Predicting the NFL Divisional Round Games
It's been a long and winding road to get here, but after this weekend's playoff games there will only be four teams left vying for a shot to be this year's Super Bowl champions.
Both 6 seeds earned their spots in the Divisional Round as the LA Rams and Cleveland Browns both managed upsets in their Wild Card matchups and represent the reality that anyone that gets to the dance can go home Prom King. The heaviest of hitters await them though as the Rams will face the top seed in the NFC in the form of the Green Bay Packers. The Browns take on an even greater task as they're set to see the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.
Let's dive in and take a look at each of the four games scheduled for the Divisional Round and give you our take on who's coming out on top!
Saturday 4:35 PM EST
Los Angeles Rams (6) @ Green Bay Packers (1) -6.5
The Rams enter this game in a slightly better spot than they did a week ago as their quarterback, Jared Goff, has had another week to nurse the broken thumb on his throwing hand that he's been recovering from. Goff wanted to start last week, but was held out by Sean McVay. This week McVay will have no other option as John Wolford has been ruled out with the neck injury he sustained in the Rams' Wild Card matchup.
The Rams will need another stellar performance from Cam Akers in their game against Green Bay in order to have a shot to win. Akers racked up 176 yards of total offense and a touchdown against Seattle last week. The Packers were ranked 14th in rushing yards allowed and 16th in rushing touchdowns allowed during the regular season. Akers will be tasked with keeping the chains moving and the Rams defense off the field throughout this game.
Next week, we get Packers vs. Rams No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense This is gonna be a fun one https://t.co/uMGOkNiKnL— SB Nation (@SB Nation) 1610326435.0
As for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers will have a full complement of weapons at his disposal, and the connection to Davante Adams has been one of the league's most dangerous all year. It's to be seen how much we will see Aaron Jones used as Jamal Williams and rookie AJ Dillon have begun to get more touches. But if Jones manages to get going early, Matt LaFleur may decide to turn to his in both the run game and passing attack as he is one of the better receivers on the entire roster.
Prediction: Green Bay Packers 41 - Los Angeles Rams 27
Saturday 8:15 PM EST
Baltimore Ravens (5) @ Buffalo Bills (2) -2.5
The Saturday night primetime game is one that we here at FindBet are particularly excited for. We'll get to see two of the best young quarterbacks dual it out to keep their team's hope of representing the AFC alive this postseason. Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have a lot of similarities in the way they play, and they way they entered the league.
Allen and Jackson both carried a lot of question marks with them as they started their NFL careers, Jackson quickly dispelled many of them after his MVP campaign in 2019, however some have creeped their way back in as he found struggles during this season. Jackson has found his game again down the stretch though, and he appears to be back to the level of play we saw from him during his best moments from last year.
Allen's biggest detractor coming into the league was his accuracy. After seeing him play, his decision-making began to be called into question. After the Bills acquired Stefon Diggs from the Vikings, giving Allen a legitimate number one threat, Allen posted an MVP caliber season this year. Finishing inside the top five in passing yards, passing touchdowns, completion percentage, and QBR, Allen has developed into an elite NFL quarterback.
There are other factors to consider here in determining a winner, mostly who will have success running the ball and controlling pace of play, but when it comes down to it, this is Jackson v Allen 1 in what we expect to be a long running feud in the AFC for years to come.
Prediction: Buffalo Bills 23 - Baltimore Ravens 21
Sunday 3:05 PM EST
Cleveland Browns (6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (1) -10
Even though we as fans are satisfied with the accomplishments of the Browns this year, the Browns themselves are not. Injured Cleveland receiver, Odell Beckham, warned us this week to not be surprised if we see another upset from the Browns against the Chiefs this week.
Baker vs Mahomes. Yes, please. @gmfb @Chiefs @Browns https://t.co/FhfENGK7Kp— Peter Schrager (@Peter Schrager) 1610375570.0
The Browns will have Head Coach Kevin Stefanski back on the sidelines this week and they'll also get some much needed help returning to the secondary in the form of All-Pro Denzel Ward and cornerback Kevin Johnson. The Browns will also hope to see LG Joel Bitonio and RT Jack Conklin in the lineup who were both on the sidelines as the clock ticked down in their win against Pittsburgh.
Cleveland will rely on their strong rushing attack led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to keep the offense flowing, but don't sleep on Baker Mayfield who is getting the ball out quickly and letting his receivers do work in the open field. The Browns offense has never looked better, but the buzz saw known as the Chiefs await.
"I'm feeling special today, as in upset special. The Browns have been heading North and Patrick Mahomes hasn't play… https://t.co/EZmrFXsSN0— UNDISPUTED (@UNDISPUTED) 1610726822.0
The Chiefs haven't lost a step since becoming world champs last year, if anything they're deeper and more dangerous on offense. Patrick Mahomes under center means that Kansas City is NEVER out of a game. The Chiefs enter this one as serious favorites, currently laying 10 points to Cleveland, but there's an X-factor worth keeping in mind. The Chiefs defensive strength is in their pass rush, but if Cleveland is able to extend drives by running the ball, keeping the ball out of Mahomes' hands and Mayfield hitting quick passes, the Chiefs defensive front will have limited opportunity to affect the game.
Don't mind the spread, we think this will go down to the wire.
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs 38 - Cleveland Browns 35
Sunday 6:40 PM EST
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5) @ New Orleans Saints (2) -3
The final game of the weekend pits Tom Brady's Bucs against Drew Brees' Saints. The Bucs had ups and downs throughout the season allowing New Orleans to win the NFC South even through injuries to Brees, Michael Thomas, and Alvin Kamara throughout the season. In the teams' two divisional games in the regular season the Saints swept Tampa, defeating them opening day, and then again in a blowout 38-3 in Week 9.
For the first time ever: @TomBrady vs @drewbrees in the Playoffs. We'll see you this Sunday for @Buccaneers-… https://t.co/9L2iA2avQb— FOX Sports: NFL (@FOX Sports: NFL) 1610375040.0
Both teams are in much different places now than when they last met. The Saints finally have Brees, Thomas, and Kamara healthy and while Brees was out with broken ribs, Taysom Hill filled in giving Sean Payton a few new wrinkles to throw in if he needs to dig deep into the playbook.
The Buccaneers offense is firing at all cylinders now that Antonio Brown has joined the fray. Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones provide the Tampa backfield two solid options, and we saw Fournette rush for nearly 100 yards in their Wild Card game last week. With so much attention needing to be paid to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown expect Cameron Brate and Rob Gronkowski to be x-factors in this game.
Prediction: New Orleans Saints 28 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27