NFL Divisional playoffs: Brady, Mahomes, Rodgers. One is going home. Our picks

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GREG COTE’S NFL DIVISIONAL ROUND PLAYOFF PICKS

DOLPHINS THIS WEEK

Miami has the next-coach goggles on. Seven possible replacements for unexpectedly fired Brian Flores will have been interviewed by Friday. Common denominator? Winning. All seven men are from playoff teams, four of whose teams are still alive and playing this weekend. And four of the seven are offensive coaches, notably including OC’s Brian Daboll of the Bills and Mike McDaniel of the 49ers. Not interviewed (yet) but names to keep an eye on: Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett, former Eagles coach Doug Pederson and Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy

AFC

No. 4 seed BENGALS (11-7) at No. 1 TITANS (12-5)

Line: TEN by 3 1/2.

Cote’s pick: TEN, 24-20.

TV: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS.

This game has the lightweight, undercard feel of the four Divisional Round matchups, despite it involving the AFC’s top seed. Cincinnati is coming off its first playoff win in 31 years but has never in its history won a postseason road game (0-7). And Tennessee -- behind Chiefs and Bills as a conference betting pick to reach Super Bowl -- is after its first home playoff win since 2003. Titans are favored because they are off a bye, on a 7-1 run at home and now have beast-RB Derrick Henry back from injury for first time since October, though if or how much he plays was undetermined as of Thursday. Watch for the likelihood Bengals’ solid run defense will game-plan to force the result into Ryan Tannehill’s hands -- but that’s a risk. ‘Gals lost two starting defensive linemen to injury last week, and their pass D has been vulnerable. Tennessee’s A-game defense will need to show, because if it becomes a shootout, odds will tip in favor Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr and crew. Give Cinderella Cincy a major upset shot, but lean rested Titans at home.

No. 3 BILLS (12-6) at No. 2 CHIEFS (13-5)

Line: KC by 2

Cote’s pick: BUF, 31-28.

TV: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, CBS.

Upset! It is Buffalo’s time. This matchup has the heft of an AFC Championship Game. Maybe because it was, last year, Bills out front 9-0 but falling to Chiefs, 38-24. Buffs returned the favor in Week 5, silencing Arrowhead Stadium, 38-20. Now comes the rubber game, and I’m feeling Bills again. Offensively, Josh Allen can hang with Patrick Mahomes. In fact, in the October meeting Allen passed for 315 yards, ran for 59 and totaled four TDs. Part of the reason? Buffalo has a clear defensive edge over KC -- especially against the pass. (And this week’s arrest of Chiefs starting LB Willie Gay on a property damage charge won’t help). Both teams dominated in the Wild Card Round but Bills’ perfect game vs. Patriots had their upside on full display. All 12 of Buffalo’s wins were by 12-plus points, and Chiefs are capable of the same dominance. Makes it a volatile pick because either team winning, or winning big, would not surprise. Always a risk betting against Mahomes and Andy Reid at home, but -- bad news for the Dolphins, et al -- we’re feeling the onset of a Bills AFC takeover.

NFC

No. 6 seed 49ERS (11-7) at No. 1 PACKERS (13-4)

Line: GB by 6.

Cote’s pick: GB, 28-17.

TV: 8:15 p.m. Saturday, Fox.

This is the only game of the weekend quartet where no plausible upset shot was entertained. We have few betting tendencies that rise to the level of philosophy, but one is: “In Aaron Rodgers We Trust. Especially At Lambeau Field. In January.” That’s on top of the night start turning the temps way down, and Green Bay coming off a bye. Did I mention Pack is 8-0 at home by a combined 112-point margin? Credit Niners for getting this far from a 2-4 start, but it ends here. Packers edged Frans on a last-second field goal in Week 3 and enjoy a 9-2 series run at home vs. SF. Rodgers is 0-3 in the postseason vs. Niners but that’s a career blemish about to be erased. While Gee Bees are rested, the 49ers have injury issues. QB Jimmy Garoppolo will play through a shoulder injury, and SF’s two best defenders -- sack man Nick Bosa (concussion) and top tackler Fred Warner (knee) -- were iffy to play as of Thursday. Key to game will be GB’s blocking front vs. SF’s pass rush, but that’ll tip in Pack’s favor if Bosa can’t go. Any game now could be Rodgers’ last in a Packers uniform. But this won’t be the one.

No. 4 RAMS (13-5) at No. 2 BUCCANEERS (14-4)

Line: TB by 3.

Cote’s pick: TB, 28-24.

TV: 3 p.m. Sunday, NBC.

Rams are two wins away from playing a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Bucs and Tom Brady did that last season, and now aim to be NFL’s first repeat champions in 17 years. The Patriots last did it in 2003-04. (Brady’s Pats, of course). L.A. and Tampa both are coming off impressive Wild-Card wins, and Rams are nearly as good on road as Bucs are at home. Give LAR a medium upset shot, if only for Rams’ recent dominance in series, a 7-1 run vs. Tampa including a 34-24 September win in which Matthew Stafford tossed four TDs. Buccaneers have won 11 of past 12 home games, though, and Brady’s magic is historic legerdemain. I mean, his receiving corps is depleted, without Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, yet he wins. His running back room also is a health mess, although, among Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard, Brady should have at least one (maybe two?) behind Sunday. This pick makes me the most nervous of the four, but give T-Bay a slight edge both with the ball and without, plus the home field. Oh, and if Tom Brady has not earned your faith, then who?

[Note: Betting lines are courtesy Caesars Sportsbook as of mid-afternoon Thursday].

HOW THE DARTS LANDED

We went 4-2 straight-up and 3-3 against the spread in the Wild-Card Round to begin our playoff run. Two of our wins were near Exactos. Bengals won 26-19; we had it 27-20. And Bucs won 31-15; we had 31-13. But we misfired badly on picking an upset by Cardinals, and did not see the Cowboys home loss coming. Headed for 4-0 overall and ATS this weekend. Onward, upward!

Wild Card Round: 4-2, .667 overall; 3-3, .500 vs. spread.

Final Regular Season: 172-99-1, .635 overall; 140-130-2, .519 vs. spread.

Final 2020 Season: 166-89-1, .651 overall; 130-120-6, .520 vs. spread.

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