The NFC Divisional Round features two heavyweight matchups. In the first contest, Jimmy Garoppolo will receive his first taste of playoff football against the Vikings, who are coming off a sensational upset road victory against the Saints. Kirk Cousins finally has a big postseason victory under his belt, and if he was able to handle the raucous environment at the Superdome, he should be able to perform in Santa Clara.
The Seahawks-Packers battle, which will occupy the late spot Sunday afternoon, features perhaps the past and present of NFC quarterback play. Aaron Rodgers is still good, but right now, Russell Wilson is the better passer. Wilson threw for more yards, touchdowns and enjoyed a higher QB rating than Rodgers this season.
Predictions for both games are below. AFC picks were published on Thursday.
Vikings at 49ers (49ers -7)
Saturday, 4:35 p.m.
This game promises to be a defensive battle. The 49ers allowed just 19.4 points per game this season, whereas Minnesota surrendered just 18.9 points per contest. The Vikings’ defensive line is an elite unit, with Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter recording three sacks against the Saints last week.
Garoppolo, for all of his playmaking ability, is prone to turnovers. He threw 13 interceptions this season, and could face a substantial amount of duress in the pocket. If the Vikings can force at least one giveaway, that would help them beat the spread.
In order for San Francisco’s offense to operate a full capacity, they must run the ball effectively, which will be difficult against the Vikings’ stout run defense. Minnesota allowed the 12th-fewest yards on the ground this season.
It is fair to expect the Niners to win outright, because of home field advantage and Kyle Shanahan’s offensive brilliance. But Cousins proved last week he can make big throws in January. Minnesota will at least cover.
Verdict: Bet Vikings
Seahawks at Packers (Packers -4)
Sunday, 6:40 p.m.
The Packers could not have asked for a tougher matchup in their first playoff game since 2016. The Seahawks are postseason tested and an astonishing 10-2 in one-possession games. The pessimist would say that means they’ve been lucky, but those who have watched Seattle all season know it’s more complicated than that. When the game is on the line, Wilson almost always seems to find a way to make a play. His long game-icing touchdown pass to DK Metcalfe last week against the Eagles is a perfect example of that.
On paper, both clubs are similar. Their defenses are average — Seattle is ranked 25th overall, whereas Green Bay is ranked 17th — and they both run the ball first. That means this contest could come down to the quarterbacks. Even though Wilson is 0-3 in his career at Lambeau Field, he is playing better than Rodgers right now. Betting on him is the wise choice.
Plus, with the addition of Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks have added another goal line threat. He’s scored touchdowns from the goal line in both of his games back. Don’t just expect the Seahawks to cover. Expect them to win.
Verdict: Bet Seahawks