NFL PLAYOFF DIVISIONAL ROUND PREVIEW

After a wild and jam-packed Wild Card Weekend, the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs is upon us with four more compelling postseason matchups.

This weekend’s action gives us a quarterback duel between two NFL legends, two showdowns between elite offenses and notoriously stingy defenses, and the next chapter of a Cinderella story in Cleveland.

We’re in for another wild weekend, so here’s a breakdown and prediction of each game.

 

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Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers – Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET

Odds: Packers -6.5

Total: 45.5

 

After an upset win over the Seattle Seahawks in last week’s Wild Card round of the NFL Playoffs, the Los Angeles Rams will be looking to carry some momentum into another tough contest as the NFC-leading Green Bay Packers await on Saturday afternoon.

The Packers enter this game with the best scoring offense in the NFL, averaging an eye-popping 31.8 points per game on the season. That prolific offensive attack is led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is having one of the best seasons of his already-great career. Rodgers leads all starting quarterbacks in completion percentage, has thrown for a league-high 48 touchdowns and has the NFL’s best quarterback rating at 121.5.

While Green Bay has been the most dominant team on the offensive side of the ball this season, the Rams have had the best defense in the league. Los Angeles leads the NFL in both total defense and scoring defense this season, allowing an average of just 281.7 yards and 18.6 points per game. However, the Rams have played just one game against a team with a top-five scoring offense in the league, surrendering 35 points in a loss to the Buffalo Bills. They will need to be better than that to slow down the Packers.

It will be a strength-on-strength matchup on Saturday afternoon with a prolific offense matched up against a stingy defense, but in this case, Green Bay has the edge. Los Angeles has been solid defensively, but they’ve had some trouble defending good offenses this season and the Packers have the best offense in the league.

 

Pick: Packers -6.5

 

 

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills – Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET

Line: Bills -2.5

Total: 50

 

In what might be the most anticipated game of the weekend with both teams coming off wins in the Wild Card round, the Baltimore Ravens and the Buffalo Bills meet in a primetime showdown on Saturday night, looking to punch their tickets to the AFC Championship game.

The Bills enter this game boasting one of the most prolific offenses in the league. Buffalo ranks second in the NFL in both scoring offense and total offense, averaging 31.1 points and 396.5 yards per game. The Bills were held to 27 points in the wildcard win over the Indianapolis Colts, but in their three previous contests, they averaged more than 47 points per game including 56 points against the Miami Dolphins – a top-five scoring defense.

Baltimore enters this contest with one of the most dominant defenses in the NFL. The Ravens rank No. 2 in the NFL in terms of scoring defense, allowing opponents just 18.6 points per game, and haven’t allowed a team to score more than one touchdown in their last three contests, holding opponents to an average of 9.7 points per game. While Baltimore’s defense has been its strength, the Ravens have been solid offensively, as well, ranking No. 7 in the league in scoring offense with an average of 28.7 points per game.

This will be a strength-on-strength showdown with Buffalo’s electric offense battling Baltimore’s elite defense, but the Raven’s are the more well-rounded team, boasting a talented offense, too. That will push them over the top in this matchup, giving them both the win and the cover.

 

Pick: Ravens -3

 

 

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs – Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET

Line: Chiefs -10

Total: 56.5

 

After a shocking upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round, the Cleveland Browns face an even stiffer test on Sunday afternoon against the Kansas City Chiefs, who are the defending Super Bowl champions and boast the best record in the NFL this season.

Cleveland has perhaps the most unremarkable season statistics of any team remaining in the playoffs. The Browns are no better than slightly above average in any major statistic, ranking No. 12 in the league in scoring offense and No. 23 in scoring defense. However, Cleveland has proven it can compete and beat the NFL’s best, going 3-0 this season against non-divisional playoff teams and trouncing the Steelers in the first round.

The Chiefs were the top seed in the AFC for a reason. Kansas City enters the playoffs with an NFL-best 14-2 record and has been dominant all season thanks primarily to its explosive offense. The Chiefs lead the league in total offense, averaging 415.8 yards per game, and are led once again by the prolific Patrick Mahomes at quarterback who is looking to lead them to another Super Bowl title.

This is a true David and Goliath matchup with the Browns amidst their first playoff appearance since 2002 while Kansas City looks to defend its Super Bowl title. The Chiefs undoubtedly have the advantage in this game, but Cleveland is playing with a lot of momentum and should be able to keep this close, even if it isn’t able to get the win.

 

Pick: Browns +10

 

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints – Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET

Line: Saints -3

Total: 51.5

 

Sunday night’s postseason matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints pits two of the game’s legends against each other in prime time with Tom Brady dueling it out against Drew Brees in a primetime showdown.

The Buccaneers had to battle their way into the playoffs and they earned their spot in dominant fashion, winning their final four games of the regular season and putting up over 40 points in their final two regular season games. Tampa Bay has leaned on its offense this season and it has been prolific, ranking third in the NFL in terms of scoring offense with 30.8 points per game. The defense has been strong, too, allowing just 22.1 points per game – good for No. 7 in the NFL.

The Saints have been the single most well-rounded team in the NFL this season. New Orleans is the only team in the league to rank in the top-five in both scoring offense and scoring defense, putting up an average of 29.6 points per game while holding opponents to just 20.4 points per game. Dominance on both sides of the ball allowed the Saints to finish the season with

Tampa Bay’s run has been impressive as the Buccaneers have now won five consecutive games, but the magic is going to run out against New Orleans this week. The Saints are the better and more well-rounded team this season and have already beaten Tampa Bay twice this year. Sunday night’s going to be the third as New Orleans will get the win and the cover to advance to the NFC title game.

 

Pick: Saints -3

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