Denver and San Francisco are the host sites for Saturday’s installments of the four-game football betting divisional playoff round. The Broncos and 49ers will try to use their first-round byes well.
AFC Divisional Playoff Game
Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos
Odds: Denver -10
When these teams met in week 15, the clubs were moving in opposite directions as the Broncos were continuing their run to the top seed while Baltimore was slowly losing its standing in the AFC. The Ravens won a playoff game for the fifth year in a row when they beat Indianapolis in the wild card round. Baltimore will be fully equipped on defense after playing without both Bernard Pollard and Ray Lewis in the first meeting. Having those players back will make a big difference for the Ravens.
The Broncos love to play from ahead, allowing their vaunted pass rush to kick back and bull rush the opposing quarterback. Outdoors in January hasn’t been friendly to Peyton Manning in his postseason career, though, and the team that runs the ball best may have the upper hand. If Baltimore can establish its preferred pace and style, it can get a lead on Denver and prevent the Broncos from doing what they do best. Denver can’t play from ahead if it doesn’t get an early lead.
Baltimore has to get a strong game from Joe Flacco and the Ravens must get pressure on Peyton Manning to prevent him from picking apart a secondary that has struggled all year. Revenge is on the Ravens’ mind and they’ve been a really tough out in recent years. There’s a good chance for an upset here. Baltimore should certainly cover the spread.
Pick: Baltimore +10
NFC Divisional Playoff Game
Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers
Odds: San Francisco -3
Perhaps the two most popular NFC champion picks for prognosticators heading into the postseason, the Packers and 49ers are going to command the stage this weekend. The winner of this game will be seen as a favorite over the Seattle-Atlanta winner in the NFC Championship Game. This heavyweight matchup will be a repeat of San Francisco’s week 1 victory at Green Bay. Niner head coach Jim Harbaugh has the added pressure on his shoulders in this game, far more than Green Bay boss Mike McCarthy, who already owns a Super Bowl ring. The pressure weighing down Harbaugh flows largely from his decision to insert Colin Kaepernick into the starting lineup and bench Alex Smith, the same player who capably led San Francisco to last season’s NFC title game. After losing that aforementioned NFC Championship Game at home last year, Harbaugh doesn’t want a second straight home loss ending his season. He also doesn’t want to be hounded by a quarterback move throughout the offseason.
The 49ers’ defense has been one of the best all season and makes its bones getting after the quarterback. The Packers present one of the most prolific passing attacks in the NFL. While a major storyline coming into this game will be Kaepernick and his play, the game more than likely comes down to San Francisco’s defense against Packer superstar Aaron Rodgers. Whoever gets the upper hand there probably goes to the NFC Championship Game, and the likelihood is that the Niners, with a crucial week of rest as a result of their first-round bye, will be able to play up to their standards, especially on defense. San Francisco should be able to generate a strong pass rush against Rodgers, taking the Packers out of their element on offense. Go with the 49ers to cover the NFL spread here.
Pick: San Francisco -3