The 2021 NFL Playoffs continue with this weekend’s Divisional Round. After defeating the Chicago Bears in the Wild Card Round, the New Orleans Saints are now ready to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the Divisional Round. Who Dat Nation has waited a long time for this game to finally get here, so let it finally begin! Let’s take a look at this marquee matchup as well as the other three games this Divisional Playoff weekend!
Last week I went 3-3
I told you so: Saints over Bears!
What do I know: Steelers over Browns?
NFC - #6 Los Angeles Rams at #1 Green Bay Packers
Saturday, January 16th - 3:35pm CST - FOX
This is far, far more even a matchup than most have given credit. The names Aaron Rodgers and Lambeau keep coming up, without respect to anything else in this one. The very same Aaron Rodgers that lost convincingly at the very same Lambeau the one and only time before now that the Packers held the #1 seed in the NFC (in 2011). Lambeau, in and of itself is certainly not insurmountable, as is Rodgers. Although formidable, Rodgers and the Pack can certainly be beaten at home.
At full strength, the Rams are just the type of matchup that can knock the Pack on their backs, a top-ten rushing attack, a top-five defense (first in the NFL, in fact), and a dangerous set of pass-catchers, can and will cause Green Bay problems. A top-flight cornerback like Jalen Ramsey will take Davante Adams off the board, while Aaron Donald puts enormous amounts of pressure on Rodgers. The caveat here is “at full strength” though. The Rams aren't quite there. Jared Goff only got into last week’s game due to his backup’s early injury. Although his recovery has been remarkably quick, the Rams’ quarterback is undoubtedly still suffering the effects from his injury. No matter how well he has healed, 30º temperatures certainly won't benefit Goff’s surgically repaired thumb.
If Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, and Jared Goff, among others, were fully healthy, this game easily could be the Rams’ to win, but the nagging injuries, the cold weather, and the likely league MVP coming through on an unlikely big play, will be enough to see the Packers ultimately win a razor-thin contest that will be the closest of the 2021 playoffs. On the final drive of the game, Rodgers finds a way to squeak this one out. Green Bay wins 25-24.
AFC - #5 Baltimore Ravens at #2 Buffalo Bills
Saturday, January 16th - 7:15pm CST - NBC
Baltimore showed a lot in Tennessee last week, proving to doubters that they were up to the task in this playoff run. Lamar Jackson was clearly the primary focus of much of that doubt, but he torched the opposition with his legs while keeping them honest with his arm. In many ways, it was the best of Lamar. Last week was just the warmup, as Lamar Jackson will have a career-defining performance in Buffalo. Lamar has to have his best game, as Josh Allen and the Bills will be up to the challenge.
Buffalo faced a stiffer than expected challenge at home last week, but they did what the had to to secure the win. The Baltimore defense will be the key in this one though, pressuring Allen is easier said than done, but they have the personnel to do it. The Buffalo offense will get theirs, but not as much as they are accustomed to. Neither team will break away from the other and this will come down to the wire. Down a point, late in the fourth, it will be a Justin Tucker field goal that puts the Ravens ahead, followed by a huge defensive stand to seal the game. Baltimore wins 27-25.
AFC - #6 Cleveland Browns at #1 Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, January 17th - 2:05pm CST - CBS
The Browns certainly turned heads and exorcised demons last week in Pittsburgh, winning their first playoff game since New Year’s Day 1995. Their award now for that accomplishment is a date with the reigning Super Bowl Champions at Arrowhead. The Browns are good, they are exciting to watch, they are easy to root for, and they are not quite ready to take out the Chiefs.
Patrick Mahomes and the NFL’s top-ranked offense will simply be too much for Cleveland to overcome. The Browns simply aren't built to run with the NFL’s #1 passing attack, they are built, like a week ago, to build on a lead and allow Nick Chubb to bury the opposition. Kansas City, though, has proven no deficit is too big, and no team is more dangerous when trailing than the Chiefs. Kansas City wins 33-20.
NFC - #5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at #2 New Orleans Saints
Sunday, January 17th - 5:40pm CST - FOX
You will have read and heard a lot about how difficult it is for a team to beat an opponent three times in one season/playoffs.
That simply couldn't be further from the truth. The Saints will be playing for the NFC Title a week from Sunday.
Saints win 31-17.
We move one week closer to arguably the most exciting day in sports, NFL Conference Championship Sunday. Which of these teams will represent the NFL’s final four? We’ll just have to wait and see. The most important thing is that the Saints are one of those teams! Leave us your picks, comments, and insight below!