Divisional round: Saturday double

Michael Norbury brings you his selections for a thrilling Saturday double-header:

Credit: NFL.com

Los Angeles Rams @ Green Bay Packers

A stellar weekend of football opens at Lambeau Field as the unfancied Rams take on the 13-3 Green Bay Packers. The Rams overcame the Seahawks with a brilliant defensive display last week while the Packers come in fresh from a week off.

Green Bay’s offense heads the league in points per game and has looked seriously potent with MVP Aaron Rodgers handling the reins under center. Wide receiver Davante Adams has been the best at his position in the NFL this season and his connection with the brilliant Rodgers has been unstoppable at times.

If anyone can stop them though it might well be this Rams defense; no team has conceded less points per game than the Rams and they succeeded in bamboozling Russell Wilson and the Seahawks last weekend even with the league’s best defensive player Aaron Donald spending time on the sideline nursing a rib injury. Donald himself has declared himself fit and raring to go here but it remains to be seen how he is affected.

The key battle lies in the secondary where colossal cornerback Jalen Ramsey will be looking to shut down Adams like he has done so many top-class receivers in his career. Rodgers and Adams aside the Packers have other weapons to worry this Rams defense, tight end Robert Tonyan is a safe pair of hands who really comes alive in the redzone and despite his handling issues Marquez Valdes-Scantling offers a serious deep threat with his speed. The running game can get rolling with the useful Aaron Jones working behind a solid offensive line, this could be a key area with the Rams likely to be focussing plenty of their attention on stopping the aerial attack.

Offensively, the Rams leave a lot to be desired, the jury is well and truly out on quarterback Jared Goff and he is struggling with a thumb injury on his throwing hand, the 30 points they put up against Seattle included three field goals and a pick six as the offense was often found wanting. The glimmer of hope comes in the ground game as this is a Packers team that can be vulnerable against the run. Green Bay’s defense has benefitted from its brilliant offense flying out of the traps and forcing opposing teams to take the aerial route and play to their strengths. If the Rams defense can keep it tight early they may just have the chance to establish the run and make life uncomfortable for the Packers.

The Packers will probably have too much for the Rams, but it won’t be an easy ride against a talented, well coached defense. The Rams offense simply isn’t good enough to stack up points against an okay Green Bay defense. The play here has to be under 45.5 points. (10/11 widely available).

Divisional Round
Credit: John Munson (Associated Press)

Baltimore Ravens @ Buffalo Bills

Two teams with genuine Super Bowl intentions lock horns here in what looks like the game of the weekend. The Ravens toughed it out against the Titans last week on the back of a solid defensive display and some magic from Lamar Jackson. The Bills benefitted from a wasteful Indianapolis offense, particularly in the first half where they were fortunate not to be behind before Allen and the rest of the offense clicked into gear.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson claimed his first playoff victory in Tennessee last weekend, shaking off an 0-2 record, with that weight lifted off his shoulders last season’s MVP rates a scary proposition. This Ravens team could well be a bad match-up for a Bills defense whose Achilles heel appears to be stopping the run. Baltimore’s ground attack is fearsome, Lamar Jackson might be the best rushing quarterback the league has ever seen and is backed up by some serious talent at running back, rookie JK Dobbins looks the real deal and Gus Edwards is a hard man to stop when he gets rolling. This duo have proved so dangerous that Mark Ingram, who would be the number one running back in plenty of offenses has been reduced to something of an afterthought.

The threat through the air isn’t to be sniffed at either, tight end Mark Andrews is one of the league’s best and Marquise Brown is beginning to show signs of living up to his ‘Hollywood’ nickname. The Bills strength lies in their secondary though, the ground game is the key here.

Baltimore’s defense has had its detractors this season but this is a good unit which contains plenty of talent. They stepped up in a big way last week and succeeded in shutting down dual rushing leader Derrick Henry, the Bills rushing attack offers nothing close to that and it’s difficult to see them making much impact on the ground outside of the odd scamper from quarterback Josh Allen.

The passing game is where this Bills offense comes alive, led by the much-improved Josh Allen and his favourite receiving weapon Stefon Diggs. Diggs impact on this offense is impossible to overstate, he has been one of best trades of the NFL season. Buffalo will be hoping his receiving partner Cole Beasley strips fitter as despite taking the field against the Colts last week he wasn’t firing on all cylinders due to a knee injury. They face off against a Baltimore secondary loaded with experience and talent. This battle will be just as pivotal as the one on the ground on the other side of the ball.

This is a seriously tough game to call, take the Ravens +2.5 (Best priced 11/10 Betfair Sportsbook) and settle in for what should be a thriller.


Under 45.5 Points – Rams @ Packers (10/11 widely available)

Ravens +2.5 (11/10 Betfair Sportsbook)

Double pays 3/1 (£20 pays £80)

Michael Norbury

NFL betting analyst