January 21, 2022 - 1:43 pm
Bengals (11-7) at Titans (12-5)
— Time: 1:30 p.m. Saturday, KLAS-8
— Line/total: Titans -3½, 47½
— Analysis: There’s not much to separate these teams numerically, but the Titans hold all the intangible edges — coming off a first-round bye, with plenty of playoff experience. Tennessee should also get a boost from the return of star running back Derrick Henry from a foot injury, though it is uncertain how much work he can handle. So, why is this line holding at 3½ — and why did it open as low as 2½ at some offshore sportsbooks? The Bengals have the offensive firepower to push the Titans to the limit.
— By the numbers: These are by far the two worst teams left in the playoffs, according to Football Outsiders’ highly respected DVOA metric (defense-adjusted value over average). The Bengals rank 17th and the Titans 20th, with the Packers the next-lowest at ninth..
— Pick: Titans 23, Bengals 20
49ers (11-7) at Packers (13-4)
— Time: 5:15 p.m. Saturday, KVVU-5
— Line/total: Packers -5½, 47½
— Analysis: Another matchup hinging on intangibles over numbers. The Packers are coming off a bye and get to play in freezing temperatures Saturday night at Lambeau Field, where they are undefeated, while the 49ers are battling through injuries, including to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. But the metrics really don’t like Green Bay and what could be a disastrous matchup of its run defense against the 49ers’ rushing attack. Still, it’s hard to see the Packers going home in this round.
— By the numbers: Despite their record, the Packers rank ninth in DVOA and are sixth in ESPN FPI and Jeff Sagarin’s power ratings. The 49ers are sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.
— Pick: Packers 24, 49ers 23
Rams (13-5) at Buccaneers (14-4)
— Time: Noon Sunday, KSNV-3
— Line/total: Buccaneers -3, 48
— Analysis: Both teams steamrolled through the wild-card round, but Los Angeles’ destruction of Arizona on Monday seems to have made more of an impact on bettors’ minds. This line opened 2½, and though it has hit 3 at most sportsbooks, bettors have to lay -120 to take the Rams. Los Angeles handled Tampa Bay 34-24 in Week 3, but that was a long time ago. For some, the handicap is as simple as Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady’s seven Super Bowl rings against Matthew Stafford’s one playoff victory. But the Rams are healthier and desperate to win after all their big trades and signings. If not now, when?
— By the numbers: The Buccaneers are 7-1 at home, but the Rams are 7-2 on the road.
— Pick: Rams 23, Buccaneers 17
Bills (12-6) at Chiefs (13-5)
— Time: 3:30 p.m. Sunday, KLAS-8
— Line/total: Chiefs -1½, 54
— Analysis: A Super Bowl berth is likely on the line here, as either team will be strongly favored in the AFC title game. The Bills beat up the Chiefs 38-20 in Week 5, but that was before Kansas City reasserted itself. Like Rams-Buccaneers, this is a “changing of the guard” game. Can Buffalo break through, or will the Chiefs maintain their AFC dominance? The line is certainly telling you what sharp bettors think. The public will be rushing to back Patrick Mahomes giving less than a field goal at home, but this line has moved down from 2½.
— By the numbers: The Bills are rated second by DVOA, first by ESPN FPI and second by Sagarin. The Chiefs are seventh, third and first, respectively.
— Pick: Bills 38, Chiefs 27