Here are some predictions for Saturday’s NFL playoff games:
PACKERS (-6.5) over Rams; Under 45.5
Face the facts. The Rams were more than fortunate that they caught the Seahawks in the wild-card round, and thus were able to dominate ball possession (keyed by 43 rushes, accumulating 164 yards on the ground), leaving Seattle coming up way short despite a friendly crowd. The Seahawks completed but 11 of 27 passes, with a pick and a lost fumble in the bargain … leaving them no clean way to camouflage their horrific defense, to their sorrow.
After that, this excursion is likely to be a considerable disappointment for the Angelinos, leaving their legions a long way from home, off enduring the short end of the score, and chilled to the bone, to boot. The health of the Rams’ offensive backfield has taken a marked blow, given the injury issues incurred by young QB prospect John Wolford, leaving unproven Jared Goff still the worse for wear, with his injured thumb.
Many more influences and factors have aligned neatly, favoring the home Packers, than are likely to afford significant aid and comfort to the Rams. For instance, Florida State product Cam Akers will likely need another huge ground effort (131 yards rushing, last week) to sufficiently aid and abet the Rams’ cause. For the Packers to make their way into serious Super Bowl contention, they’ll need to stay relatively healthy, and Aaron Rodgers will likely have to maintain the level of sustained command he enjoyed during the regular season just past.
Current weather conditions have game-time temps hovering around the low 30s. This does not bode at all well for the Rams, who have consistently performed at a slower pace under these kinds of conditions, pointing markedly toward the under. Rams wideout Cooper Kupp is currently meaningfully questionable to see appreciable time, which doesn’t bode well for the visitors from sunny California.
Ravens (+3) over BILLS; Over 49.5
Those familiar with his work could understand the enthusiasm regarding Ravens QB Lamar Jackson’s considerable upside, but sometimes, it takes a while to crash over. After a couple of college bowl losses and two postseason disappointments, Jackson took a giant step towards fulfilling his considerable potential after his strong finish eclipsing the Titans in the wild-card round. This figures to be a tad tougher, especially with WR Stefon Diggs aiding and abetting an improved Bills attack unit, but Buffalo QB Josh Allen has also come a long way in a relatively short time.
The Bills had to get by the Colts to get here, but we respected Indianapolis’ chance to give Allen and friends difficulties. Buffalo will be stronger for that experience, but the Ravens have a stronger intermediate history than do the Bills, who already have come an extraordinarily long way in a relatively short time, off their lengthy inability to do anything about the Patriots or Dolphins in the AFC East.
Baltimore’s hidden edge likely lays in their significant successful recent experience when overcoming the league’s enduring road disadvantages. We figure head coach John Harbaugh and his staff have gone a long way toward contributing to this, though Bills head coach Sean McDermott has also made a significant contribution to Buffalo’s improved fortunes.
Both of these sides have consistently displayed the abilities to perform under suboptimal, coolish conditions — especially offensively — unless conditions somehow deteriorate markedly. That leaves us confidently expecting a relatively elevated final score, given the way these two sides have performed when possessing the ball during the season’s second half. Baltimore is heading into this game the right way, and don’t expect this visiting side to be able to hold them back for the full sixty minutes.
Last week: 5-1 vs. spread. Colts (W), Rams (W), Washington (W), Saints (W), Browns (W), Titans (L). 3-3 Over/Unders.
2020-21 postseason: 8-4.