NFL Playoffs and CFP Championship Podcast - 5 January 2021
In this week’s Dunkel Index podcast, Bob and Ben Dunkel take a look at the upcoming NFL playoffs by analyzing all six Wild Card games.
They also reveal their selection for the CFP National Championship Game between Alabama and Ohio State on Monday night. Here’s how our podcasters break it down:
INDIANAPOLIS AT BUFFALO
The Colts finished the regular season with a 28-14 win over Jacksonville, but were 0-3 ATS in their last 3 games.
The Bills high-flying offense continued in Week 17 with a 56-26 win over Miami. Buffalo finished with 6 straight wins after the Hail Murray loss to Arizona and was 6-0 ATS in those contests.
If there is a weakness to the Bills offense, it is the heavy reliance on the pass. Buffalo comes in ranked No. 20 in rushing at 107.7 ypg, while the Colts defense has locked down on the run and is ranked No. 2 at 90.5 ypg. The Colts are also ranked 6th in turnover/takeaways with 25.
The Indianapolis defense anchored by DeForest Buckner and Justin Houston should help keep the Colts competitive. Indy comes in 15-7 ATS in last 22 games versus teams with a winning record. Dunkel’s Pick: Indianapolis +7.
LA RAMS AT SEATTLE
The Rams bounced back from back-to-back losses with 18-7 win over Arizona that got them into the postseason. Jared Goff was out following thumb surgery and back-up John Wolford played well. Goff is questionable for Saturday’s game. Cooper Kupp also missed last week with covid issues and is up in the air.
The Seahawks squeaked out a 26-23 win over the 49ers and finished with four straight victories. They were just 2-2 ATS in those games. Safety and defensive leader Jamal Adams hurt his shoulder and it is unclear if he will play. He led team with 9.5 sacks, the most by a safety since sack stats were kept in 1982.
Even with Adams, the Seattle defense has struggled against the pass (31st at 285.0 ypg), while the Rams defense comes in ranked No. 1 in total yards, passing yards and points scored (18.5 ppg). The Rams are 5-2 ATS in last 7 as a road underdog; the Seahawks are 1-7 ATS in last 8 following a win. LA’s defense should keep this close. Dunkel’s Pick: LA Rams (+4.5).
TAMPA BAY AT WASHINGTON
The Buccaneers finished with four straight wins after their loss to Kansas City, capped off with 44-27 victory over Atlanta in Week 17. The Bucs were 3-1 ATS in those contests. Leading receiver Mike Evans is considered day-to-day with a knee injury.
The Football Team won the ugly NFC East at 7-9 following their controversial 20-14 win over the Eagles. Washington finished strong with 4 wins in its last 6 games, including a 23-17 win over the previously undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. The Football Team were an impressive 5-1 ATS over that span.
The story here is Washington’s defense, which finished second in total yards allowed and passing yards allowed, and fourth in points scored (20.6). Chase Young & Company will certainly need to carry an offense that finished 30th in total yards and 25th in points scored (20.9).
The Bucs are 1-4 ATS in last 5 games as a favorite; the Football Team is 4-1 ATS in last 5 games as an underdog. Washington’s defense frustrates Tom Brady enough to keep this game close. Dunkel’s Pick: Washington (+8.5).
BALTIMORE AT TENNESSEE
The Ravens rebounded from a stretch of 3 straight losses to finish with 5 straight wins, including 38-3 trouncing of Cincinnati in Week 17, to make the playoffs. Baltimore was 5-0 ATS in those contests. Reigning MVP Lamar Jackson finished with over 1,000 yards rushing and 2,700 yards passing.
The Titans won three of their last four against Jacksonville, Detroit and Houston, with the lone loss coming against Green Bay, 40-14. Derrick Henry had another banner year and topped 2,000 yards rushing.
Baltimore’s offense finished 1st in rushing and 7th in points scored, while the Titans defense slipped to 24th in points allowed (27.4). The Ravens defense, meanwhile, finished 2nd in points scored (18.9). The Ravens have too much on both sides of the ball for Tennessee to handle; Baltimore comes away with a road win. Dunkel’s Pick: Baltimore (-3.5).
CHICAGO AT NEW ORLEANS
The Bears were given up for dead following a 34-30 loss to Detroit, but won three of their last four against Jacksonville, Houston and Minnesota to slip into the playoffs. The lone loss was last week to Green Bay, 35-16, at Soldier Field.
New Orleans survived a stretch without injured QB Drew Brees and finished with back-to-back blowout wins over Minnesota and Carolina. The latter came without Alvin Kamara and the entire New Orleans backfield because of covid. Kamara remains up in the air for this week’s game.
Blows like that to the offense would have had New Orleans reeling in the old days. But the defense comes in ranked No. 4 in total yards, No. 5 in passing yards and No. 5 in points scored (21.2 ppg). The Bears offense, meanwhile, ranks No. 26 in total yards and No. 22 in points scored (23.3 ppg).
The Bears are 6-18 ATS in last 24 games following a double-digit loss at home; the Saints are 6-1 ATS in last 7 as a favorite. New Orleans bursts the Chicago bubble and cruises to a victory. Dunkel’s Pick: New Orleans (-10).
CLEVELAND AT PITTSBURGH
The Browns survived a Week 16 loss to the Jets to beat Pittsburgh in Week 17, 24-22, to make the playoffs for first times since 2002.
After starting out 11-0, the Steelers lost 3 straight, but bounced back with a 28-24 comeback win over Indianapolis in Week 16 to clinch the division title. They sat Ben Roethlisberger for last week’s game against Cleveland.
Pittsburgh has two things: no running game (No. 32 at 84.4 ypg), which will hurt, and a solid defense behind T.J. Watt that ranked No. 3 in total yards, passing yards and points scored (19.5 ppg). The Steelers D should be able to take advantage of an inconsistent Cleveland passing game that finished 24th in passing yards (221.2).
The Browns are 3-11 ATS in last 14 road games and 1-4-1 ATS in last 6 at Pittsburgh; the Steelers are 7-2 ATS in last 9 playoff home games.
Pittsburgh continues to dominate this rivalry and covers. Dunkel’s Pick: Pittsburgh (-4.5).
OHIO STATE VS ALABAMA (in Miami)
The Buckeyes pulled off the upset in the semifinals by routing the Clemson Tigers, 49-28, to finish 7-0. After looking shaky against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship, QB Justin Fields threw for 385 yards and 6 TDs. Trey Sermon followed up a huge performance against Northwestern with 193 yards rushing and Chris Olave had 6 catches for 132 yards and 2 TDs. Fields took a hard hit against Tigers, but is expected to play.
Alabama was a little more business-like, but no less dominant in its 31-14 win over Notre Dame to finish 12-0.
The Buckeyes are likely to struggle against Mac Jones, Devonta Smith and the Alabama passing game, which finished 5th in the nation in passing yards (354.1 ypg), while OSU’s defense was just No. 103 against the pass (260.8 ypg).
But the Ohio State offense looks to be no less potent and comes in ranked No. 6 in total yards, No. 5 in rushing yards and No. 8 in points scored (42.5 ppg).
The Buckeyes are 19-7 ATS in their last 26 games as an underdog; the Crimson Tide is 0-4 ATS in its last 4 Bowl Championship games.
Ohio State has enough offensive firepower to go toe-to-toe with Alabama and keeps it within the spread in a shootout. Dunkel’s Pick: Ohio State (+7.5).
To get all of Dunkel’s NFL and NCAA Football picks, visit our picks pages.