Divisional Round upsets in NFL playoffs, ranked by most likely

The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs is regarded as one of the best weekends in sports every year.

Let’s hope that holds true this time around after a ho-hum Wild Card Weekend that saw mostly blowouts and only one game decided by one score.

Saying this, we did see three upsets during last week’s six-game slate, including Green Bay’s shocking win at Dallas, which has a good shot at going down as the biggest upset in these playoffs.

Will we see more big upsets this weekend? Here is a look at all the potential upsets ranked from least to most likely to happen, with odds coming via DraftKings Sportsbook.

No. 4: Green Bay Packers over San Francisco 49ers (-9.5)

What the Packers did last week in Dallas was nothing short of incredible after barely squeaking into the playoffs as the final Wild Card team in the NFC. They dismantled a 12-win Cowboys team and were pulling starters early in the fourth quarter.

Now, was that more of the Packers leveling up — largely due to Jordan Love playing like an elite QB — or was it more Dallas doing what Dallas does in the playoffs?

Likely a bit of both, and I don’t expect the home team to come out as flat this week, especially since much of this roster was part of the 49ers’ two NFC Championship Game appearances from the last two seasons.

While San Francisco narrowly earned the NFC’s top seed with 12 wins, they were clearly the best in the conference when fully healthy. That’s about what they are right now, as defensive end Clelin Ferrell is the only player likely to miss this week. Ferrell was already losing playing time to Chase Young following his trade from Washington, so really, the 49ers are as healthy as they’ve been all season.

Looking at both rosters, the 49ers are superior at nearly every spot, including quarterback, offensive line, offensive skill players, front seven, and head coach. It’s also worth pointing out that San Francisco has won four straight playoff games over Green Bay, the last two coming under Kyle Shanahan.

Expect this one to be an easy cover for the 49ers at home.

No. 3: Houston Texans over Baltimore Ravens (-9.5)

There’s no question the Ravens were the NFL’s best team in the regular season, highlighted by wins over the Lions, Seahawks, and Dolphins by a whopping 131-28 margin. They also went into San Francisco and manhandled the 49ers en route to a 33-19 victory.

So yeah, Baltimore should be viewed as the team to beat in these playoffs. Does this upstart Houston team stand a chance?

One factor working against the Ravens is they’ve won just one playoff game under Lamar Jackson, who is 1-3 in the postseason. While he tends to dominate in the regular season, opposing defenses have gotten the better of him in the playoffs. The Texans also have one of the league’s best defensive masterminds in head coach DeMeco Ryans, so if anyone can come up with an effective game plan to slow down this year’s NFL MVP favorite, it’s Ryans.

Another key to this one is rookie QB CJ Stroud’s ability to move the pocket and escape pressure. The Ravens have the NFL’s sixth-best pass defense, and a big reason for that is having the league’s best pass rush at 60 total sacks this season.

But when pressure isn’t getting home, opposing QBs have been able to gash this secondary for big plays. Stroud is excellent at extending plays and finding open receivers while under pressure, so don’t be surprised if he can put this Ravens defense on its heels for stretches of this game, especially with starting cornerback Marlon Humphrey (calf) out.

That’s precisely what Stroud did in the Wild Card win over a Browns team that ranked first in pass defense and sixth in sacks. Stroud wasn’t sacked once in that game and completed 16/21 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns in his playoff debut while notching a 158.1 passer rating, the highest any QB had vs. Cleveland this season.

While the Texans certainly have enough in the tank to keep this game interesting, these Ravens have too much firepower on both sides of the ball and should overwhelm Houston en route to a double-digit win.

No. 2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Detroit Lions (-6.5)

The Lions have been among the NFL’s best teams all year, while the Bucs barely scraped by in a bad NFC South. Their only regular-season win over a playoff team was over the Packers, while Detroit went into Tampa and won 20-6 in Week 6.

Now, one could argue the Lions looked more impressive in the Wild Card Round after throttling the Eagles, while the Lions barely held on at home to beat the Rams, thanks in part to Sean McVay’s questionable fourth-down decision late in the fourth quarter.

However, the Eagles were an absolute disaster to end the season, so it’s hard to give Tampa too much credit for that when bad teams like the Giants and Cardinals also beat Philly down the stretch.

As long as the Lions come ready to play, they should hold serve at home and clinch their first NFC Championship appearance since 1991.

No. 1: Kansas City Chiefs over Buffalo Bills (-2.5)

Let’s face it: The Chiefs beating just about anyone in the NFL isn’t going to be a big upset. Not when you’ve been to five straight AFC Championship Games, won two of the last four Super Bowls, and have arguably the NFL’s best QB in Patrick Mahomes, who’s actually playing in his first road playoff game this week.

There’s still good reason for the Bills to be favored this week. They’re peaking at the right time after winning five straight to end the regular season — highlighted by wins at Miami, at Kansas City, and a home demolition of Dallas — while the defense has stepped up big time after struggling much of the season. Including the Wild Card win over Pittsburgh, Buffalo’s defense has allowed an average of just 16.8 points per game since Week 14.

Oh, and there’s that Josh Allen fellow, who also has an argument as the NFL’s best QB. This game will be in Buffalo, so it’s no surprise to see the Bills favored by 2.5 points, especially after winning at Kansas City in Week 14, albeit in highly controversial fashion.

Problem is the Bills have a ton of injuries they’re dealing with right now, including starting defenders Christian Benford, Terrel Bernard, Taron Johnson, and Taylor Rapp, as well as starting wideout Gabe Davis and punter Sam Martin. If a good chunk of those guys end up out this week, that line could trend closer to a pick ‘em by kickoff.

Mahomes has also beaten Allen twice in the playoffs since 2020, both largely due to the Bills defense being unable to get stops when it mattered most.

Is this the year Allen finally beats the two-time MVP when it matters most? We’ll find out on Sunday.

This post was originally published on this site