Free NFL Picks: Top Divisional Playoffs O/U Selections

Ted Sevransky

Thursday, January 14, 2016 10:37 PM GMT

In this article, our handicapping expert provides his top two O/U NFL picks for the Divisional Playoffs so you can have a chance to beat the NFL odds.

Packers vs. Cardinals
The Cardinals destroyed the Packers on national TV in Week 16.  Aaron Rodgers was under constant pressure, missing both of his starting tackles. Rodgers took eight sacks and lost two fumbles, both of which were returned for touchdowns.  The final score was 38-8 and frankly, it wasn’t that close – Green Bay averaged a season worst 2.0 yards per play in that contest.

That was then, this is now!  Arizona lost pro bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu in that win over Green Bay, and his loss was certainly felt in the Cardinals 30 point home loss in Week 17 to Seattle.  Meanwhile, Green Bay got tackle Brian Bulaga back last week and they could get tackle David Bakhtiari back in the lineup this week, a huge difference maker for their protection schemes. 

Just as importantly, the Packers' offense regained their rhythm in last week’s win at Washington, producing the type of run/pass balance that makes Aaron Rodgers comfortable in the pocket.  Let’s not forget that even when the Packers' offense was struggling, Green Bay still put up 27 or more points in five of their last eight games.   And with both James Starks and Eddie Lacy producing yards in bunches on the ground last week, I’m expecting Green Bay to make amends for their dismal showing on this field less than a month ago.

Tempo is a big piece of the equation here for Green Bay as well.  A big piece of their success last week came from pushing the pace at every opportunity.  Aaron Rodgers:  “We kept the tempo up and they couldn’t keep up.”  Offensive lineman TJ Lang: “We needed to get our tempo going. Once we started picking the tempo up and not allowing them to sub … that’s how we want to look as an offense.”  Losing head coach Jay Gruden:  “We never really got a chance to put our hand (down) and rush. Ball was coming out so quick, it was hard to get there.”  

Arizona had the second highest scoring offense in the NFL this year, averaging more than 30 points per game.  They rank #1 in total yards and #2 in passing yards.  Bruce Arians takes more than his fair share of downfield shots, bad news for a Packers secondary expected to be without Sam Shields once again this week.  Green Bay has struggled with speed on the outside all year; Arizona is loaded with speedy downfield weapons.  Expect a  Saturday Night shootout in the desert for your NFL picks!

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NFL Pick: Over 49.5
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

 

Steelers vs. Broncos
While there is no total currently posted on the NFL odds board for the Broncos – Steelers matchup on Sunday, we can expect a total in the same range of the one we saw when these two teams played less than a month ago in Week 15, a game with a closing total of 46.  That game flew Over; a 34-27 final score.  Ben Roethlisberger threw 55 pass attempts and Brock Osweiler threw 44 in a game that featured only 34 handoffs between the two teams.  Denver scored 27 points before halftime, but they were shut out after the break.  Pittsburgh rallied from three scores down to win and cover.

That was then, this is now.  Let me start with the fact that both quarterbacks are extremely suspect.  Yes, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have a combined six Super Bowl appearances between them.  But Roethlisberger hurt his shoulder in their win at Cinci last Saturday.  He’s been unable to practice all week.  He was unable to throw downfield on the gamewinning drive, with his shoulder only strong enough to throw 10 or 15 yard dinks and dunks.  I’m sure Big Ben will try to suit up, but I don’t expect him to be the least bit effective, especially if the NFL’s best receiver, Antonio Brown, doesn’t pass his concussion protocol.

Denver had the best defense in the NFL this year and they were embarrassed by their dismal second half showing when these two teams met last month.  Facing a very banged up Big Ben (or Landry Jones behind him) is a task this elite level stop unit is quite capable of handling.

Peyton Manning got the credit for Denver’s come from behind win against San Diego in Week 17.  He didn’t deserve that credit, despite the emotional boost he brought to the team when he came in off the sideline.  But Manning completed only five passes in that contest, all of them short.  We’re witnessing a Hall of Famer at the tail end of his career; not an elite QB in his prime.  Manning – when healthy – was the #32 ranked quarterback in the league over the first half of the season.  I’m not expecting a breakout effort filled with accurate downfield bombs at this stage of his career.  Expect a relatively low scoring affair.

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NFL Pick: Under 49.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage