We feel confident our NFL picks and predictions for the divisional round of the 2020 playoffs will be better than our picks and predictions for last week’s games for two reasons.
First, we got only one straight-up prediction correct in the first round of the postseason. (Thanks a lot, upset-minded Titans and Vikings. And touché, Texans.) Second, based on the spreads attached to this weekend’s divisional playoff games, in theory, they are easier to pick.
Of the four favorites in the divisional round, only the Packers are losing fewer than a touchdown in the spread; they’re four-point home favorites over the Seahawks. The next closes line comes from the other NFC divisional game, in which the 49ers are 6 1/2-point home favorites over the Vikings.
The AFC divisional game lines are massive, with the Ravens and Chiefs giving up at least nine points in most sportsbooks to the Titans and Texans, respectively.
Considering all of the above, here are our NFL playoff picks, predictions for this weekend’s divisional games. All odds are courtesy of SportsInsider.com.
MORE: Get the latest NFL odds & betting advice from Sports Insider
NFL playoff picks, predictions for divisional games
Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers (-6 1/2)
Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET, NBC
The Vikings ran over the Saints on their way to the divisional round, both literally and figuratively. The zone rushing attack spearheaded by a healthy Dalvin Cook was too much for a banged-up New Orleans defense, and San Francisco, though supposedly at full health, will have similar issues. The problem for the Vikings is that the 49ers’ own zone rushing attack is even better.
In New Orleans, Minnesota’s stingy defense was able to focus on Michael Thomas containment and take advantage of the Saints’ critical mistakes. In San Francisco, though, Mike Zimmer’s crew will have their hands full against a more diverse, complete attack. With a trio of talented running backs, the NFL’s best tight end in George Kittle, a deep receiving corps led by breakout star Deebo Samuel and a smooth, savvy distributor in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers are slightly more loaded than an impressive (and notably healthy) Vikings team.
Pick: 49ers 27, Vikings 20
Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens (-9)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, CBS
This is an unstoppable rushing force against the most unstoppable rushing force the NFL has ever seen. Yes, the Titans are benefiting from the fact that Derrick Henry finally is being supported by a legitimate passing attack, which is why Tennessee finished the regular season with the league’s third-best rushing offense and used it to upset New England in the wild-card round. But the Ravens, who scored at least 40 points in five different games this season, led the league with 3,296 rushing yards and surpassed the 1978 Patriots (3,165) for the most rushing yards by a team in a single season in NFL history.
With all due respect to Ryan Tannehill, who led the NFL in passer rating this season, the key to this game is related to the other quarterback. Keep in mind Lamar Jackson, who easily broke Michael Vick’s single-season QB rushing record, also led the league with 36 touchdown passes. The soon-to-be MVP and the dangerous weapons around him form a nightmare matchup for any team, and while Tennessee’s defense is respectable, it won’t be up to the task in Baltimore.
Pick: Ravens 30, Titans 17
Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs (-9 1/2)
Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET, CBS
The Chiefs are the biggest favorites in the divisional round for good reason. Not only are they completely healthy and fresh off their first-round bye, but they’re riding a hot streak fueled by Patrick Mahomes’ ridiculous arm and the mismatches his targets create. Even with J.J. Watt back in the mix to make things uncomfortable for the reigning league MVP, Houston will struggle to keep Kansas City below its average of 28.2 points per game.
The Texans will have to approach this game the same way they handled their regular-season win over the Chiefs. That ball-control strategy led to a season-high 192 rushing yards as a team and a 31-24 victory, and Mahomes was on the field for only a third of the game. While the Chiefs’ defense has improved dramatically since that Week 6 meeting, it remains vulnerable, especially against a QB like Deshaun Watson. That’ll keep the game closer than expected, but it won’t lead to an upset.
Pick: Chiefs 28, Texans 24
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (-4)
Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET, Fox
The Packers, who allowed 120.1 rushing yards per game in the regular season, probably aren’t thrilled to draw the Seahawks’ No. 4-ranked ground attack. That makes the divisional round an ideal time for Green Bay to focus on stopping the run, because even if it advances, it’ll face another strong running team against San Francisco or Minnesota.
As much as we want to make this game about the superstar quarterbacks — and Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers certainly will be fun to watch — the biggest factor is the injury bug, which is biting the Seahawks much harder than the Packers. While the Marshawn Lynch story is amusing, it’s also a reminder that Seattle is attempting to deploy its power rushing attack without its best power rushers in Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise. On the other side of the ball, Rodgers will take advantage of the two mismatch creators he has in Aaron Jones and Davante Adams, and Green Bay will reach the NFC title game in coach Matt LaFleur’s first season.
Pick: Packers 23, Seahawks 17