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Stallions QB J’Mar Smith thinks a championship game between rival leagues will happen ‘soon’

Birmingham quarterback J’Mar Smith’s primary goal is leading the Stallions in their pursuit of back-to-back USFL titles. But if the opportunity to face the XFL’s best team also presented itself, Smith would certainly welcome that opportunity, too.

Ahead of his Birmingham’s season opener on Saturday night against the New Jersey Generals, Smith was asked about his possible interest in a game pitting the two leagues’ top-two teams. While the question was hypothetical, Smith thinks a championship game between the two leagues is certainly a possibility.

“That would be nice and what the fans want,” Smith said in a text message to CBS Sports. “Merging two spring pro leagues, champion vs. champion, to see the competition between the two leagues. … I think it should happen and will soon!”

Given that the two leagues enforce different rules, Smith posed the interesting question of which rules would be utilized should the two leagues face off. There are several rules within each league, especially on kickoffs, that are vastly different from each other. For example, the USFL gives scoring teams a chance to keep the ball if they are able to complete a 4th-and-12 play from their own 25-yard line. While the XFL has a similar option, the scoring team must convert a 4th-and-15 play in order to retain possession.

Rules aside, a USFL-XFL championship game would certainly generate attention, especially during the dog days of summer. The Super Bowl, after all, was initially between the National Football League and the upstart American Football League. The NFL’s Green Bay Packers won the first two contests before Joe Namath’s Jets shocked the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The leagues merged shortly after the AFL’s Chiefs defeated the NFL champion Vikings in Super Bowl IV.

Often lost in history is the fact that the AFL and NFL had already agreed to a future merge prior to playing in their first AFL-NFL Championship Game. At this point, the USFL and XFL are entirely different entities that start their seasons at different points. It seems that there would have to be some sort of connection between the two leagues before games between the two would actually happen.

Both leagues are currently trying to coexist while becoming the first successful spring league. When they kick things off this weekend, the USFL will be the first spring league in nearly 40 years to return for a second consecutive season. The XFL, currently in its third incarnation, is nearing the end of its 10-game regular season.

Neither league is trying to compete with the NFL. In the USFL’s case, helping provide players with a new pathway to the NFL is one of the league’s primary goals, along with being a league that prioritizes its fans with affordable tickets.

“We’re about football,” USFL president Daryl Johnston recently told CBS Sports. “We’re about the why, what motivates the guys, what you are trying to accomplish here and trying to do everything we can from a coaching and from an exposure standpoint to give them an opportunity to continue to chase that dream.”

When it comes to a possible USFL-XFL championship game, it’s interesting that Smith answered the question with such honesty. Instead of ignoring the other league, Smith welcomes the conversation and would welcome the prospect of facing the XFL’s best team at the end of the USFL’s season. Rest assured that Smith isn’t the only player who would like to see such a game take place.

Byadmin

2024 NFL divisional round picks, predictions by model on 183-129 roll

After enjoying a bye week, the San Francisco 49ers will host the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round of the 2024 NFL playoffs on Saturday. San Francisco won the NFC West and earned the No. 1 seed in the NFL playoff bracket, while Green Bay earned a wild card and began the 2024 NFL Playoffs with a 48-32 upset of the Cowboys last week. However, the Packers have been knocked out of the NFL postseason by the 49ers in two of the last four seasons and the 49ers are the current odds-on favorites to win the 2024 Super Bowl (+176).

Kickoff from Levi’s Stadium is set for 8:15 p.m. ET. San Francisco is a 9.5-point favorite in the latest 49ers vs. Packers odds via SportsLine consensus, while the over/under for total points scored is 50.5. Before locking in any Packers vs. 49ers picks, you need to see the latest NFL predictions from SportsLine’s proven projection model.

The model, which simulates every NFL game 10,000 times, is up well over $7,000 for $100 players on top-rated NFL picks since its inception. The model enters the divisional round of the 2024 NFL playoffs on an incredible 183-129 run on top-rated NFL picks that dates back to the 2017 season. It is also on a 37-21 roll on top-rated picks since Week 7 of last season and nailed seven straight top-rated picks entering the 2024 NFL playoffs.

The model also ranked in the top 10 on NFLPickWatch four of the past six years on straight-up NFL picks and beat more than 94% of CBS Sports Football Pick’em players four times during that span. Anyone who has followed it is way up.

Now, the model has zeroed in on 49ers vs. Packers and just revealed its picks and predictions. You can see the model’s picks only at SportsLine. Here are several NFL odds and betting lines for Packers vs. 49ers:

49ers vs. Packers spread: San Francisco -9.5
49ers vs. Packers over/under: 50.5 points
49ers vs. Packers money line: San Francisco -454, Green Bay +349
SF: 49ers were 3-5 against the spread as home favorites in the regular season
GB: Packers are 5-3 ATS as road underdogs this campaign
49ers vs. Packers picks: See picks here
49ers vs. Packers live stream: fubo (try for free)
Why the 49ers can cover
San Francisco should be well-rested coming into Saturday’s matchup, having rested key starters in a Week 17 loss to the Rams and also coming off a bye week during NFL Super Wild Card Weekend. Now the 49ers will look to unleash the full potential of one of the most versatile offenses in the NFL against a Packers defense that ranked bottom half of the NFL in yards allowed and that just gave up 510 yards of offense to Dallas.

The 49ers were top five in the NFL in passing yards and rushing yards, with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle giving Brock Purdy a quartet of extremely talented playmakers to work with. They combined to produce over 5,500 yards from scrimmage and score 46 touchdowns and figure to give the Green Bay defense all sorts of problems on Saturday. See which team to pick here.

Why the Packers can cover
Green Bay played a near-perfect game against Dallas on Sunday en route to its seventh victory in its last nine contests and becoming the first No. 7 seed to record a win since the playoffs expanded in 2020. Quarterback Jordan Love completed 16-of-21 pass attempts for 272 yards and three touchdowns in his first career postseason game after finishing second in the NFL with 32 during the regular season. The 25-year-old has thrown 21 TD passes and just one interception over his last nine contests.

After rushing for just two touchdowns in each of the last two regular seasons, Aaron Jones had three scoring runs against the Cowboys on Sunday. The 29-year-old tied the franchise record for most rushing scores in a playoff game and the NFL marks for most in a road playoff game and a wild-card contest. The Packers were 31st in the league with seven interceptions in the regular season but had two in Dallas, including one that safety Darnell Savage returned 64 yards for a touchdown. See which team to pick here.

How to make 49ers vs. Packers picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Under the point total, predicting 45 total points. The model also says one side of the spread has all the value. You can see the model’s NFL picks and analysis only at SportsLine.

Byadmin

Aaron Jones helping power NFL’s youngest team to postseason run as 49ers await

ARLINGTON, Texas — The seventh-seeded Green Bay Packers entered this postseason as the NFL’s youngest playoff team since the 1974 Buffalo Bills, and on Sunday on the road against the second-seeded Dallas Cowboys, they pummeled the home team 48-32. Green Bay led by as many as 32 in the fourth quarter before head coach Matt LaFleur took his foot off the gas.

The victory made the Packers the youngest team (average age: 25 years, 214 days) to win a playoff game since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger. First-time starting quarterback Jordan Love’s “wow” performance — throwing for 272 passing yards and three touchdowns on 16 for 21 passing, with a 157.2 passer rating, 1.1 points short of a perfect rating — was obviously a crucial component to the Packers’ victory. His 157.2 passer rating is the new single-game Packers postseason record, as are his 13 yards per pass attempt.

However, in a time in which the NFL sentiment is that one running back isn’t more valuable than another, Aaron Jones, one of the offense’s elder statesmen at age 29, served as the Packers’ tone-setter. Green Bay’s RB ran for playoff career-highs of 118 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, an incredibly efficient 5.6 yards per carry. That output tied the NFL all-time record for rushing touchdowns in a road playoff game, rushing touchdowns in a wild-card round game and rushing touchdowns in a Packers postseason game. Jones’ seven career playoff rushing touchdowns are the most in Green Bay history.

“You guys see it, right? Just his ability to put his foot in the ground and just be explosive, make people miss,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said of Jones postgame. “I can’t say enough great things about the guy, the football player. What he means to our team. The leadership he brings. He’s a rare guy. There’s not many like him. Just how he encourages his teammates, how he uplifts his teammates. But I think you’ve got to give it up for the offense line, too. It’s not just those guys, it’s really the other 10 men on the field. But it starts up front. I thought our tight ends really did a great job. I know on the one touchdown, (tight end) Josiah (Deguara) had a great cut block on the backside. I think he got the Parsons down. And the receivers, their willingness to go in and dig out safeties, and block at the second level. They’re usually the difference, in my opinion, of springing an explosive gain into a touchdown. Those guys bring it. They battle and they fight for one another.”

Jones dominating the Dallas Cowboys isn’t anything new. The El Paso, Texas native now has over 100 rushing yards and at least one touchdown in all four of his career games against his home team, joining Pro Football Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson as the only other player in NFL history to begin his career with four such games in a row against a single opponent, including the postseason, per OptaStats. Tomlinson’s victim was the Cleveland Browns.

“You know, it was a full circle moment,” Jones said of his historic domination of the Cowboys. “I feel like this is kind of how we got into football. This was my dad’s team. This was my team growing up. You always want to be like your father, so that’s how it became my team. Emmitt Smith was my running back. My first jersey was a No. 22. I got the chance to speak to him before the game, so that was special to me as well. My dad did get to see me play here my rookie year and I know he was in here tonight. Dallas is a special place to me. It was a first circle moment. It feels like home.”

What’s different for Jones now following this Packers victory over the Cowboys (Green Bay has won 10 of the last 11 games against Dallas) is that, at 29 years old, he’s positioned as the offensive leader to help cultivate the growth of his offensive skill position teammates, just about all of whom are younger than him:

2023 fifth-round pick wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks (22 years old)
2023 second-round pick tight end Luke Musgrave (23 years old)
2023 third-round pick tight end Tucker Kraft (23 years old)
2023 second-round pick wide receiver Jayden Reed (23 years old)
2022 fourth-round pick wide receiver Romeo Doubs (23 years old)
Undrafted wide receiver Malik Heath (23 years old)
2022 second-round pick wide receiver Christian Watson (24 years old)
2022 seventh-round pick (by Seattle Seahawks) wide receiver Bo Melton (24 years old)
2020 first-round pick quarterback Jordan Love (25 years old)
2020 second-round pick running back AJ Dillon (25 years old)
2022 seventh-round pick wide receiver Samori Toure (25 years old)
“I’ve had to become a little bit more vocal,” Jones told CBS Sports back in July when talking about his role in Green Bay’s youth movement. “We have a very, very young team. I was more of a lead-by-example guy, but now I’ve had to become more vocal because we don’t have those vets that we have had like the Randall Cobbs, the Aaron Rodgers’ and the Marcedes Lewis’ on the offensive side of the ball. I have to [become more vocal]. It’s only right. Those guys did it for me, instilled the confidence and so many other things in me, so it’s only right that I give it back to these young guys.”

He is living up to his preseason promise to lead his younger teammates with words and actions. In years prior, future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers likely would have led the offensive pregame huddle with a speech. On Sunday, it was a different Aaron but the same result against the Cowboys.

“This our shit. We are going to take it over,” Jones said in a pregame huddle to the Packers offense prior to their win at the Cowboys on Sunday, via “Inside The NFL.” “We already set our standard. We are going to punch the frontrunners in the mouth. We are going to set our tone. It’s going to be four quarters of locking them in a cage and giving them that G Way ball.”

Quarterbacks are typically positioned as a football’s team primary leader, but Love fully embraces Jones as the offense’s vocal and on-field center for a unit whose plays revolve around their success in their under-center, zone-blocking ground game.

“You get so much. Obviously, just the leader he is on the team and then you add his playmaking ability when he gets the ball,” Love said on Sunday. “He’s the total package right there. I love Aaron Jones. He brings a huge spark to the team just the way he carries himself, the way he handles his business and shows up ready to work every day. I can’t enough about him.”

Love may not be able to say enough about him, but the records can. Jones has run over 100 yards in four consecutive games, tied with Ahman Green in 2003 for the such longest streak in Packers history

“We’re playing all together as one,” Jones said when asked about his success. “The blocking unit is doing their thing up front. They make it easy for me to pick and chose which hole I want to run through…I think it’s a credit to them and the play calling as well.”

Playing together for Jones means also uplifting his young teammates. Rookie fifth-round pick Dontayvion Wicks struggled to find a role in the Packers’ crowded, young attack early in the season. After a drop against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 9, Wicks’ head drooped as he trudged back toward the Green Bay sideline. Jones stopped Wicks in his tracks and physically lifted his head up.

Wicks has basically been en fuego since this moment pic.twitter.com/MaqdWXMfoy

— Shanahannigans™ (@Ferd_Turgeson) January 16, 2024
That type of encouragement eventually paid dividends for Wicks and the Packers. The rookie caught three touchdowns in his last two games played in the regular season, Week 16 at the Carolina Panthers and Week 18 against the Chicago Bears. He also hauled in a 20-yard receiving touchdown on Sunday against the Cowboys in an incredibly pivotal moment. Green Bay faced 3rd-and-7 from the Dallas 20. The Cowboys showed they were going to blitz as the play clock dropped under 10 seconds.

Love quickly made an audible before snapping the football with a second remaining on the play cock. Wicks cooked 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore off the line of scrimmage and corralled Love’s scoring strike that essentially functioned as a Cowboys kill shot with the Packers going up 20-0.

JORDAN LOVE DELIVERS. PACKERS UP 20-0.

📺: #GBvsDAL on FOX
📱: Stream on #NFLPlus https://t.co/Ut3BRhC2CE pic.twitter.com/NdIftoEEW9

— NFL (@NFL) January 14, 2024
“Yeah, yeah. I’m happy for him (Jones),” Wicks said Sunday when asked about Jones’ performance. “One-hundred-yard games back to back, that’s hard. He’s just our fire starter, and we keep the flame going.”

Fellow rookie wide receiver Jayden Reed, a second-round pick who led the Packers in catches (64), receiving yards (793) and receiving touchdowns (8, tied with Romeo Doubs for the team lead), didn’t register a single catch on three targets in the Packers victory on Sunday. However, he didn’t pout. Instead, he put everything he had into blocking for Jones because of the way he has poured into the Green Bay youngsters this season.

“You’re the reason I go hard bro,” Reed said to Jones during the team’s win on Sunday, per Inside The NFL. “You somebody to look up to bro. You somebody to play for. I want to go out there and block for you. I feel fu–ed up when I don’t make the block.”

Jones has a similar effect on his young offensive linemen.

“It motivates us for sure,” Packers offensive lineman Zach Tom, a 2022 fourth-round pick, said Sunday when asked about how hard Jones runs. “We know all you have to do is give him a tiny little crease and he’ll make something happen. It motivates us.”

Now, the Packers degree of difficulty ratchets up considerably as they head west to take on the NFC’s top seed, the San Francisco 49ers, on Saturday night. The 49ers are the first team since the 2004 Indianapolis Colts — who an offense compromised of three Hall of Famers (QB Peyton Manning, RB Edgerrin James and WR Marvin Harrison) and a 2024 Hall of Fame finalist (WR Reggie Wayne) — to have a 4,000 yard passer (Brock Purdy) and four players with at least 1,000 scrimmage yards (RB Christian McCaffrey, WR Brandon Aiyuk, WR Deebo Samuel and TE George Kittle).

“Because we believe in each other,” Jones said when asked why the Packers can to continue having success this postseason. “We have faith in each other…we have all the weapons we need on this team. People can continue to doubt us. That’s fine. We love the underdog mentality. We love the underdog approach.”

LaFleur clearly believes in Jones, giving him 19 more carries after his first two went for negative-3 yards against Dallas on Sunday.

“I think that was huge even though the first two run plays they stopped,” Jones said. “I’m glad we stuck with it. Like I said, when you’re able to run the ball, it opens everything else up. We were able to set them up pretty nice on Luke’s touchdown. We had
seen a lot of outside zone all game and we hit them with that.”

As for those who still don’t believe in the Packers after their demolition of the Cowboys, all Green Bay does is smile, laugh and let their play on the field do the talking.

“Just a little chuckle,” Jones said when asked about his reaction to those still doubting his Packers. “You know it’s in your memory bank and you go tell your teammates…We talk about how we feel and if you feel disrespected, you go do something about it.”

Byadmin

Colts owner Jim Irsay being treated for severe respiratory illness after police suspected overdose in home

Colts owner Jim Irsay, 64, is receiving treatment for a severe respiratory illness, the team said Wednesday in a statement to the Indianapolis Star. This comes more than a month after Irsay was found “unresponsive” in what police believe may have been a suspected overdose of medication.

Emergency responders found Irsay unresponsive in his Indiana home around 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 8, documenting that he was unconscious and “cold to the touch” and that his skin had a “bluish tint,” according to Carmel Police records obtained by CBS Sports Lead NFL Insider Jonathan Jones. An officer administered Narcan (specifically naloxone), which is commonly used to reverse opioid overdoses, to which Irsay “responded slightly to.” Paramedics later transported him to a hospital.

According to police that night, “it is unknown what Mr. Irsay had ingested prior to our arrival.” Under injury information, police listed Irsay’s condition as “Impaired/Drugs.”

The Colts released the following statement Wednesday morning (via The Indianapolis Star): “Mr. Irsay continues to recover from his respiratory illness. We will have no further comment on his personal health, and we continue to ask that Jim and his family’s privacy be respected.”

Irsay had been active on social media in early January, but he hasn’t spoken publicly in weeks. That lack of availability led media to wonder about his absence given Irsay is traditionally quick to speak at the conclusion of NFL seasons, often providing extensive comments on his team, which ended the 2023 campaign with a Week 18 loss to the Texans. If Indianapolis had won that game, it would have clinched a playoff berth.

Irsay’s illness prevented him from playing in his band, which was scheduled for a Los Angeles show in mid-January, but he is undergoing “excellent care and looks forward to returning to the stage as soon as possible,” according to the Colts, which asked that fans and media “respect the privacy of Jim and his family as he recovers.”

Byadmin

Ravens’ Mark Andrews eyes return; Bucs skill players banged-up

Only eight teams are left in the 2024 NFL playoffs with just over three weeks remaining until Super Bowl LVIII. Like every week in the NFL, we’ve got a bevy of injury updates to address with conference championship appearances at stake.

While each remaining team is dealing with injuries, no one has been hit harder than the Buffalo Bills. Head coach Sean McDermott started the week by classifying nine of his players as day to day as Buffalo prepares to take on the Kansas City Chiefs. Buffalo managed to get past the Pittsburgh Steelers on Super Wild Card Weekend despite not having safety Taylor Rapp, wideout Gabe Davis, cornerback Rasul Douglas and linebacker Tyrel Dodson at their disposal. The Bills suffered more injuries during their 31-17 win over Pittsburgh.

We’ve also got an interesting update on Mark Andrews, the Baltimore Ravens’ talented tight end who is not ruling out playing in Saturday’s game against the Houston Texans. Andrews hasn’t played since he suffered an ankle injury against the Cincinnati Bengals back on Nov. 16.

Below is an update on the Bills as well as the NFL’s other seven teams who are still in contention.

Odds courtesy of SportsLine consensus.

No. 4 Houston Texans at No. 1 Baltimore Ravens (-9.5)
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN, fubo)
As noted above, Andrews said Wednesday that he will play Saturday if he fees like he can help the Ravens’ offense. He won’t play, however, if he feels that he won’t be able to play at a level that will help Baltimore win its first playoff game since 2000. Andrews gave the Ravens more hope that he could play on Saturday after making a leaping grab during Tuesday’s practice, via ESPN.

Andrews said how his body feels Saturday will ultimately determine whether or not he will play. He referenced Terrell Owens, who famously played in Super Bowl XXXIX several weeks after suffering a serious ankle injury.

In other Ravens injury news, cornerback Marlon Humphrey (calf), wideout Tylan Wallace (knee) and inside linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips (knee) remained sidelined during Wednesday’s practice. Pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who was not on Tuesday’s injury report, also didn’t practice.

For the Texans, star defensive end Jonathan Greenard (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday after being limited on Tuesday. Fellow defensive end Will Anderson Jr. (ankle) also did not practice after being limited on Tuesday. Fullback Andrew Beck (back), defensive end Jerry Hughes (ankle) and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (ribs/shoulder) also did not practice.

Wideouts Robert Woods (hip) and John Metchie III (foot), linebackers Blake Cashman (knee) and Denzel Perryman (ribs) and defensive tackle Maliek Collins (hip) were limited for the second straight day.

Linebacker Christian Harris (calf) and cornerback Kris Boyd (hamstring) were limited on Wednesday after not appearing on Tuesday’s injury report. One positive for Houston was guard Dieter Eiselen being a full participant after not practicing Tuesday due to an illness.

No. 7 Green Bay Packers at No. 1 San Francisco 49ers (-9.5)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (Fox, fubo)
The Packers have cornerback Jaire Alexander (shoulder/ankle) as a nonparticipant, same with running back AJ Dillon (thumb/neck). Guard Elgton Jenkins (knee/ankle) and safety Darnell Savage (shoulder/calf) were limited. Wide receiver Christian Watson (hamstring) was limited.

For the 49ers, linebacker Dre Greenlaw (Achilles) was limited. Running back Christian McCaffrey (calf) and tight end George Kittle (back) were full participants.

No. 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 3 Detroit Lions (-6.5)
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET (NBC, fubo)
Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (ankle/ribs) was a full participant during Wednesday’s practice. Wideout Chris Godwin (knee), running back Chase Edmonds (toe) and linebackers Shaquil Barrett (ankle) and Yaya Diaby (shoulder) did not practice.

In Detroit, tight end Sam LaPorta (knee) was a full practice participant, along with defensive back Brian Branch (knee), linebacker James Houston (ankle), safety Kerby Joseph (knee) and tight end Brock Wright (hip). Wideout Kalif Raymond (knee) did not practice Wednesday.

No. 3 Kanas City Chiefs at No. 2 Buffalo Bills (-2.5)
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)
The Chiefs have opened up the practice window for wideout Skyy Moore (knee), who remains on the injury report. Moore was limited during Wednesday’s practice.

Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (tricep) was the only Kansas City player who did not practice on Wednesday. Along with Moore, wideouts Kadarius Toney (hip/ankle) and Justyn Ross (hamstring) and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (calf) were limited.

Buffalo is dealing with significantly more injuries. Safety Taylor Rapp (calf) and wide receiver Gabe Davis (knee) did not practice Wednesday, along with cornerback Christian Benford (knee), linebacker Terrel Bernard (ankle), defensive end Leonard Floyd (rest), punter Sam Martin (left hamstring), linebacker Von Miller (rest) and linebacker Baylon Spector (back).

Linebacker Tyrel Dodson (shoulder) and cornerback Taron Johnson (concussion) were limited practice participants. Josh Allen (neck) was a full practice participant.

Byadmin

2 underdogs win outright while a third nearly shocks top seed

Playoff Pete is back.

Yep, I had a nice start to the postseason. I went 5-1 against the spread, but 3-3 straight up. I’ll take it.

The only ATS loss I had wasn’t close. I had the Cleveland Browns beating the Houston Texans, which never had a chance.

The ATS week brings my season record to 139-128-11. My straight-up record is now 171-107-0.

This week, I am going with the dogs. I like three underdogs and two to win their games outright. Let’s keep it going. Playoff Pete is looking for a sweep.

Houston Texans (+9) at Baltimore Ravens
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN, fubo)

The Texans are coming off an impressive home victory over the Browns, while the Ravens are coming off a bye. The rest could be good for the Ravens, but the starters haven’t played in three weeks. That might matter. This will be the first road playoff game for Texans rookie passer C.J. Stroud, which can be a challenge. It can be even tougher against the Ravens stout defense. They will throw a bunch of different looks at Stroud. How he handles those will be key. Lamar Jackson will be the league MVP, but he has to go out and show he can do it in a playoff game. The pressure is on. But I think in this offense he will respond. Look for a lot of points as both quarterbacks play well, but the Ravens will win a close one behind Jackson.

Pick: Ravens 30, Texans 29

Green Bay Packers (+9.5) at San Francisco 49ers
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (Fox, fubo)

The Packers really looked good in beating up the Cowboys last week on the road. Winning a second straight road game against the NFC’s best team won’t be easy. The 49ers will be rested coming off the bye. Will there be rust? Jordan Love has been special the last eight weeks and showed up in a big way last week against the Cowboys. I think that carries over. The 49ers defensive front is tough, but the Packers offensive line is playing well. If you block them, you beat them. The Packers will have a big day throwing it. The 49ers will score as well, as Brock Purdy also has a big day. This will be a shootout. In the end, I am calling for the upset. The Packers pull off a stunner.

Pick: Packers 33, 49ers 31

If you want a more analytical approach to your NFL picks, then I highly suggest that you check out the SportsLine Projection Model, which has been on fire this year. Check it out if you want to know which side to bet for every game in the divisional round.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6.5) at Detroit Lions
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET (NBC, fubo)

Both these teams are coming off big home victories, with the Lions earning another home game. The Bucs blew out the Eagles as Baker Mayfield came up big. The Lions had to hold on against the Rams. Detroit played well on offense, but the defense showed some flaws. That could lead to another good day by Mayfield and his receivers. I think Jared Goff will also play well, especially if he can handle the Bucs blitz. Ben Johnson will have a plan for that. The Lions beat the Bucs earlier this season in Tampa, but it was close. This will also be close, but I think this time Tampa Bay gets payback and advances to the title game. Mayfield will keep it rolling. Upset.

Pick: Bucs 30, Lions 28

Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills (-2.5)
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)

This is the game of the week between two teams that have met in recent years, but this game is a Bills home game. That means Patrick Mahomes will be playing the first road playoff game in his career. It sure doesn’t come in an easy place to play. The Bills have rolled into the playoffs, needing to win every game down the stretch, but they have some major defensive injuries. The Chiefs offense showed well last week against Miami, so that could be a problem. Josh Allen has to limit his mistakes, which he did in the victory over the Steelers. I think he does here as the Bills beat the Chiefs to advance to the AFC championship game.

Pick: Bills 28, Chiefs 23