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Ranking the best college football teams to never win it all, from BCS to CFP

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Ranking the best college football teams to never win it all, from BCS to CFP

Sometimes it’s the team that didn’t win it all that we remember most. This year marks the 23rd season since the BCS era began in 1998, a system that eventually gave way to the College Football Playoff, but still left us with several teams more remembered for the fact they didn’t win the national title.

Ohio State became the latest team to lose the College Football Playoff championship in Monday’s 52-24 loss to Alabama, but Clemson did not make this list. Ohio State did based on our criteria of picking one team per season that didn’t win it all. Is that debatable? Absolutely given the controversy that surrounded the Buckeyes’ 29-23 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. 

We’re sticking with our choice, and Ohio State joins a list of could-have-been-champions. 

MORE: SN Preason Top 25 for 2021

We did the same exercise for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in March.

So, which teams didn’t win it all but remain in our minds this time of year? Here is a closer look:

  • Record: 11-1
    Points for/against: 34.3 (16th), 21.3 (30th)
    All-Americans: None
    That year’s champion: Miami
    What could have been: We think Oregon would have fared better against the Hurricanes than Nebraska and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Eric Crouch. At least, we would have liked to see Joey Harrington give it a try, especially afterhe led the Ducks to a 38-16 victory against No. 3 Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl. The Buffaloes had beaten Nebraska 62-36 earlier in the season.

  • Record: 11-2
    Points for/against: 32.6 (T-35th), 15.9 (4th)
    All-Americans: TE Fred Davis, T Sam Baker, DT Sedrick Ellis, LB Keith Rivers, S Taylor Mays
    That year’s champion: LSU
    What could have been: There were so many teams in this wild-card season that were close, with Ohio State eventually playing LSU in the BCS national championship game. We still like this USC team better, which lost two games by a combined eight points under Pete Carroll. The Trojans beat Illinois 49-17 in the Rose Bowl, but it was too little, too late.

  • Record: 12-2
    Points for/against: 42.9 (3rd), 15.3 (5th)
    All-Americans: QB Jason White, WR Mark Clayton, T Jammal Brown, DT Tommie Harris, LB Teddy Lehman, CB Derrick Strait, KR/PR Antonio Perkins
    That year’s champions: USC, LSU
    What could have been: The Sooners ran the wire in the regular season as No. 1 under Bob Stoops with a highly decorated team that included Heisman Trophy winner Jason White. The Sooners, however, were routed 35-7 by Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game before losing to LSU 21-14 in the Sugar Bowl. Given that USC and LSU split the title, there isn’t a better choice for this season.

  • Record: 12-1
    Points for/against: 46.8 (1st), 18.7 (12th)
    All-Americans:RB LaMichael James, S Cliff Harris
    That year’s champion: Auburn
    What could have been: This was Chip Kelly’s lone championship shot with the Ducks, and it was led by a high-powered offense with Darron Thomas at quarterback. That run ended in an ugly 22-19 loss in the BCS championship game to Cam Newton-led Auburn.

  • Record: 7-1
    Points for/against: 41.0 (11th), 25.8 (43rd)
    All-Americans: G Wyatt Davis, CB Shaun Wade, DT Haskell Garrett
    That year’s champion: Alabama
    What could have been: Ohio State made the most of a season impacted by COVID-19 behind quarterback Justin Fields, who led a fourth straight Big Ten championship run in Ryan Day’s second season. The Buckeyes demolished Clemson 49-28 in the Sugar Bowl, but Alabama routed Ohio State 52-24 in the CFP championship game. It’s hard to put a true ranking on this team because it didn’t have a chance to play a full season.

  • Record: 12-1
    Points for/against: 49.6 (2nd), 21.6 (25th)
    All-Americans: RB Kenjon Barner, LB Dion Jordan
    That year’s champion: Alabama
    What could have been: We could put Notre Dame here. After all, the Irish beat Stanford that year, and the Ducks did not. Still, we think Oregon was the better team. Would Chip Kelly’s high-powered offense have fared better against the Tide with Marcus Mariota and a backfield that included Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas?

  • Record: 12-2
    Points for/against: 39.5 (13th), 24.7 (48th)
    All-Americans: RB Tre Mason, KR/PR Chris Davis
    That year’s champion: Florida State
    What could have been: Gus Malzahn enjoyed a wild first season with the Tigers that included several thrilling wins before the “Kick Six” in a 34-28 Iron Bowl victory that derailed Alabama’s bid at a three-peat. Florida State, however, beat the Tigers 34-31 in dramatic fashion in the final BCS championship game.

  • Record: 11-1
    Points for/against:35.8 (12th), 12.0 (2nd)
    All-Americans: WR David Boston, G Rob Murphy, CB Antoine Winfield, S Damon Moore
    That year’s champion: Tennessee
    What could have been: This was a loaded team under John Cooper, led by quarterback Joe Germaine and linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer. The Buckeyes stayed No. 1 in the AP Poll until a shocking 28-24 loss to Nick Saban-led Michigan State. Ohio State had to settle for a berth in the Sugar Bowl, where it beat No. 8 Texas A&M, while Tennessee played Florida State for the first BCS national championship.

  • Record: 12-2
    Points for/against: 36.9 (16th), 18.4 (6th)
    All-Americans: WR Amari Cooper, G Arie Kouandjio, LB Trey DePriest, S Landon Collins, P JK Scott
    That year’s champion: Ohio State
    What could have been: New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin brought a record-setting offense to Tuscaloosa, resulting in a breakout year for Blake Sims and Cooper, a Heisman finalist. The Tide, however, lost 42-35 in a thrilling College Football Playoff semifinal that felt like the championship game. That’s why we give Alabama the nod over Florida State and Oregon.

  • Record: 11-1
    Points for/against: 40.3 (1st), 13.5 (5th)
    All-Americans: QB Michael Vick, DE Corey Moore, CB Ike Charlton
    That year’schampion: Florida State
    What could have been: Florida State went wire to wire at No. 1, and Nebraska and Penn State had great teams this season as well. But Virginia Tech took the No. 2 spot on Nov. 7and stayed undefeated until theBCS championship game (which is remembered for the show Vick and Peter Warrick put onmore than the 46-29 final score).

  • Record: 12-2
    Points for/against: 51.1 (1st), 24.5 (57th)
    All-Americans: QBSam Bradford, TE Jermaine Gresham, T Phil Loadholt, G Duke Robinson, DT Gerald McCoy
    That year’s champion: Florida
    What could have been: Bradford won the Heisman Trophy and led a ridiculous offense that averaged more than 50 points per game. The Sooners made the title game despite losing to Texas — because of a three-way tiebreaker with Texas Tech — before losing 24-14 to Florida in the title game.

  • Record: 13-1
    Points for/against: 39.3 (3rd), 16.7 (12th)
    All-Americans: QB Colt McCoy, WR Jordan Shipley, C Chris Hall, LB Sergio Kindle, S Earl Thomas
    That year’s champion: Alabama
    What could have been: If you want to put the 2009 Florida team, whose lone loss was to Alabama in the SEC championship, that’s fine, too. We’re sticking with the Longhorns, and like everybody else, we’re wondering how much closer that 37-21 Rose Bowl loss to the Tide would be if Colt McCoy had played the whole game.

  • Record: 13-2
    Points for/against: 35.4 (20th), 13.2 (4th)
    All-Americans: LB Roquan Smith
    That year’s champion: Alabama
    What could have been: The Bulldogs had a loaded backfield with senior running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb and freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, who improved with each week. Smith, who won the Butkus Award, paced the defense. Georgia avenged its only loss of the season against Auburn in a 28-7 SEC championship romp over the Tigers. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs blew a 13-0 lead in a 26-23 loss to Alabama in the championship game.

  • Record: 13-0
    Points for/against: 32.1 (18th), 11.3 (1st)
    All-Americans: RB Cadillac Williams, T Marcus McNeill, CB Carlos Rogers, S Junior Rosegreen
    That year’s champion: USC
    What could have been:The lone undefeated team on this list, Auburn wore down opponents with a backfield that included quarterback Jason Campbell and the running back duo of Williams and Ronnie Brown. The Tigers never got that swing at the USC juggernaut though, and we think this Tommy Tuberville-led team would have kept it closer than the 55-19 beatdown the Trojans put on Oklahoma. How much closer? We’ll never know.

  • Record: 13-1
    Points for/against: 46.9 (3rd), 13.7 (4th)
    All-Americans: RB J.K. Dobbins, G Wyatt Davis, DE Chase Young, CB Jeff Okudah
    That year’s champion: LSU
    What could have been: The Buckeyes spent all of November at No. 2 in the polls before the College Football Playoff pairings were released. The Buckeyes had two Heisman Trophy finalists in Justin Fields and Chase Young and they won every game before the CFP semifinal by double-digits. Clemson beat Ohio State 29-23 in the Fiesta Bowl, but a few bad calls contributed to that list. If you want to put the Tigers on here, that’s fine. This Ohio State team, however, will be kicking itself longer for not winning it all.

  • Record: 14-1
    Points for/against: 38.5 (16th), 20.2 (22nd)
    All-Americans: QB Deshaun Watson, TE Jordan Leggett, DE Shaq Lawson, CB Mackensie Alexander, S Jayron Kearse
    That year’s champion: Alabama
    What could have been: We were tempted to put Ohio State here, which might have had more talent than the Tigers but never quite played like a No. 1 team until it was too late. Clemson, meanwhile, finished the season undefeated and stood up to Alabama in a 45-40 loss in the College Football Playoff championship.

  • Record: 12-1
    Points for/against: 34.1 (8th), 10.4 (2nd)
    All-Americans: QB Troy Smith, T Alex Boone, DE Quinn Pitcock, LB James Laurinaitis, KR/PR Ted Ginn Jr.
    That year’s champion: Florida
    What could have been: Jim Tressel led this team to a perfect regular season that included No. 1-vs.-No. 2 showdowns against both Texas and Michigan. Smith won the Heisman Trophy and the Buckeyes ran the wire at No. 1 before — a 41-14 loss to Urban Meyer’s Florida team in the BCS championship game.

  • Record: 11-1
    Points for/against: 42.2 (3rd), 15.8 (7th)
    All-Americans: Joaquin Gonzalez, Bryant McKinnie, Dan Morgan, Ed Reed, Santana Moss
    That year’s champion: Oklahoma
    What could have been: An early-season loss to Washington (which finished the season ranked No. 3) kept this loaded Butch Davis team out of the BCS championship game, despite beating No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Virginia Tech during the season. In a four-team playoff, this team might have easily won it all given all Miami’s NFL talent. The Hurricanes had to settle for a 37-20 victory over No. 7 Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

  • Record: 13-1
    Points for/against: 35.7 (17th), 11.3 (2nd)
    All-Americans: GWill Blackwell, DE Sam Montgomery, CB Morris Claiborne, CB Tyrann Mathieu, P Brad Wing
    That year’s champion: Alabama
    What could have been: The 21-0 championship game loss to Alabama takes away from a team that finished the regular season undefeated and dominated up until the title shot under Les Miles. The Tigers allowed more than 20 points in just three games that season, which saw them beat eight ranked opponents, including three top-three teams.

  • Record: 14-1
    Points for/against: 38.8 (16th), 11.8 (1st)
    All-Americans: T Cam Robinson, TE O.J. Howard, DE/DT Jonathan Allen, LB Reuben Foster, CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, S Marlon Humphrey
    That year’s champion: Clemson
    What could have been:Nick Saban had this team one drive — one second — away from winning another national title. That team would have been on the list of greatest all-time teams. Clemson, however, had other ideas. Deshaun Watson put on a masterful performance in the final minutes of a 35-31 victory. Would this game have played out differently had Kiffin stayed on for the championship game?

  • Record: 14-1
    Points for/against: 45.3 (3rd), 18.1 (10th)
    All-Americans: QB Tua Tagovailoa, WR Jerry Jeudy, T Jonah Williams, DL Quinnen Williams, DB Deionte Thompson
    That year’s champion: Clemson
    What could have been: The Crimson Tide had the chance to be the first 15-0 team since 1897, but they suffered a 44-16 blowout loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff championship game. Still, the offense with Tagovailoa and Jeudy showed Nick Saban’s evolution to the offensive game, and they earned a fifth Playoff berth in five seasons.

  • Record: 12-1
    Points for/against: 40.5 (4th), 19.1 (22nd)
    All-Americans: QB Ken Dorsey, RB Willis McGahee, C Brett Romberg, DT Jerome McDougle
    That year’s champion: Ohio State
    What could have been: The Hurricanes had a 34-game win streak before a 31-24 double-overtime loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. How loaded was this team? Kellen Winslow II and Sean Taylor weren’t All-Americans. The Hurricanes had two Heisman Trophy finalists in Dorsey and McGahee under coach Larry Coker, and you still wonder might have happened had McGahee not suffered a game-ending injury against the Buckeyes.

  • Record: 12-1
    Points for/against:50.2 (1st), 22.3 (27th)
    All-Americans: QBMatt Leinart, RB Reggie Bush, WR Dwayne Jarrett, G Taitusi Lutui, T Sam Baker, LB Darnell Bing
    That year’s champion: Texas
    What could have been: Remember the buildup? USC was being put against the greatest teams in college football history. The Trojans took a 34-game win streak into the BCS championship game against Texas and had two Heisman Trophy winners in Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. The Longhorns won a 41-38 instant classic which kept Pete Carroll’s team from winning a third consecutive national title. They simply ran into one of the greatest teams of all time in Texas.

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Sean McVay vs. Matt LaFleur: Inside the battle of NFL’s two most successful young coaches

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Sean McVay vs. Matt LaFleur: Inside the battle of NFL's two most successful young coaches

Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur are two of the most successful coaches in the NFL. They also happen to be two of the youngest.

Their paths cross when the Rams face the Packers at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox. McVay and LaFleur have a coaching tie that dates back to their time together on the Rams’ staff. It is a testament to the successful youth movement among NFL coaches.  

Sporting News takes a closer look at McVay, LaFleur and a coaching matchup that could be a part of the NFC playoff picture for years to come.  

MORE: The highest-paid NFL coaches in 2020

Who is the youngest coach in the NFL?  

McVay, 34, is the youngest active coach in the NFL. There are nine coaches in the NFL who are 42 years old or younger. LaFleur, 41, is the sixth-youngest coach in the league as of Jan. 16, 2021. Here is a closer look at the youngest coaches in the NFL: 

NAME BIRTHDATE AGE
Sean McVay, Rams 1/24/86 34
Zac Taylor, Bengals 5/10/83 37
Kevin Stefanski, Browns 5/8/82 38
Brian Flores, Dolphins  2/24/81 39
Joe Judge, Giants 12/31/81 39
Matt LaFleur, Packers  11/3/79 41
Kyle Shanahan, 49ers  12/14/79 41
Kliff Kingsbury, Cardinals 8/9/79 41
Matt Nagy, Bears 4/24/78 42

Sean McVay’s coaching record  

McVay took over the Rams in 2017. In four seasons, he has compiled a 43-21 record in the regular season and a 3-2 record in the postseason. Los Angeles has the fifth-best record in the NFL in that stretch behind New Orleans (52-18), Kansas City (52-18), New England (48-23) and Baltimore (45-22).  

In 2018, McVay led the Rams to a berth in Super Bowl XLIII, where Los Angeles lost 13-3 to New England.  

The Rams missed the playoffs last season, but they finished 10-6 this year behind the league’s top-ranked defense. Los Angeles beat Seattle 30-20 in the NFC Wild Card round. Aaron Donald is a candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.  

Matt LaFleur’s coaching record  

LaFleur took over the Packers in 2019. In two seasons, has a 26-6 record in the regular season and a 1-1 record in the playoffs. Green Bay has the second-best record in the NFL in that stretch behind Kansas City (29-6).  

The Packers made the NFC championship game last season before losing 37-20 to the San Francisco 49ers.  

Green Bay had the best record in the NFC this season at 13-3. The Packers are the top seed in the conference, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a leading candidate for the NFL MVP award.  

LaFleur was an assistant for McVay  

LaFleur served as the offensive coordinator for the Rams under McVay in 2017. The Rams finished 10-6 that season before losing 26-13 to Atlanta in the NFC wild-card round.  

The Rams led the NFL with 29.9 points per game and finished 10th at 361.5 yards per game that season. LaFleur left to become the offensive coordinator for Tennessee for one season before taking the head-coaching job with Green Bay.  

Strength-on-strength matchup  

LaFleur and McVay meet head-to-head for the first time in a strength-on-strength matchup.  

The Packers lead the NFL with 31.8 points per game, and Rodgers has benefited from a second year in LaFleur’s offensive system. Rodgers finished with 4,299 passing yards, 48 TDs and five interceptions. Davante Adams added 115 catches for 1,374 yards and 18 TDs.  

The Rams led the NFL with a defense that allowed just 18.5 points per game. Donald had 13.5 sacks this season, and Jalen Ramsey is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. McVay said that Jared Goff, who underwent thumb surgery after a loss to Seattle in Week 16, will remain the starting quarterback.  

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NFL playoff schedule: What games are on today? TV channels, times, scores for 2021 divisional round

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NFL playoff schedule: What games are on today? TV channels, times, scores for 2021 divisional round

The 2020 NFL playoffs are down to the “Elite Eight.”

Last week’s wild-card round was full of upsets with four lower-seeded teams emerging victorious, including wins by the Browns and Rams, the No. 6 seeds in the AFC and NFC brackets. Will the underdogs prevail yet again? Or will the top contenders reign supreme?

Here’s everything you need to know about the NFL divisional round games, including a full schedule with TV channels and start times.

MORE: Watch today’s NFL games live with fuboTV (7-day free trial)

NFL playoff schedule: What games are on today?

Saturday, Jan. 16

(All times Eastern)

Game Time Channel
Rams vs. Packers 4:35 p.m. Fox
Ravens vs. Bills 8:15 p.m. NBC

Sunday, Jan. 17

(All times Eastern)

Game Time Channel
Browns vs. Chiefs 3:05 p.m. CBS
Buccaneers vs. Saints 6:40 p.m. Fox

NFL PLAYOFF PICKS: Straight up | Against the spread

NFL playoff game TV channels, live stream

Rams vs. Packers

Key storyline: Jared Goff leading the offense

There is no quarterback controversy. John Wolford has been ruled out with a neck injury, so Goff will be the starter against the Packers. Despite dealing with a thumb issue, Goff did enough to push the Rams past the Seahawks (9 of 19 for 155 yards and one touchdown). He has to be much better if Los Angeles wants to take down the NFC’s top squad.

Ravens vs. Bills

Key storyline: Limiting Lamar Jackson

The 2019 NFL MVP racked up 179 yards passing and 136 yards rushing in a 20-13 win over the Titans. If Jackson gets outside of the pocket and makes big plays, the Ravens have a chance. If the Bills can contain him, they should advance to the AFC championship game.

Browns vs. Chiefs

Key storyline: Browns playing keep away

The best defense against Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes might be an offense that doesn’t let him see the field. Baker Mayfield will obviously play a huge role here, but Browns running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (124 rushing yards, 82 receiving yards, three touchdowns combined vs. Steelers) can help Cleveland control the clock by consistently breaking tackles and moving the chains.

Buccaneers vs. Saints

Key storyline: Putting the pressure on Tom Brady

In two regular season matchups against Brady, the Saints defense totaled five interceptions and six sacks. New Orleans must force Brady into mistakes again in order to defeat Tampa Bay for a third time.

NFL scores for divisional games

You can keep up with live scores and stats with SN’s live scoreboard.

Saturday, Jan. 16

Game
Rams vs. Packers
Ravens vs. Bills

Sunday, Jan. 17

Game
Browns vs. Chiefs
Buccaneers vs. Saints

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Divisional Round Betting Guide: Spread, moneyline, over/under picks for first round of NFL Playoffs

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Divisional Round Betting Guide: Spread, moneyline, over/under picks for first round of NFL Playoffs

After an interesting (and very busy) wild card weekend, the NFL playoff field has been trimmed down to eight remaining teams. The divisional round slate offers many angles for bettors, whether against the spread, on the moneyline, or on the over/under.

Every week, this column provides a detailed breakdown of our favorite bets, weaving in a preview of exclusive data from BetQL. This compilation serves as a mere sneak preview of all that BetQL offers. Check us out now to reveal our full betting predictions for every game of the divisional round, including projections and best bet ratings from our NFL Best Bet Model.

All data presented is as of Friday morning. You can track all NFL line movement on BetQL’s Line Movement Dashboard.

Divisional Round Betting Picks: Spread pick of the week

Los Angeles Rams (+6.5) at Green Bay Packers

When will people stop doubting the Rams? These guys just keep defying the odds in front of our eyes, and yet Vegas gives them a touchdown this weekend? Sign me up.

Los Angeles has the best defense in the league, led by one of the best pass-rushers in NFL history in Aaron Donald and elite cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Rams D can dominate every level of the field and make the life of an opposing quarterback a living nightmare.

Last I checked, Aaron Rodgers has a pretty poor track record in the playoffs against elite defensive units. That’s not to take away from his insanely impressive regular season, for which he will likely win AP Most Valuable Player honors. For the second time in his career, he finished the regular season with over 40 touchdowns and at least a 115.0 passer rating. Only three other QBs have done that, and all received MVPs during those seasons. According to NFL.com, he’s also the first QB in 10 years to lead the league in both metrics (48 passing TDs, 121.5 QB rating).

But as Rodgers knows all too well, regular season accolades don’t always translate into playoff success. Crazy things happen in the playoffs, and great game plans and defensive execution start to play larger parts in wins. He and Matt LaFleur are obviously jelling, but no D can stop a team dead in its tracks like the Rams.   

Just look at what the Rams did against the Seahawks last week. Twelve days after starting QB Jared Goff had thumb surgery, coach Sean McVay made the difficult decision to start backup John Wolford in the first round of the NFL playoffs. This guy had “Finance” listed as his LinkedIn industry before the previous week! Well, Wolford started and got knocked out of the game with a scary hit to the head and neck. Goff came in — throwing thumb still recovering — and did just enough to get LA the win, shouldered mostly by rookie back Cam Akers (28-131-1) and the aforementioned dominance of his defense.

Wolford checked back out of the hospital that same night after being given the thumbs-up (I had to) by doctors to celebrate the big win with his team. He will be watching from the sideline in Green Bay this weekend, as Goff returns to his role as the Rams’ starting QB. Goff, who disagreed with McVay’s decision to start Wolford over him last weekend, said he’s good to go.

In his lone career meeting with the Packers, Goff threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns and posted a 111.0 QB rating. If he duplicates that kind of success this week, this game could be an instant classic. He will need another strong performance from Akers, as well as the veteran receiver tandem of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Rodgers has a pair of tremendous playmakers in receiver Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones, and both have a nose for finding the end zone.

Ultimately, I think the Packers win this game, and Rodgers ultimately squares off against Patrick Mahomes in a Super Bowl that StateFarm could not have scripted better. But I don’t see the Packers running away with it, especially in a cold-weather stadium against one of the more elite defenses this league has ever seen. If Goff can lead the Rams to a 30-20 playoff victory over Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, he can lose by less than a touchdown to Rodgers in the playoffs.

Divisional Round Betting Picks: Moneyline pick of the week

Buffalo Bills (-145) vs. Baltimore Ravens

If you simply need a lock for this week, I would be more apt to go with the Packers over the Rams, or the Chiefs over the Browns, but you will find literally no value whatsoever in those moneylines. Green Bay’s ML is -320. Kansas City’s? A whopping -510. Thus, my moneyline pick of the week is a Bills team that’s favored by the fewest points of any this weekend (-2.5).

Oddsmakers seem to be giving reigning MVP Lamar Jackson too much credit while giving 2020 MVP candidate Josh Allen too little. What gives? Jackson has struggled with accuracy and decision-making at times this season, while Allen just continues to get better as the campaign progresses.

Jackson threw for just 179 yards last week in Baltimore’s 20-13 win over the defensively-challenged Titans. He had no passing touchdowns and threw one interception. Much like many of his games in 2019, the damage he inflicted primarily came on the ground, as he finished with 136 rushing yards and a touchdown. Rookie JK Dobbins, bruising back Gus Edwards, and wideout Marquise Brown combined to add another 100 yards rushing (Brown also had seven catches for 109 yards).

There’s no doubting Jackson’s penchant for making big plays, and “Hollywood” Brown sure seems to be shining at the right time. But, plain and simple, Buffalo has been the better team all season and has shown no signs of slowing down for anyone.

On wild card weekend, Allen led Buffalo to a tough 27-24 win over veteran Philip Rivers and the Colts, who featured one of the better defenses in the league this season. The Bills finished with 397 total yards, 301 of which came through the air.

That was Buffalo’s seventh consecutive victory, and 10th win in 11 games. Its only loss since Oct. 19 came in Week 10 in Arizona, on a last-second, game-winning Hail Mary from Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins. If not for that play, the Bills might have had a shot at the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye.

But this team was meant to keep rolling and probably benefited from having to play last week. It has a lot of fight and a hell of a lot of talent on both sides of the football. Allen’s chemistry with Stefon Diggs has likely guided the veteran receiver to his first All-Pro selection. Diggs led the NFL this season with 127 catches and 1,535 yards, and he put up a line of 6-128-1 last week. He had eight touchdowns this season, one more than breakout rookie receiver Gabriel Davis.

Diggs and Davis join veteran slot receiver Cole Beasley, as well as veteran speedster John Brown, to form an electric foursome of playmakers. Allen has no problem spreading the ball around to whoever finds separation. He has developed an Aaron Rodgers-like level of field vision and pocket awareness, and he’s lockstep with Brian Daboll and his offensive playbook. When defenses sell out to cover the pass, he often burns them with his legs. Case in point: He ran 11 times for 54 yards and a score last week against Indy.

Baltimore has been one of the better defenses in the NFL this season, and Jackson continues to be one of the more entertaining QBs in the game today. The Ravens clearly got a lot of love from Las Vegas after going 7-2 in road contests this season and getting hot late in the year. But there’s a reason they got bounced from the playoffs last year after a 14-2 regular season and a reason they only went 1-1 straight up as a road underdog this season. They do not have a reliable passing game. Baltimore finished the season ranked dead last in yards through the air.

Meanwhile, Leslie Frazier’s Bills defense has made vast improvements down the stretch. The Bills finished the regular season with the second-best turnover percentage (15.3 percent) and the third-most takeaways (26). Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (119 tackles) and cornerback Tre’Davious White (three INT, 11 PD), both Pro Bowlers, lead a gritty, proud unit.

This Buffalo team feels destined to get to the AFC Championship (and maybe beyond). It finished tied for the second-most wins in the league this season, yet it sits as the only favorite with under -150 odds to advance to the next round. The Bills have shown time and time again that if others don’t give them respect, they will go out and get it themselves. Buffalo wins 27-23.

Divisional Round Betting Picks: Over/under pick of the week

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cleveland Browns: UNDER 57

It’s easy to see why 80 percent of money and 97 percent of tickets are on the OVER for this game. The Browns offense has been scorching hot, and Kansas City has somehow managed to improve upon its Super Bowl-winning system. But we at BetQL like the value presented by the UNDER, which our Best Bet Model backs with a five-star confidence rating.

The betting public may have fallen victim to recency bias. The Browns are coming off a 48-37 barnburner win over the division-rival Steelers on wild-card weekend. They scored a defensive touchdown on the first play from scrimmage after Pittsburgh sailed its first snap into its own end zone and Cleveland safety Karl Joseph fell on it. The Browns had a 28-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, which set the tone for sloppy, frenetic play the rest of the game. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger finished the first half with three interceptions, but somehow racked up 500 passing yards and four TDs by the end of the game.

Once you catch your breath from that busy recap, consider a couple facts from that contest. Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, who deserves Coach of the Year consideration, was watching the game from back home in Cleveland after testing positive for COVID-19. Top cornerback Denzel Ward suffered the same fate, a fate dozens of Browns players have met throughout the course of the season.

Without its head coach and its second-best defender, the Browns defense packed it in too early with a big lead. It lost its focus and got gashed for big plays throughout the second half. But the Browns still prevailed with their first postseason win since 1995 and first playoff win on the road since 1969.

Stefanski and Ward are back in action this week, so we at BetQL expect a much different picture than the 87 points we saw in Pittsburgh. After all, Cleveland’s three previous games averaged a total of 37 points.

The Chiefs have a formidable offensive attack, which probably plays a huge part in everyone and their mom pounding the OVER here. But consider a few factors before jumping on the bandwagon:

  • 1.     Kansas City averaged 25.3 points over the course of its final six games this season.
  • 2.     The Chiefs committed eight turnovers in their last four contests.
  • 3.     Defending Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes has not played an NFL game in weeks. He rested during KC’s inconsequential Week 17 tilt with the Chargers, and then enjoyed a first-round playoff bye.
  • 4.     The Chiefs defense has drastically improved in its first year under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. KC ranked 10th in points surrendered this season.

By all means, go for the OVER if you enjoy rooting for high-scoring theatrics. But 57 points seems way too high for our liking, especially considering the UNDER has hit in four of the seven home games in which KC served as the favorite this season. Our Model projects the first-half total at 27 points and end-game total at 54 points. I personally like the Chiefs to win 30-23.  

For more betting analysis and information, head over to BetQL and check out our model’s best bets, sharp data, and much more for every playoff game! You can find all updated NFL lines, spreads, and odds at BetQL!

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