NFL playoffs divisional round game picks, bracket schedule, odds, bold predictions and more

It’s on to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, and we’re previewing all four games on the weekend’s slate. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and final score predictions.

Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a stat to know for each game, and the Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. NFL analyst Matt Bowen identifies a key matchup to watch, ESPN Chalk‘s Mackenzie Kraemer hands out helpful nuggets, and national NFL writer Kevin Seifert focuses in on each game’s officiating crew. It’s all here to help get you ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.

Jump to a matchup:
NFC: MIN-SF | SEA-GB
AFC: TEN-BAL | HOU-KC

Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating: 82.3 | Spread: SF -7 (44)

What to watch for: These teams tied for fifth in sacks (48) this season while finishing in the bottom 10 in blitz percentage. In other words, they both can create pressure while relying solely on their defensive fronts. And quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo (64.9 passer rating) and Kirk Cousins (61.0 passer rating) both had their struggles when under duress in 2019. — Nick Wagoner

2 Related

Bold prediction: This game will be decided on the final possession. Minnesota and San Francisco might be the most evenly matched teams in the postseason, both with dominant running games and defensive line play. And while the Vikings are coming off a 26-20 overtime victory in the wild-card round, every 49ers game since Week 13 has been decided by a play in the final 10 seconds, including three on the final play. That trend continues Saturday with a nail-biting finish. — Courtney Cronin

Stat to know: Expect plenty of play-action on Saturday. Garoppolo had NFL-best 1,670 passing yards off play-action in 2019, while Cousins led the league with 13 play-action passing touchdowns.

Key matchup: 49ers tight end George Kittle vs. split-safety coverage. Look for Niners coach Kyle Shanahan to create open voids and defined throws for Garoppolo versus the Vikings’ zone coverages. That leads to catch-and-run opportunities for Kittle, who averaged 7.2 yards after the catch during the regular season. Think crossers and in-breakers here. Read more.

Betting nugget: Since 2014, San Francisco is 1-12-1 against the spread (ATS) as a favorite of at least six points (9-5 outright), including 0-6-1 ATS this season. Garoppolo is the 10th quarterback to make his postseason debut for a No. 1 seed under the current playoff format, and the previous nine are 4-5 outright and 2-7 ATS. Read more.

Officiating nugget: Referee Walt Anderson’s regular-season crew led the NFL in flags per game (18.8), but fortunately both the 49ers and Vikings finished among the NFL’s 10 least-penalized teams. This could be Anderson’s final game on the field, but his name has surfaced as a candidate for a new job as the NFL’s vice president of officiating training and recruitment.

Cronin’s pick: Vikings 28, 49ers 25
Wagoner’s pick: 49ers 27, Vikings 23
FPI prediction: SF, 66.1% (by an average of 5.5 points)

Matchup must-reads: Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph’s game-winning gloves to benefit charity after allWhy the 49ers have unwavering faith in the unflappable Jimmy Garoppolo49ers’ defense can return to dominance with improved health

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 72.3 | Spread: BAL -10 (46.5)

What to watch for: Can the Titans become the first team this season to stop the NFL MVP front-runner under the bright lights? Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is 3-0 in prime-time games this season, throwing for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions (135.4 passer rating). The Titans are one of eight teams to allow more than 4,000 yards passing and 25 touchdown passes this season. — Jamison Hensley

NFL PrimeTime continues this postseason with extended highlights and analysis following the conclusion of each day’s playoff games. Watch on ESPN+

Bold prediction: Titans running back Derrick Henry rushes for 125 yards and two touchdowns, despite the Ravens owning the NFL’s fifth-best run defense (93.4 yards per game). Expect to see him break a long run (40-plus yards) at some point in the game too. — Turron Davenport

Stat to know: Baltimore blitzed on 48.7% of opponent dropbacks, the highest rate by any team since the 2013 Cardinals. The Ravens turned those blitzes into an NFL-best 16 takeaways, 49.8% opponent completion percentage and 29 opponent QBR. But Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw seven touchdowns and only one interception against the blitz this season, and he ranked third in yards per attempt (9.8).

Key matchup: Henry vs. the Ravens’ defensive front. We shouldn’t expect the script to change for Henry and the Titans’ offense. Run outside zone and give Henry options to cut inside or bounce to the outside. The Titans running back is averaging 26.2 carries over his past five games. Get him that high volume again, control the tempo and limit the possessions for Jackson. Read more.

Betting nugget: Baltimore covered nine of its final 10 games in the regular season, and it won its final 12 games of the season outright. However, Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel is 7-1 ATS and 6-2 outright as an underdog of at least four points, and he won all three games in that situation this season (including last weekend’s victory over the Patriots). Read more.

Officiating nugget: Referee Bill Vinovich’s regular-season crew called the fewest penalties per game in the league (13.7). Crews are mixed in the postseason, but the referee is always responsible for quarterback protection. And Vinovich threw only two flags for roughing the passer during the regular season; six referees threw at least 10. The referee is also involved in offensive holding, and Vinovich’s regular-season crew called a total of 32 such penalties — less than half that of the league leaders.

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Dan Orlovsky predicts the Ravens will defeat the Titans because of their superior performance in the red zone.

Davenport’s pick: Ravens 27, Titans 24
Hensley’s pick: Ravens 30, Titans 10
FPI prediction: BAL, 81.8% (by an average of 12.0 points)

Matchup must-reads: Seeking Lamar Jackson impersonators! How the NFL teams prep for the Ravens’ QBEarl Thomas talks trash about Ryan Tannehill and why the Titans will try to run the ballMark Ingram, dealing with calf injury, returns to practice ahead of meeting with TitansJohn Harbaugh’s T-shirt game is strong and motivating the RavensHow the Titans can contain do-everything Ravens quarterback Lamar JacksonHow Eddie George helped Derrick Henry take off for Titans

Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 70.2 | Spread: KC -10 (51)

What to watch for: The Chiefs had trouble getting Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson off the field when the Texans were in Kansas City in October. Houston ran 83 plays and scored 31 points. And while the Chiefs have made significant gains defensively since then, they also haven’t faced a QB with Watson’s skills over the past six games. — Adam Teicher

What you need to know:
Full playoff schedule »
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Bold prediction: Watson and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will combine to gain more than 650 yards. Neither had his best game in the first matchup, but Watson is coming off of a spectacular second half against the Bills, and the Chiefs have had an extra week to rest and prepare. — Sarah Barshop

Stat to know: According to NFL Next Gen Stats data, Watson’s 60 completions and 10 touchdown passes on rollouts (designed or scramble) lead the NFL this season (including the playoffs). But the Chiefs’ defense has tightened up there of late. From Weeks 1-10, it allowed 28 completions on rollouts, third most in the NFL. Since Week 11, the unit has allowed just nine, the second fewest in the league (Steelers, seven). Kansas City also has allowed the lowest QBR in the NFL against rollouts over its six-game winning streak (5.1).

Key matchup: Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu vs. Watson. Looking back at the Week 6 head-to-head matchup, we should anticipate the Chiefs rolling out a very multiple defensive game plan versus Watson and the Texans. Man and zone coverages, and pressure to heat up the pocket. Look for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to put Mathieu in a position to make splash plays while catering to his rare versatility in the secondary. Read more.

Betting nugget: Watson is 13-4 ATS in his career as an underdog and 10-8 outright as an underdog in his career. This is the second-most points Watson has ever been an underdog by. In 39 career NFL starts, Watson has lost by double digits only three times, including only once as an underdog. Read more.

Officiating nugget: Shawn Hochuli, the son of retired legend Ed Hochuli, scaled back significantly this season from his flag-happy 2018 rookie debut. After his 2018 crew led the NFL with 20.8 flags per game, his 2019 crew brought that average down by 21% (16.3 per game).

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Rob Ninkovich and Dan Orlovsky predict a Chiefs win against the Texans because Andy Reid and a healthy Patrick Mahomes are too much for Houston to handle.

Barshop’s pick: Chiefs 38, Texans 35
Teicher’s pick: Chiefs 30, Texans 23
FPI prediction: KC, 81.5% (by an average of 11.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: Natural-born winner: Texans’ Deshaun Watson ‘thrives on pressure’‘It was worth it’: How J.J. Watt’s early return gave Texans a sparkHow Tyrann Mathieu became the ‘glue’ of revamped Chiefs defenseHow Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have mastered third-and-longPatrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson? Chiefs got their man in 2017 draft

Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 65.9 | Spread: GB -4 (47)

What to watch for: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is winless in three career games at Lambeau Field, including the 2016 game in which he threw a career-worst five interceptions. In seven games overall against the Packers (including playoffs), he has 10 interceptions, his most against a single opponent. In fact, he has fewer interceptions against every team in the NFC West, despite playing each one at least 16 times. And the Packers have made a living off turnover differential this season. At plus-12, they were better than all but two teams. — Rob Demovsky

Bold prediction: The Packers’ Davante Adams will have more than 100 yards receiving and a touchdown. He has done a lot of his damage this season out of the slot, where he could be matched up against Ugo Amadi (assuming the Seahawks stick with the rookie fourth-round pick as their third cornerback). Additionally, the Packers were first in ESPN’s pass block win rate this season while the Seahawks had one of the NFL’s least effective pass rushes, their seven sacks last weekend notwithstanding. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers with time to throw and a rookie covering his No. 1 receiver sounds like a bad combo for Seattle. — Brady Henderson

Stat to know: According to NFL Next Gen Stats data, Rodgers held onto the ball for 2.88 seconds on average this season, the sixth-highest figure in the NFL, and he might have been doing so to allow his inexperienced receivers a chance to get open. He threw 49.6% of his passes to open receivers (3-plus yards of separation), the third-highest percentage in the league.

Key matchup: Packers outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith vs. the Seahawks’ interior offensive line. With Smith’s athletic traits and short-area speed, the Packers can bump Smith inside to rush or put him in a two-point stance to work the A-gaps. I expect defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to occupy blockers and create one-on-one matchups inside for Smith to rush against Seahawks center Joey Hunt. That’s a matchup advantage for Green Bay. Read more.

Betting nugget: Wilson is 26-13-2 ATS in his career as an underdog (including playoffs), covering 10 of his past 12 games. He is also 10-2 ATS and 7-5 outright in his career as an underdog of at least four points. Read more.

Officiating nugget: Referee Clete Blakeman’s regular-season crew threw the second-fewest flags per game (13.8, one flag more than the Vinovich crew). His regular-season crew threw the NFL’s fewest number of flags for defensive holding, illegal contact and pass interference (29).

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Despite the Seahawks being a resilient road team this season, Dan Orlovsky and Rob Ninkovich believe Aaron Rodgers will be the difference for the Packers against the Seahawks.

Henderson’s pick: Packers 24, Seahawks 21
Demovsky’s pick: Packers 20, Seahawks 17
FPI prediction: GB, 66.3% (by an average of 5.6 points)

Matchup must-reads: From a failed called shot to an improbable comebackMarshawn Lynch to play more vs. Packers, Pete Carroll saysFrom injury-prone to injury-free with more than a knock on woodForget stats (and 3 measly yards), Packers’ Davante Adams remains a forceAaron Rodgers, 36, thinks about Super Bowl title No. 2 ‘every day’

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