Hello there and welcome to another edition of The Picks Six, back again for (super) Divisional Weekend. Sadly, only four games this weekend and, horrifyingly, only 3 more after sunday night. That said, it does mean we’re coming to the business end of the season, and the remaining 8 teams all know they’re just 3 wins away from the ultimate goal of lifting the Lombardi trophy in SuperBowl LV. This weekend’s matchups are absolutely mouthwatering, with one-on-one spectacles like Jalen Ramsey vs Davante Adams, ultimate draft comparison with Lamar and Josh Allen, two of the greatest QBs ever going up against each other… oh and Tom Brady vs Drew Brees. You will all respect Baker vs Mahomes. You will. Let’s talk briefly about each game, and my pick for each of them.
Rams @ Packers
The headline grabbing matchup between star cornerback and star receiver aside, this still feels like the ultimate game of offense vs defense. Despite the Packers’ alleged struggles against the run, they haven’t allowed a 100 yard rusher in almost two months at this point, and have tightened things up significantly on the back end, whilst their fearless leader continues to shred opposing defences en route to his MVP award. Rodgers has truly been peerless, and enjoyed his bye week whilst Aaron Donald was slightly injuring his ribs against Russell Wilson. You can probably guess where I’m leaning with this one: I just can’t see the Rams being able to score enough to beat this Packers team. If they get another defensive score – like the Pick 6 last week – they’d have a shot, but Rodgers has Adams, Tonyan, Jones, and the deep-threat of Valdez-Scantling and for me those weapons are too many to defend. Cam Akers has given the Rams some nice late season production in the latter stages of the season, and Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are a great pair of receivers, but is Jared Goff 100%? Surely he can’t be. If Blake Bortles had been there more this season, he might be given a shot, but it feels unlikely they’ll throw him in unless Goff’s thumb is really struggling.
Therefore, I ask the question: can you beat Aaron Rodgers without a QB? Maybe. I saw this week that Aaron Rodgers is 0-2 in the playoffs against the number one ranked pass defense… which this season is the LA Rams. Jalen Ramsey’s stats are insane, but will need every bit of his smarts to stay with Davante Adams. I think the Packers will find special ways to get Adams the ball – he’s too good to not be involved, despite Ramsey’s attention. I don’t think this will be a back and forth shootout and if I wasn’t morally opposed to betting the under, I would suggest doing that. However, as it stands, with the line at -6.5, I like Green Bay to win and move on to the NFC Title game.
Ravens @ Titans
Ooooooh this game. Saturday night football is electric. Lamar finally got the playoff monkey off his back with the revenge victory against Tennessee, and the Ravens will ride into Buffalo high on confidence and with a mean streak in tow. However, this isn’t the same old Bills team. This is Josh Allen’s Bills team. His partnership with Stefon Diggs is truly Box Office, and that Bills D is showing up late in the season like it should. Buffalo’s run game took a bit of a hit with the injury to Zack Moss, but really Buffalo’s most dangerous runner is… their main passer. Allen is so dangerous in the RedZone, and can create hell for defensive coordinators. That said, the Bills have struggled against the run, and the Ravens seem to want to run over everyone that’s put in front of them, and have done so successfully for about 6 weeks now. I love the one-two punch of JK Dobbins and Jackson in the backfield with their speed and shiftiness, and the threat of Mark Andrews and Hollywood Brown down the field. Baltimore are flying right now, but Sean McDermott has something special cooking in Buffalo.
I do feel that Buffalo wins this game, and I like a lot of points to be scored here. Bills Mafia will show up and be loud and I think will help propel Josh Allen to his second playoff win in two weeks. I think this will be a great game, with these two young star QBs showing why they are two of the new faces of the league. MVP Lamar will have his moments here, but I think the quality of Diggs down the field, with the underneath ability of Cole Beasley and (potential breakout star) Gabriel Davis, will give the Bills what they need to win this shootout.
Browns @ Chiefs
The Baker vs Mahomes story has been told a thousand times, but that doesn’t make it any less enchanting. Mahomes visited Texas Tech and stayed with Baker, before becoming the Tech QB when Mayfield had transferred to Oklahoma. Then came the absolutely INSANE 66-59 game in October 2016. The game still holds almost every NCAA record for offensive statistics. The number one pick for Cleveland, vs the man Andy Reid and the Chiefs were so enamoured with they traded up to take him, and eventually pushed Alex Smith aside to complete his ascension. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have been an absolute powerhouse for multiple years now, and are the reigning SuperBowl champions for a reason. And, guess what? They’re better than they were last year. However, it’s been two decades since the Cleveland Browns were even approaching being as good as they are right now. Will there be a more confident team this weekend than the Browns? They just beat up their big brother and broke the curse at Heinz Field that’s lasted over 17 years. Not to mention, this is their first playoff appearance in about that long. On the face of it, this is David vs Goliath, and Vegas seems to agree – with the Browns 10 point underdogs. I see two options in this game. Either the Browns control the clock with the two-headed monster in the run game, and keep it close, or the Chiefs offense does what it does and scores 45 points against an under matched Cleveland secondary. Kansas City is so explosive, you can’t rule it out.
That said, with the momentum from last week, I believe in Baker and the Browns. Do I believe they’ll win the game? … not entirely. But I absolutely believe the game will be close. Baker is playing REALLY well and will continue to put his team in a position to have a chance in this game. Kevin Stefanski’s return to the sidelines will only help the Browns case. The points line is 57!!! Insanely high, so I’ll leave that, but this could well end up being a shootout. That said, Browns +10.0 looks good to me. Furthermore, don’t be surprised if there IS an upset in KC… you’ve been warned.
Buccaneers @ Saints
Brees vs Brady is a lovely way to end the weekend. Undoubtedly, Brady has been the more successful Quarterback, and yet Brees seems to be the one holding all the individual NFL league records. I saw a stat that says Tom Brady has the same number of playoff wins against the NFC as Drew Brees does… and Brady previous to this year only got to play the NFC in the SuperBowl… Yikes for Drew. Brees’ regular season success has been matched by the levels of playoff heartbreak he and New Orleans have had to endure the past decade. The Minneapolis miracle, the non-call of the PI against the Rams… I feel for the Saints. I really do. And just when they feel like they’ve got everything to make the Super Bowl again… Tom Brady joins the division. Ouch. Credit to the Saints, they’ve beaten these Buccaneers twice this year already, but the old saying goes “it’s hard to beat a team 3 times…” So maybe the Buccaneers can get their revenge? The Bucs are in a much different place now to when the Saints handled them easily around ⅔ of the season mark. Bruce Arians seems to have figured out how to make the most out of the pieces he’s got. I mean, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scotty Miller, PLUS Gronk and Brate the Tight Ends… The Buccaneers have many different ways they can beat you, especially if they get the “old” Leonard Fournette like they appeared to last week against Washington.
This game is such a toss up for me right now. I’ve been a proponent of the Saints, and a disregard-er of the Bucs for most of this year, but I might have to jump (to the pirate) ship right now. Brady looks good, and the sheer number of weapons the Bucs have is terrifying. The way the Saints win this game is lean on Alvin Kamara, take the ball out of Drew Brees’ hands, and hope their D-Line can wreck the Tampa Bay game plan. That said, I think this is high-scoring and the Buccaneers keep it close. This will be a great Sunday night cap. I would only be surprised if this game was a blowout one way or the other. And whoever wins… gets Aaron Rodgers next week. Oooooooh tasty.
Combining the picks from above, £10 on the following four leg parlay pays about £450 depending on your bookmaker.
Green Bay -6.5
Over 49.0 points & Buffalo -2.5
Over 52.0 points & Tampa Bay +3.0
Enjoy the games everybody! As always I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter & Instagram. Come say hey. Let’s get these Championships won next weekend and look forward to the Super Bowl. Stay safe and stay sane.
Callum Squires is a diehard Dolphins fan, writer, and friend of NFL in London.
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