2018 AFC Divisional Round Betting Prediction

Posted by Rogelio Aguas on January 10, 2018 in

Eight teams remain in the chase for the NFL’s Lombardi Trophy, the prize for the winner of the Super Bowl each year. On the AFC Divisional Round of the bracket, the Tennessee Titans visit the New England Patriots on Saturday night, and the Jacksonville Jaguars visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in the early game on Sunday afternoon. Let’s take a look at some reasons why we are picking the Patriots and the Steelers to move on from these divisional matchups. Check out our logic before you lock in your NFL playoffs odds for the second weekend of the postseason.

2018 AFC Divisional Round Betting Prediction

Let’s begin with the Sunday matchup — Jacksonville at Pittsburgh. The fate of the Jacksonville offense lies in the hands of Blake Bortles. While the Jaguars did make it through the wild card round, eliminating Buffalo by a 10-3 score, that game was all about the Jacksonville defense. Blake Bortles attempted just six passes that went more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage — and he completed just three of them. When it was time to throw a screen pass, there were times when it was clear that he was aiming the ball and ended up short-arming the pass, leaving the ball well short of the target.

Bortles did have one clutch moment — the touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal in the last minute of the third period. At that point in the game, it seemed like the Jaguars would do anything but let Bortles throw the ball, and so the Bills loaded the box. It was a gutsy play call, and Ben Koyack did a great job getting inside his defender and making sure that his feet both made it down in bounds. On the day, though, Bortles went 12 for 23 for 87 yards and a touchdown.

What Did the Jaguars Do Recently?

Jacksonville became just the third team in the last 30 years to score 10 points or fewer in a wild card game and advance. The predecessors (the 2015 Seahawks and the 1991 Chiefs) did not cover the spread in the divisional round. The Seahawks would go to Carolina and dig a 31-0 hole for themselves before coming back (but still losing), 31-24. Kansas City lost by 23 points in Buffalo the next week.

In the final analysis, Jacksonville has a solid defense — but they don’t have a good enough defense to go into PIttsburgh, put up 10 points, and come out of there with a win. Ben Roethlisberger has 20 playoff starts; Bortles has 1. Roethlisberger has Super Bowl rings; Bortles has yet to start a divisional round game, let alone win one. So we definitely like Pittsburgh to hold serve at home.

What about the Patriots and the Titans?

Well, we once again have a severe disparity in playoff experience between the two quarterbacks. Tom Brady has started 34 playoff games; Marcus Mariota has started one. The Titans did dig out of a 21-3 hole at Kansas City to win, but there were a couple of factors to consider. First, Derrick Henry went nuts out of the Titans’ backfield, running all over the Chiefs. Kansas City didn’t appear to make a single defensive adjustment after halftime, and the team gave up gashing run after run up the middle. Second, there was that fumble that Kansas City returned for a touchdown to take an apparent late lead, until Jeff Triplette and his officiating crew decided that the ball had been down.

Even in an era with advanced instant replay, we still can’t challenge a play being down by contact, and that’s all we can say about that. But the Chiefs could have made some defensive adjustments, and they could have decided not to climb into an offensive shell after halftime. The Patriots are better against the run than the Chiefs are, and they don’t go through second halves in the postseason like Kansas City did. If Brady has a chance to lead a drive and put points on the board late, he will do it — and the Patriots will win.