NFL Divisional Round Playoff Picks - Early Games

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NFL Divisional Round Playoffs, Early Games

All times Eastern

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Wild Card Results: Rick: 4-2; Coin: 3-3
Cumulative: Rick: 132-142-4; Coin: 128-146-4


Saturday, January 22

Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans (-3 1/2, 47) 4:30 pm CBS - While the Titans had the week off as the #1 seed in the AFC, Cincinnati played just well enough to hold off the Raiders in the Wild Card round, 26-19. The Bengals won the AFC North with a 10-7 record; the Titans went 12-5, easily capturing the AFC South with a 12-5 record. The Colts were the only team other than Tennessee with a positive record (9-8). Houston (4-13) and Jacksonville (3-14) were pretty much eliminated by mid-season.

Top to bottom the AFC North was a solid division. Cleveland and Baltimore ended up tied for last place with respectable 8-9 records. Pittsburgh was 9-7-1, made the playoffs and are out. The Bengals will need all their defensive skills to beat the Titans. Despite Tennessee being without the best running back in the league, Derrick Henry, they still managed to go 6-3 without him and easily win the division.

Donta Foreman has emerged as the Titans' primary bull-rusher, gaining over 100 yards on the ground in two recent games. He may not be the perfect replacement for Henry, but he's a bruiser, running behind Tennessee's big offensive line. In the passing game, QB Ryan Tannehill has his full coterie of receivers, including Julio Jones and AJ Brown.

Joe Burrow is going to get his completions against the Tennessee defense, but there aren't likely to be any game-breaking long plays. The Titans have tightened up the secondary and Cincy won't be able to run the ball very well. Tennessee was second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, to Baltimore (84.5-84.6).

A family physical team in its own right, the Bengals aren't likely to win at the point of attack. The Titans are possibly the most physically-dominant team in the playoffs, except for possibly the Rams. Tennessee should get this win at home by a touchdown or more.

Late Note: Derrick Henry is active and should start, making the Titans nearly unbeatable if he's at 90% or better.

Coin Flip: Cincinnati

Prediction: Titans 27 Bengals 17



San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (-5 1/2, 47 1/2) 8:15 pm FOX - An inviting episode in the ongoing Packers-49ers rivalry. The last meeting was in week three of the regular season, a Sunday nighter in which the Packers stole a 30-28 win in SF on a final gun, 51-yard Mason Crosby field goal.

The Packers raced to a 10-0 lead and then made it 17-0 with a minute to go in the first half. Jimmy Garoppolo got the 'Niners into scoring position with time winding down and backup QB, Trey Lance scored as time expired in the first half, cutting the lead to 17-7.

In the second half, the 49er defense dug in, limiting the Packers to just 10 points before Crosby's heroic kick. San Francisco actually had the lead, 28-27, with 37 seconds remaining, but Aaron Rodgers hit Davonte Adams twice for 25 and 17 yards to set up the game winner.

That game typifies the level of play and the hunger on both teams. This may be the best-played game of the weekend from a technical standpoint. Both teams are well-coached and confident, but know that their opponents are equally talented and emotionally capable of making plays on both sides of the ball.

The spread given to the 49ers seems a little excessive, though, being played at Lambeau Field, the Packers are rightfully the favorites. It's easy to see the Packers winning with Rodgers a very likely MVP of the league, but, judging by past performance, it looks like the 49ers are not going quietly.

Green Bay won their division with ease, going 13-4, with the next best, Minnesota, far back at 8-9. They won five straight down the stretch to clinch home field throughout the playoffs in week 17. The Packers have the advantage of not just the bye week, but most of their starters saw limited or no action in their week 18, 37-30, loss to the Lions.

San Francisco was nearly written off by week 9, when they fell to Arizona, 31-17, dropping them to 3-5. They won seven of their next nine to finish 10-7 with a wild card.

After their 23-17 knockout of the Cowboys in Dallas last week, they're a very dangerous playoff team. Notably, Nick Bosa, who left the Dallas win with a concussion, is questionable, but, if he passes the NFL protocols, will be a force on the defensive line. Garoppolo is nursing a shoulder sprain, but should be a go for this important game. RB Elijah Mitchell is being limited in practice due to a recurring knee injury, but also will be a likely starter and cold be a huge factor.

While the Packers, the #1 seed in the NFC, are likely to move on, one cannot discount the potential for a 49er upset. Weather could change everything, especially if it's windy and/or snowing. It is, after all, January.

Coin Flip: Green Bay

Prediction: Packers 29 49ers 27


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