We just wrapped up a wild set of games for Wild Card Weekend, a lot of great football and games that came down to the wire.
Now, the 6 teams that advanced from the Wild Card Round have joined the 2 teams who had first-round byes, the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, for the Divisional Round this weekend. These games are set to be just as intense as those before, and will determine who gets a spot in next week’s conference championships.
So what can we expect? Here are my picks for who I think will win this weekend’s games.
Rams vs. Packers
My Take: This matchup is going to be incredibly interesting due to how these two teams fit together.
Both of them are known for being strong on one side of the ball but weak on the other. For the Rams, they have a top-of-the-league defense that was able to stuff the Seahawks last week, and has been strong all season, meanwhile their offense has dealt with injuries and has been far more inconsistent. For the Packers, their defense is middle of the pack at best, meanwhile their offense, led by Aaron Rogers, is in the league’s top 5.
This sets up a situation where whenever the Packers are on offense, it’ll be a battle of stellar offense vs. stellar defense, meanwhile when the Rams have the ball it’ll be mediocre offense vs. mediocre defense.
Which side will win out, it’s hard to tell, but I have the Packers on this one. You just can’t bet against Aaron Rogers, especially now that he’s rested and playing at home in Lambeau Field. The Rams could likely keep it close, but with some key injuries on defense and their inability to put points on the board, I doubt they’re getting the upset.
My Prediction: Packers 24, Rams 17
Ravens vs. Bills
My Take: Of the Divisional Round games, this is going to be the closest of them all.
The pairing of Josh Allen and his passing game vs. Lamar Jackson and his running game is going to be a deadly combo, and there’s likely going to be a lot of scoring and a very close finish.
This one is impossible to predict, simply because it comes down to what strategy each team uses, and how they come out on the field. If I was the Ravens, right now I’d be focusing on the running attack, as the Bills defense is notably bad against it and it’s one of the Ravens’ greatest strengths.
The combination of the mobile Lamar Jackson and JK Dobbins could be a death blow to Buffalo.
However, Josh Allen could very well fight back on the passing end, and while the Ravens defense is good, it’s not that good and would still likely let the Bills in the endzone plenty of times.
The other factor to consider here is momentum. The Bills’ momentum right now isn’t great — for anyone who watched last week, you’ll know that Buffalo barely escaped their game against the Colts alive
They built up a considerable lead, but in the 4th quarter their defense completely fell apart and Phillip Rivers got to do whatever he wanted with them. The game ended 27–24, far closer than it should’ve been, and only resulted in a Bills victory due to a series of lucky breaks.
Then you have the Ravens coming in who are hot off of a revenge win against the Titans where they managed to stop Derrick Henry and overcame an early 2-possession deficit.
That’s why I’m taking the Ravens. They appear the weaker team coming in, for sure, but their momentum combined with the Bills bad momentum sets them up in a good position, and if they run the football, they should be able to pull this one out.
My Prediction: Ravens 38, Bills 35
Browns vs. Chiefs
My Take: The Browns should honestly be thanking the gods they’re even here, because if it wasn’t for the Steelers choking on many occasions last week, they wouldn’t have made it this far. And the road likely ends for them here.
This game all comes down to offense. Defensively, the teams are ranked almost exactly the same, right next to each other near the bottom on league-wide rankings. The offense, however, is where they diverge.
While Baker Mayfield has had quite a season, his offense still only ranks #16 in the NFL, and he’s going up against the #1 ranked offense. The Chiefs kill in both the pass and run game, and they’re going to be able to rack up a ton of points against the Browns.
Unless another fluke occurs, going up against a rested Chiefs team at Arrowhead Stadium it’s going to be impossible for Cleveland’s offense to keep up and score enough points to keep them in the game against Patrick Mahomes. It’s possible the game will be interesting, but I just don’t see the Browns catching a second lucky break.
Also, for any of the NFL superstitious, Andy Reid is historically known to be unstoppable after a bye week. So that may come into play.
My Prediction: Chiefs 30, Browns 24
Buccaneers vs. Saints
My Take: And we have the QB fight of the century! Two veteran quarterbacks, Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees, duking it out for the last time in search of playoff glory in the perfect matchup for NFL fans.
Both teams are solid on both sides of the ball, something that can’t be said for pretty much any other football teams. They both rank top 15 on offense and top 10 on defense, with the Buccaneers having the higher ranked offense and the Saints having the higher ranked defense.
One of the league’s best rushers in Alvin Kamara will be going up against the best rushing defense, and Tom Brady, one of the best quarterbacks, will go up against one of the best passing defenses.
Fortunately, we don’t have to go into this game blind, as the Saints and Bucs are divisional rivals, meaning they’ve played each other twice already. And the insight this gives is: the Bucs are probably not going to have a great night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Saints swept the regular season series, first beating the Bucs 34–23 to open the season, then routing them 38–3 in week 9. While anything can happen on game day, it would be illogical to ignore the precedent sitting in front of us.
We also see the Saints have a deeper offense, with both a strong pass and run game, meanwhile Tampa Bay relies almost entirely on its passing attack, with its rushing attack is in the bottom 5 of the NFL.
Taking all of that into account, I’m predicting the Saints will take home a comfortable victory here. It will be closer than their regular season games, as playoff momentum is working in the Bucs’ favor, but the Saints will still win out with at least a two possession margin.
My Prediction: Saints 31, Buccaneers 17
So these are my picks for this weekend. With the NFL season drawing to a close, let’s hope these 4 coming up can give us a show and provide us some great football to end the season.
I’ll be watching to see if these picks hold up — maybe everything on Saturday and Sunday will go to plan, or maybe there will be some big surprises. We can only wait and see.