Best Bets for the NFL Divisional Round

Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP

After a thrilling and wild NFL Wild Card round, the landscape for the NFL Divisional Round is slowly taking shape. In this column, we preview the early NFL odds that are already in swing and serve up choice bets to spot for Saturday’s slate of blockbuster matchups. The AFC Divisional showdown between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Tennessee Titans and the NFC Divisional showdown between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers.

So, without too much fuss or preamble, let’s dive into the matchups.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Tennessee Titans

Saturday, January 22, 2022 – 04:30 PM EST at Nissan Stadium

The Cincinnati Bengals kicked off their postseason campaign in fine style, coming through on their favorable NFL odds in a 26-19 win over the Las Vegas Raiders at Paul Brown Stadium. Across multiple sportsbooks, the Bengals closed as the 5.5-point home chalk, down a point after opening on 6.5 points. When all was said and done, the 7-point margin of victory covered for all those that backed the Bengals regardless of whether they took the kitty cats on 6.5 or 5.5 points with their NFL picks.

Second-year quarterback Joe Burrow’s latest media moniker is “Joe Cool,” and the sophomore had a little fun with it as he went into his post-game press conference with sunglasses that complimented his nickname. Indeed, the sunglasses went viral! On his performance though, the sophomore showed poise and maturity that belied his years in the NFL. To put it simply, Burrow led the Bengals to a victory in the Wild Card round, ending a 31-year postseason drought for the Cincinnati Bengals. The drought is older than Burrow himself, who at 25 years of age wasn’t even a thought at the time. 

Next up for the Bengals is a date with the Tennessee Titans on the road. The Titans are set to make their second appearance in the AFC Divisional Round in the last three years. In 2019, the Titans reached the AFC Championship game, upsetting the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens on the way to the penultimate round. Last year, the Titans were dismissed in the Wild Card round by the Ravens. 

The Titans are a well-coached, no-nonsense football team. They don’t make too many mistakes and they don’t go for the style points, but they will wear down opponents. The Titans will be hoping to see the return of Derrick Henry for this pivotal divisional-round game even though they went 6-3 SU without the star running back down the stretch. Undoubtedly, Henry gives the Titans offense a massive boost and an option for Tannehill that he was missing in the last two months of the season. The Bengals have struggled against the run, so the return of Henry would be huge!

Another big matchup in this game is most likely to be the Bengals offense against the Titans pass defense, which ranks in the bottom ten in the league. Burrow has offensive weapons in spades. Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon can pose problems for the Titans’ defense.  

Overall, the markets have opened this matchup on a rather delicate NFL betting line with the Titans tipped as the field goal favorites across the NFL odds board. Interestingly, the line has moved by half a point already in Tennessee’s 3.5 points. 

The market outlook suggests a tight game is on the cards, which means it could go any which way. With this such a tossup for NFL picks, backing the Bengals to cover as the 3.5-point road underdogs might be the best bet. Yes, everyone is riding the Cincy hype train right now, but the Who-Dey boys have a swag about them that is believable. They upset the Chiefs in the last two weeks of the season, 34-31. They will be up for this game. 

NFL Pick: Cincinnati Bengals +3.5 (-115) at Caesars

San Francisco 49ers vs Green Bay Packers

Saturday, January 22, 2022 – 08:15 PM EST at Lambeau Field

The San Francisco 49ers delivered the upset over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, holding on for the dramatic 23-17 win as Dak Prescott and the offense botched the final play of the game with 14 seconds left on the clock. 

The Niners were in command right from the start, roughing up the Cowboys to the utter disappointment of a packed AT&T Stadium. Going into the fourth quarter, they had the 23-7 lead, and they looked, for all intent and purposes, poised to clinch the lopsided victory. But they let the Cowboys back in with ten unanswered points. Things got dicey when Jimmy Garoppolo threw a bad pass that was intercepted. The Cowboys quickly capitalized on the short field and in the blink of an eye, it was a one-score game. What transpired from that point on was bizarre, inexplicable, and a bit of a head-scratcher, but the Niners finally shut the door on the Cowboys.

The victory might have been too close for comfort, but Kyle Shanahan and the Niners got the result they wanted. The reward is a date with the top seed Green Bay Packers, though. A matchup that is firmly cornered with the hosts on the NFL odds board.

The last time the Niners and the Packers met in the playoffs, San Francisco clinched the win in the 2019 NFC Championship game.37-20. Since then, the Packers have won two straight against the Niners, beating them 34-17 in 2020 and 30-28 in 2021. The former meeting featured a watered-down Niners team. This year’s contest was much closer. The Niners were up 28-27 on the Packers with less than a minute left on the clock. That proved an eternity for Aaron Rodgers who marched his side down the field to set up a game-winning field goal. 

The Niners might be the sixth seed in the NFC, but they shouldn’t be underestimated. They’re the quintessential dangerous floaters in the draw with legitimate upset credentials. A lot rests on the Niners getting Nick Bosa and Fred Warner back for Saturday’s contest. Both left the game with injuries and their status remains uncertain. 

Books opened this game with the Packers favored at -5.5 points. The line has held firm since markets went to press, but it’s early days yet. The line may be impacted once the full extent of Bosa’s and Warner’s status is revealed. 

That said, the Niners’ style of football has given the Packers headaches over the years. Even their contest earlier this season was a close affair decided by a point on a last-gasp field goal. Thus, while the Packers might be the favorites to win, the Niners could give them a run for their money. So, take the Niners as the 5.5-point road underdogs.

NFL Pick: San Francisco 49ers +6 (-110) at DraftKings