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NFL Divisional Round Picks Straight Up – Predicted Upsets and Underdogs Showing Value

Eric Thompson

by Eric Thompson in NFL Football

Jan 22, 2022 · 5:00 AM PST

Tom Brady
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes around Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
  • Will the San Francisco 49ers pull off another road upset, this time against the top seeded Green Bay Packers?
  • Can the Tampa Buccaneers overcome a ton of injuries against a live dog in the Los Angeles Rams?
  • Last week’s picks went 1-2, costing us 0.64 units and bringing our season total to +14.02 (22-28 record)

If tightly contested football games are your thing, then Wild Card Weekend was a real disappointment. Only one underdog covered across the six-game slate, meaning a lot of blowouts and not a lot of success for our upset picks. But it’s hard to complain too much about last weekend’s results, when it left us with four excellent matchups for the NFL’s Divisional Round.

Not only are these matchups top-notch, the spreads are on point. There’s not an underdog on this slate that’s getting disrespected. But while there may not be an added value on these lines, there’s still a few upsets that we’re confident in coming through. So for one last time this NFL season, here’s the best value underdogs… and would you look at that, both of them are NFC teams!

NFL Divisional Round Upset Picks

Matchup Spread Moneyline Pick Units
San Francisco 49ers vs Green Bay Packers GB -5.5 +200 49ers 1.25
Los Angeles Rams vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers TB -3 +130 Rams 1.75

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49ers vs Packers

The number one seed Green Bay Packers can’t be thrilled with the matchup they’ve drawn for this round: they’ll welcome the San Francisco 49ers to Lambeau Field on Saturday night. Kyle Shanahan’s squad comes into this game as confident 5.5-point underdogs after upsetting the Cowboys last week.

Aaron Rodgers has never beaten his childhood team in the postseason. He’s 0-3 with the most recent loss coming in the 2020 NFC Championship, a game Jimmy Garoppolo won by throwing just eight passes.

This Niners defense isn’t nearly as dominant as the 2020 version but their approach on offense will be the same as every other time they’ve ended Green Bay’s season: run the ball. The 49ers rushing attack has been downright unstoppable since they started consistently incorporating Deebo Samuel in Week 10. Couple that with their move to hand Trey Sermon’s carries over to Elijah Mitchell and the run game will look entirely different than when these teams met in Week 3 and the Packers held San Fran to 67 yards on the ground.

The 49ers will surely need a few more passes out of Jimmy G to pull off this road upset and that’s where Niners backers will be most nervous. The enigmatic QB let Dallas back into a game that they had no business in, and if he makes those types of errors in Green Bay, that will end his time in the Bay Area.

Though Rodgers has the lowest interception rate in the NFL, the Packers are liable to make mistakes in other facets of the game. Green Bay has the league’s worst special teams unit: allowing a big return or missing a few kicks, could give the Niners the edge in a game that should come down to the wire.

David Bahktiari, Jaire Alexander and Za’Darius Smith are all returning for Green Bay, which makes them terrifying on paper. But the Packers always find innovative ways to disappoint in the playoffs and this year won’t be the exception.

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Rams vs Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to bring back all 22 starters from their Super Bowl winning squad this offseason, a feat no reining champ had accomplished in the cap era before. But the roster continuity that made them NFC frontrunners for much of the season has evaporated, and now their shorthanded offense is only field goal favorites over the Los Angeles Rams.

The Bucs easily dispatched the Eagles last week, but it was a costly win along the offensive line. Both center Ryan Jensen and right tackle Tristan Wirfs could be out this week after leaving the Philly game with injuries.

Tampa is already shorthanded at wide receiver and running back: if they’re rolling out backups in the trenches against Aaron Donald and company, this will be a rough day for Tom Brady.

While their offense keeps losing pieces, the Buccaneers defense is getting healthier at the right time. Lavonte David, Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett all returned for their Wild Card win as the defense pitched a shutout for three quarters. However, Todd Bowles will need to adjust his heavy-blitzing style against the Rams or Tampa Bay will be going home.

If Tampa can sit back in coverage, they should be able to bait Matthew Stafford into a few ill-advised throws. But they’ll also need to stop a Rams ground game that has gotten a jolt with the return of Cam Akers.

Los Angeles is just a bad matchup for Tampa. The Bucs have dropped their last two games against the Rams, and those teams were at full strength. With Jalen Ramsay limiting Mike Evans, forcing Brady to rely on so many unknowns to make plays, I don’t think the GOAT’s playoff magic will come through. Side with LA to keep their quest for a home Super Bowl alive.

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