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Austin Montgomery's Divisional Round Preview - Cincinnati-Tennessee and San Francisco-Green Bay

Credit: Green Bay Packers

Divisional weekend is upon us, and it features the best collection of matchups across the NFL. Both top seeds are coming off byes, and the remaining six are all riding the momentum off of a postseason victory. Wild Card Weekend provided a lot of snoozing blowouts. That should not be the case here with the average spread being 3.4 across all four matchups. We went 3-2 in our Wildcard betting preview and went 1-0 in props- improving our season ATS record to 60-60-1.

We will do an in-depth breakdown of each matchup and pick some winners for you. As always, the lines are provided by our friends at the DraftKings Sportsbook where new users have an incredible offer available to them.

Cincinnati at Tennessee

Spread: Tennessee (-3.5)

Total: 47.5

Our first playoff game kicks off with Cincy and Tennessee. Both teams overachieved in their own ways. Cincy used a late season run to win the AFC North, which led to their first playoff win since 1990 last weekend. While Tennessee was able to obtain the No. 1 seed despite dealing with major injuries throughout the year, most notably Derrick Henry who was out for most of the backhalf of the regular season. Now they have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Many have doubted Tennessee all year, but Mike Vrabel's club can prove them wrong here. Tennessee is also 4-0 against the remaining playoff teams. They beat three of those teams without Henry taking a snap. Henry’s return makes this team tough to handicap, since most of Tennessee’s metrics occurred with them being shorthanded. While Henry may not be 100 percent healthy, his presence alone is a huge bonus for Tennessee’s offense. Especially in the play action game where QB Ryan Tannehill has the top passing grade on play action passes. Cincinnati is one of the worst teams at defending play action passes, allowing a league worst 10.4 in yards per attempt against play action.

In addition, Cincy will have to commit more bodies to the run game with defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi being out. Cincy is very thin on the D-Line, which is problematic against a Tennessee run game that ranks first in the NFL in success rate on power running plays.

Meanwhile, the other QB Joe Burrow has been playing on an elite level, but he lacks playoff experience. This will be Burrow’s first road playoff start in his career- QB’s in their first road playoff start over the past 10 seasons are 6-15 straight up and 9-12 ATS. Burrow will be playing against one of the hottest defenses in the NFL. Tennessee’s defense ranks first in scoring defense and they are eighth overall in DVOA since Week 8. Burrow has been living and dying with Ja'Marr Chase on the outside, who has been phenomenal - Chase ranked sixth overall in PFF over the course of the year, and he has been the best wideout in football during the last few weeks of the season.

The key to Tennessee's defense is their pass rush. The concern is their results against the pass. The Titans were 30th in the NFL in pass defense DVOA in 2020 but leapt to 11th this year. It's not really because of the secondary, it’s due to the pass rush. Tennessee ranks 12th in adjusted sack rate and they are able to get pressure without blitzing, Burrow's QB drops by 34.6 when he's not blitzed, and the Titans rarely blitz—just 19.9 percent of the time.

While I think Cincy will have a significant advantage outside the numbers with its receivers, Burrow will have to deliver the ball with pressure in his face all game. Right Tackle Isaiah Prince had the worst grade among offensive lineman that started in the playoffs last week, and Cincy was able to move the ball despite him. I expect Cincy to have a game plan to get the ball out quickly. Tennessee gives up a majority of their passing yards from the slot, so I expect Tyler Boyd to get a lot of work here. Boyd lines up in the slot at a 90 percent rate and that is an area of weakness for Tennessee’s defense.

The pick: Tennessee -3.5

Props: Ja'Marr Chase over 76.5 receiving yards, Tyler Boyd over 45.5 receiving yards/4.5 receptions. Julio Jones over 44.5 receiving yards. Jeff Swain over 1.5 receptions: Mixon under 60.5 rushing yards

San Francisco at Green Bay

Spread: Green Bay (-5.5)

Total: 47

This is another game I have gone back and forth on. It’s fair to mention I have a Green Bay Super Bowl future; so hopefully that isn’t going to cloud my judgment in this handicap.

Speaking of the handicap, we get Aaron Rodgers off a bye. San Francisco is going to need to pull off another playoff upset. Over 84 percent of bets are on Green Bay and the sharp side money is seemingly pouring on San Fran. It’s also fair to note the sharp money was always on Pittsburgh and Philly last week. That’s not a true indicator of how to handicap this one.

The only path to victory for San Francisco is if they are able to run the ball down Green Bay’s throats. There is a path to victory in this. Green Bay ranks 31st in NFL in yards per rush allowed (4.7) and they rank 27th in rushing defense DVOA. On offense, San Francisco is one of the most balanced teams in the NFL. They rank fifth in rushing DVOA and fifth in passing DVOA. There is a path to controlling the clock and keeping this one close. If they can get up early, San Francisco is going to try to use their pass rush to control this Green Bay offense.

But this is playoff football, not a Madden simulation. There is certainly a human element we have to account for. The temperature is going to be below zero degrees in Lambeau, San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be throwing the football with a bad thumb on his throwing hand. San Francisco’s best two defensive players are banged up. Then there is just the Aaron Rodgers effect.

Green Bay ranks second overall in offensive DVOA and San Francisco is not stopping them. Green Bay gets three starters back on the offensive line. Davonte Adams had 12 receptions against San Francisco earlier this year. San Francsico plays a cover three cloud and will try to tempt Green Bay to methodically move the ball down the field. If Green Bay gets up early, San Francisco doesn’t come back. Both teams are going to have a focus on scoring.

In order to win this game, San Francisco has play A LOT better than what they showed over the last several weeks. Dallas had over 100 yards in penalties last week and got the worst game of the season out of Dak Prescott. Los Angeles gave San Francisco the game and allowed them to crawl back in the playoffs. Green Bay is not going to do that, Aaron Rodgers is going to step on their throats. This time last year, I would have probably picked San Francisco in this game. I’m not going to bet against Rodgers in Lambo. I’ll stick to my preseason prediction that Green Bay will win the NFC. I don’t see that changing Saturday night.

The pick: Green Bay -5.5. Props Over 94.5 receiving yards Davonte Adams

Follow Austin on Twitter @AmontgomeryLive


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