The NFL Divisional Round gets underway tomorrow evening.
Four of the eight teams left will be one step closer in their quest to play in Super Bowl 55.
The four games this weekend will decide who progresses.
(5) Baltimore Ravens vs Buffalo Bills (2)
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson got his first career playoff win last weekend, as Baltimore beat the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. He will go into this game with extreme confidence but has a tough opponent in the Bills and their quarterback Josh Allen.
This will be the key matchup. Josh Allen vs Lamar Jackson. Whoever has the better day will see their team progress.
Baltimore’s defense has improved throughout the season and will give this Bills offense a difficult test, similar to the one Indianapolis offered last weekend.
The running game of Baltimore, featuring rookie J.K. Dobbins has also performed better in recent weeks than the Bills.
Despite how special Josh Allen has been, this may just be a bad matchup for Buffalo. This is due to the aforementioned tough Baltimore defense as well as how the Bills struggled against a similar defense last week. The game will be the closest of the weekend and could feature the first overtime of the playoffs this season.
My Prediction: Ravens 30-27 Bills (OT)
(6) Cleveland Browns vs Kansas City Chiefs (1)
This is an intriguing matchup. The Chiefs will go into this game as favourites but Cleveland has a serious chance of upsetting the odds.
This will be a key matchup. How will Kansas City’s run defense handle the Browns running game of Kareen Hunt and Nick Chubb? Hunt was also released by the Chiefs during the 2018 season, which adds an extra dimension to this game.
Cleveland has every capability of causing an upset but Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his offensive weapons are just too special to overlook.
We saw last season that no lead is too big to overcome for the Chiefs. Even if their defense struggles, then their offense can make up for it by replying straight away.
My Prediction: Browns 30-35 Chiefs
(6) Los Angeles Rams vs Green Bay Packers (1)
Just as we will see with Kansas City, Green Bay go into this game off a bye as the number one seed.
Some teams come back rusty and other teams play well after the rest. It will be interesting to see how the Packers perform in this game.
Aaron Rodgers is the MVP favourite and will need to rely on the offensive weapons, but not the one you would think of.
The key matchup is the one between Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Packers wide receiver Davante Adams. Ramsey has done a good job this season at neutralising number one wideouts.
Should this happen, the Packers will need to lean on Allen Lazard.
Lazard has had his moments in what has been an injury struck season.
He will need to step up in a big game such as this.
Elsewhere on the field, Rams quarterback Jared Goff is going to start after Jon Wolford got the nod in the wildcard. Wolford’s injury brought Goff back in and the former number one overall pick did a good job along with rookie running back Cam Akers. Wolford has been ruled out of the game.
The Rams will give as good as they get against Green Bay but they will not have enough to beat the Packers. With key players Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp both suffering injury scares in the wildcard win, they would both be huge losses in this game.
Aaron Rodgers will find a way to win despite how Ramsey performs. Cam Akers and Aaron Jones will get plenty of yardage in this game but simply the genius of Rodgers will take Green Bay over the line.
My Prediction: Rams 17-24 Packers
(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints (2)
The Saints had the Buccaneers’ number during the regular season, winning the two regular season games for a combined 72-26. However, this is the playoffs. Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has won more playoff games than any other player in NFL history.
Saints defensive end Trey Hendrickson recorded two sacks in the second instalment between the two teams this season but was limited in practice this week. He will be a big miss in that Saints defense should he not be available.
The key matchup is the New Orleans secondary against the Tampa Bay offense.
As it was for Washington last week, the Saints need to have their secondary at their best. Brady will have Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski to throw to.
If the secondary and linebackers of New Orleans can stop the deep balls typical of a Bruce Arians offense, they will have a chance.
Saints running back Alvin Kamara will have the opportunity to win the Saints this game. He can both run and catch the ball dependant on how his quarterback Drew Brees plays.
Even with wide receiver Michael Thomas back, Brees doesn’t look the same player in what could be his last season in the NFL. Tampa Bay can capitalise on this and Tom Brady will get the job done. This is the wonderful problem Tampa have. They have two many talented players on offense. If Brown and Gronk have a bad day, Evans and Godwin can step up.
Running back Ronald Jones has returned to practice and will be a welcome addition to this Tampa Bay offense. Jones has ran for the most rushing yards this season for the team, 611 more than the next best rusher Leonard Fournette.
My Prediction: Tampa Bay 37-33 New Orleans