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We’ll look at the three Sunday games and whether I think the favorites will cover the spread. It turns out, we’ve got three matchups between teams who met in the regular season. It’ll be interesting to see the second, and in one case, the third incarnation of these matchups unfold.
Ravens at Titans
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET
Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
Odds: Ravens -3
The Ravens finished the season on a five-game winning streak and have been obliterating opponents lately. In their last five games, they’ve managed an average margin of victory of 19.4 points per game.
Yes, they did drop a game to the Titans in the regular season that went into overtime, but that was precisely when Baltimore was playing at its worst. The Ravens were tied for the third-best ATS record during the season, covering in 10 of their 16 games.
The Titans won the AFC South, have excellent offensive weapons. But, their best hasn’t necessarily been recent. After a 5-0 start, which included a blowout win over the Bills, the Titans went 6-5 to finish the season. In Week 16, the Titans could have potentially clinched the AFC South but fell by 26 points to the Packers.
The Titans did upset the Ravens last year in the divisional round and have had their number recently. But, I expect that to change and the Ravens don’t have the second-best Super Bowl odds in the AFC for nothing. They can, and I think will avenge their recent losses to the Titans here and cover the spread.
Pick: Ravens to Cover
Bears at Saints
Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Sportsbook Odds: Saints -10
This is a pretty big spread. Especially so when you see that it took overtime for the Saints to put away the Bears in Week 8. In that game, the Bears dropped to 5-3 and proceeded to win just three more games.
The fact of the matter is that the Bears were tested against other playoff times six times during the regular season and won just one of those games. They were outscored by an average of 9.7 points per game in those games which is right in line with this spread.
What Chicago does have going for it is an offense that has scored significantly more points in recent weeks. The Bears averaged just 23.3 points per game but scored 33.2 points per game in their final five regular-season games. This coincides with Mitch Trubisky taking back his starting job from Nick Foles. Maybe, more so it reflects the fact that the Bears played the Lions, Texans, Vikings, and Jags during that five-game period. This Saints defense won’t be as forgiving.
Sean Payton’s Saints have allowed just 21.1 points per game, good for fifth in the NFL. The Saints have also scored the fifth-most points per game in the NFL, with 30.1. With Drew Brees back from injury and getting back to being himself with each passing week, the Saints should be confident of advancing.
If the last two weeks are any indication, the Saints should be pretty confident. The Saints managed a point margin of +45 in the final two weeks of the season and I do think they’ll cover this rather large spread.
Pick: Saints to cover
Browns at Steelers
Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Heinz Field, New Orleans, LA
Sportsbook Odds: Steelers -3½
The Browns and the Steelers are meeting for the third time and second time in as many weeks. These teams split their matchups during the regular season. Last week, the Browns beat the Steelers, picking up a pivotal victory which clinched their first playoff berth since 2002.
The matchup didn’t mean all that much to the Steelers, as they had already clinched a few weeks back. But, they did get bumped down to the third seed by losing. It is certainly concerning that the Steelers went 1-4 in the last five games of the season after an 11-0 start. This includes bad losses to Washington and Cincinnati.
The Browns did finish the season tied with four other teams for the worst record ATS in the NFL. They only managed to cover in six games but this Cleveland team seems to rise to the occasion when it needs to. This streaky Browns team can cause problems for Pittsburgh again.
The Steelers have covered in just four of their last ten games and don’t look like the same team that had the best record in the NFL just five weeks ago. I’m not saying Pittsburgh will get bounced in the Wild Card Round, but it’s certainly possible. Baker Mayfield and the Browns simply have nothing to lose and I think they’ll at least cover here.