What a fantastic start to these 2024 NFL Playoffs we saw last week. With shocking upsets in Dallas and Tampa Bay to feel good stories like Jared Goff earning Detroit their first playoff win in 32 years, the Super Wild Card weekend was truly a roller coaster. Next, we get to move our attention to the Divisional round which sees 4 more matchups with promised drama and intensity.
While the Wild Card round seemed to be the round filled with storylines like Tyreek Hill coming back to Kansas City, C.J. Stroud outplaying the team that traded the farm for the Texans former QB and Jared Goff and Matt Stafford playing against each other in Detroit's first home playoff game in forever, the divisional round seems different. Except for the NFC East representatives, these 8 teams truly feel like the best the NFL has to offer this year. The remaining 8 teams have a mixture of experience, youthful energy, brilliant coaching, redemption, high-powered offenses and dominating defenses that will all be put to the test this week.
Here are my full predictions of how the Divisional round will play out including game analysis, betting favorites and final scores.
Texans @ Ravens
First game up for the Divisional round is a matchup between arguably the two hottest teams in the league right now, the Texans and the Ravens. Before their Week 18 loss which saw them sit most of their starters, Baltimore was on a 6-game win streak and hadn't lost at home since November. The Ravens ended the season with the #1 scoring defense allowing only 16.5 points per game and the #1 rushing offense with over 150 yards per game. Lamar Jackson is the favorite to win MVP this year and it looks like the only thing that can stop him is a team willing to take risks on offense and run up the scoreboard.
I introduce C.J. Stroud. The apparent OROY has had the best QB-rookie season in recent memory and perhaps one of the greatest of all time. He is 10-5 in games he's played without injury this season and threw for 4,100 yards, 23 TDs and only 5 INTs in the regular season. As a slight betting underdog last week in Cleveland against the best defense in the league in both yards allowed and passing yards allowed, Stroud threw for 274 yards and 3 TDs with a 157.2 rating. This kid is already an amazing talent but if he can show up in Baltimore like he did in Cleveland, we could be seeing the next Patrick Mahomes right in front of our eyes.
I see this game being close throughout with the Ravens methodically moving the ball down the field but unable to stop big plays that will keep the Texans in the game until late. Unless the Ravens and Lamar Jackson come out rusty after a 2-week layoff, there is no reason they should outplay the Texans with their roster. I can see the game being around 24-20 entering the 4th where the Ravens poise and experience take over and ice the game. My prediction is 31-23, Ravens.
HOU @ BAL Betting Odds
ML: BAL (-455) HOU (+345)
Line: BAL -9.5
I love Houston +9.5 in this game, their defense has given up more than 30 points only twice all season and their offense committed the fewest turnovers in the NFL. Stroud also has Plus Odds for 2+ touchdowns which I will be sprinkling on. Lastly, Over/43.5 seems like free money to me.
Packers @ 49ers
After the Super Wild Card weekend, most NFL fans favorite team was the Green Bay Packers after their 48-32 win in Dallas to send one of the favorites to win it all this year home in the first round. Jordan Love played one of his most efficient games as a starter and the Packers' defense was absolutely shutdown in the first half. With a record of 4-4 on the year against teams above .500, the Packers have yet to face a team as complete as the 49ers besides last week.
The 49ers have been the betting favorites to win the Super Bowl for about 6 weeks now but have the added pressure of a first round-bye after sitting their starters in Week 18 as well. Brock Purdy will be back on the field against the Packers after a stellar MVP-caliber season and looking to redeem himself after last year's playoffs where his team lost after he went down with a torn UCL.
It's hard to believe the 49ers don't win this game no matter how much like a trap game it feels. I believe the 49ers will get off to a big lead early, maybe 21-10 at the half then not slow down. I like the 49ers by a score of 34-24.
GB @ SF Betting Odds
ML: SF (-455) GB (+345)
Line: SF -9.5
There are honestly no bets I would "bet the house" on in this game so-to-speak. I like the 49ers to win but with -455 odds it's not worth it and I see the spread being right on point with Vegas' number so I wouldn't touch the line either. If you absolutely MUST bet on this game somehow, take the over/50.5 or maybe take the 49ers to be the highest scoring team this weekend with odds of +190.
Chiefs @ Bills
We truly are destined to see this matchup in the playoffs for the next 10 years and we are incredibly lucky for it. Both of these teams handled business and beat their Wild Card opponents by a 2 or more possessions to make it this far. Both teams have had an up-and-down year as well, with the Bills starting the season 4-5 and finishing the year on a 6-win streak at 11-6, while the Chiefs inconsistencies on offense had their points per game mark at a Mahomes-low of 15th in the league.
While the Bills have been on fire at the back half of the season, it seems the reigning champs have been saving themselves for this point with a dominant 26-7 win vs Miami in one of the coldest games in NFL history last week. Their defense has been their strongest side all year and doesn't look to be slowing down, while their feature tailback Isaiah Pacheco has been running with something to prove throughout the season. In matchups past between these two, it has always been the Chiefs coming out on top thanks to late-game heroics from Mahomes and company but this year feels different.
The Chiefs receiving core is lackluster to say the least and with the Bills defense being as complete as ever (with some injuries excluding,) there is reason to believe this game will be one of the slower-paced encounters we've seen between the two. While a slower-paced game may favor the Chiefs this year with their methodical offense and blanketing defense, they will need some help from Josh Allen in the form of turnovers to win this one. That's the true factor right there, turnovers, Mahomes had 15 on the year including his personal-worst 14 INTs and Josh Allen led the league with 24. Whoever can keep the ball secure this game will head straight to the AFC Championship next week.
I see the game being a chess match. Kansas City's defense won't let Allen scamper for any huge gains while the Bills defense won't allow Pacheco or Kelce to have a breakout game that will carry the Chiefs. I can see a close 10-10 halftime score with both teams trading field goals and late TDs in dramatic fashion. Whether this game is closed out with triple-0's or an overtime score, my prediction is 23-20, Bills.
KC @ BUF Odds
ML: BUF (-145) KC (+122)
Line: BUF -2.5
Another case of my prediction being almost dead-on with Vegas' odds. If I was going to take the under on any games this weekend it would be here but I'm not truly comfortable with that either. Take the Bills spread for the best odds on your parlays this week but you can also bet on this to be the lowest scoring game of the weekend at +220 or my personal shoutout this week, James Cook anytime TD at +138.
Buccaneers @ Lions
Last but not least, we have a matchup of two teams no one would have dared to predict make it to the NFC Championship, the Buccaneers at the Lions. Detroit is coming off the biggest win in their franchise's last 50 years against Matt Stafford and the Rams where Jared Goff felt like the superior QB. While the Buccs just dominated the once-#1 seeded Eagles 32-9 with another amazing performance from Baker Mayfield. Before the season, the Buccaneers were one of the teams widely predicted to finish the season with the worst record after Tom Brady's departure, but Baker Mayfield and this offense made believers of all of us with the best season of his young career.
This game is my favorite matchup of the week as we'll get to see the Lions raucous crowd again this time trying to affect the swagger of Baker Mayfield. While it can be said the Eagles had a disastrous collapse at the end of the season, the Buccaneers still put a beatdown on one of the best teams in the league on both sides of the football and come into this game as underdogs of almost a touchdown. I truly believe with Tampa's offense rolling on all cylinders and Detroit's slow-deliberate tempo, this game will be as close as any this weekend.
The Buccaneers' secondary had their best performance of the season last week and while that can't be expected to duplicate in Detroit, it seems probable they will perform at a high level. I can see the Buccs taking a quick lead but being cut down by halftime to 17-14. The Lions' homefield advantage will will them to tie the game and eventually take the lead in the 4th. The Lions will do what they do best and slow the ball down with Gibbs and Montgomery working in a play-action based system. A game-winning field goal seems fitting for this crowd so I'll predict a 27-24 win for the Lions.
TB @ DET Odds
ML: DET (-292) TB (+235)
Line: DET -6.5
This game's odds are lean much heavier toward the Lions then I am thinking. I do believe the Buccaneers will keep this game close if not sneak out a win which is why I will be sprinkling on the Buccaneers ML and definitely taking them +6.5. I won't touch the over/under in this game seeing that Lions' games went over 48.5 11 times this year but Buccs' games went over the mark only 5 times. In the Week 5 matchup between these two, the score was only 20-6.