Welcome to what many consider to be the best weekend of the entire football season: the NFL Divisional Round. The VSiN experts analyze your best opportunities as the final eight teams continue their quest to win the Super Bowl.
Sunday's NFL games
3:00 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: The concerns on the offensive line for the Bengals are quite obvious, but we’ve seen Joe Burrow thrive without a whole lot of protection in the past. The Bills don’t generate a ton of pressure. Von Miller was still tied for the team lead in sacks, despite only playing 11 games. Buffalo recorded 142 pressures (13th in NFL) per Pro-Football-Reference, with 27 of those from Miller.
As great as Josh Allen is, he does have the propensity to throw some interceptions that can keep Cincinnati in the game as well. A lot of people felt like the Bengals had a great shot at beating the Bills in that Week 17 game. The stakes are higher here and the venue has changed, but the Bengals went on the road to win two AFC playoff games last season and nearly won the Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium against the Rams. Burrow is as poised as it gets in these types of situations.
In a lot of categories, Buffalo was just slightly better than Cincinnati, including second-half scoring defense and second-half defensive EPA/play. The same can be said on offense, including second-half scoring and EPA/play. The Bengals were actually the best offense in Dropback Success Rate in the second half.
Home-field advantage isn’t worth much in the NFL these days, even if Bills Mafia is crazy. To me, these teams just aren’t that far apart, and 5.5 points is too many with the Bengals and I’m expecting a close game.
Pick: Bengals +5.5 (widely available)
Dave Tuley: The Bengals are live dogs in this game that should be closer to pick-’em. Besides, this is just as much of a bet against the Bills, who we faded successfully again with the Dolphins (+14 in their 34-31 loss) as they continually let teams stick around.
Of course, this is the rematch of the Week 17 Monday night game that was suspended after Buffalo’s Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field, and then canceled. A lot of people are saying that the Bills have the motivational edge, but it was actually the Bengals who were deprived of a chance to pull the upset that night and feel they should be hosting this game or at least have it on a neutral field.
Regardless, it’s what Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ offense does on the field that has me on them as they were moving the ball at will in that earlier meeting. A lot of people are making a big deal about the Bengals’ injuries on the offensive line, but it’s not like they’re going to be playing with only two offensive linemen plus they’ve worked around this problem before. Besides, since Von Miller was lost for the season, the Bills’ pass rush has been lacking.
This should come down to a field goal one way or the other. In fact, I’d say it’s just as likely that the Bengals win by a touchdown or more.
Pick: Bengals +5.5, +220 money line
Reynolds: Cincinnati is presently on a 20-5 ATS run and are 12-3 ATS over their last 15 games (12-1 against teams not named the Baltimore Ravens). Not to discredit the Bengals, but oftentimes we fail to consider the teams and the opposing quarterbacks that they have faced during this run.
Week 1: vs. Pittsburgh (Mitch Trubisky)
Week 2: at Dallas (Cooper Rush)
Week 3: at NY Jets (Joe Flacco)
Week 4: vs. Miami (Tua Tagovailoa injured, then Teddy Bridgewater)
Week 5: at Baltimore (Lamar Jackson)
Week 6: at New Orleans (Andy Dalton)
Week 7: vs. Atlanta (Marcus Mariota)
Week 8: at Cleveland (Jacoby Brissett)
Week 9: vs. Carolina (Baker Mayfield)
Week 11: at Pittsburgh (Kenny Pickett)
Week 12: at Tennessee (Ryan Tannehill)
Week 13: Kansas City (Patrick Mahomes)
Week 14: Cleveland (a rusty Deshaun Watson)
Week 15: at Tampa Bay (Tom Brady)
Week 16: at New England (Mac Jones)
Week 18: Baltimore (Anthony Brown)
WC Round: Baltimore (Tyler Huntley)
As you can see, there are not a lot of elite quarterbacks that this team has faced all season, so you must put the No. 11 in Defense DVOA ranking into context.
Furthermore, the Bengals are now down three OL starters with the loss of Jonah Williams. Cincinnati was unable to move the ball much, save for one drive, in the second half being so short-handed up front.
Buffalo ranks No. 3 in Rush Defense DVOA, so it is not expected that Cincinnati will be able to run the ball much.
Last week’s near choke of a 17-0 lead against Miami in the Wild Card round might have been the wake-up call that the Bills needed. They had just come off an emotional few weeks with Damar Hamlin’s near-fatal injury. Now Hamlin is back in Buffalo rehabbing almost daily at the Bills facility and Buffalo can re-focus.
Pick: Bills/Eagles ML Parlay (-124)
6:30 p.m. ET
Matt Youmans: On a magical Monday night in Tampa, Dak Prescott resembled the most dangerous quarterback in the NFL, coach Mike McCarthy awkwardly danced in a locker-room celebration, and owner Jerry Jones beamed following the Cowboys’ first postseason road win in 30 years. After a slow 0-for-3 start, Prescott was nearly perfect by completing 25 of his next 30 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns. It was Prescott’s first turnover-free outing in eight games. Considering the circumstances and the criticism he was receiving, Prescott played the best game of his career. The entire night seemed ridiculous and surreal. But I like to bet against a quarterback and a team after an A+ performance, especially a team that had been shaky for more than a month.
The Cowboys are facing a different animal this week. San Francisco ranks No. 1 in scoring defense (16.3 PPG) and No. 2 in rushing defense (77.7 yards per game). On the other side of the ball, 49ers rookie Brock Purdy is playing the quarterback position better than the fading version of Tom Brady that the Dallas defense picked on in a blowout. Purdy is surrounded by playmakers and does not need to do too much to carry a red-hot team, and the opposite was the case with Brady and the lame-duck Bucs.
The price on the 49ers looks cheap at -3.5, partly due to Dallas looking so good Monday. Is this when Purdy finally feels the pressure and falters? I always say I never lay 3.5, so this is no time to turn into a hypocrite. I’m playing the moneyline and counting on some regression from Prescott and the Cowboys.
Pick: 49ers -190