Brent Musberger’s Divisional Round Game Picks

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January 11, 2020 01:08 AM
Last week belonged to NFL playoff road teams. Three — Tennessee, Minnesota and Seattle — won outright, while the fourth — Buffalo — forced overtime before losing to Houston.

Don’t count on that happening again this week.

But there are tickets to be cashed on the road warriors because of some attractive spreads. VSIN’s Steve Makinen, editor of “Point Spread Weekly,” points out that teams that are plus-3½ to plus-9½ on divisional round weekend are 21-11-1 ATS in the last 33 games. All four road teams are priced in that range.

Saturday 4:35 p.m. EST (NBC)

Minnesota (O/U 44½)

at San Francisco (–7)

For me the Vikings are the hardest road team to back this week, and it’s all about the schedule. After their sensational performance in New Orleans, they must saddle up on a short week against a team resting and healing for two weeks. Huge edge for the 49ers, who are planning on the return of injured DL Dee Ford and LB Kwon Alexander.

The unknown is quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. He has played well, but this is his first playoff start. Remember, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson lost their first playoff games last year at home. Since 2013, first-time starting QBs in the playoffs are only 6-17 SU.

Before taking a stand, check the condition of Vikings receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Thielen cut an ankle so severely in practice that he required stitches. Diggs missed two days because of illness.

I’m backing the home team. San Francisco 27, Minnesota 17.

Saturday 8:15 p.m. EST (CBS)

Tennessee (O/U 47)

at Baltimore (–9½)

Pretty simple. If Derrick Henry continues to terrorize defenses, Titans backers are cashing tickets. He smoked the Patriots for 182 yards, allowing Ryan Tannehill to win his first playoff start despite going only 8 of 15 for 72 yards.

The Ravens were upset by the Chargers in the first round a year ago, but this is a far more sophisticated offense put together by John Harbaugh’s staff. Since their bye week Oct. 27, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are averaging more than 35 points a game. They defeated four playoff teams and covered every victory except their three-point win over the 49ers.

The Ravens last lost Sept. 29, falling 40-25 to Cleveland. Thatwas 12 victories ago.

Ravens RB Mark Ingram is one of five former Heisman Trophy winners in this game. He’s nursing a calf injury, which could affect Jackson’s lethal array of option plays.

I don’t see the Ravens losing, but I like taking the 9½. Baltimore 30, Tennessee 24.

Sunday 3:05 p.m. EST (CBS)

Houston (O/U 51)

at Kansas City (–9½)

The Chiefs are the flavor of the weekend. Flashy quarterback, brainy coach and an improved defense. A year ago, they smoked Indianapolis and Andrew Luck 31-13 in the divisional round. What’s not to like?

Well, let me take you back to Oct. 13. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs roared out to a 17-3 lead over the Texans after 15 minutes. Deshaun Watson and the Texans put up 20 points before the half to lead 23-17. Mahomes and the Chiefs regained the lead in the third. And with 14:49 to play, Watson drove the Texans 93 yards, overcoming three penalties along the way and scoring the winning TD himself.

Making plays at crucial times is the key to winning football games, and we watched Watson do it again last week, trailing Buffalo 16-0 before winning in OT.

An injury concern exists with WR Will Fuller. He missed last week, and the Texans need him to balance the field with DeAndre Hopkins.

I like the Chiefs to win the rematch, but give me Watson and two scores all day long. Kansas City 30, Houston 27.

Sunday 6:40 p.m. EST (FOX)

Seattle (O/U 46½)

at Green Bay (–4)

I might pick the Seahawks to win outright except for the weather. The kickoff forecast at Green Bay is 23 degrees.

Russell Wilson’s kryptonite is a temperature below 30. In three such games, he has thrown for four TDs and six INTs, and his lone win came when the Vikings shanked a game-winning field goal as time ran out.

This game will be close because the Seahawks have perfected that art. In their 17 games, 13 were decided by one score, including last week’s wild-card win at Philadelphia.

Aaron Rodgers isn’t the Aaron Rodgers we once knew, but the Packers’ defense will leave Wilson yearning for his offseason home in San Diego. Green Bay 23, Seattle 17.

I am picking all four home teams to win just as they did a year ago, but I think two dogs — Tennessee and Houston — will cash tickets. And that’s what it’s all about. Good luck.


WATCH: Fox Sports’s Colin Cowherd and FF-Winners AI Computer in Full Agreement on Divisional Playoff Bets

Colin Cowherd is an excellent  (though sometimes annoying) NFL analyst. We are pleased he agrees with all 4 of our picks this week!

AFC Divisional Playoff Forecast

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Houston Texans at New England Patriots: Texans QB Brock Osweiler surprised a lot of people in a win over the Oakland Raiders a week ago. Osweiler was 14 of 25 for 168 yards with 1 TD and no INTs, he also ran for a score. The conservative, do not make mistakes mentality allowed the Texans to score just enough points to get the win in the wild card round. The Raiders were without their star QB Derek Carr and the Texans defense, which ranked 1st in total defense, shut down the Raiders offense. This week, Osweiler will have to continue to not turn the football over as he faces his toughest challenge yet, the red hot New England Patriots and their 8th ranked total defense. We expect the Texans to try and run the ball and keep Tom Brady off the field, but eventually Osweiler will have to hit some big plays downfield if the Texans want a chance for a massive upset. We think the key will be how the Texans defense will play against the league’s 4th ranked offense. They can rush the QB with Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus off the edge, and if you can continue to harass Tom Brady you give your defense a chance to get stops. I believe it will be closer than people expect, as the Texans defense will keep them in the game but eventually the Patriots will force Osweiler into mistakes and too many 3rd and longs which will ultimately decide the game. The Texans inability to hit big plays on offense will wear the defense down as they will be on the field for too long and the Patriots should run away with it in the 4th quarter.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs: These are the two teams with the chance to upset the New England Patriots this postseason. This is the first time the Steelers have had a fully healthy “big three” in QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown, so that will definitely be a major factor. The Dolphins could not stop Brown as he had 5 catches for 124 yards and two TDs in their win last week. We believe the Chiefs star CB Marcus Peters will do a much better job of limiting what Brown can do in the pass game, and force other WRs to beat them. The Chiefs defense has been susceptible this season, as they rank 24th in total defense, but they make up for it with a league leading +16 in turnover differential. The Chiefs defense forces you into mistakes and their offense does not make very many mistakes. The Chiefs are a completely different team with an emerging star in WR Tyreek Hill, who led the league in 60 plus yard TDs this year. He is explosive and a great complement to WR Jeremy Maclin and the All-Pro TE Travis Kelce over the middle. RB Spencer Ware has done a nice job filling in for the injured Jamaal Charles, and we believe the Chiefs will have great balance on offense. The biggest key to this game is QB Alex Smith, he has been called a game manger in the past but he has the ability to rip it downfield. The key will be his legs, which are vastly underrated. Smith runs the read-option and is far more athletic than people think, he can convert big third downs on the ground if the defense plays man across the board which will be a huge factor in sustaining drives. This game is a toss up, but I think that the Chiefs defense will get enough stops, force some turnovers and allow the offense to manage the game, while hitting a few big plays. The Chiefs should get the win with the help of their home-field advantage, but it will be a great game!

[Analysis by NFL expert Preston Rowe]