NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Preview and Predictions

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NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Preview and Predictions

Chicago Bears

And then there were eight…

AFC

Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) at Tennessee Titans (12-5)

•   Kickoff: Saturday, January 22 – 3:30 pm (ct)
•   Broadcast: CBS – Ian Eagle, Trent Green, Evan Washburn
•   Odds: TEN -3.5 – O/U: 47.5

Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals notched the first playoff win for the Bengals in 31 years last week with a win over the Raiders in the Wild Card round but facing the No. 1 seeded Titans in the Divisional Round; this matchup presents a challenge for Joe Burrow and the Bengals.

But can Burrow and the Bengals keep rolling? Believe it or not, the Titans are a favorable matchup for them. The Bengals rank seventh in the NFL in passing yards, and we all know that the Burrow-Chase connection is as dangerous as any in the league right now. The Titans are in the bottom eight in pass defense. If Tennessee doesn’t get adequate pressure on Joe Burrow, the Bengals air attack could spell big trouble for Tennessee in this one. Joe Burrow completed 26-of-37 passes for 249 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a victory over Tennessee last season during his rookie year, all without his buddy Ja’Marr Chase.

Even so, there might be a way for Tennessee to slow down Burrow through the air:

I’m going with the the dogs in this one. Burrow and the Bengals stay hot and upset the Titans in Nashville.

Prediction: Bengals

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Buffalo Bills (11-6) at Kansas City (12-5)

•   Kickoff: Sunday, January 23 – 5:30 pm (ct)
•   Broadcast: CBS – Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson, Jay Feely
•   Odds: KC -2 – O/U: 53.5

The line will tell you what we already know; this will be a heck of a matchup. Maybe even the best matchup of the divisional round. The rematch of last year’s AFC Championship is the same name, but I think Buffalo is the better team by a slight edge this time around. Buffalo was third in the NFL in points scored this season, and the defense allowed the fewest points in the NFL season. That Buffalo defense was No. 2 in DVOA, according to football outsiders.

The Cheifs are no slouches either. After awakening from their early-season slumber, the defense has looked drastically better, and Patrick Mahomes finished the regular season by throwing 19 touchdowns to five interceptions over ten games. Mahomes sliced up the Steelers for five touchdowns in the Wild Card round, and the Chiefs have been to the Super Bowl the past two years and won one just two years ago, so they’ve been here before.

Josh Allen and the Bills have already beaten the Chiefs this season in Kansas City, and the Bills looked unstoppable last week against New England when they scored on every possession except for the kneel-downs at the end. The Bills might be two-point dogs on the road in this one, but I think they’re going to have the last laugh this time around.

Prediction: Bills

NFC

San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at Green Bay Packers (13-4)

•   Kickoff: Saturday, January 22 – 7:15 pm (ct)
•   Broadcast: FOX – Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews, Tom Rinaldi
•   Odds: GB -5.5 – O/U: 47

San Francisco did well in the Wild Card round by cashing on my upset prediction, but can the 49ers do it again, this time at Lambeau Field against Aaron Rodgers and the top-seeded Green Bay Packers? With snow expected tonight and tomorrow morning and game-time temperatures around 5° and -10° with the wind chill, it will be the frozen tundra that the Packers so often use to their advantage in Green Bay.

While the 49ers, on paper, are a matchup challenge for Green Bay, I can’t see them beating the Packers at Lambeau Field, where Aaron Rodgers and Co. have one of the best home-field advantages in all of football. The Packers score nearly eight more points per game at Lambeau than they do on the road, and they’ve allowed the second-fewest points at home this season to opposing offenses. Aaron Rodgers is playing at the highest level of his career and surrounded by a team with plenty of weapons, so despite San Francisco having their number in recent years, the 49ers would have to play a near-perfect game to pull off the upset.

Prediction: Packers

Los Angeles Rams (12-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)

•   Kickoff: Sunday, January 23 – 2:00 pm (ct)
•   Broadcast: NBC – Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya, Kathryn Tappen
•   Odds: TB -3 – O/U: 48.5

Matthew Stafford and the Rams made a mockery of the Arizona Cardinals last week to notch Stafford’s first playoff victory of his career. Still, it may very well be his last this season as the Rams have to visit Tom Brady and the defending champs in Tampa Bay on Sunday. The Los Angeles defense ambushed Kyler Murray and the Cardinals from the jump, but that’s not going to happen to Tom Brady. So, Stafford will be asked to do more this week than he did last week (13-of-17, 202 yards, two touchdowns) if the Rams want to beat Tampa.

Perhaps the feel-good story out of Los Angeles on Monday night, Cam Akers, will play a significant role in this one for the Rams. In his first game since tearing his Achilles during training camp Akers rushed for 55 yards and took a catch 40 yards to end the game with 95 total yards in his return. If Akers and Sony Michel can open up some shots downfield for the Rams, they might be able to take advantage of the Bucs secondary.

For Tampa Bay, they made light work of the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round, but the Rams are no Eagles, and Matthew Stafford is no Jane Hurts, so the champs will have a much more arduous task on their plates this weekend. Even so, I have a general rule of thumb, and that’s never bet against Brady. I think this one will be close, but I’m going with the guy with seven Super Bowl rings.

Prediction: Buccaneers



Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.