saturday, we get three more on Sunday!
Here are my picks for Sunday. Tail or fade with caution!
Ravens -3 @ Titans and Under 54.5
This is going to be a bloodbath. These two teams met back in November, and it was a 30-24 overtime victory for the Titans thanks to a 29-yard TD run from Derrick Henry. The Titans also went into M&T Bank Stadium last postseason and knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs with a 28-12 win. Now, Baltimore has won five games in a row, and four of those five wins came by 14 points or more. They are poised to get their revenge, and I think they will do so. My main reasoning for taking the Ravens -3 here is because they clearly have the defensive advantage. The Ravens are allowing just 18.9 points per game, compared to Tennessee’s 27.4 points per game, which is 24th in the league. Overall, Baltimore is 7th in total defense, 6th in passing defense, 8th in rushing defense, and 2nd in scoring defense. For the Titans, they are 28th in total defense, 29th in passing defense, and 19th in rushing defense. Their defense has been holding them back all season, and they have given up 30 points or more in half of their games. Tennessee is also 30th in sacks with just 19 on the season, and they are 29th in QB hits with just 70. With an already ineffective pass rush going up against Lamar Jackson’s elite mobility, I don’t see the Titans getting their hands on Jackson behind the line of scrimmage very often. The Ravens rushing attack has evolved to include four players who can gash opponents on the ground. Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Mark Ingram combine to lead this Baltimore rushing attack that is 1st in YPC (5.5) and 1st in YPG (191.9). That is bad news for the Tennessee defense that is giving up 4.6 YPC (18th) and 120.8 YPG (19th). I also think that Lamar Jackson can have some passing success in this one. The Titans secondary has been gutted all season, and only the Lions, Seahawks, and Falcons have been worse against the pass. I think the Ravens can exploit some things through the air. The Titans are also dead last in 3rd down defense, and 30th in red zone defense. Tennessee may have beaten the Ravens in the playoffs last year, but keep in mind, Baltimore had locked up their first-round bye and put things on cruise control in the last few weeks. Then, after Tennessee had already picked up some momentum beating New England in the Wild Card round, the Titans smashed Baltimore in the mouth and the Ravens didn’t know how to respond. This season, the Ravens were fighting for their playoff lives in the second half, and they responded by winning five in a row in impressive fashion. I think this season is a different story. Lamar Jackson is still looking for his first playoff win, and the Titans are 0-3-1 ATS in their last four home playoff games. I think the Ravens get their revenge with a win and cover on the road.
I am also going with the Under. These are the top two rushing teams in the league, and they will no doubt be running the ball a lot. That is not necessarily a great formula for a shootout. The clock will be moving. Derrick Henry is averaging over 23 carries per game this season, and there is no reason for Tennessee to abandon that game plan here. Additionally, in the playoffs last year, the Titans went to Henry more than usual, as he had 83 carries in three games, averaging over 27 a game. They will feed him in this one. On the other hand, Baltimore is obviously a run-first offense as well. They are dead-last in passing yards per game, and although I think Lamar can have success through the air against a very weak Tennessee secondary, the Ravens won’t go crazy through the air. They will want to run the ball early and often to open things up in the passing game. I don’t think they will come out firing deep ball after deep ball. The Ravens also possess a strong passing defense, so when Ryan Tannehill tries to throw, it won’t be easy. Baltimore has allowed just 6.4 yards per pass attempt this season, which is the second-best mark in the league. These teams needed overtime to get to 54 points in the first matchup, and with this game becoming a bit of a rivalry in recent years, I think the intensity and physicality will be cranked up. Give me the Under.
Bears @ Saints -10 and Over 47
These two teams played in Chicago all the way back on November 1st with the Saints escaping with a 26-23 overtime win. This was when the Bears were in the middle of a six-game losing streak, and Nick Foles was their quarterback at the time. Now, the Bears are going with Mitch Trubisky, who has provided a bit of a spark to the Bears offense. In the month of December, the Bears put up 30, 36, 33, and 41 points in four games. However, those games were against the Lions, Texans, Vikings, and Jaguars. Those are four of the worst defenses in the league, and the Saints will pose a much tougher challenge. New Orleans is 4th in total defense, allowing 310.9 yards per game, and they are also top-5 against both the run and the pass. Trubisky hasn’t really performed well against tougher defenses, and although David Montgomery has come on strong as of late, I think the Saints rushing defense will be a problem for Chicago. The Saints have entered the playoffs with strong Super Bowl aspirations each other last three years, and they have lost on three heart-breaking plays to end their seasons. Whether or not they get back to the Super Bowl remains to be determined, but in this game, I think they will be ready to roll and want to leave no doubt. Drew Brees is 6th in the NFL with a QBR of 74.5, and even when he missed time, the Saints offense didn’t really miss a beat. They have been plagued by injuries and covid issues, yet they remain one of the most consistent teams in the NFL. They have the playoff experience and head coaching experience to roll past the Bears in this one. Although the Saints have struggled at home in the playoffs in recent years, going 0-4 ATS, they have dominated in matchups against the Bears. New Orleans is 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven meetings with Chicago, and 3-0-1 against them in the Superdome. The Bears are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 January games, and I think the Saints will be too much in this one. Who Dat -10.
I’m also rolling with the Over. The Over is 29-12 all-time in playoff games played in a dome. Take that with what you will, but there are other reasons I still like the Over here. The Bears offense has improved with Trubisky, and since he returned to the starting role in late November, the Over is 5-1 in those six games. The Bears defense has also underperformed this season (for their standards), coming in at 11th overall, 12th against the pass, and 15th against the run. Those are not terrible rankings, but it is not where they want to be. The Saints offense is very complex and tough to figure out, and even if Drew Brees doesn’t have the same deep ball that he had earlier in his career, Sean Payton is a masterful play-caller who has still managed to get his team to 30.1 points per game. His creativity is very fun to watch, and I think the Bears will have a tough time figuring it out. Alvin Kamara tweeted “See y’all Sunday,” so it appears he will be ready to go. The Saints have cashed Overs in 10 of their 16 games, and I think that continues here.
Browns @ Steelers -6 and Over 47
The Browns and the Steelers will meet for the third time this season, and for the second time in as many weeks. Pittsburgh got a dominating win back in October by a score of 38-7. Then last week, the Browns squeaked out a 24-22 win to ensure their spot in the playoffs. I say squeaked out a win because the Steelers were resting a lot of their starters, including Ben Roethlisberger. The Browns still walked away with the win, and that is ultimately all that matters, but can they pull the upset here? In Ben Roethlisberger’s career, the Steelers are a fantastic 25-3-1 against the Browns and a perfect 15-0 at home. The Browns have not won in Pittsburgh in 18 years, and the Steelers are 7-2 ATS in their last nine home playoff games. The trends definitely don’t go the Browns way. In addition, because of their covid outbreak, head coach and play-caller Kevin Stefanski will not be on the sidelines. The Browns will also be without some key players on both sides of the ball, including their three-time Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio. He is a rock on that O-line that not only protects Baker Mayfield, but also creates running lanes for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Browns rely on their running game, and missing Bitonio is certainly big, especially against one of the top defenses in the league. The Browns have also practiced just once this week. Not a lot is looking good for the Brownies in this one. Meanwhile, the Steelers have one of the best defenses in the league, and Ben Roethlisberger will be rested and ready to go. We know the Steelers love to pass, and the Browns secondary has been vulnerable all season. Cleveland is giving up 247.6 passing yards per game, which is 22nd in the league. Roethlisberger, along with receiving weapons Dionte Johnson, Chase Claypool, and JuJu Smith-Schuster are primed for a solid day. But I think the x-factor in this game is the Steelers defense. They have been dominate all season, and are third-best in total yards, rushing yards, and scoring. TJ Watt is a major problem, leading the league in sacks with 15. The Steelers also have the coaching advantage, and I think that really matters in the playoffs. The Browns are without Stefanski, their top play-caller, and Mike Tomlin is one of the best coaches in the league who has yet to have a losing season. He will have his guys ready, and I’m rolling with the Steelers -6.
I am also going with the Over. The Steelers were able to score 22 points on this Browns defense with Mason Rudolph at quarterback, and I think Big Ben will be able to have more success and move the ball down the field consistently. The Steelers offense has been stagnant at times, but the Browns secondary just doesn’t give me a whole lot of confidence, especially with some key guys out. In their first matchup, the Steelers scored 38 points with three rushing touchdowns. They are not known for running the ball, but if they can find success on the ground again, that will REALLY open things up downfield against a vulnerable secondary. Then for the Browns, although they are missing Stefanski, I think this offense is still talented enough to find the end zone a few times. Nick Chubb is one of the best running backs in the league, and he really helps take pressure off of Baker Mayfield. Jarvis Landry is a tremendous talent on the outside, and Cleveland is averaging over 28 points in their last five games. I love the Steelers defense, and it will be tough, but I still think the Browns can find ways to the end zone. The Over is 18-6-1 in the Steelers last 25 playoff games, and I think that continues here.
All favorites for me. Hope I don’t regret it! Cheers.
Title Photo: Newsweek