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Handicapping Sunday's NFL Playoff Divisional Round Totals
After a pair of thrilling days of triple-header Wild Card action last Saturday and Sunday, we're down to the eight remaining combatants in the National Football League heading into the weekend.
We have some usual faces in the crowd, and a few new faces to the party. It should be another great weekend of action as we pare the field from eight to six on Saturday, and down to four on Sunday.
We'll take a look at the total information for the Divisional Round.
We have two more games on tap for Sunday's Divisional round, as the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs meet for the first time this season at 3:05 p.m. ET.
In the nightcap, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints finish up the slate of games at 6:40 p.m. ET in a highly third battle between these NFC South Division rivals.
The offensive line gets a boost with OG Joel Bitonio back from the Reserve/COVID-19 list, as he has been cleared to play in his first-career playoff game. OT Jack Conklin (hamstring) appears to be headed for a spot on the inactive list, but Bitonio's addition is good news. WR KhaDarel Hodge was also activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list to help the offense's depth, while DB Denzel Ward Jr. is back from the Reserve/COVID-19 list to give the secondary a shot in the arm. And, of course, the Browns get head coach Kevin Stefanski back after special teams coordinator Mike Priefer steered the ship last week.
As far as the Chiefs are concerned, WR Sammy Watkins (calf) is out with a calf injury. He was giving fuel to the fire on social media earlier in the week, discounting the Browns, so it's interesting he won't even be a part of the game. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (hip) is also questionable for the game after taking some reps in practice this week. If he cannot go it will be RB Le'Veon Bell who shoulders most of the load.
In the nightcap, Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones II (quadriceps) is expected to be a game-time decision. If he cannot go, or is available on a limited basis, RB Leonard Fournette would see a bigger piece of the action. He carried the mail in last week's win at Washington, going for 93 yards and a touchdown. WR Mike Evans (knee) was limited in practices mid-week, but he is expected to be a full go. The same holds true for WR Chris Godwin, who is dealing with an assortment of lower-body ailments, but none terribly significant to keep him out.
For the Saints, QB Taysom Hill is nicked and dealing with a knee ailment, but that might be addition by subtraction, as head coach Sean Payton won't be tempted to use him on gadget plays that do not work. RB Latavius Murray (quadriceps) is nursing a quadriceps injury, and the backup to starter RB Alvin Kamara is a question mark.
Divisional Round Betting Angles
Unlike the Wild Card round, at least until this season, we have seen a split in the 'over-under' results, or a lean more to the over.
These are the best of the best teams remaining, and it generally shows in this round. The 'over' has outpaced the 'under' 26-14 (65.0%) across the past 10 seasons.
The last time we saw more 'under' results that 'over' results in the Divisional round was the 2013-14 season, when the under finished 3-1.
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Over-Under (O/U) Divisional Round Results
Over-Under Line Moves
Cleveland at Kansas City: 56 to 57
Tampa Bay at New Orleans: 51 to 52
Odds Subject to Change
Over-Under Betting Trends
Listed below are the leans for the divisional round as of Friday.
Cleveland at Kansas City: Over 66%
Tampa Bay at New Orleans: Over 69%
Trends Subject to Change
NFL Divisional Round Over-Under Preview
Cleveland at Kansas City (3:05 p.m. ET)
The Browns offense fired out of the chute last week, with a little help from the defense on the first play from scrimmage. That was very pleasing to 'over' bettors. Cleveland posted 28 points in the first quarter, most ever in a playoff game in NFL history, en route to a 48-37 win and easy over result. In fact, Cleveland ended up taking care of the over all by themselves.
Weather won't really be a factor here, as temperatures will be around 40 degrees on gameday, as a wintry system pulls out of the area on Friday. So a temperature well above freezing is rather balmy for this time of year.
It's a little disconcerting that the Browns allowed 501 passing yards, and 553 total yards, to the Steelers. Pittsburgh was forced to pass early and often to get back into the game. However, the glaring back end will be shored up with Ward, the best cover man in Cleveland. Still, facing QB Patrick Mahomes II and the high-flying, and rested, Chiefs offense is why 'over' bettors are fired up.
The Kansas City offense ranked first in the NFL with 415.8 total yards per game and 303.4 passing yards per contest, and they were sixth with 29.6 PPG. On defense they were actually rather middling, 16th in total yards (358.3), 14th in passing yards (236.2) and 21st in rushing yards (122.1), while ending up 10th with 22.6 PPG allowed. The Browns will be able to move the ball on them.
Oddly enough, the Chiefs actually split the over/under 8-8 this season, which might be a bit surprising to most, and the final over in Week 17 can mostly be discounted since the team was resting so many regulars and the Los Angeles Chargers rolled them 38-21 in a meaningless game.
The Chiefs defense, and we won't include Week 17, allowed 14 in Week 16 in a low-scoring game against Atlanta, a non-playoff team. They allowed 29 points in New Orleans in Week 15, a playoff team, and 27 in Miami, a non-playoff squad. At home, Kansas City allowed just 70 total points across the final four meaningful games at home, again, not including the Week 17 tilt.
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Tampa Bay at New Orleans (6:40 p.m. ET)
The Buccaneers head to the Crescent City hoping that the third time is a charm against the Saints.
Tampa Bay opened their season of renewed hope with a 34-23 loss in Week 1 against QB Drew Brees. It was an 'over' (48.5) result in this very same venue. In the rematch at the RayJay, the Saints routed QB Tom Brady and the Bucs, holding Tampa to a season low in points, 38-3. That one hit the 'under' (51), which was mostly due to Tampa's struggles on offense. The over has hit in four of the past five meetings in the Big Easy, including that Week 1 battle.
But that's two games, and an average of 36.0 PPG for the Saints against this Bucs defense, and that's the real takeaway here, as the Bucs allowed just 22.2 PPG overall.
Tampa Bay basically hit its season averages on both offense and defense last week, beating the Washington Football Team 31-23 in D.C. as the 'over' (45) connected. They averaged 30.8 PPG, third in the NFL, during the regular season. The Bucs defense clamped down on the run, allowing just 80.6 rushing yards per game, but they were 21st against the pass, yielding 246.6 yards per game through the air.
Tampa Bay heads into this one with a pair of 'over' results in Week 17 and the wild-card round. They haven't hit the over in three straight games at any point this season, so that's notable.
The 'over' is 10-1 across the past 11 divisional matchups for the Bucs, and 16-5 across their past 21 as a road underdog.
New Orleans slimed Chicago by a 21-9 score last week, as the 'under' (48) was never really in doubt. They have hit the under in Week 17 and wild-card weekend, allowing just 8.0 PPG against the Bears and Panthers. But those two teams do not have a future Hall of Fame quarterback and cadre of speeding receivers. The under is 7-3 across the past 10 games for the Saints, however, including the Week 9 matchup in Tampa. New Orleans has allowed single-digit point totals to the opposition in five of those outings.
For the Saints, the 'under' has been dominant lately, going 6-2 across their past eight as a favorite, and 4-0 in their past four against divisional foes. In addition, the under is 4-0 in their past four playoff games under the dome, although there won't be the usual raucous crowd, but like last week, just a smattering of people spurring them on, obviously due to the COVID-19 global pandemic and local restrictions.
NFL Divisional Round Playoff Over-Under Predictions
Best Over: Over 52 Tampa Bay at New Orleans
Best Under: Under 57.5 Cleveland at Kansas City
Best First-Half Total: Over 26.5 Tampa Bay at New Orleans
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