Saturday sees some fantastic symmetry across the two conferences. Both games will see the #1 seed hosting a #6 seed coming off an upset win in the previous round. The home teams are coming off their bye which at this point of the season is hard to understate. However, both underdog road teams will be desperate to prove that last week was not a fluke and knock off the best in their conference this season. Whether it is the one or the six seeds who advance, they will have the tantalising prospect of needing just one more win to advance to the Super Bowl.
Here are this week’s NFL Picks:
Minnesota Vikings @ San Francisco 49ers | 4:35 pm EST
1u – Minnesota Vikings +7 @ -107
- Neither team has a major advantage in terms of DVOA in this game
- The Vikings overturned an eight-point spread last week to beat the Saints
Knowing what to do with this game is extremely tough. The Vikings proved everyone wrong last weekend and they have a realistic shot to do it again. However, the 49ers are the better team, and they have had a week to rest and prepare for this game. One concern I have for the 49ers is that this season a lot of teams came off their bye week sluggishly. Then again, the 49ers did not, as they handily beat the Cleveland Browns 31-3.
In terms of the metrics there is not a huge amount to separate them. The Vikings have had the marginally better offensive line in terms of pass rush win rate, but the 49ers have the edge in pass rush win rate. What that likely means is that this game will be won and lost on the ground. Both teams run game offense and defense are very similar according to their DVOA rankings. My belief is that the 49ers will win this game and I would not be shocked if it is a blow-out victory. However, with Dalvin Cook fully healthy I am going to believe in the Vikings keeping this close.
Tennessee Titans @ Baltimore Ravens | 8:15 pm EST
1u – Baltimore Ravens -9 @ -107
- Per Statschecker, the Baltimore Ravens are 10-5-1 ATS this season
- The Baltimore Ravens defense ranked fourth in defensive DVOA this season
This is where the magic runs out for the Titans. I do believe they matchup very well against the Ravens with their ability to pound the ball with Derrick Henry. However, we saw the Patriots allow Henry to be a dominant force last week and still hold the Titans to 14 points on offense. Given that the Ravens pass defense has been up there with the best of them this season, I am not sure how Ryan Tannehill can inspire this offense to go over the 20-point mark.
Meanwhile, I fully expect the Ravens to be able to move the ball against a defense that ranked in the middle of the pack overall and 21st against the pass this season. The Patriots had opportunities to move the ball last week and failed to capitalize. That is not going to be the case with the Ravens this week.
1u – Tennessee Titans Under 17.5 Points @ -117
- The Tennessee Titans offense struggled to make consistent big plays against another very good defense last week
- The Baltimore Ravens have allowed over 17 points just twice in their last 11 games
Last week I was all over this Titans offense to score points and I was bailed out by their defense. However, despite what we saw from the Patriots offense, their defense gave a clinic on how to handle this Titans offense. Sit back and let Henry run at you, because he can only do so much damage to the score line. Can the Titans offense score 20? Absolutely. However, there is as much of a chance of them scoring just six points and for that reason I will take the under.
By Ben Rolfe