NFL Divisional Round Playoffs: The Championships around the Corner
The NFL Wild Card round is finished, and we are in for one of the most entertaining divisional rounds of recent memory. The writers for the Leonid decided to sit down and analyze the upcoming matchups.
- Green Bay Packers (1) vs. San Francisco 49ers (6)
Coming off a bye, the Green Bay Packers will take on the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night, at 8:15 on FOX.
Green Bay Strengths and Weaknesses:
The former MVP, Aaron Rodgers, will lead his Packers against Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers. Aaron Rodgers is 0-3 against the 49ers in his postseason career, so he will look to get revenge on the Niners this weekend. The Packers strength is their offense. With Aaron Rodgers and star wide receiver Davante Adams, they will torch the 49ers secondary. In week 3, the Packers won 30-28 and Davante Adams had 12 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. The Packers will need to put up an even better performance this week, as the emergence of Deebo Samuel on offense has made their Niners offense more explosive. On the other side of the ball, they are much better than they have been in recent years. I do not think that the Packers have a weakness, but they will have to stop Deebo Samuel and Eli Mitchell from running the ball. Jimmy G will not tear up their secondary, but Kyle Shanahan is a very creative play caller, and you can expect the 49ers to be very prepared for this matchup. The Packers will need to score and get stops, which is easier said than done against the 49ers.
San Francisco Strengths and Weaknesses:
San Francisco’s offense is no joke. With Deebo Samuel playing wide receiver and running back, their offense has taken off. Their run game has gone up to the next level and they will give the Packers defense problems. While Jimmy Garropolo is dealing with a shoulder strain and thumb injury, Head Coach Kyle Shanahan will be handing the ball off to Deebo and rookie running back Elijah Mitchell. The 49ers offense will need to score 26+ to have a shot in this game, in my opinion. While they can rely on their run game, their defense will need to slow down Aaron Rodgers, which is easier said than done. Davante Adams is going to get his, but the Niners need to stop the run game and limit the production of Rodgers’ other receivers.
Prediction: Green Bay Packers: 33
San Francisco 49ers: 23
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2) vs. Los Angeles Rams (4)
After dominating wins for both teams, the Los Angeles Rams travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers on Sunday at 3:00 on NBC.
Tampa Bay Strengths and Weaknesses:
The Buccaneers are coming off a blowout win against the Philadelphia Eagles, and they will need to build on that. The Rams defense is star studded, so Tom Brady will need help from the run game, specifically Leonard Fournette. The Bucs are getting healthier by the day which is a positive. They lost to the Rams earlier this season, so they will need a better gameplan from Head Coach Bruce Arians. My concern is the Buccaneers secondary. They have great linebackers and a strong defensive line, but their secondary needs to slow down Cooper Kupp. If the Bucs let Matthew Stafford have more than 3 seconds in the pocket, he will torch them by getting the ball to Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr.. If the Buccaneers can limit Los Angeles’ scoring, they have a great chance to get back to the NFC Championship game.
Los Angeles Strengths and Weaknesses:
The LA Rams have an opportunity to knock out the defending champs this weekend, who they have already beaten once this year. Their defense is their strength. With Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and Von Miller, they are a three man wrecking crew. Those three need to show up, and that is what I expect them to do. They will need to play tight coverage and get pressure on Tom Brady. Tristan Wirfs, the Buccaneers stud offensive linemen, is questionable, and if he is unable to go, Donald will need to feast on Brady. Offensively, they are also stacked with talent, but my one concern is Matthew Stafford. Coming off the first playoff win of his career, he will need another stellar performance, and I am not confident that we will see that, against a Todd Bowles playoff defense. If Stafford turns the ball over more than one time, the Rams have no shot to win this game.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 31
Los Angeles Rams: 23
- Tennessee Titans (1) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (4)
The number one seed Tennessee Titans start their playoff run against the red hot Cincinnati Bengals this afternoon at 4:30 on CBS.
Tennessee Strengths and Weaknesses:
All hail the king! King Henry makes his return this afternoon. Derrick Henry, the freight train, will be on the football field for the first time since week eight. This should give the Titans a huge boost going into the playoffs. Running the football has always been the Titans’ strength, and his return will give the Bengals problems. The Titans will need to score 25+ if they want to win this game, and I think they will do just that. The Titans have no real weakness, as long as Tannehill takes care of the football. Defensively, they have an unbelievably good defensive line, with three players having 7+ sacks this season. I feel confident that the Titans will have a great game this weekend, as Head Coach Mike Vrabel is dominant in games after having a bye week. I am expecting a statement win from the Titans this weekend.
Cincinnati Strengths and Weaknesses:
The Bengals are coming off a great win against the Las Vegas Raiders, but the Titans are much better. Joe Burrow will need to protect the football and distribute the ball between Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Along with the passing attack, Joe Mixon will need to run the ball effectively, which will keep the Titans defense honest. Defensively, you wish the Bengals defense luck. Derrick Henry is impossible to stop and insanely difficult to tackle, so if the Bengals are unable to slow him down, their chances of winning this game are zero.
Prediction: Tennessee Titans: 28
Cincinnati Bengals: 24
- Kansas City Chiefs (2) vs. Buffalo Bills (3)
The Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes take on the Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen on Sunday at 6:30 on CBS.
Kansas City Strengths and Weaknesses:
The Chiefs have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, and they will need that against the Bills, who have the number one ranked defense in the NFL. Mahomes will need to protect the ball, which he didn’t do in the Chiefs 38-20 loss against the Bills earlier in the season. Tyreek Hill will need to catch the balls that are thrown to him, and they will need to run the ball effectively. Defensively, they will need to stop Josh Allen. Allen is a passing and running threat, which means they will need a spy on him for much of the game. The Chiefs defense has gotten better throughout the year, but they will need an elite performance this weekend. Turnovers will be vital against this Bills team.
Buffalo Strengths and Weaknesses:
The Bills have an elite offense, as do the Chiefs, but their defense is what makes them dangerous. Behind Jordan Poyer, this Bills defense has been stellar all season. They were able to make life tough on Patrick Mahomes in their first matchup, and they will have to do that again this weekend. They truly have no weaknesses, as long as their stars show up to play. If their defense and offense are ready for this epic showdown, I think the Bills can win this game, even in Arrowhead. This might be the year Josh Allen takes down Patrick Mahomes, I guess we will have to just wait and see.
Prediction: Buffalo Bills: 35
Kansas City Chiefs: 31
By George Keene