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The Daily Sweat: Packers, Titans begin their playoff runs on Saturday

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We could know the site of both conference championship games before Saturday is over.

Both No. 1 seeds play for the first time in the NFL playoffs on Saturday. The Tennessee Titans, the AFC’s top seed, host the Cincinnati Bengals (4:30 p.m. ET, CBS) while the No. 1 NFC team, the Green Bay Packers, host the San Francisco 49ers (8:15 ET, Fox).

Let’s start our Saturday preview in Tennessee, where the Titans are favored by 3.5 points over the Bengals at BetMGM and the total is 47.5. The Bengals are +160 on the moneyline to pull the upset, while a Titans win straight up is -190.

The Titans got the No. 1 seed despite being one of the most injury-plagued teams in the NFL. While QB Ryan Tannehill was healthy the entire season, stars like Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones all missed significant playing time.

Henry missed over half the season because of a foot injury sustained on Halloween against the Indianapolis Colts. Could he return on Saturday? Possibly.

We’ll know more about Henry’s status on Friday, but for now, you can’t bet on anything Henry-related at BetMGM outside of an anytime TD. While his availability is currently likely figured into the point spread, there are no yardage props available for Henry because there’s still a chance he may not play. Once the Titans shed more information on Henry’s chances of playing and getting a heavy workload, then feel free to take a swing at any of his yardage props.

Henry is the most likely player to score a touchdown, however. Henry’s odds of -185 to score a TD (and +450 to score the first TD or the last TD) are far and away the lowest of any player in the game. Bengals RB Joe Mixon is at -125 to score a TD at any point while wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is at +110. We like Titans WR AJ Brown at +155 to score a TD and Julio Jones at +1600 to score the first TD is worth a small-dollar flier. Jones finally found the end zone for the Titans in the final game of the regular season against the Texans.

Mixon is worth a bet at over 60.5 rushing yards while an over bet on Tee Higgins at 63.5 receiving yards is also worth a play. We think Higgins bounces back from his quiet game against the Raiders.

We’re also going with the Bengals to cover with a corresponding bet on the moneyline. While the Titans are far healthier now than they were at various points during the season, the Bengals feel like the 2021 Bills team that made it to the AFC championship game. If Cincinnati does win this game, then whoever wins on Sunday between Buffalo and Kansas City will host the AFC title game.

Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks on before the game against the Detroit Lions on Jan. 09. (Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks on before the game against the Detroit Lions on Jan. 09. (Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

Green Bay favored by 5.5

If you’re a believer in San Francisco’s late-season performance, then you’re salivating at the prospect of getting more than five points against the Packers. Green Bay is favored by 5.5 points and the total here is also 47.5. San Francisco is +200 to win the game outright while the Packers are -250 on the moneyline.

San Francisco is 5-1 in its last six games and 8-2 in its last 10. The only losses in the last 10 came at Seattle on Dec. 5 and at Tennessee on Dec. 23. Green Bay, meanwhile, is 12-2 in games that Aaron Rodgers plays full-time and those losses came against the Saints and Vikings. Jordan Love played in the loss to the Chiefs as Rodgers had COVID-19 and saw a lot of playing time in the regular-season finale against the Lions as the Packers had the top seed locked up.

Rodgers, a potential back-to-back MVP winner, is at +500 to score a rushing or receiving touchdown at any point Saturday night and is at +3000 to score the first (or last) TD. A first TD bet on a Rodgers scramble isn’t a bad $1 play.

The most likely TD scorer is Packers WR Davante Adams at -125 to score at any point. The top 49ers player to score is Deebo Samuel at +100. Samuel will be used in myriad roles on offense on Saturday night like he has been for the second half of the season. The Packers will need to keep track of him wherever he is in the formation.

Samuel’s yardage props total 92.5 yards; only Adams (94.5 receiving yards) has a higher total. Samuel’s rushing yardage over/under is 40.5 while his receiving yardage over/under is 52.5. We’ll go with the over on his rushing total (-110), as it seems likely he’ll get at least seven carries. Samuel has gotten seven or more carries in the last three games and in five of the last eight.

Rodgers’ passing yardage total of 263.5 makes it tempting to go with the over (-110). But given the freezing temperatures set for Saturday night, we’re inclined to stay away from that prop altogether and instead hit over 40.5 rushing yards for AJ Dillon (-110).

We also like the under as the only overall game play on Saturday night — 24-20 feels like it could be the right score with the Packers advancing to the NFC title game. That gut prediction is too close to the 5.5 to feel comfortable with either team against the number.

Friday’s NBA slate

There are 11 NBA games on Friday night ahead of just three on Saturday as the NBA largely avoids the NFL behemoth. Friday’s ESPN game is the Bulls at the Bucks and the defending NBA champions are 8.5-point favorites with a total of 227.5.

Other intriguing matchups include the Clippers at the 76ers (-7.5) and the Grizzlies at the Nuggets (-3.5). We’ll take the Grizzlies and the points in that one.

Who cashed tickets Thursday night?

Anyone who had Naomi Osaka winning a second consecutive Australian Open was not a winner overnight Thursday. Osaka lost in a 10-5 tiebreaker in the third set to unseeded Amanda Anisimova.

Pacers bettors were much happier. A night after beating the Lakers in Los Angeles, Indiana went up the coast to Golden State and beat the Warriors, 121-117. The Pelicans knocked off the Knicks by 11 to cover the spread there and Phoenix covered and extended its lead in the Western Conference with a 109-101 win at Dallas.