One step closer to the Super Bowl. This weekend we enter the Divisional Round of the playoffs, the veritable ‘quarter finals’ if you’re more used to a European view of tournaments. Four great games to look forward. Will we see some upsets? Maybe. The two No.1 seeds enter the fray this weekend with the Packers and Chiefs seeing game action for the first time in two weeks – will they be rusty or game rested? Let’s look.
Rams (6) @ Packers (1)
The Rams provided one of the odds upsets last week defeating the Seahawks in Seattle, but as I said at the time, that was always going to be a close game that could go either way. The Rams defence has been underrated throughout the year but has been getting it’s fair share of glory since their win on Sunday. The defensive line was incredible throughout the game, even when Aaron Donald left the game injured they were consistently able to get to Wilson. Donald’s recovery has been the key story to follow in LA this year with McVay stating that the ‘Terminator’ will be ready to go.
The Packers will be hoping he’s not 100% as they continue to adjust following the injury to star left tackle David Bakhtiari which ended his year. Jared Veldheer is back in Green Bay after playing for the Colts last week following his call up from retirement. It’ll be a great story if he ends up playing on SuperBowl Sunday.
The match up I’m looking forward to most is Davante Adams vs Jalen Ramsey which could be the key of the game. The Packers are at their best when the Rodgers to Adams connection is ticking and no doubt the star cornerback will be looking to effect that putting more pressure on the rest of the receiving options. But there are other options, and there is a running game they can lean on. And the Rams offence only occasionally spluttes into life. They’ll be heavily reliant on rookie running back Cam Akers. Jared Goff was throwing wobbly passes 25% of the time, the Rams need to hope that he’s fixed that through this week as going into a cold, wintery Green Bay will not make it an easy night for a quarterback who can’t get any zip on the ball.
Because of the lack of offence I’m favouring the Packers to win by 10, a smaller margin then maybe you’d expect just because of that defence.
Ravens (5) @ Bills (2)
The Bills offence will need to step it up this week if they’re to stand any chance of beating the Ravens on Saturday night. Josh Allen dragged the Bills through the Wildcard weekend with a barnstorming performance. We need to see more from the running game where Zach Moss has become the lead back and Singletary coming in for a change of pace. They are though, going against a defence that is a week out of stopping 2k yard rusher Derrick Henry from establishing the run so it’s not going to be an easy task for the Bills.
On the defensive side, the Bills will need to keep Lamar Jackson in the pocket, preventing him from escaping to the edges where he can break free for long gains. They should be prepared for him to try and run through the middle where linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano can get to him (and JK Dobbins) quickly, preventing 10+ yard gains. In the passing game, the same duo need to contain Mark Andrews and force Jackson to throw outside of the numbers where his accuracy isn’t great.
The game will hinge on the teams offences and which one turns up as a whole, rather than relying on their star quarterbacks. For the fact that it’s in Buffalo and I feel that Josh Allen (with a better arm to cope with the elements) with Steffon Diggs and Cole Beasley is a very different prospect to what the Ravens faced in Tennessee I’m going to go for the Bills, but only by 3.
Browns (6) @ Chiefs (1)
We see the oldest quarterback left in the AFC play in this match – Baker Mayfield back for more heroics. I think everyone who isn’t a Chiefs fan will be willing the Browns in this match. After years and years of turmoil it finally looks like the franchise is on the up and few (aside from Steeler fans) were disgruntled by the Browns win against the Steelers last week.
The Browns will get Denzel Ward back this week which is huge news given the passing attack they’ll be going up against. Myles Garrett will need to be at his absolute best and he along with the rest of the pass rush will need to be getting the Mahomes consistently to stand a chance of winning this match. The Browns will also need to continue to lean on their elite rushing game with Kareem Hunt relishing an opportunity to go back to Kansas and seek out the win. Fellow running back Nick Chubb will probably get more carries and will be relied upon to keep the Chiefs offence off the field.
What will we get from the Chiefs? Through the last few weeks of the podcast we discussed how they’d been winning games but didn’t look convincing – certainly not to the extent that they were this time last year. I’ve made the point, and still think that they were holding back. Understanding it’s a long disrupted season and wanting to just win games and stay healthy. Andy Reid is almost legendary coming off of bye weeks and his starting team has had almost two weeks after after many stars, including Mahomes, were rested in week 17.
I think this game this game goes one of two ways, but both lead to a Chiefs win. It’ll either be explosive and they win by 14+. Or the Browns continue to hang on to the coattails, but the Chiefs win by 4. I’ll be behind the Browns all the way though and will be more than happy for what would be a massive upset!
Buccaneers (5) @ Saints (2)
Yep, two 40+ quarterbacks playing in playoff game. Noted and lets move on.
The Saints have one of the most well rounded teams that they’ve ever have. I think this is probably the best team they’ve had since their Super Bowl win, maybe better. Getting Brees, Kamara and Thomas on the field for the first time last week was a big step up – and all three looked good against a good Bears defence. They also got a lot out of Deonte Harris in the game who was also a returnee from injury. This week, the defence gets a big filip with Trey Hendrickson returning the defensive line. Much has been said about the need to get to Tom Brady to disrupt his game (well, d’uh) and along with Cam Jordan, Hendrickson will have a singular objective to disrupt what is an amazing pass game.
On the Bucs side, well they’ve more or less got all their stars playing on offence even if Mike Evans isn’t 100% still. Doesn’t seem to matter with Antonio Brown getting better each week to the extent that he’s close to what we used to see when he was in Pittsburgh. The offensive line is good, the running game has the ability to be good on it’s day and the defence is good though not as good as the Saints.
Despite the fact that the Saints beat the Bucs twice this year already and despite the fact it’s in New Orleans (not thag home field advantage means that much this year) I can’t get over a gut feeling that the Brady hype machine is going to go marching on. Bucs by 7.