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NFL Playoff Guide: How to watch the games and betting favorites

Young quarterbacks C.J. Stroud and Jordan Love passed their first NFL playoff tests in impressive fashion.

As for the postseason performance of the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles? Let’s just say those two proud franchises have seen better days.

The NFL’s wild-card round didn’t produce a lot of drama, with blowouts in five of the six games. The one exception was the Detroit Lions, who held off the Los Angeles Rams for their first playoff win in more than 30 years.

Most of the drama was provided by Mother Nature, who made one game frigid and buried another one with snow.

Now the divisional round is set for the upcoming weekend with a few surprise teams and a few powerhouses.

The No. 1 seeds join the fray Saturday, with the AFC’s Baltimore Ravens hosting the Houston Texans, while the NFC’s San Francisco 49ers host the Green Bay Packers.

On Sunday, it’ll be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Lions and the Kansas City Chiefs at the Buffalo Bills.

HOW TO WATCH

SATURDAY

No. 4 Texans at No. 1 Ravens, 2:30 p.m. EST, ESPN/ABC/ESPN+

No. 7 Packers at No. 1 Niners, 6:15 p.m. EST, Fox

SUNDAY

No. 4 Buccaneers at No. 3 Lions, 1 p.m. EST, NBC

No. 3 Chiefs at No. 2 Bills, 4:30 p.m. CBS

BETTING FAVORITES

Oddsmakers are expecting the No. 1 seeds to win handily this weekend.

Both the Ravens and 49ers are 9 1/2-point favorites in their respective games on Saturday, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. On Sunday, the Lions are 6 1/2-point favorites to advance to the NFC championship game.

The Chiefs-Bills game — featuring another showdown between star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen — is expected to be the best game this weekend, with the Bills’ garnering a slim 2 1/2-point advantage.

As for the Super Bowl winner, the oddsmakers still like the top seeds. The 49ers are +175 to win it all while the Ravens are at +270.

Feel like betting on a longshot? The Packers (+3000), Texans (+3300) and Bucs (+3300) would bring the biggest return should they shock the prognosticators.

And — as always — there are the prop bets. For instance, if you’re a big fan of Green Bay running back Aaron Jones and think he’s going to score three rushing TDs for a second week in a row — this time against the 49ers — there’s a +10000 payday calling your name.

THE FORMAT

This is the fourth season of the current NFL playoff format. The field was expanded to 14 teams in 2020 when the league added a third wild-card qualifier from both the AFC and NFC.

Wild-card round: Jan. 13-15

Divisional round: Jan. 20-21

Conference championships: Jan. 28

Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium: Feb. 11.

The four division winners in each conference automatically get the top four seeds, regardless of record, and then the top three teams with the best record that didn’t win their division are the wild-card selections. That’s why it’s fairly common for a wild-card selection to have a better record — but worse playoff seeding — than a team that finished as a division winner.

The No. 1-seeded team in each conference gets a bye into the second round while No. 2 hosts No. 7, No. 3 hosts No. 6 and No. 4 hosts No. 5 during wild-card weekend.

The NFL has a re-seeding policy after each playoff round. That means that no matter how the bracket started, the lowest-seeded team will always travel to the higher-seeded team in the AFC and NFC.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL

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