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Against the Spread

Divisional Round Picks

by Ed Williams III
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

Ed Williams and Jeff Baldwin are going head-to-head during the NFL playoffs picking against the spread, and after the first round, they're deadlocked with records of 2-1-1, but Ed has a slight lead with 975 units to Jeff's 950. While the Chiefs experienced a massive collapse to lose to the Colts, they lost by only one point, which resulted in a cover for both Ed and Jeff. Then Ed lost his big pick of the week as the Saints upset the Eagles in Philly, allowing Jeff to pick up 25 units. On Day 2 of Wild Card weekend, the Chargers upset the Bengals, costing Jeff 100 units, but gaining 25 for Ed. And the 49ers-Packers game was a push.

This week Ed and Jeff disagree on a couple games again, so who will come out on top? Ed stands at 2-1-1 with 975 units, while Jeff is at 2-1-1 with 950 units.

Editor's note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for the Divisional playoff weekend. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Saturday at 4:35 p.m. ET. Here's the FanDuel link.

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (-7.5)

Ed: The Seahawks absolutely crushed the Saints in Week 13, 34-7. You don’t want to put too much stock into that outcome, but you can’t ignore it completely. Even though the Saints won on the road last week, it’s still pretty obvious that they’re not the same offensive juggernaut that they are when they’re at home. The Saints were victorious against the Eagles, but Drew Brees did throw two interceptions, and New Orleans turned it over a third time as well. They caught the Eagles off guard with a run-heavy offense, but that won’t work against Seattle. Brees will have to step up his game if the Saints are going to have a chance to win this one, and I don’t know that he can do that in Seattle. Running back Pierre Thomas is likely to suit up, but he’s coming off a chest injury, which puts more pressure on Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles. But the defense is even more banged up. Last week we talked about how they were thin in the secondary, losing Jabari Greer and Kenny Vaccaro late in the season, but now Parys Haralson is also done for the rest of the postseason with a torn pectoral suffered against the Eagles. That’s way too many weaknesses for Seattle’s diverse offense to exploit. Look for Marshawn Lynch to set the tone with his smash-mouth running and for Russell Wilson to keep the chains moving with his arm as well as his legs. This won’t be as big of a blowout as it was in Week 13, but the Saints are just overmatched in this one. They might be able to hang around for a half or so, but Seattle will pull away in the second half and cover the spread.
Pick: Seahawks -7.5, 50 units

Jeff: The Saints head to Seattle after their upset win over the Eagles. They will be looking to put together a better effort than their last visit in Week 13 when they were blown out, 34-7. The Saints understand the effort it will take to leave Seattle with a win. A positive takeaway here is there is no pressure on the Saints at all. Given the outcome of their last meeting, not many people are giving them much of a shot to win this game. The Saints can go into this game loose and take some chances in all facets of the game. I don't think the Saints pull off the outright victory, but I do expect them to play better and keep this game inside the number. The Saints' defense did a solid job a week ago against LeSean McCoy. They will need to come up with a similar type effort as they'll face Marshawn Lynch on Saturday. They can't afford him to run wild or else it will be a long day for the Saints' defense. Offensively, Drew Brees will need to get better protection this go around as last time he didn't have much time to throw the football. I expect the Saints to make some adjustments in the pass protection schemes to help Brees out. The Saints could possibly be without Pierre Thomas again as he continues to recover from a chest injury. If Thomas can't go, Mark Ingram would get the start again. There is a lot of pressure on the Seahawks as they are clearly one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. This is a big number to give, especially in the playoffs, and knowing what Brees is capable of if he has any time to throw the football. I have to figure Sean Payton makes some key adjustments off their first game with the Seahawks and puts his team in a better position to be more competitive this go around.
Pick: Saints +7.5, 25 units

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (-7)

Ed: One of the greatest quarterbacks ever in Tom Brady will go head-to-head with Andrew Luck, a young QB who many expect to be in that same category before all is said and done. While Tom Brady has had about as much success as you can have in the postseason, if he’s going to make another run at the Super Bowl this year, he’ll have to do it with far less talent than he’s used to. We all know why Aaron Hernandez isn’t going to be on the field, and Rob Gronkowski is out with an injury yet again. Wes Welker is in Denver, and no one has been able to seize control as the team’s lead running back. Julian Edelman has been doing his best Welker impersonation lately, and Danny Amendola is healthy for the moment. Steven Ridley and LeGarrette Blount are battling for most of the carries while Shane Vereen is the passing down back. So, Brady still has weapons around him; they’re just bigger question marks than he’s used to. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck is coming off one of the most amazing comebacks in postseason history. They were written off at halftime against the Chiefs, down 31-10 and eventually down 38-10 in the third quarter. But the Colts went on a tear, scoring five second-half touchdowns to pull off the miracle. If they fall behind that badly this week, I don’t think a veteran team like the Pats will fold like the Chiefs did, but I also don’t think they’ll fall behind like that again. I think the Colts will keep this one tight the entire game. Pulling off that victory should have their confidence sky high, and that can go a long way when you’re traveling into enemy territory in January. I think Luck and company will cut down on their turnovers, and Donald Brown will have a strong game running the ball. This will allow the Colts to keep Brady off the field and limit the Pats’ scoring opportunities. I don’t know if Indy is quite ready to knock off a team like the Pats in the postseason yet, but they’re certainly more than capable of keeping it close. Look for this one to go down to the wire, so take the points.
Pick: Colts +7. 25 units

Jeff: The Colts will face the Patriots after a dramatic comeback victory against the Chiefs. The Colts were able to overcome a 28-point deficit in the second half. The Colts can't afford to play poorly again in the first half and go down by a few scores against this Patriots team. Alex Smith had his way with the Colts' secondary. I can't imagine what Tom Brady has in store for this defense. There is no doubt Andrew Luck will be a star in this league for years to come. However, I don't think this team is ready to leave Gillette Stadium victorious. The loss of Reggie Wayne wasn't evident in last week's playoff win due to the monster performance by T.Y. Hilton. However, I think we will see the impact first-hand on Saturday night. Bill Belichick and the Patriots do a great job in taking away that pivotal player on the opponent's offense. The Patriots know that after Hilton, there isn't much left at receiver for the Colts. By shutting him down, the Colts' offense would take a serious hit in the passing game. Look for that to be the Patriots' focus as CB Aqib Talib will likely shadow Hilton all game. Brady should have his way with the vulnerable Colts defense as he'll heavily target Julian Edelman. I expect the Patriots to have success running the football as LeGarrette Blount is coming off his best game of the season against the Bills. The forecast calls for rain, so running the football successfully in this game will give the Patriots a big advantage over a Colts teams that has struggled all year in that department. Shane Vereen will also play a key role in the passing game out of the backfield. In the end, the Patriots' offense will be too much for the Colts' defense to handle. The Colts may hang around early, but look for the Patriots to pull away in the second half as they'll come away with a double-digit victory at home.
Pick: Patriots -7, 75 units

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers (+1.5)

Ed: The Panthers were one of this season’s biggest surprises, and now only did they make the playoffs, but they earned homefield advantage in the first round. But now the 49ers are ready to come into town and rain on that parade. With the Panther’s struggling in mediocrity for years now, there’s a chance they could fall into the dangerous category of “just happy to be here.” The 49ers most definitely will not be in that same category. They’re likely still seething from last year’s Super Bowl loss and are coming off a dramatic come-from-behind win against the Packers last week at Lambeau Field in the freezing cold. If Aaron Rodgers couldn’t put the 49ers away, I just don’t see Cam Newton doing it. Newton took a nice leap this year in his third season, but he doesn’t have enough weapons around him to exploit the 49ers’ defense. DeAngelo Williams won’t find much room in the running room, and even if No. 1 WR Steve Smith plays, he won’t be 100% (knee). The Panthers have a tremendous defense, but the 49ers are versatile enough to move the ball on them. Frank Gore continues to impress in the running game, and Colin Kaepernick can keep plays alive with his legs. That will allow Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis more time to get open. And Carolina’s secondary is not the defense’s strongest facet. The Panthers are on the right track, but the 49ers are about to teach them an important lesson about what it takes to win in the postseason. I think San Francisco will pull away in the second half and pick up a convincing win.
Pick: 49ers -1.5, 100 units

Jeff: The 49ers will go from the frigid temperatures of Green Bay to the projected mid-50 degree weather in Charlotte. This will be a rematch from their Week 10 contest where the Panthers defeated the 49ers, 10-9. The 49ers had some things working against them in that game. Michael Crabtree was still working himself back from his torn Achilles' tendon, Vernon Davis left the game early due to a concussion and Aldon Smith played in very few snaps as this was his first start back from rehab. The Panthers are going to see a much different team this go around as the 49ers will be looking to get some revenge. The Panthers, offensively, were hoping to get WR Steve Smith back after he left the Week 16 game against the Saints due to an injured knee, but Smith has been very limited in practice during the week. I expect him to suit up, but you have to wonder whether he will be anything other than a decoy this weekend. Cam Newton will need someone else on the outside to step up and make plays. I can see this offense struggling given the lack of playmakers and facing a solid 49ers defense. Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers will definitely have their hands full with one of the best defenses in the NFL. By no means will this be a high-scoring game as points should be hard to come by. Kaepernick will have to be patient and take care of the football. He can't afford to turn the ball over and give the Panthers a short field. Similarly to last week, Kaepernick needs to pick his spots, and take off with the football. I think it is even more critical this week, given how difficult it is to move the football against this stout Panthers defense. In what will be a tough, defensive game throughout, I think the 49ers' offense comes up with a few big plays at the right time as they'll advance to the NFC Championship.
Pick: 49ers -1.5, 25 units

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (-9.5)

Ed: I don’t expect the Chargers to pull off the monster upset here, but I think this is too many points to give a division rival. The Chargers flew under the radar all season long until they snuck their way into the playoffs thanks to Dolphins and Ravens losses. San Diego did lose seven games this season, but they never lost a game by more than 10 points, and they lost those games by an average of less than six points per game. Philip Rivers is playing at a very high level right now, and a big reason for that is offensive rookie of the year candidate Keenan Allen. Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead have given him a stabilizing force in the backfield as well. And on top of all that, they have a little bit of the “Nobody believes in us,” factor working in their favor. On the flipside, the Broncos are coming off a bye. Yes, the bye week gives a team an opportunity to rest and get healthy, but it also can lead to a little bit of rust forming. And while no one will ever deny that Peyton Manning’s overall numbers are right up there with the best the game has ever seen, his postseason performances have left a little to be desired. I think he’ll do enough here to overcome the Chargers, but it also makes me think this will be a close one. And then there’s the fact that the Chargers already went into Denver in Week 15 and beat the Broncos, 27-20. That could give the Chargers the extra confidence they need to stay with Denver in this one. I believe the Broncos have too much offensive firepower to lose this one, but the Chargers should definitely keep this one close throughout. Peyton will have to sweat a little at the end of this one, so you should take the points so you don’t have to sweat too.
Pick: Chargers +9.5, 25 units

Jeff: The Chargers travel to Denver after their upset win against the Bengals. The Broncos come off their bye looking to avoid another one-and-done in the playoffs after they were upset at home last year by the Ravens. This will be the third time these teams have meet this year, with each team winning on the opponent's home field. The Chargers obviously don't fear the Broncos, and actually enter this game quite confident after upsetting the Broncos in their building in Week 15. In that matchup, the Chargers were able to play solid defense and control the clock on offense by running the football with both Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead. It's hard not think they won't have the same game plan in this matchup. The Broncos' defense suffered a big loss when LB Von Miller went down for the season with a torn ACL in Week 16 against the Texans. Look for Philip Rivers to do an excellent job managing the game, as he'll take some shots down the field and target WR Keenan Allen and TE Antonio Gates when the opportunity presents itself. I'm a little concerned about Mathews' injured ankle, but all signs point toward him suiting up on Sunday. Mathews' effectiveness on the ground is critical if the Chargers have any hope to win this game. Defensively, the Chargers will need another big effort here, similar to one they had in Week 15. I think the Chargers are up for the challenge again as they'll give the Broncos all they can handle. An outright win isn't out of the question.
Pick: Chargers +9.5, 75 units

You can also follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffBaldwin4.