Each Week, Head of Content Michael Schottey makes his picks for the upcoming slate of NFL action. For more on the best picks of the week, check out Pickwatch Pro for only $30 per year and get access to in-depth insights on proven winners. 

Picks are straight up. Odds are provided for informational purposes and courtesy of our friends at BetMGM. 


Cincinnati Bengals @ Tennessee Titans (-3.5)

For the uninitiated outside of the American Midwest, these two teams are only separated by about four hours, and have had a budding rivalry in recent years because both fanbases can get (more than a little) salty. The players on the field, too, tend to play with big chips on their shoulder and both groups will be playing heavily into the “nobody believes in us” mantra—even though the Titans are hosting a playoff game as the favored, No. 1 seed. 

The Bengals come into this game, flying high, after a home victory against the Las Vegas Raiders last weekend which saw their defense ramp up, create turnovers and keep the Raiders from scoring for most of the game outside of a few drives here and there. The offense, too, played keep-away and while it is known for quick, over-the-top shots to wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, controlled the time of possession. 

The Titans come into off a bye, but perhaps with even more momentum thanks to the potential (bordering on likely) return of running back Derrick Henry. The Titans were able to keep this ship afloat after Henry’s season-ending injury and his rehab has been just as superhuman as he otherwise is. Wide receiver A.J. Brown has played fantastic in big moments—including in wins against both the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers—and the defense finished the year sixth in scoring (20.8) and 12th in defensive DVOA. 

The tenor of this game is going to depend on Henry’s availability as well as that of Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson, but all things being equal and the status of both still up in the air, I’m leaning Bengals in what could end up turning into a bit of an offensive shootout. Both defenses are sound, but prone to giving up explosive plays and the Bengals are built to better create those moments. Pick: Bengals


San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers (-5.5)

Speaking of underrated and understated rivalries, the Packers and 49ers have been at each other's throats off and on in the playoffs since the 1990s when both teams had Bill Walsh-protege coaching staffs and were continually among two of the best teams in the league. The teams have faced each other numerous times and in big moments and share a lot of the same DNA even today with coaching staffs still branching off from the same massive coaching tree and who have close working relationships with one another and plenty of personal connections. 

The 49ers are the underdogs here by the widest margin in the Divisional Round. Yet, they finished the season winning four of their last five and going 7-2 against the spread. They were also the only team to upset a home favorite in the Wildcard Round and looked dominant doing so against a well-balanced and talented Dallas Cowboys team. 

Still, this is the Green Bay Packers and this is Lambeau Field in January. This is quarterback Aaron Rodgers with 11 playoff wins. This Packers team finished the regular season with the second-best offense according to DVOA and with a Top 10 scoring offense and Top 15 scoring defense. This too is a well-rounded Packers team with weapons it’s difficult to see the 49ers matching up with. 

My final pick for this game, like the first matchup, is going to depend a lot on injury information we do not have right now. 49ers DE Nick Bosa is in the league concussion protocol and QB Jimmy Garoppolo has a strained shoulder. At 100 percent full strength, this 49ers team absolutely can beat Rodgers who, for all of his playoff wins is 0-3 against San Francisco in the playoffs. Without Bosa and with a limited Garoppolo, though, he can get that monkey off his back. Pick: Packers


Los Angeles Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)

A lot of time, attention and money has brought us to this moment, as both the Rams and the Buccaneers have pushed all in on “super teams” that—at least on paper—make the rest of the NFC pale in comparison. The Rams got the best of the two teams’ regular season matchup 34-24, but this is literally a toss-up game when you factor in the 2.5-3 points normally allotted for homefield advantage. 

The Buccaneers are favored, but almost entirely dependent on the injury report for success in this game. Both right tackle Tristan Wirfs and center Ryan Jensen went down in the Wildcard Round game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and it’s difficult to see them matching up with the Rams’ pass rush if those two All Pro-caliber linemen can’t go. The Buccaneers running back situation is just as dire with both Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones’ statuses up in the air—this against a Rams defense that finished the season fifth in Defensive DVOA. 

The Rams are flying as high as anyone right now thanks to a playoff opening win against the Arizona Cardinals. It’s a bit of a short week, but I don’t think you’ll hear QB Matthew Stafford and Co. complain. They looked absolutely dominant on both sides of the ball against Arizona—mostly because of a dominant performance from both the offensive and defensive lines…not to say the skill position players didn’t do their job, because they did so in spades. 

It is hard to bet against Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady in the playoffs, and I’m tempted to go toward the Buccaneers simply because I still do not fully trust Stafford to not play inexplicably poorly as he did multiple times in the final month of the season. However, the Buccaneers beat the Eagles because the Eagles were a one-dimensional team. The Rams are much more well-rounded and can scheme to avoid the bulk of the Bucs defense. Again, entirely reserving the right to change this pick if the Buccaneers are miraculously at full strength on Sunday morning, but right now, it looks like the Rams are the better team. Pick: Rams


Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5)

If the Rams are flying high as I said above, the Bills are in orbit after becoming the first team in NFL playoff history to finish every drive (save kneeldowns) with a touchdown, beating the New England Patriots 47-17.

The Bills are the underdog here on the road, but only slightly so. And, as tough as Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium can be, the Bills are 5-3 on the road this season with a 38-20 road win against the Chiefs back in October. In that matchup, the Bills stifled the Chiefs’ rushing offense and both confused and rattled Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes threw two interceptions and fumbled once as the Chiefs turned the ball over four times to the Bills zero. 

The Chiefs are a much better team than they were in the first half of the 2021 season. Both the offense and the defense have gelled, and the team won nine of their last ten games of the regular season before trouncing the Pittsburgh Steelers in almost as convincing a win as the Bills’ victory over the Patriots. 

The Bills will not flirt with 50 points in this one, and if it turns into a shoot out, I fully believe Mahomes can come out on top, but the Bills defense with the best safety tandem in the league is built to win games like this. Pick: Bills