NFL Divisional Playoff Predictions: Who advances?
By: Derrek Hale
NFL Playoff Showdown / daznservices.com
It’s playoff time! After an exciting wildcard weekend where we saw the Browns get their first playoff victory in 25 years and Lamar Jackson finally get that first postseason win. We also saw what could be the last playoff game for Big Ben and Phillip Rivers, depending on what happens this offseason. Brady and Brees each notched another victory on their quest to win a Super Bowl before father time catches up with them. All these storylines make for a very interesting divisional round. Here are my predictions about how this weekend’s games play out….
Rams vs. Packers
Saturday 4:35 p.m. ET
Prediction - Packers 31 Rams 23
Aaron Rodgers and the league’s highest scoring offense square off against the Rams number 1 passing defense at Lambeau Field in the first game on the slate.
Rodgers has played lights out this season and will most likely be the MVP. He was on a mission this year after the Packers drafted Jordan Love in the 1st round in last year's draft. Not only is Rodgers playing some of the best football of his career, the game is at Lambeau, in January. There may not be fans in the stands, but that’s a pretty solid home field advantage.
The Packers also have a couple of the NFL premier weapons in Davante Adams and Aaron Jones. Adams has his best season ever with 115 receptions for almost 1400 yards and 18 touchdowns in 14 games. The matchup of the game should feature Adams versus one of the games few true shutdown corners in Jalen Ramsey. That will be fun to watch.
The Rams have some weapons on offense themselves. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are very reliable wide receivers and should see plenty of looks from L.A. Quarterback Jared Goff in this game. Los Angeles also has rookie running back Cam Akers who rushed 28 times for 131 yards and a TD in the wild card win over the Seahawks.
In the end I think Aaron Rodgers at home, in below freezing temps, ends up to be too much for the Rams to handle and the Packers advance to the NFC Conference game.
Ravens vs. Bills
Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET
Prediction - Ravens 26 Bills 33
Josh Allen and the Bills host Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in a matchup of 2 young superstar QBs. This game could be the most fun to watch this weekend.
The Bills have looked like a team possessed lately. Josh Allen took a big step in his development this year and it shows. He is starting to look like one of the best quarterbacks in the game. A big part of this leap has been due to the acquisition of Stefon Diggs. The two have a connection that is undeniable. That connection has led to both of them having the best year of their careers. At his disposal Allen also has Cole Beasley who is arguably the best slot receiver in the game right now. Add in John Brown and 4th round rookie gem Gabriel Davis and you have what might be the best Wide receiver core top to bottom in the league. Cole Beasley is pretty banged up right now with a knee injury, but he toughed it out last week and I expect him to this week as well.
One player who the Bills will not have on Saturday is rookie running Zack Moss who left last week’s game early with an ankle injury and is out for the season. That leaves them with Devin Singletary and newly signed FA Devonta Freeman, but he may not even play this week. I expect Allen to rely heavily on Diggs and his wide receivers this week. Don’t count out Allen using his legs quite a bit either as he is very mobile and proved to be a rushing weapon, especially around the goal-line.
After Lamar Jackson’s historic year last year he struggled a bit to begin the season. However, ever since he came back from having Covid-19 he has looked like 2019 Lamar. He is using his legs much more and that in turn has opened up the offense nicely. “Hollywood” Brown has also been performing nicely over the last month or so after a slow start.
I expect the Ravens rushing attack to be in full effect in this game, featuring rookie sensation JK Dobbins and the ever reliable Gus Edwards. You can’t forget about Jackson and the electric playmaker he is either. If the Ravens can win the time of possession and rely on that excellent defense I think this could be a close. I think that Allen, Diggs and the rest of the Bills offense proves to be a little too much in the end and Buffalo advances.
Browns vs. Chiefs
Sunday 3:05 p.m. ET
Prediction - Browns 20 Chiefs 34
The Browns roll into Kansas City riding high off an impressive win over the Steelers in the divisional round, their first postseason win in over two decades. Can they get another one against the reigning champs?
Since star running back Nick Chubb returned the Browns looked really good. Heck, they have looked good all season. These are not the Browns of old. Baker Mayfield is finally playing like Cleveland envisioned when they drafted him in the first round in 2018. Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins have really stepped up since OBJ went down earlier in the season. The previously mentioned Nick Chubb and his backfield running mate Kareem Hunt are bonafide studs. Add to that a solid defense with Myles Garret and corner Denzel Ward and you have a really solid team. Not to mention they get their coach back this week after not having him last week due to Covid-19. The Browns will come to play and may surprise some people.
Another season, another super Chiefs team. This team is a juggernaut and may be one of the best offenses of all time. Patrick Mahomes is other worldly, and to give him Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce almost doesn’t seem fair. Travis Kelce is coming off probably the best season for a Tight end ever with 105 receptions for over 1400 yards and 11 touchdowns. Just ridiculous. The 1st round rookie sensation was also spotted at practice this week and may be available for this game after missing the past few weeks with an ankle injury. Oh yeah did I mention this team is coached by a Hall of Famer in Andy Reid?
I think the Browns play their hearts out this weekend and do enough to keep it entertaining but the Chiefs seem unstoppable and look primed for another Super Bowl appearance.
Buccaneers vs. Saints
Sunday 6:40 p.m. ET
Prediction - Buccaneers 23 Saints 24
This game may be the most meaningful game of the playoffs so far. It features two almost surefire Hall of Fame quarterbacks in a race against father time to get to, and win another Super Bowl. It will be the third meeting between these teams this season. Brees and the Saints won the first two and Bree’s holds a 5-2 record all time against Brady.
This was a season full of ups and downs for the Saints. They were without superstar Michael Thomas most of the season because of multiple injuries. Drew Brees also missed 5 games after breaking 11 ribs (yikes). They still managed to get to a 13-3 overall record and win the NFC South. This was largely in part to wildly talented running back Alvin Kamara, backup QB Tayson Hill and head coach Sean Payton.
The Saints are healthy now and seem to be firing on all cylinders, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. The Saints are on a quest to get Drew Brees another Super Bowl ring before he retires. They have made deep runs that past couple of years, but lost in heartbreaking fashion before reaching the big show.
Six time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady leads what could be his most talented team ever into New Orleans this weekend. He’s never had a wide receiver core of this magnitude. It is surely one of his better stable of running backs as well. Everywhere you look on this roster there’s a star. From his old buddy Gronk, to new buddy Antonio Brown. Sprinkle in Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette and he has an arsenal of stud weapons at his disposal.
There were a few growing pains for Brady during the first year with his new team in Tampa, but overall this star studded roster has looked impressive. The defense has played well all year ,and are one of the best run stopping units in the league. The offense has really started clicking over the last month or so and looks downright scary right now.
This looks to be a very exciting game between familiar foes. We should expect Brady and Brees to put on a show this weekend as it may be the last hurrah for both of them, particularly Brees. I believe it will be a super close game that ends with the Saints getting their third win over the Bucs this season. Brees ultimately moves to 6-2 all time against Brady and one step closer to being able to win his 2nd ring. He then gracefully walks off into the sunset and into the broadcast booth.