A lot of fans will tell you this is the best weekend of the NFL calendar.
There are good arguments for it. Unlike wild-card weekend, all the best teams play on divisional round weekend. Only one team in each conference gets a bye in the expanded playoffs instead of the two we’re used to, but we still get to add Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes to our postseason viewing pleasure this weekend.
There’s a doubleheader on Saturday and another on Sunday, with the winners advancing to the conference championship round. Some of the best games in NFL history have happened in this round. After this weekend there will be just three NFL games left this season. Enjoy them. There are some great matchups on tap.
Here are the picks for Saturday’s divisional round games, with the spreads coming from BetMGM (picks for Sunday’s games will be coming on Thursday):
Rams (+6.5) over Packers
Both games on Saturday are tough to call.
The line for the first game has dipped a bit. The Packers started as 7-point favorites but that has moved a half-point toward the Rams. It’s understandable. The Rams defense is arguably the best remaining in the playoffs and it’s coming off an impressive win over the Seahawks. Jalen Ramsey might be able to limit Davante Adams’ effectiveness, and that could force the Packers to lean on other options who aren’t nearly as potent as Adams.
Yet, loading up on the Rams is assuming you’ll get the good Rams. It’s a team that lost to the winless New York Jets and was dominated by the Seahawks in Week 16, and those games were less than a month ago. The Rams also were swept by a depleted 49ers team this season. The Rams are good, but they are inconsistent. It doesn’t help that Aaron Donald could be less than 100 percent due to a rib injury. We already saw that Jared Goff didn’t look 100 percent after surgery on a broken thumb less than a month ago.
It is a lot of points to give to a Rams team that is well coached, has a good defense and has a lot of offensive weapons. I think the Adams-Ramsey matchup pushes me toward picking the Rams. There aren’t many corners who can take a No. 1 receiver out of the game, as NFL.com’s Kevin Patra pointed out this week.
The Packers could get a decisive win if the Rams team we saw against the Jets or Seahawks in Week 16 shows up. Rodgers has played at such a high level most of this season that he can have a big game against any defense. But this feels like it’ll be a close game.
Bills (-2.5) over Ravens
This line has been interesting to track at BetMGM. It started at Bills -2.5, then went down to 2, then 1.5. That seemed odd considering the Bills might have been the buzziest team in the NFL heading into the playoffs, and although they didn’t cover against a very good Colts team in the wild-card round, Buffalo is still a quality team.
Then the line move shifted again toward the Bills, going to 2 and then back to 2.5. And there are still a few days for it to bounce back and forth.
The line moves reflect how good this matchup could be. Baltimore was one of the Super Bowl favorites in the preseason, and that team has shown up the past few weeks. The Ravens have covered every spread since Nov. 22. Lamar Jackson might not be quite to his 2019 MVP form but he has been close in recent weeks. They’re a really good team and have been great to bettors lately.
The Bills have been great to bettors too. Before last week, they had covered eight straight. If you did nothing but bet the Bills and Ravens since Thanksgiving, you’re 13-1 against the spread.
I was one of those people who picked the Ravens to win a Super Bowl before the season, so it’s tempting to keep riding that wave. But I’ll take the Bills at less than a field goal. They have been great most of the season and it’s hard to go against them. The best bet in this game might be over 49.5. This Saturday night matchup could end up being the absolute best of all the 13 playoff games this season. Either of these teams can win a Super Bowl. But only one can advance to the AFC championship game.
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