NFL Divisional Round preview


Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license

Aaron Rodgers hopes to further cement his bid for 2020 NFL MVP this weekend.

Ezekial Stettler, The Delphi Staff

Week 2 of the 2020-2021 NFL Playoffs has arrived! The divisional round kicks off with the Rams and Packers squaring off at Lambeau Field at 4:35 PM EST on Saturday, January 16th. It will end with the clash between two legendary quarterbacks during the Buccaneers vs Saints game in New Orleans on Sunday at 6:40 PM EST. If you missed the Wild Card Round, here are the matchups from last week, along with who won and who went home:

  • The Buffalo Bills bested the Indianapolis Colts 27-24
  • The Los Angeles Rams ran over the Seattle Seahawks 30-20
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Washington Football Team 31-23
  • The Baltimore Ravens toppled the Tennessee Titans 20-13
  • The New Orleans Saints slimed the Chicago Bears 21-9 on Nickelodeon
  • The Cleveland Browns embarrassed the Pittsburgh Steelers 48-37

This weekend, another round of entertainment will be served to viewers league wide as we approach that anticipated NFC vs AFC Super Bowl showdown. A fun fact for the remaining teams: The youngest starting quarterback in the NFC is Jared Goff at 26 years old. The oldest starting quarterback in the AFC is Baker Mayfield at 25 years old. With the next stretch of games nearing ever closer, what are some of the matchups to watch?


Los Angeles Rams (11-6) @ Green Bay Packers (13-3):

Statistically the best receiver in the game will be lining up against one of the greatest cornerbacks in the league. Devante Adams, the wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers, had the most receiving touchdowns in the league this year at 18. He also ranks 1st when counting receiving yards per game, clocking in just shy of 100 at 98.1. Amongst starting cornerbacks, Jalen Ramsey, for the LA Rams, has allowed the fewest yards over the year, with an incredible 309 yards and a completion percentage of only 50% when targeted. This matchup is going to send sparks flying, and with both of them being incredibly passionate players and notorious trash-talkers, expect a physical game, with perhaps a tussle or two.

Jared Goff, the starting QB for the LA Rams, is on the hotseat. He was taken No.1 overall by the Rams in the 2016 draft, but he has been hurt and underperforming since. If John Wolford hadn’t gone out with a neck injury early last week due to a cheap shot from Jamal Adams, Jared Goff may still be benched, for they were able to beat the Cardinals in week 17 without him. Of course, this could show worry over his recently surgically repaired thumb rather than a lack of confidence in Goff, but it’s fun to speculate.

Aaron Rodgers was admittedly upset when the Packers drafted a quarterback in the first round, but it did naught but light a fire under him as he is a fan-favourite for the MVP award this season. Aaron Rodgers is aging, and to those who don’t want to hear it, he will retire within a few years. But he has proven this year, however, that he will not be going quietly into the night.

Prediction: Packers 24 over Rams 13


Baltimore Ravens (12-5) @ Buffalo Bills (14-3):

It will be a tale of the 2018 QB class, with No.7 overall pick, Josh Allen, hoping to lead the Bills to the AFC championship in a win over the Ravens and the No.32 overall pick, Lamar Jackson, who won the league MVP last year. The Bill’s offense has been their strength this year, with Josh Allen jogging behind Aaron Rodgers in the MVP conversation, and Stefon Diggs leading the league in receptions and receiving yards. Cole Beasley has had a career resurrection as well, becoming a reliable target in the slot for Josh Allen. The strength of the Baltimore Ravens team is their defense, which held the Titan’s star running back to 40 yards and picked off Ryan Tannehill in its game last weekend. The secondary is one of the best in the league, with Marlon Humphrey at the head. In front of him waits Patrick Queen, the rookie linebacker/tackle machine. At their recently solidified lines sits Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, who will look to shut down Buffalo’s run game as they did Tennessee’s.

The matchup I’d watch is rookie Devin Duvernay vs the Buffalo Special Teams unit. Duvernay has been a solid kick returner this year for Baltimore, and could be their key to winning this game. Whenever Buffalo scores, and they will score, Duvernay will be looked to to return the ball to a spot that puts that offense in the best position to score, preferably 25+ yards downfield. Buffalo can stop this threat by sending the ball through the end zone every kick, but with a special teams unit that is ranked 11th overall in the league, I think they’ll take the chance and try to pin Baltimore back deep.

Prediction: Bills 35 over Ravens 20


Cleveland Browns (12-5) @ Kansas City Chiefs (14-2):

Sunday is going to boast the two best quarterback matchups for the weekend, starting with the Chief’s generational talent, Patrick Mahomes, facing off against Cleveland’s greatly improved Baker Mayfield. In college, when Mahomes attended Texas Tech and Mayfield attended Oklahoma, they battled it out in spectacular fashion. Mahomes threw for 734 yards and 5 touchdowns and Mayfield threw for 545 yards and 7 touchdowns. Combined, the two threw for 1,279 yards. Fans of the NFL can only hope for a similar showing between the two, and if we get anywhere near what that game was, it will be a matchup to remember.

Myles Garrett, the Browns defensive end, needs to break past the Chiefs’ offensive line and put pressure on Patrick Mahomes early, though that could prove impossible as Patrick Mahomes seems able to throw from any position in any direction at any target, and still remain deadly accurate. Tyrann Mathieu needs to keep Baker Mayfield from linking up with Jarvis Landry and Donovan Peoples-Jones downfield, as that could prove to be the Browns’ key to victory. At the same time, however, both receivers are versatile and can pick apart the Chiefs’ secondary out of the slot and in zone coverage as well.

Prediction: Chiefs 45 over Browns 42


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5) @ New Orleans Saints (13-4):

Two times these teams have faced off this year, and two times the Saints have prevailed. If you look at it that way, you’d think the Saints will have a difficult, but assured, win. Though, that is if you look at the team’s history, not the players. The Saints have to go through the Buccaneers to get to the NFC Championship, and at the head of the ship sits playoff legend Tom Brady himself.

Tom Brady holds most playoff records for quarterbacks, along with the second most receiving yards for a player who’s 40 years or older. Not to mention, he has six Super Bowl rings, the most all time for a player, and a winning record on the road in the postseason. Drew Brees has been dueling Brady all year for regular season records, but since he got injured, Brady took the lead in passing touchdowns and is nearing the passing yards title. With Brees signing a deal with NBC this past year, his future is uncertain, though it is likely he will retire due to his compounding injuries, Hall of Fame success, and new business deal.

That will be the matchup to watch: Brees versus Brady. Brady strives to add another Super Bowl to his collection, while Brees is eager to prove that he is the best quarterback of all time. The two will sling it out Sunday night, but who will prevail? How their weapons play will help decide that, along with their defenses’ performances. Brees and Brady will give us a game to remember, but will Chris Godwin and Mike Evans compliment Brady while Michael Thomas and Jared Cook prove to be valuable pieces to Brees in this game?

The Buccaneers weapons often go vertical, while the Saints are more of a quick pass team. The defenses are both strong, with the Buccaneer’s run defense highlighting Tampa Bay and the secondary and linebackers are phenomenal for New Orleans.

Prediction: Saints 31 over Buccaneers 12