NFC Divisional Round – Best Bets

01 / 20 / 2022 By Ally Mielnicki

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I nailed the Tampa Bay cover over the Eagles and the 49ers’ outright upset win in my picks from the Wild Card Round. However, since the Cardinals decided to field what appeared to be their junior varsity squad on Monday night against the Rams, I ended up 2-for-3 in my NFC picks. Combine that with my AFC predictions, and I was 4-for-6 ATS – pretty good.


Now that we are heading toward the Divisional Round, we will get to see if either west coast team – the Niners or the Rams – have what it takes to upset the Packers and Buccaneers, respectively.


So, are we siding with the underdogs or sticking with the chalk? Here are our best bets for the NFC DIvisional matchups: 


Packers -6 over 49ers


As of now, the weather forecast in Green Bay for Saturday night does not bode well for the warm weather 49ers. Unless there is a change, you can bet for another classic arctic game at Lambeau – cold and windy. That has to be music to Aaron Rodgers’ ears. Rodgers has played his fair share of games in less than ideal weather conditions many times before. Not only will the Niners have to play on a short week with one less day of rest than usual, but they will be forced to brave the snowy tundra if they want to advance to their 2nd NFC Championship game in 3 years.


This past weekend, the Niners appeared to control their Wild Card matchup against Dallas as 3-point underdogs. However, a lackluster second half nearly doomed San Francisco and sent the Niners home. Had it not been for poor clock management by the Cowboys in the game’s final drive, the Niners could have easily blown a game in which they dominated the entire first half. To add injury to near insult, San Francisco lost DE Joey Bosa to injury along with LB Fred Warner in the contest. Warner should be back on the field on Saturday night, but Bosa is still questionable as he remains in concussion protocol. 


Moving on to the Divisional Round, one thing is certain – Green Bay is no Dallas. This is a team that many have arguably declared the best squad in the NFL. Rodgers has turned in another MVP-caliber season, despite losing WR Randall Cobb and TE Ryan Tonyan to injury midway through the year. Still, Rodgers benefits from throwing to Davante Adams and Allen Lazard. Also, it looks like Cobb will be back on Saturday while RBs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon will man the backfield.


The Niners’ upset of the Cowboys was my lock of the week in the Wild Card round. However, I am not nearly as high on them this weekend. I think they are vastly overmatched against the Packers. When these two teams met back in September, it took a last-minute field goal as time expired by Mason Crosby for the Packers to secure the win on the road. Nevertheless, Green Bay has been a much better team since then, and playing in cold, wintry conditions gives them an even better advantage. The Niners had a nice run the second half of the year, but it comes to an end this weekend. Jimmy Garoppolo will struggle in the snow, especially if San Francisco falls behind early and reverts to the passing game. On the other side, Rodgers has ice in his veins in these situations. Green Bay wins and covers easily. Packers 27, 49ers 17.


Bucs -3 over Rams


Despite annihilating the Cardinals on Monday night, I’m still not high on the Rams this postseason. After their hot start to the season, Los Angeles struggled the second half, including a 3-game losing streak in November. Those three squads – Titans, Packers, and 49ers – are all playoff teams. Sure, the Rams finished the regular season with a 5-1 record, but those wins came against the Jaguars, the Cardinals (with no Kyler Murray), Seahawks, Vikings, and Ravens (led by QB Tyler Huntley). 


Now, Matt Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald will have to travel to Tampa Bay to take on the defending Super Bowl Champion Bucs at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. It’s one thing to square off against Kyler Murray, making his first career playoff appearance, but going up against the G.O.A.T. himself, Tom Brady is another. There will be no lack of playoff experience on the Bucs’ side, and they will be more than prepared for whatever game plan the Rams will execute. 


Tampa Bay completely steamrolled over the Philadelphia Eagles in the Bucs’ Wild Card matchup. The game was decided before halftime as Jalen Hurts and the Eagles had no shot from the beginning, despite many “experts” teasing an upset. Even though the Rams are vastly more skilled than the Eagles, the Bucs should benefit from playing on their home turf and not having to travel cross-country on a short week. They may also get back RBs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones from injury, increasing their offensive firepower. 


One of my favorite bets is always picking against the winner of the Monday night football game. Another is betting against west coast teams traveling to play on the east coast on a short week. Both of these strategies apply to this game. However, that’s only a bonus for me. Despite losing to the Rams back in September, the Bucs are the superior team and should handle whatever game plan Sean McVay will draw up for his squad. Yes, the Bucs will be without WRs Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown, but Tom Brady has won with far less talent in the past. Not to mention he still has WR Mike Evans and TE Rob Gronkowski as go-to weapons and should also be able to spread the ball between WRs Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, and TE Cameron Brate. Tampa Bay wins and covers. Bucs 34, Rams 26.


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