NFL Playoff Predictions: Our Picks within the Divisional Spherical

[Observe our live Brown vs. Chiefs and Buccaneers vs. Saints protection.]

Few thought the Los Angeles Rams or the Cleveland Browns would get this far, and the Buffalo Payments had much more success than might be anticipated. The Baltimore Ravens stormed again into competition, a pair of 40-something quarterbacks will face off in New Orleans and everyone seems to be (or ought to be) afraid of the Inexperienced Bay Packers and the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs. The wheat has been separated from the chaff, and the divisional spherical will slim issues additional.

Here’s a take a look at this weekend’s N.F.L. playoff matchups. Not like within the common season, the picks are usually not made towards the purpose unfold.

Los Angeles Rams at Inexperienced Bay Packers, 4:35 p.m., Fox

Line: Packers -6.5 | Complete: 45.5

A lot will probably be made in regards to the relationship between Coach Sean McVay of the Rams and Coach Matt LaFleur of the Packers. LaFleur served as McVay’s offensive coordinator in 2017, and so they had been offensive assistants collectively on Washington’s workers from 2010 to 2013. They’re key figures in an offensive revolution, however in case you are hoping for a high-scoring affair, you may need to attempt one other recreation.

Inexperienced Bay led the N.F.L. in scoring because of a turn-the-clock-way-back season from Aaron Rodgers that has him in competition for the Most Worthwhile Participant Award. His success got here with assist from the working of Aaron Jones (1,459 yards from scrimmage), the vertical menace of Marquez Valdes-Scantling (20.9 yards per reception) and the all-around brilliance of Davante Adams (115 catches, 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns).

But when there’s a workforce designed to sluggish the Packers, it’s the Rams.

Few defenses can match the relentless go rush of Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd, and whereas Rodgers doesn’t fluster simply, the few instances he has proven weak point lately have come when he’s below constant stress. Complicating issues is the absence of the star left sort out David Bakhtiari, whose season ended with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 16.

Jones might be neutralized by a Rams entrance seven that ranked third within the N.F.L. in run protection — sure, Donald leads the way in which there too. Inexperienced Bay counting on the house run menace of Valdes-Scantling is dangerous because of his propensity for dropped passes.

That leaves essentially the most intriguing matchup because the one between the shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Adams, who could make a case because the N.F.L.’s greatest, and most underappreciated, present receiver.

“You realize me, I’d prefer to go towards anyone and have good-on-good as a lot as attainable,” Adams mentioned this week when requested about Ramsey.

On impartial floor, and with equal well being, this might add as much as a Rams upset. However Inexperienced Bay fought onerous to achieve the home-field benefit all through the playoffs, and that arduous work might be the workforce’s saving grace. It’s anticipated to be round 30 levels at kickoff in Inexperienced Bay, Wis., and Rams quarterback Jared Goff is just a few weeks faraway from surgical procedure on the thumb of his throwing hand. He appeared to battle along with his grip final week, and the chilly, mixed with a good-enough Packers protection, ought to give Inexperienced Bay all the sting it wants. Choose: Packers

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Payments, 8:15 p.m., NBC

Line: Payments -2.5 | Complete: 50

The Ravens haven’t misplaced a recreation since Dec. 2. The Payments haven’t misplaced one since Nov. 15. Each have weatherproof offenses and defenses able to game-changing performs. And each overcame some psychological weight within the wild-card spherical — Buffalo acquired its first postseason victory because the 1995 season; Lamar Jackson of the Ravens gained a playoff recreation for the primary time.

There are myriad causes to tug for each groups — and a persistent perception that both workforce advancing is simply signing as much as lose to Kansas Metropolis within the subsequent spherical — however it’s onerous to consider that Buffalo, even at house, can sluggish Baltimore’s juggernaut working recreation.

When the Ravens hit the “reset button” after a midseason lull, the workforce targeted practically all of its assault on the working of quarterback Lamar Jackson and working backs J.Okay. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. That led to Baltimore’s dashing for 230 or extra yards in 4 of its last 5 video games of the common season, together with a ridiculous 404 — the fifth-most dashing yards in N.F.L. historical past — in a Week 17 win over Cincinnati. That saved up within the wild-card spherical, with the Ravens working for 236 yards.

Buffalo ranked 17th in run protection this season, however that rating would have been worse had groups not been pressured to go to maintain up with the Payments’ electrical offense. That exhibits up in the truth that Buffalo ranked among the many N.F.L.’s six worst run defenses in yards per carry (4.6) and dashing touchdowns allowed (21).

The Payments’ protection has a number of gamers able to severe disruption, however a lot of that comes within the secondary. On a cold day in Orchard Park, N.Y., the Ravens may give attention to working the ball, and it’s onerous to see the Payments with the ability to cease them. Buffalo’s offense can’t be counted out, even towards a strong Ravens protection, however Baltimore ought to management the clock and the sport. Choose: Ravens

Cleveland Browns at Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, 3:05 p.m., CBS

Line: Chiefs -10 | Complete: 56.5

For all intents and functions, Cleveland superior to the divisional spherical after barely greater than 13 minutes of its wild-card recreation towards Pittsburgh. A playoff recreation has not often gone sideways so rapidly, with the Browns’ protection forcing three fast turnovers and their offense dealing with its finish of the deal by working up a 28-Zero lead with 1 minute 56 seconds left within the first quarter.

The Browns’ 48-37 win shouldn’t be written off as a fluke — Cleveland has its greatest workforce since Coach Invoice Belichick was roaming the sideline within the mid-1990s — however making the most of Ben Roethlisberger’s errors is rather a lot totally different from forcing Patrick Mahomes into some, so anticipating a repeat of that lightning-fast begin can be silly.

Kansas Metropolis may get working again Clyde Edwards-Helaire again from a scary-looking hip damage in Week 15. Even when they don’t, a mix of Le’Veon Bell and Darrel Williams supplies sufficient steadiness that Mahomes ought to be capable to shred Cleveland’s secondary with deep passes to huge receiver Tyreek Hill and throws beneath to tight finish Travis Kelce.

Cleveland’s offense has sometimes proven some burst — final week’s effort was the franchise’s highest-scoring postseason recreation because the 1954 N.F.L. championship — and the Browns can chew up the clock because of the excellent mixture of working backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. However even Baker Mayfield’s most ardent believers ought to battle to take him in a head-to-head matchup with Mahomes. The Browns aren’t pushovers, however they in all probability can not do a lot to face in Kansas Metropolis’s manner. Choose: Chiefs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints, 6:40 p.m., Fox

Line: Saints -3 | Complete: 52

The oldest beginning quarterback left within the A.F.C. playoffs is Baker Mayfield, who doesn’t flip 26 till April. Three of the 4 starters in that convention had been first-round picks within the 2018 draft. By the point any of the 4 had began a recreation within the N.F.L., Tom Brady had already gained 5 Tremendous Bowls and Drew Brees was closing in on Dan Marino’s report for profession passing yards.

The younger gamers have largely reimagined the quarterback place, utilizing their mobility to empower their passing whereas contributing to a leaguewide scoring explosion. But Brady and Brees, museum-quality examples of a forgotten age of pocket passers, keep on, main severe Tremendous Bowl contenders within the second week of the playoffs.

In reality, this recreation shouldn’t be outlined simply by its well-known quarterbacks. Brees’s Saints had loads of offense this season — working again Alvin Kamara led the N.F.L. with 21 whole touchdowns — however relied simply as a lot on the protection, which Dennis Allen, the workforce’s defensive coordinator, constructed right into a powerhouse.

Tampa Bay has a gifted younger protection as properly — the assist on that facet of the ball undoubtedly performed a job in Brady’s resolution to signal there — and in latest weeks, the Buccaneers have began to actually click on on offense. The workforce’s wealth of receiving choices — huge receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown; tight finish Rob Gronkowski — powered Brady to his greatest statistical season since at the very least 2017 and top-of-the-line of his profession.

The regular-season conferences between these groups had been laughable. The Saints gained each, with a mixed rating of 72-26. And they’re enjoying at house, which performs a job for them even when the impression is lessened by the tiny crowds that the workforce is allowed to host. The Buccaneers are a adequate workforce that they need to be revered — in some ways, this looks like a tossup — however the Saints are rightly slim favorites in what might be essentially the most aggressive recreation of the weekend. Choose: Saints.

All instances are Jap.

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