The NFC Wild Card Round did not play out as many expected. The No. 7 Green Bay Packers pulled off a massive upset over the No. 2 Dallas Cowboys 48-32 last Sunday. The Packers entered that game as 7-point underdogs at most books. Green Bay jumped out early and never looked back. QB Jordan Love outplayed veteran Dak Prescott and it seems the Packers may be responsible for head coach Mike McCarthy finding a new job once again.
The No. 3 Detroit Lions snuck past the No. 6 Los Angeles Rams in their matchup 24-23. Detroit picked up its first playoff win since 1993 and has a shot to advance to the NFC Championship for the first time since 1991. The Lions were able to get the game wrapped up with a first down on the final drive.
The No. 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers made easy work of a reeling No. 5 Philadelphia Eagles squad. The Bucs shut down Jalen Hurts and Philly’s offense, which was without top WR AJ Brown. The Eagles are now left with question marks heading into a key offseason while Tampa Bay has a shot to get back to the NFC Championship with Baker Mayfield and not Tom Brady.
Below we’ll go over picks and predictions for the NFC in the Divisional Round.
2024 NFL Playoff Predictions
No. 1 San Francisco 49ers vs. No. 7 Green Bay Packers
Spread: 49ers -9.5
Over/Under: 50.5 points
Moneyline: SF -470, GB +360
Again, the Packers are heavy underdogs in this game on the road. The Niners come off their bye week and really haven’t played a meaningful football game since Christmas Day. The over/under is up over 50 points given what we saw out of the Packers offense last week and knowing what a rested San Fran offense is capable of. A good amount of the action is on the Packers to cover and the over to hit. The moneyline bets are close to a split on DraftKings Sportsbook.
This is a game prediction, so we aren’t dishing out betting picks, per say. But if we were to look at the odds, Green Bay looks like a team that should keep this close. The 49ers could come out a bit flat. Remember, they rested players in Week 18 and had a bye. The Packers have played back-to-back elimination games from Week 18 to the Wild Card. The Packers spent most of the season dealing with key injuries. Now, Green Bay appears to be pretty healthy. So the Packers should be weighted differently from the team that went 9-8 in the regular season.
Anyway, let’s get to the matchup. The 49ers sport one of the toughest defenses in the NFL. San Fran allowed 20 or fewer points in 12 of 17 games this season and only allowed 30+ in two games. The Niners also rank top-5 in overall offense, rushing offense and passing. They are a well-oiled machine and unless you disrupt Purdy or thwart CMC, things generally won’t go your way.
The Packers are middle-of-the-pack in pretty much all offensive categories. Late in the season, the passing game picked up and despite a few hiccups, you can’t put most of the losses in the second half of the season on Love. He’s evolved into an above-average starting QB with the potential to be great. Love appears to be the X-Factor for Green Bay in this matchup. If he can outplay Purdy, that could be the difference.
A lot of this game will be decided early on and it starts with the play of Green Bay’s defense. If the Packers can disrupt Purdy and keep CMC in check, they’ll have a path to victory. That’s easier said than done. Rest feels like it could only hurt San Fran. But if the 49ers can get on top of the Packers early and get after Love, they shouldn’t have issues at home. Where the Cowboys’ defense failed, the Niners defense shouldn’t. The Niners’ offensive skill players are much better/deeper than Dallas.
I just don’t see a way the Packers win on paper. Can they win? Of course. We all saw what happened last week. But even in a close contest, I think the Niners are too balanced on both sides of the ball to let Green Bay slip by them.
Pick: 49ers 27, Packers 21
No. 3 Detroit Lions vs. No. 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Spread: Lions -6.5
Over/Under: 48.5 points
Moneyline: DET -270, TB +220
This line is moving in favor of Detroit since opening. The Lions feel like the team to back and we could see the spread get up to a TD. The over/under seems high. Both defensive fronts are solid and the Lions have one of the better run defenses. You also have two pretty mediocre QBs in Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield. So I could see this game being more of an offensive struggle vs. two good defenses.
The Lions snuck by the Rams but you could argue in a Bucs-Rams playoff game that Los Angeles likely is favored and the better team. It’s hard to gather anything from the Bucs’ win over the Eagles. Philly was just a team falling apart at the seams. So while Tampa Bay took care of business, it wasn’t exactly tested in the first round. The Lions got past the first game and most of those younger players who haven’t been there before got the jitters out. Homefield advantage becomes a big factor when you get into a game like this.
When it comes down to the two QBs, there should be less pressure on Goff. The Lions defense is more important and really all Goff needs to do is manage the game. Mayfield on the other hand, may need to step up and make more plays to keep the Bucs in it. He’s done that at times this season just not against any good teams. Assuming the Lions can keep RB Rachaad White in check, it makes the game plan and path to victory pretty easy.
Tampa Bay beat Philly through two big plays in the passing game and that was it. If you took those away, the game was one score and the Eagles have a shot to pull it out. Detroit’s defense shouldn’t give up those big plays to depth receivers because the secondary isn’t in shambles. The Lions also have way more weapons to account for than the Eagles did. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta, Jahmyr Gibbs, David Montgomery, Jameson Williams and Josh Reynolds.
I think the Bucs struggle to move the ball and that forces Mayfield into a mistake or two. Detroit builds a lead, leans on the run game and rushes Mayfield most of the game, racking up over 3-4 sacks. We should see a similar outcome to the regular-season matchup when Detroit shut down Tampa Bay in a 20-6 win.
Pick: Lions 24, Buccaneers 13