NFL Divisional Round Preview


Dan Gendy, Staff Writer

The Divisional Round of the National Football League playoffs has finally arrived to give football fans across the globe another entertaining weekend. The Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, and Cleveland Browns are the teams that won their Wild Card matchups last week. They will now join the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs to bring four entertaining games. The Rams and Packers will face off against each other this Saturday at 4:25 ET on Fox, followed by the Ravens and Bills on NBC at 8:15 ET. The following day, the Browns and Chiefs play at 3:05 on CBS accompanied by the Bucs and Saints right after at 6:40 ET on Fox. The NFL playoffs have already brought some compelling story-lines, and this weekend is no different. The Browns, Bills, and Bucs are all looking to build on their historic playoff wins last week. The two conferences also bring another intriguing storyline this weekend. That is the difference in age between the National Football Conference and American Football Conference. The AFC features some of the youngest quarterbacks in the league: Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, and Patrick Mahomes. These four QBs were all drafted in the class of 2017 or later. That is such a crazy thought considering Baker Mayfield is the oldest out of the four, and it feels like he was just playing QB at Oklahoma not too long ago. There’s also the NFC, which features some of the veterans of the National Football League: Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers. There’s going to be plenty of great football to look out for in the next coming days, so let’s break down each game and take a look at some of the crucial components for every matchup.

Los Angeles Rams vs Green Bay Packers – Saturday 1-16, 4:35 ET

The Rams and Packers begin the football weekend late Saturday afternoon. The Green Bay Packers played their way to becoming the first seed in the NFC. That means they were given a bye from the first round of the playoffs. The Rams, however, did play last week, taking on the Seahawks in a 30-20 victory. The LA Rams were underdogs in that game but came out victorious, thanks to the likes of Cam Akers, who rushed for over 150 yards. The Green Bay Packers are the first seed for a reason and will not lose without putting up an incredible fight. This team relies heavily on the work of their terrific offense to win football games. They have the soon-to-be MVP of the league Aaron Rodgers leading the way, with help from one of the best receivers in the league in Davante Adams. Just to give a little insight on how great of a duo these two have been this season, just take a look at the stat sheet. Davante Adams posted 18 receiving touchdowns and 1,374 receiving yards on 149 targets this season, the most he has ever been targeted in his career. Davante Adams is by far Aaron Rodgers’s best asset, and it is going to be crucial that he puts up big numbers against the Rams. The only issue with that is the Packers are going up against one of the best defenses in the league and one of the best, if not the absolute best cornerback in the National Football League, Jalen Ramsay. This guy has been holding guys such as DeAndre Hopkins, DK Metcalf, and Stefon Diggs to minimal yards all season long. Jalen Ramsay backs up his trash talk every single snap, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Davante Adams vs Jalen Ramsay matchup plays out. It will also interesting to see how the Aaron Rodgers vs Aaron Donald matchup plays out. The future 2020 MVP against the back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year is exciting to watch. Aaron Donald did suffer fractured ribs last week but is expected to play this weekend. With the seven-time Pro Bowler active, it’ll be intriguing to see his approach of getting to the QB. In short, this is going to be a wild game, filled with impressive matchups and high profile players. The question is, will the Rams be able to overcome their injury problems and win their second game as an underdog? Or, will the future Hall-Of-Famer make it to the NFC Championship once again?

Baltimore Ravens vs Buffalo Bills – Saturday 1-16, 8:15 ET

The Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills will play each other late Saturday night in an extremely compelling AFC Divisional Round Matchup. Both of these teams played tight games last weekend to advance; the Ravens with a 20-13 win over the Titans and the Bills with a 27-24 win over the Colts. The Buffalo Bills have had one of the best passing offenses this season, and they are going to need that high-powered offense to come through against the Ravens. The reason for this is because of how underwhelming their rushing attack has been. With Devin Singletary continuously underperforming every week and Zack Moss out, they are going to need Josh Allen to take control of this game. Sure, the Baltimore Ravens have a strong defense with Pro Bowlers Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey leading the secondary, but this is the same QB who put Stefon Diggs back in the conversation for one of the best receivers in the NFL and turned veteran wide receiver Cole Beasly into an All-Pro. If it wasn’t for Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen could also be winning his first MVP in only his third year in the league. We cannot forget about the other high powered offense, led by reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. This man has had haters and doubters on his back all year long for not being as dominant as he was in his previous season. Yet, he carries on with his business making sure the Ravens can compete and win each game they play. This is an offense that does not have one true star rushing or catching the ball, but when they play as a whole they turn into a strong unit. The Buffalo Bills have been shaky as a defensive unit all year, giving up a monstrous total of 472 yards against the Colts’ Philip Rivers last week, so the Ravens have an opportunity to take advantage. Given these points, this matchup is sure to be close with the winner of this game moving onto the next round of the playoffs. 

Cleveland Browns vs Kansas City Chiefs – Sunday 1-17, 3:05 ET

The Browns and Chiefs open up the Sunday matchups with their afternoon meeting. The Kansas City Chiefs were the AFC team that got the first seed in the playoffs. Ending the season with a 14-2 record and being led by 2018 MVP Pat Mahomes, this did not come as a shocker to many. On the other side of the field, there’s the Cleveland Browns who come into this game as a considerable underdog. Browns fans would argue, however, that their squad has a strong chance of winning this football game at Arrowhead. With the way last Sunday night’s game (against the Steelers) played out, why shouldn’t they? Baker Mayfield looked like he was turning back the clock to his college days, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt looked like the best 1-2 punch in any rushing attack in the league, and the Browns were able to put up a whopping 48 points against one of the so-called best defenses in the league. The 48-37 scoreline doesn’t give the full picture of this game, as it looked like a Browns beatdown from the opening kickoff. You can expect another one of those intense, high scoring games in this contest. Both the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs rely on their offensive power to win games. I mean, what defense is stopping the dominance of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce? The answer is not many. And, for the Browns, their below-average secondary won’t be stopping anything on Sunday. On the bright side for Browns fans, the same thing applies to the Chiefs defense. The Chiefs have a lackluster pass rush and pass protection, and the Browns have some special weapons on offense and defense to exploit that. The Kansas City Chiefs are not the unbeatable squad everyone thinks they are. The last time they won a game by two scores was against the second-worst team in the NFL, the New York Jets, all the way back in week 8. Let’s not also forget about the fact that Pat Mahomes has been getting sacked a lot recently. The Kansas City offensive line has given up 12 sacks in the last six games, which is not a good look. The fact is, this Chief’s team isn’t as invincible as they look, and have faults and issues that can be taken advantage of. This will no doubt be a thrilling high scoring game, and with Cleveland’s Denzel Ward and Joel Bitonio off the COVID-19 list and Browns Coach Stefanski on the sideline next week, do not expect a walk in the park for Andy Reid and the Chiefs. 


Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints –  Sunday 1-17, 6:40 ET

The Buccaneers and Saints finish the Divisional Round with their matchup Sunday evening. Each of these two teams played last weekend; the Buccaneers beat Washington 31-23, and the Saints defeated the Bears 21-9. Both of these matchups were comfortable for the winners, but, then again, they were played against teams that just were not ready for playoff football yet. This game, however, is going to test each of these team’s ability to play against top-level teams in the spotlight. The big story in this contest is Drew Brees versus Tom Brady. Two aging QBs that have played their way into being in the GOAT conversation of the National Football League battle it out for a chance in the top 4. The meeting between these two will also probably be their last, as there are many rumors of Drew Brees retiring after this season. So. which future Hall Of Famer comes out on top? For the Buccaneers, this falls into the hands of Tom Brady whereas, for Brees, he has help on both sides of the ball. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been relying on Tom Brady all season to get them to where they are today in the 2020 playoffs. When Tom Brady was playing poorly, NFL analysts questioned whether this team was even going to make the playoffs. However, when Tom Brady excelled and played at a high level, the experts then proceeded to call the Bucs Super Bowl contenders. Tom Brady can perform and will perform; that’s the bottom line. He has the weapons and the offensive line to do so. Even with Tom Brady playing at a high level, this Saints team will still be ready to compete. Michael Thomas looked back in prime form last weekend, and Deonte Harris looks to be an under the radar weapon for Brees. The fact is, the New Orleans Saints are the most complete team in the playoffs and, unlike the Bucs, they have other assets besides a passing attack. They have the 4th ranked overall defense, 6th ranked rushing attack, and an elite offensive line to protect Brees. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara could have a field day against the Bucs. Tampa Bay has a below-average defense, which is only declining in both the rushing and passing areas. Let’s say, on the other hand, that somehow Kamara and Thomas don’t go off against the Buccaneers. The beauty of the Saints is that they have other options. They can go to other weapons or rely on their defense to keep them in a game. The Buccaneers can’t do this, and that could ultimately be their downfall. Despite this though, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are still elite receivers and if they can perform at a high level, the Bucs could be punching their way to the championship game.