Nostrathomas Predicts: Prime Offerings from the NFL in the Divisional Round

The NFL is presenting four compelling Divisional Round playoff battles this weekend. We’ll see two of the game’s elite quarterbacks work their magic while also being treated to a matchup between two of the best young guns in the league and another where two first-ballot Hall of Famers will throw down.

Nostrathomas was 2-3-1 against the spread and 4-2 straight-up with his Wild Card picks last week.

Saturday’s Games

Los Angeles Rams vs Green Bay Packers -6.5, Over/Under 45.5 (4:35ET PM; Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI)

This Week’s Divisional Round kicks off with a battle between the top team in points scored against the top team in points allowed.

The Green Bay Packers are rested after blowing out the Chicago Bears in Week 17 and clinching the first seed in the NFC. The Los Angeles Rams rode running back Cam Akers and their soul-crushing defense to a 30-20 win over the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card round.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been at the top of his game in 2020. He threw a career best 48 touchdown passes against only five interceptions. His 121.5 passer rating is his second highest over the course of a season in his career.

There are a lot of strength against strength matchups in this game.

Rodgers will take snaps with defensive tackle Aaron Donald coming up the middle at him while also keeping his ears peeled for Leonard Floyd charging around end.

Davante Adams and Jalen Ramsey will likely be in each other’s shadows all game but Rodgers has other dependable weapons in Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and tight end Robert Tonyan. Also, Green Bay running back Aaron Jones will test the Rams run defense which is second in the NFL in rushing yards per attempt allowed.

The weaknesses in this game all boil down to the Rams offense.

The current weather forecast at game time calls for cold and snowy conditions. Los Angeles will need Cam Akers , who rushed 28 times for 138 yards and a touchdown last week against Seattle, to post equivalent stats at Lambeau Field.

The Rams have also declared quarterback John Wolford out against Green Bay. Jared Goff will be getting the start. It’s a stretch to think he’ll be effective throwing the ball in a cold environment with his rebuilt thumb.

The Packers should be more effective in moving the ball than Seattle’s offense was last week. Aaron Rodgers is having a career defining year and no matter how tough the Los Angeles defense is, he isn’t going to walk away from this game without doing some damage of his own.

Because of the Rams being strong on defense but starting an injured quarterback, this would be a good game to bet the under on the 45.5 total. Nostrathomas also recommends taking the Green Bay Packers to win this game and cover.

Green Bay Packers 26 Los Angeles Rams 17

Baltimore Ravens +2.5 vs Buffalo Bills, Over/Under 49.5 (8:15PM ET; Bills Stadium, Buffalo, NY)

In my NFL Playoffs Power Rankings article I pointed out that the weak part of Buffalo’s game was their running attack. At some point in this postseason they would probably have to win a shootout to get to the Super Bowl. I believe this is that game.

This game features two of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL in Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson and it’s going to be fun watching them go to work in a Prime Time Saturday night contest.

Allen finished the season second in the league with 7.2 net passing yards per attempt and fourth with a 107.2 passer rating. Because of Allen’s 2020 emergence as an elite quarterback, Buffalo finished secondi in the NFL in total points.

Lamar Jackson doesn’t have the gaudy numbers that Allen has put up, he was twelfth in net passing yards per attempt and eleventh in passer rating but he’s a danger if a defense can’t keep him contained in the pocket.

The advantage for the Bills is they are strong on defense in defending against the pass. Tre’Davious White may not be well known but he’s one of the best in the business at cornerback. You have to figure he’ll be lining up opposite Marquise Brown for most of the night.

The problem for Buffalo in this game is that you can run on their defense. Last week, the Indianapolis Colts ran the ball 30 times for 163 yards and 1 touchdown.

For those that hate the thought of doing math on a Saturday, that’s a 5.43 yards per carry average. That’s not a good omen when you’re going into a game facing Jackson, the best running quarterback in football, and maybe of all time, along with running back J.K. Dobbins.

If the Bills have the lead heading into the fourth quarter, they can’t close the game with a strong rushing attack. Josh Allen will have to come through with his arm against a strong Baltimore defense. The Ravens can close if they’re leading and have the firepower to come from behind if necessary.

That’s why Nostrathomas recommends taking the road dog in this game to win and cover.

Baltimore Ravens 26 Buffalo Bills 24

Sunday’s Games

Cleveland Browns +9.5 vs Kansas City Chiefs, Over/Under 57 (3:05PM ET; Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO)

The Cleveland Browns are finally a franchise on the rise. They finished second in a tough AFC North division in 2020 and flattened the Pittsburgh Steelers 48-38 in the Wild Card round last weekend.

It is now Cleveland’s misfortune to be paired up against the defending Super Bowl Champions this weekend.

The Browns will not be the beneficiaries of five turnovers and a 28-0 first quarter lead against Kansas City (and that’s not saying that Cleveland didn’t deserve their win last week).

The advantage the Browns have in their corner is the tag team of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt at running back. The one weakness in the Chiefs game is their run defense. As I pointed out in my 2020 NFL Playoffs Power Rankings article was that the only two teams to beat Kansas City this season outrushed them and won the time of possession battle.

The problem is, at some point the Browns defense will be tasked with stopping Patrick Mahomes. All of Kansas City’s starting offense is rested and ready to go. Even running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is expected to play.

Let’s look at some trends and see what they tell us. First, Kansas City head coach Andy Reid is tough to beat when his team is coming off of a bye. As for against the spread trends, the Chiefs are 1-7 ATS in their last eight games while Cleveland is 5-2 ATS in their last seven.

Kansas City has been letting teams hang around within one score for most of the season and the Browns are good enough to take advantage of that. At the very least, Cleveland is capable of hanging close and scoring a late touchdown to bring the game within one score.

Take the Browns to cover the two score spread but Kansas City will win. As for the over/under, it’s a big total but both of these teams are capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Take the over 57 points.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 Cleveland Browns 30

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints -3, Over/Under 52 (6:40PM ET; Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA)

The NFL season has come full circle for these two teams. The Buccaneers and Saints played the initial “Geezer Bowl” in Week 1, which New Orleans won 34-23, and did it again in Week 9, when the Saints pasted Tampa Bay 38-3.

First, the Buccaneers don’t hold an advantage because this is the third time they faced New Orleans this season and you know how tough it is for a team to complete the sweep after winning the first two contests. Teams that won two games against an opponent during the season are 14-7 in the third match.

The question in this one is, does Tom Brady send Drew Brees into retirement on his way to an NFC Championship game against Green Bay or does Brees send Brady home with a disappointing Divisional Round loss?

Tampa Bay may have rode a hot streak to get into the playoffs but the four teams they beat finished the season with a cumulative record of 20-44.

These two teams match up well together on offense but New Orleans puts the superior defense on the field.

Take the New Orleans Saints to win and cover while setting up a showdown next week against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

New Orleans Saints 33 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26

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