Dieter’s Dive Divisional Round

Nick Chubb
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) carries the ball as Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Andrew Billings (99) goes for the tackle in the first quarter during an NFL Week 17 game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Cleveland Browns At Cincinnati Bengals Football 12 29 2019

Rams at Packers

The recommendation:

Rams +6.5

Also recommended:

buying a couple points on this one.

The reasoning:

Under normal circumstances, I’d be all-in on the Rams here. But a quarterback missing one of his thumbs is not a normal circumstance. Jared Goff doesn’t need to be special, just respectable, for the Rams to not just cover but win. But how can anyone bet on that? 

Here’s why the Rams will be able to cover — especially if you buy a point — in Green Bay: I think the Packers are soft. 

If LA can strike first and pound the rock with Cam Akers, the Packers are going to struggle to come back. They’re a front-running team and their defense doesn’t care much for physicality. 

But, again, the Rams are going to have to throw the ball for that ground game to be viable. Goff is terrible in cold weather. Add in a busted up thumb? Yikes. 

This is my least confident bet of the week, but I can’t shake how poorly the Packers played last year against a 49ers team that had a lot of similarities to these Rams, albeit with (somehow) better quarterback play. 

Key stat:

Aaron Rodgers takes, on average, 2.72 seconds to throw the ball — and that’s in an offense that has one-read plays!

Do you think Aaron Donald needs that much time to blow a play up?

Ravens at Bills

The recommendation:

Baltimore +125

The reasoning:

The Bills are, without a doubt, going to sell out to stop the run from the Ravens. Even then, I’m not entirely convinced that they’ll be able to stop Lamar Jackson and company. 

The way that Bills breakthrough is with Josh Allen doing big things against the Ravens’ blitzing defense — which I imagine will play plenty of zone this week. He’s been one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks against the blitz, so it’s not out of the question, but I like the way Baltimore matches up against Buffalo in the passing game. 

This is a close contest, but Baltimore has more talent and a stronger identity on both sides of the ball. That isn’t everything, but Allen will have to be markedly better than Jackson in this game for the Bills to win. 

While I question Jackson’s ability to throw, I don’t think the margin ends up significant and Baltimore escapes in a limited possession game defined by turnovers. 

Key Stat:

The Bills allowed nearly 475 yards to the Colts. Say what you will about Baltimore’s offense, but it deserves more respect than Indianapolis’. The Bills allowed 5.4 yards per carry and 163 total rushing yards to Indy. What is Baltimore going to do to them?

Line Movement Sunday Pre-Kickoff Show

Browns at Chiefs 

The recommendation:

Cleveland +10, Cleveland +400

The reasoning:

The Chiefs have been coasting for months and I think it catches up to them in a game against a team that, if they play well, will not just cover but beat them. 

There’s a leap here, but I’m going to give Cleveland the benefit of the doubt on coaching. What they need to do is run their system on offense — the wide-zone, play-action game — and play two-high on defense. Force Patrick Mahomes to take the easy throw and he’ll turn in an ordinary game (by his standards), as we saw when the Chiefs played the quarters-coverage Raiders twice this season. That’ll be enough. 

Key stat:

Kansas City has the second-worst rush defense in the NFL per DVOA, 24th if you weigh those stats by opponent strength. The Browns should be able to run the ball down their throat, and Kansas City’s susceptibility to play action will put the game in the hands of Baker Mayfield. It’s a dangerous proposition, but I’m going to bet Baker wakes up feeling dangerous. 

Buccaneers at Saints

The recommendation:

Under 52

The reasoning:

I don’t like either of these teams. Tampa Bay struggled against Washington — WASHINGTON! — and New Orleans’ defense is on par with the football team’s. I don’t think Tom Brady goes off in this contest. 

But I also don’t like Drew Brees. Haven’t all year and his performance in the first round doesn’t do anything for me. Tampa Bay’s defense is good enough to make him struggle and they’re particularly adroit at stopping the run game, which often keeps Brees alive. For all the hype around this one, I think it’s a dud with both quarterbacks looking their age. Who wins? No one. Give me the under. 

Key stat:

Marshon Lattimore hasn’t allowed Mike Evans to make a catch on him in three games. Seems good. 

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