The Divisional Round is arguably the best week of football. Personally, I believe the Championship week is the best but there is a legitimate argument for this week as well. Divisional Round football gives us four games with 8 teams that are evenly matched. Any game this week can end up being the game of the week. With this thought, we should get excited about the slate of games that are ahead of us. Lets’ look at some of the matchups that will make the Divisional Round as exciting as it is.
What will the Rams do offensively against the Packers defense?
Last week, we saw what an offense is limited to when the quarterback is dealing with a thumb injury. Jared Goff is recovering but will now have to battle the Packers’ defense and the cold weather. One of the important elements of the game is going to be how the Rams attack the Packers’ defense downfield. While Jared Goof might not hit many deep passes, he needs to throw them to keep the Packers secondary from getting too greedy. The Rams will try to run downhill and win off the play-action but the Packers might play five down linemen which is the similar blueprint they used against the Titans rushing attack.
What will the Packers do offensively against the Rams defense?
We know that Jalen Ramsey is going to shadow Davante Adams the entire game. The big question in the passing game is who can get open if Adams is taken out of the game? A few names come to mind but the X-Factor in this game will be Allen Lazard. Lazard is not only the speed receiver that the Packers need in this game but Lazard is one of the best run-blocking receivers in the game. The Packers are going to have to find the right lineup on the offensive line especially in the interior with Aaron Donald preparing to wreck everything the Packers do offensively. The Packers will also have to hope that both Aaron Jones and AJ Dillion can carry the run game, especially on the edge against the Rams great pass rushers but only good run blockers.
The Packers aren’t going to blow out the Rams but will win this game handily. Aaron Rodgers is going to create with his mobility and find open receivers as the play breaks down. Additionally, the Packers will be able to run the ball late in the game against a tired Rams defense to seal the victory. The Rams will have a long day offensively with the Packer front seven eliminating many of the run lanes upfront. Expect the Packers to pull ahead late to win the first game of the Divisional Round.
What will the Ravens do offensively against the Bills defense?
The Ravens’ run game has looked unstoppable in the past month. The offensive line has finally figured out the right combination and Lamar Jackson with JK Dobbins are both finding running lanes and taking advantage of them. The Ravens will run early and often but the Bills are going to likely try to combat the East-West run game with faster personnel. When forced to turn to the passing game, we can expect the Ravens to look for Mark Andrews in one-on-one coverage. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens will find open receivers against a great Bills secondary.
What will the Bills do offensively against the Ravens defense?
There is more than enough praise that has been given to Josh Allen this season and rightfully so. He is the toughest quarterback to prepare for in the NFL, being able to hit any receiver and take off for big runs on any play. However, the Bills have built a potent offense across the board for Allen to thrive with. How will the Ravens counter to try to stop Josh Allen? One way will be by forcing Allen to stay in the pocket. Allen completes only 60% of his passes when he spends more than 2.5 seconds in the pocket compared to the 79% completion rate when he spends less than 2.5 seconds in the pocket. Moreover, the Bills will have to look for Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, and John Brown to have big games considering Stefon Diggs is going to be shadowed the entire game by Marlon Humphrey.
The Bills are going to try to keep the running game going even without Zach Moss. We can expect some designed runs for Josh Allen just like we saw last week. We should also expect the Bills to look for John Brown to potentially make a big play deep considering he can be lined up against a third or even fourth cornerback on the depth chart. The Ravens will put up points in this game but it will interesting to see if they can win this game even if they are trailing. Expect the Bills to come out on top in a potential snow game in the Divisional Round.
What will the Browns do offensively against the Chiefs defense?
It’s a cliché to say that they need to establish downhill running. Last week, the offensive line dominated the entire game to allow Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt big run plays. The Chiefs are going to load the box and press the Browns receivers, forcing Baker Mayfield to throw into tighter windows. One of the interesting parts of this game will be seeing how the tight ends impact the offense. Both Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant have been exceptional throughout this season in both the run game and passing game. The big fear for Cleveland has to be if they start trailing in this game, aside from Baker Mayfield being forced to throw without the security of the play-action, the Chiefs are best defensively when they can rush the passer.
What will the Chiefs do offensively against the Browns defense?
The Chiefs have to establish the run. We know Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback and will lead the explosive offense. However, the Browns will prepare defensively to stop the passing attack at all costs, daring the Chiefs to run the ball. Aside from finding a way to design creative run plays, the decisive factor in the Chiefs offense will be if Patrick Mahomes is forced to throw from the pocket or if he will create big plays with his legs. The Browns will try to rush Mahomes but will have to do so methodically. Additionally, Kansas City will do everything in their power to get Tyreek Hill the ball in space, whether it be on punt returns or on end-around plays, Hill’s speed is impossible to stop once he gets in space.
The Chiefs are heavy favorites in this game and rightfully so. Aside from everything that went right last week for Cleveland, Kansas City knows not to make the same mistakes that Pittsburgh did. They know that when Jarvis Landry lines up in the slot, to guard him with a nickel corner and not a linebacker. The Chiefs know that the Browns like to work off the run game and especially off the downhill run game. Aside from the Chiefs adjusting to the Browns offense and preparing accordingly, the offense will pile on the points. It’s only a matter of time before Patrick Mahomes does find space to run and forces the hand of the Browns defense. Andy Reid will also open up the playbook to not only find creative run plays, but potential gadget plays to win this game and the third Divisional Round victory for Patrick Mahomes.
What will the Bucs do offensively against the Saints defense?
We know that Mike Evans will be essentially taken out of this game by Marshon Lattimore. This will force Tom Brady to look for his second or third receiver on every play. The Bucs need to do a few things offensively against a Saints defense that is arguably the best in the NFL. The first thing they need to do is get Rob Gronkowski in the blocking game. Gronk is one of the best run-blocking tight ends in the NFL and taking out the edge defenders for the Saints will be crucial. It will also be pivotal for the Bucs to continuously run the ball even if the Saints are swarming their running backs. The last time these two teams played, Tampa ran the ball five times, that can’t happen again.
What will the Saints do offensively against the Bucs defense?
Drew Brees will consistently look for Michael Thomas to be open. The Bucs don’t have one corner that can shadow Thomas in this game but will constantly keep two defenders in the vicinity of the incredible receiver. Considering how the Bucs will try to also prevent Alvin Kamara from beating them in the passing game, the Saints will have to turn to a few X-Factors. Drew Brees may have to find Emmanuel Sanders or one of his tight ends open throughout this game. The Saints may also try to turn to Taysom Hill to make the occasional big play, the only fear is that Hill costs the Saints with one of those plays as he almost did last week. Additionally, it will be interesting to see if the Saints can attack the Bucs on the ground. Tampa allowed only 80.6 rushing yards per game, the best mark in the NFL.
The Saints are trying to sweep the Buccaneers this season and will try to beat the best playoff quarterback in the history of the game. However, the Saints should win this game with the more talented roster. The Saints will rush four defensive linemen and expect Trey Hendrickson and Cameron Jordan to be able to get to Tom Brady. We can expect this game to be close but whenever Drew Brees needs a third-down conversion, he can turn to Michael Thomas. The Saints are going to win this game but expect it to be close and an entertaining game to cap off the Divisional Round.