By: James Brown
Headline Photo Credit: CBSSports.com
With Super Wild Card Weekend is in the books, it’s time to move on to the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. We saw some blowouts as well as some great games last week. This week’s matchup should bring even more action-packed excitement. Let’s go ahead and dive into my takes and picks for this weekend’s slate of games.
Saturday afternoon gets rolling with the up-and-coming Cincinnati Bengals traveling to Nashville to take on the #1 seed Tennessee Titans. No one is quite sure how the Titans ended up with the #1 seed looking at them on the surface. They lost their franchise player in Derrick Henry for about half of the season, the Julio Jones trade hasn’t quite panned out as expected, and Ryan Tannehill hasn’t been as productive this season as last year. Meanwhile, the Bengals are riding the wave on winning their first playoff games since 1991. Joe Burrow is looking to keep their hot streak alive and put the Bengals on the map. Unfortunately for Burrow and the Bengals, they drew a bad matchup. Derrick Henry is back, he’s healthy, well-rested, and ready to run. Look for Tennessee to ride their run game and keep Burrow on the sidelines. The Titans’ identity is pounding the rock and they’ve shown that even without Henry in the lineup they can still run the ball. Tennessee’s defense has also taken a step up this season. Their pass rush has developed quite nicely and they will be looking to get Burrow off his spot when he is on the field. I believe the Bengals will put up a fight but ultimately fall short as King Henry and the Titans move on 24-17.
In the Saturday nightcap game, the San Francisco 49ers will travel up north to the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field to face off against the NFC #1 seeded Green Bay Packers. We’ve seen this matchup in recent years past and the 49ers have run roughshod over the Packers keeping Rodgers on the sideline and limiting his touches on offense. The 49ers still have that dynamic run game that has thwarted the Packers in the past and they will be looking to do the same Saturday night. San Francisco was able to dispose of the Dallas Cowboys last week by pounding the ball down the field, controlling the time of possession, and limiting Jimmy Garoppolo’s chances to make mistakes. The Packers this season have put on offensive clinics behind likely MVP Aaron Rodgers and his favorite target Davante Adams. Rodgers to Adams has been a formidable connection all season. I see Green Bay jumping out to an early lead which should help to neutralize the 49ers running attack. Rodgers will need to outpace this 49ers offense and keep the score out of reach. Rodgers should have extra time to make plays on Saturday night the 49er’s defense will be dealing with some injuries in Nick Bosa and Fred Warner. If they do play Warner and Bosa will not be at 100% and Rodgers will likely make them pay for it. Green Bay gets the win here 35-14.
Moving on to Sunday, our first game of the day will be the Los Angeles Rams taking on the reigning champs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These teams display a lot of similarities when comparing them on paper. Both teams have offensive-minded coaches who have quarterbacks that have changed the recent fortunes of the respective franchises for the better.Both quarterbacks have a bevy of weapons offensively and have a nasty defense to back them up. Despite both teams high powered offenses, this game will come down to who’s defense will step up and make plays. The Buccaneers have suffered some injuries in recent weeks with WR Chris Godwin being lost for the season, RBs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones hampered by injuries. Antonio Brown’s latest meltdown resulted in him being released from the team and now adding offensive linemen Ryan Jensen and Tristan Wirfs to the injury report. Tampa is battling attrition right now and it could not be at a worse time as the Rams are predominantly the healthier team. We’ve seen that when Tom Brady is off his game it’s been when defenses and able to collapse the pocket up the middle and swallow Brady up with their edge rushers. The Rams have a defensive front that can do just that with Aaron Donald in the middle and Von Miller and Leonard Floyd coming off the edges. Also, look for Jalen Ramsey to keep Mike Evans in check for most of the game taking away Brady’s top option on the outside. I will say that while the deck does seem to be stacked against Brady and the Bucs, he has won with lesser talent around him. His defense is mostly healthy and he will be relying on them to get him some extra possessions to attempt to pull out this win. All in all, to be the man you have to beat the man and come Sunday night I believe the Rams will emerge with the close win over the Buccaneers 27-24.
In our last game of the weekend, the Buffalo Bills will head back to Arrowhead to battle the Kansas City Chiefs. This game has the potential to be a display of offensive fireworks with both Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes both displaying the ability to put up exciting plays and points. Allen and the Bills will be looking to keep their wagon rolling after walloping the Patriots last week. The Bills never punted last week and the only times their offensive drives didn’t result in a touchdown were at the end of the half and the end of the game. The Bills have shown that they can beat the Chiefs as they did so back in week 5 of the regular season 38 to 20. Kansas City on the other hand has seemed to have found themselves as a team. Earlier this season they dropped several games where they were favored to win including their previous matchup against Buffalo. Patrick Mahomes and this Chiefs offense found their playoff groove last week as they put up 42 points against the Steelers and Mahomes slinging 5 touchdowns. Much like our early Sunday matchup this game will come down to whichever defense rises and makes a play or gets a stop. I’m predicting that the Chiefs’ defense will be that unit that steps up. The Chiefs are at home and the Arrowhead faithful will have the stadium rocking. Josh Allen is still a young quarterback and has shown at the time this season. He’s had his up and down moments and often those down moments have come after a tremendous high like beating the Patriots to prove that you are the top dogs in the AFC East. I believe the Chiefs turn up the heat on Allen and Mahomes makes magic to get the win 35-24