Last week I made the pledge to finish this postseason above .500 (getting over half my predictions right). Well, I couldn’t have gotten off to a better start going a perfect 6 for 6. So, if you won a few bets, you’re welcome. Enough about me, let’s get down to business. Six teams were eliminated last week and only eight remain. After having the week off, Green Bay and Tennessee will now join the festivities. All four matchups are pretty tasty and should give us much better games than last week. Without further ado, let’s breakdown these matchups.
#4 Cincinnati Bengals @ #1 Tennessee Titans
The first matchup of the weekend also happens to be the only matchup that isn’t a rematch. Winning the number 1 seed allowed the Titans to take last week off. The Bengals on the other hand snapped a 31-year playoff victory drought with their win over Vegas last week. All indications show that this could potentially be a game full of fireworks. Let’s see how these two teams stack up.
For the first time in my life the Bengals won a playoff game. It was a total team effort as the offense and defense both stepped up. The offense is led by Joe Burrow, and he will be looked upon to have another big day. He will be supported by Joe Mixon and Ja’Marr Chase, who will both want to leave their mark. This offense has the firepower to put up points in a hurry. The Bengals need to make every possession count as they likely won’t have as many as last week.
Defensively the Bengals have a job on their hands. With Derrick Henry coming back from injury, they face arguably the best running back in the league. Keeping him under wraps is perhaps the biggest key for this defense. As mentioned before the Titans love to eat up the clock. They do that by running the ball down defense’s throats. If Tennessee has to throw the ball, Cincy will like their chances. If Cincy can’t contain the running game, then it will be curtains.
Tennessee’s offense is built upon the shoulders of Derrick Henry. He is without a doubt their x-factor for this year’s postseason. The Titans will only go as far as he will carry them. Their QB Ryan Tannehill will be expected to make plays when needed. However, if it comes to a situation where they have to throw their way out of trouble, that will surely cause problems. The Titans will look to get ahead early and control the clock. If they can succeed in that, then they are in prime position for their offense to succeed.
Like the Bengals defense, the Titans defense will surely have their work cut out for them. They face off against a high-powered offense that can score at any time. Ja’Marr Chase will be their number one priority as he simply cannot be allowed to roam free. If Chase has a big day, then you can be sure that the Titans Super Bowl dreams are in danger. Keeping the Cincy offense at bay will go a long way towards securing their place in the AFC Championship.
Verdict: Titans 27 Bengals 20
#6 San Francisco 49ers @ #1 Green Bay Packers
The late Saturday night game features two teams that are no strangers to one another. This will be the 4th playoff meeting between the two sides since 2012. The 49ers have won the previous three matchups and will be looking to make it four. The Packers on the other hand will be hoping to expel their demons and finally overcome San Francisco. As is the case with any January game in Green Bay, the weather will be a factor. A chilly 13 degrees should give this game an old school feel to it. So, who will book their place in the NFC Championship game?
The Niners walked into Dallas and bullied their way into a lead big enough to hold against a late Cowboys rally. The Niners offense can hurt you in a variety of ways. But perhaps the main man in this show is Deebo Samuel. He’s a receiver that the Niners also use as a running back. His involvement and impact are hugely important for any type of San Francisco victory. Due to the cold weather, look for the Niners to establish their running game early and often. A flourishing running game gives the Niners offense the best chance at success.
How does one stop Aaron Rodgers? That is the question the Niners defense will be asking themselves all week. It is also a question that needs to be answered on Saturday, otherwise it will be a long night. Adding to the defense’s problems is the health of star player Nick Bosa. He left last week’s game with a concussion, and it remains to be seen if he will be cleared to play. He’s obviously a game changer for the Niners and his absence will be a huge loss.
Speaking of Rodgers, he leads this Packers team in hopes of winning another championship. They finished the regular season with the league’s best record, and for good reason. Aaron Rodgers will likely win the MVP award for the second year in a row. He amassed over 4,000 passing yards to go with 37 TDs while only having four passes intercepted. Considering his previous woes at the hands of the Niners, look for Rodgers to put in an inspired effort.
The Packers defense will be tasked with getting the ball back in Rodger’s hands as often as possible. Jimmy Garoppolo always looks ripe for a turnover or two, and this weekend should be no different. Green Bay’s defense will want to take full advantage of any mistakes that he makes. The likely plan will be to minimize the Niners offense while the Packers rack up points. The hope will be that this will force Garoppolo into game-changing mistakes.
Verdict: Packers 31 49ers 17
#4 Los Angeles Rams @ #2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
These two teams faced off against each other in a week three affair that saw the Rams run out as 34-24 winners. That game took place in LA, but this time around it will be the Buccaneers who can rely on home support. Both teams come into this game having survived super wild card weekend with hopes of advancing to the NFC Championship. Both teams have legitimate aspirations for winning the Super Bowl. Only one can take that next step; the question will be, who is the lucky team?
The Rams put together one of their best performances of the season last week. The offense was efficient and deadly. Best of all, they didn’t turn the ball over. More than ever, that needs to continue as you can’t afford to give Tom Brady extra opportunities. The emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. and Cam Akers has really given this offense a boost. Of course, the Rams can still rely on Cooper Kupp to make a play when needed. Once again it will be up to Matthew Stafford to play a clean and efficient game. A repeat performance of the first meeting should put LA in a good position to win.
Like the offense, the Rams defense put in an impressive performance last week. But this week they face a different challenge altogether. Brady has all the experience in the world and will certainly use it to his advantage. Tampa’s offensive power makes it just about impossible to shut them down. The key will be keeping that offense out of the end zone and holding them to field goals. Succeed in that and maybe, just maybe, the Rams can book their ticket to the next round.
Nothing else needs to be nor can it be said about Tom Brady. He has done it all and more. In fact, as of right now he is older than every single head coach left in the playoffs. Remarkable, considering the violent nature of this sport. He leads a powerful offense that had their way with the Eagle’s defense last week. This LA defense will provide him a tougher test, but nothing he can’t handle. Even without starting RB Leonard Fournette, this offense will score points. The only question is how many and how often.
Last time this defense saw LA they were torched left and right. Obviously, they will be hoping for better results this time around. The secondary is still pretty banged up and the chances of a repeat torching is high. Back then, Matthew Stafford was playing at his absolute best. As of right now you can’t say the same. That leaves the possibility and opportunity for this Tampa defense to pounce on a mistake. While the outcome will likely be decided by the two offenses, the Tampa defense could really play a part as well.
Verdict: Rams 31 Buccaneers 27
#3 Buffalo Bills @ #2 Kansas City Chiefs
This is perhaps the marquee matchup of the weekend. So naturally the NFL decided to save the best game for last. Last year, KC ended the Bills season in the playoffs. Then earlier this season the Bills got a measure of revenge when they walloped the Chiefs 38-20. There is no love lost between the two sides and this really should’ve been an AFC Championship clash. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be, and we will have to settle for one of these teams going home early. No disrespect to the Titans, but the winner of this game will likely be favorites to win the AFC. So, who has the edge?
Nobody had a more dominating performance last week than the Buffalo Bills. Their performance was so dominating that they became the first team in NFL history to have the perfect offensive game. The Bills did not have a single drive end in a turnover, punt, or field goal. Every single possession ended with a touchdown. While Buffalo surely won’t reach the same heights, they come into this game full of confidence and momentum. Josh Allen will once again have to play a big part in the Bills success. The question everyone can’t wait to find the answer to is, can he keep up with Patrick Mahomes?
Slowing down Mahomes will be the responsibility of the defense. They did a wonderful job of that in their first meeting. However, the Chiefs offense was woeful during that period of the season. The beast they face this time around will be much stronger and with a chip on its shoulder. Most teams would be worried about this, but not arguably the league’s best defense. If anything, this will only motivate them to step their game up another notch. It will be extremely fascinating to see how well they stifle Mahomes.
As for Mahomes, he had a stellar game last week as well. After dispatching the Steelers, he has his sights on Buffalo to be his next victim. The Chiefs will be keen to start this game out better than they did last week. It wasn’t until after a defensive touchdown by the Steelers that the Chiefs switched into first gear. A failure to do so could allow Buffalo a head start that could prove to be fatal. However, if there is one team that you would bet on making a late comeback it would be this one. Whether they fall behind or not, the one guarantee is that there will be no shortage of fireworks.
Of course, the Kansas City defense would love to keep the Buffalo fireworks to a minimum. Unlike Buffalo, the Chief’s defense isn’t known for shutting opposing offenses down. They did a wonderful job last week against Pittsburgh, but the Steeler offense pales in comparison to the Bills. This defense will have their hands full keeping Josh Allen at bay. The goal will likely be to keep Buffalo to only field goals. If they can force a turnover or two, even better, but don’t get your hopes up. What you can expect, though, is a high scoring thriller.
Verdict: Bills 38 Chiefs 34
Last week: 6-0