NFL Divisional Playoff Picks - Early Games

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NFL Divisional Weekend Early Games

All times Eastern

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Wild Card: Rick: 2-2; Coin: 4-0

Cumulative: Rick: 124-129-7; Coin: 120-133-7

Saturday, January 11

4:35 pm Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers (-7, 44 1/2) - After Minnesota's, 26-20 overtime upset of the New Orleans Saints, there are questions as to whether the Vikings were underrated or the Saint overrated coming into their wild card contest.

The answer is probably a little bit of each. The Vikings' defensive front harassed and hurried Drew Brees throughout the game. He was never able to get comfortable in the pocket and that helped the pass defense greatly. The Saints were never able to establish a ground game, while the Vikings pounded away on offense with capable runners, Dalvin Cook and Alex Mattison. QB Kirk cousins was composed and workmanlike.

At the same time, the Saints played one of their worst games of the season, regardless of the Minnesota effort. Their 20 points was the lowest point total since they lost to Atlanta, 26-9, on November 10.

What the Vikings face in San Francisco is a different set of facts. Instead of a somewhat immobile 40-year-old quarterback, they'll be trying to contain 28-year-old Jimmy Garoppolo, who doesn't scramble much but does move around in the pocket well. he's also been around since 2014, though this was the first season he's played all 16 games.

If the Viking defense doesn't get pressure on Garoppolo, he'll pick them apart and his backfield-by-committee is adept at finding holes and rushing for sizable gains. The 49ers may find themselves with a good number of 2nd and five or third and three situations and they're likely to convert the majority of them into first downs.

Defensively, the 49ers can get the job done, allowing 19.4 points per game throughout the regular season. The Vikings allowed 18.9, so holding the Saints to 20 last week shouldn't be surprising. The 49ers were second in the league in scoring behind Baltimore, putting up 29.9 points per game, but that's not a significant difference from the Vikings, who averaged 25.4.

San Francisco was better on the road than at home, 7-1 away and 6-2 on home turf. Their last five games have been decided by 3, 2, 7, 3, and 5 points and two of those games were losses. while the 49ers won the NFC West with a 13-3 mark, the Saints had the same record and were controlled by Minnesota's defense. It wouldn't be surprising, given the Vikings new found confidence, if they had a lead for some or most of this game. The 49er offense can be slowed, but not stopped cold. Getting into the end zone will be difficult against the Vikings and this game may come down to a field goal or late turnover.

Coin Flip: Minnesota

Prediction: 49ers 27 Vikings 24

8:15 pm Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens (-10, 47) - With 12 straight wins, the Ravens compiled the best record in the NFL and appear to be the team to beat if one desires a Super Bowl appearance out of the AFC. Besides having the #1 offense in the league (33.2 points per game), and the #3 defense, allowing opponents 17.6 ppg, they have the likely league MVP at quarterback. Lamar Jackson is as dangerous with his feet as with his arm, giving the Ravens an added weapon, confusing and confounding defenses.

Jackson will cause Tennessee's defense some problems. The Titans were 12th in points allowed, giving up 20.7 per outing, but they're probably not going to hold the Ravens to under three touchdowns. If they could, they'd have a chance to beat them and even if they don't, the Titans are a hard-nosed bunch that will play until the final gun.

Tennessee's offense centers around the NFL's leading rusher, Derrick Henry, who should get the ball at least 20 times if the Titans' offense is clicking. Picking up yardage through the air is going to be an issue for the Titans. Their receivers are good, but not great, and the Ravens' defense was so stingy agains the run (93.4 yards per game), the Titans may be forced to pass and face long yardage situations of third downs.

Baltimore is expected to win this game going away. After all, they're the #1 seed in the AFC and Tennessee came into the playoffs as a wild card in the #6 spot. Tennessee can't afford to get behind early, because, being primarily a running team, they're not really built for come backs. Containing Jackson will be their primary goal and if they accomplish that, they'll be OK.

An upset here is not likely. Baltimore has too many weapons and home field, but the Titans proved they can play solidly, having defeated New England last week, 20-13, holding the Patriots scoreless in the second half. They're not going to be bullied by Baltimore's defense and may keep this closer than the oddsmakers predict. Since Ryan Tannehill took over at QB for the Titans, they have not lost a game by more than 10 points and probably won't here.

Coin Flip: Baltimore

Prediction: Ravens 27 Titans 20

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