Texans @ Ravens
We like to trust history, and history says take the Houston Texans to cover. Lamar Jackson is 1-9 ATS as a favorite of 7 or more points. There is a path for the Ravens to dominate the Texans because nearly every advanced metric says the Texans are winning solely because of CJ Stroud and the passing game.
Houston needs to run the ball better. They struggle against the pass and the run, ranking 24th in Defensive Real QBR and 23rd in Defensive Rusher Rating. The Ravens have been excellent in nearly every aspect of the game. Jackson will win MVP; he has excellent weapons to work with, and the team gets after it on defense.
The Ravens are second in Defensive Passer Rating and first in Defensive Real QBR. This will be an extremely tough matchup based on the numbers for Stroud, but the Texans have continued to overcome the odds. The last time Baltimore was the #1 seed and received a bye week was 2019, and the Titans blew them off the field.
The Texans cover by lighting up the scoreboard with Nico Collins. Collins caught seven passes for 96 yards last week against one of the best defenses in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns. He had 195 yards the game before this against the Colts.
Stroud and Collins have an excellent connection. With no Tank Dell, Collins is the primary playmaker and Stroud's best chance of stretching the field. The quarterback trusts Collins and allows him to make plays even when he isn't wide-open.
PICK: Texans +9.5 and Nico Collins Over 80.5
Packers @ 49ers
Jordan Love has been outstanding down the final stretch of the season. The quarterback finished the season seventh in passing yards (4,259), second in touchdowns (32), and ninth in QBR (62). He tore apart the Cowboys last week, throwing for 272 yards with three scores.
The 49ers are great against the pass and slightly weaker against the run. They rank 13th in Defensive Rusher Rating, but the Packers have a solid run game with Aaron Jones. The Packers playing great football is a reason to lean toward them, but we believe the 49ers will slow down the game.
The biggest weakness for the Packers is their run defense. They're giving up over 120 yards per game on the ground, and Christian McCaffrey is in for a big game. McCaffrey averages 5,4 yards per carry this season and has gone over 89.5 yards in four of his past five games.
This includes three 100+ yard games as well. If San Francisco leans on the run and slows down the tempo, it will benefit McCaffrey and help the Packers cover.
PICK: Packers +9.5 and CMC Over 89.5 Rushing Yards
Buccaneers @ Lions
The Under in the Buccaneers vs Lions game is our favorite play of the weekend at Cold, Hard Football Facts. Games exceed the total because of touchdowns in the red zone.
Tampa Bay is fourth in least red zone touchdowns allowed, and they also struggle offensively inside the 20. Even last week, when the Buccaneers dominated the Eagles, they struggled to score in the red zone. Tampa Bay was all about explosive plays, but this has been their identity in 2023.
The Lions' defense could be better, but they should tighten up in the red zone. The Lions' offense is great in the red zone, but Tampa Bay will give them a challenge. Additionally, Dan Campbell is bound to be aggressive, and these decisions often lead to points being left off the board.
Tampa Bay is 12-6 to the Under this season. The Lions have gone Under the total in two of their past three games.
A prop to eye in this game is Cade Otton, who has over 28.5 receiving yards. Otton is coming off his best game of the season with eight catches for 89 yards. He dropped a couple of passes as well. It was almost like he wasn't ready for this much production.
For the Buccaneers to win, they must do precisely what they did last week...THROW THE BALL. Otton is a valuable part of the offense because defenses emphasize Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. This should leave Otton open underneath.
PICK: Under 48.5 & Cade Otton Over 28.5 Receiving Yards
Chiefs @ Bills
The Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes have owned Josh Allen and the Bills in the playoffs. Mahomes is 2-0 over Allen in the playoffs. He has been unbelievable as an underdog and is one of the best quarterbacks ever to play. So, the question is, why take Allen?
Mahomes has never played a road playoff game. He should handle the road atmosphere, but Buffalo is a challenging place to play, especially this season. The Bills have been in playoff mode for weeks, and their season came down to the final game.
The Bills are battled tested and playing well behind their quarterback. As good as the Chiefs have played recently, pounding the ball with Isian Pacheco, Allen has outplayed Mahomes all season. Allen is good enough to win this football game with how he has played, as long as he protects the ball.
Allen is third in Real QBR. Mahomes is ninth. The Bills are fourth in Real Passing Yards/Attempt. The Chiefs are 11th in this stat. Buffalo is also fifth in Scorebability, while Kansas City is 22nd. If the Bills play their game, they win this contest.
Allen will have to use his legs. His total is 44.5, and he didn't come close to this line in his last game against the Chiefs. However, he quickly scrambles when he sees a hole in the defense. As we saw last week, he can hit this line on a single carry.
Joe Brady has also done an excellent job calling designed runs and getting Allen going early in games. If the Chiefs focus on defending Buffalo's downfield weapons, the quarterback will make them pay on the ground.
PICK: Bills -2.5 & Josh Allen Over 44.5 Rushing Yards