the NFL playoffs are here for 2021. That means 13 more choices and predictions to be made against the spread of Super Bowl 55.
MORE: Get the latest NFL odds and more for wild card games
Throughout the 256 games of the 2020 regular season, the results here were pretty good, but there is always room to continue improving and delivering when the stakes are highest in the playoffs.
This year’s playoffs kick off with a “super” wild card weekend, which means six games – three Saturdays, three Sundays – instead of just four. It gives us more chances to succeed in the games. Unfortunately, this also creates more chances of being wrong.
Without further ado, here’s the breakdown of the half-dozen games to come:
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NFL Playoff Pick, ATS Predictions
- Game of the week: Browns at the Steelers (-3.5, 47 o / u)
Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC
The Browns secured their needed win over the Steelers in Cleveland in Week 17 to make the playoffs and force that rematch, but it took them everything defensively and offensively to survive against a resting team not starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers will show their normal and stronger defense, which will set them up to put constant pressure on Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield doesn’t respond well when throwing at high volume with guys in the face. Roethlisberger, meanwhile, will go to work on a Browns secondary that has a lot of cover holes away from Denzel Ward. Losing Olivier Vernon up front to flank Myles Garrett also hurts. The Steelers ended up making the wise decision not to show the Browns much as a real game plan. Back for another tilt in Pittsburgh, the Steelers defense reasserts itself with more offensive help than usual.
To choose: The Steelers win 27-17 and cover the gap.
Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET, CBS
The Saints are the biggest favorites of the wildcard weekend with that double-digit number against the Bears. They’ve owned this game quite easily over the past two seasons, with both games being played in Chicago. The Saints will have a rested background with Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray not playing in Week 17, and they will often fight the Bears with them.
The Saints won’t sleep against another visitor to NFC North like they did against the Vikings a year ago. The Saints can contain David Montgomery’s run and put the game back in the hands of Mitchell Trubisky, who won’t end well in the face of pressure from the Saints on the road.
To choose: Saints win 34-17 and cover the spread.
- Upset of the Week: Rams over Seahawks (-4.5, 43 b / u)
Saturday 4:40 p.m. ET, Fox
The Rams expect Jared Goff and Cooper Kupp to return for the rubber game after the Week 16 loss to Seattle cost them the NFC West title and forced them to have that game on the road. But the Seahawks don’t have the same field advantage, and their defense has also been playing better lately, the Rams are the dominant unit, led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.
The Seahawks’ racing game will be contained and Russell Wilson won’t see much open ground for DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. The Rams are going to shuffle the staff, run the ball well and broadcast it in the intermediate passing game at Kupp, Woods and the tight ends.
To choose: The Rams win 20-17.
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Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
The Bills have a pesky opponent in their first home playoff game since 1996. The Colts can give them offensive problems with Jonathan Taylor against a shaky defense. The Colts can also cause them defensive issues with their sonic zone fundamentals, forcing Josh Allen to be patient and endure long drives instead of playing his typical big pass with his big arm.
The problem here is that Allen is playing well and is able to spread the ball well, work in midfield at Cole Beasley (who is “week after week” with an injury) and get help from Dawson as well. Knox at the tight end. The Colts also have no real stopping corner for Stefon Diggs. Then it’s also easier to trust Allen rather than Philip Rivers to do the clutch throws to win a game this season.
To choose: Tickets win 31-27 but fail to cover the spread.
Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC
The Buccaneers offense is hoping Mike Evans will be in good health to help Tom Brady in heat with Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski and the running game. Much like Brady plays, this isn’t the best place for his pass protection against Chase Young and the fierce Washington front four. The Bucs’ defense will contain the run, but Alex Smith has three dangerous receiving weapons in Terry McLaurin, Logan Thomas and JD McKissic with whom to successfully move the ball on short to intermediate throws. In the end, Tampa Bay wins comfortably as expected, but Washington works the count and keeps it on a touchdown loss with inspired play for Ron Rivera.
To choose: The Buccaneers win 24-17 but fail to cover the gap.
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, ESPN / ABC
Take your pick: The Ravens will be focused on revenge of the road here, whether it’s the brutal 28-12 Division playoffs upset a year ago or the heartbreaking 30-24 overtime loss in Week 11. , both in Baltimore. The Ravens weren’t in the same offensive grove with Lamar Jackson, JK Dobbins and Marquise Brown as they are now seven weeks later. They also have a decisive defensive advantage due to a capable passing run and deep secondary. The running defense has also gotten stronger lately which is good for slowing Derrick Henry down.
Jackson is still looking for his first playoff win after two losses at home. He’s relaxed and excited as a passer, and he continues to run at a high level, sparked by Dobbins sharing the backfield with him. Look for the Ravens to get aggressive passes with him to build a lead, and prevent Henry from being a consistent gateway to Ryan Tannehill’s game-action passes on the field. The Ravens and Titans are currently playing similar offensive games, but the Titans’ defensive issues are catching up with them here.
To choose: The Ravens win 34-31 but fail to cover the gap.
Statistics of the week
Week 17 straight: 12-4
Week 17 ATS: 7-9
Straight season: 164-92
Season Against Spread: 132-117