Now that the games from Wild Card weekend are over, the Divisional Round of the playoffs are coming up. Although Wild Card weekend was not as wild as we thought it would be (other than the 49ers game), the Divisional Round is sure to be filled with more intrigue especially with a lot of the top teams getting their injured players back and acquiring more interesting matchups.
To start the weekend, we have the Tennessee Titans facing off against the Cincinnati Bengals. After the Bengals won their first playoff game in decades, they have to go to Nashville to take on the suddenly healthy Titans. The Bengals will have to hope Trey Hendrickson returns from his concussion because the Titans are getting back Derrick Henry since he was lost during October and are getting all their preferred starters back. The Titans set the record for the most used players ever in an NFL season, and now the Bengals have to face a full strength Titans team coming off a bye. Although I think the Titans will take this one, the Bengals will have lots to cheer for with Burrow looking like a star and a great young receiver corps. All the Bengals need to do now is to create a offensive line that can support and protect Burrow.
The next game on Saturday is the 49ers taking on the Green Bay Packers. The 49ers came away with the win against Dallas after a lackluster performance by the Cowboys, but they’ll need to come to play and win at Lambeau to continue their playoff journey. Despite Nick Bosa and Fred Warner getting hurt against the Cowboys, their status against the Packers probably won’t be affected by them, and starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is also likely to start after hurting his hand and his shoulder. But, this Green Bay team is one of the best teams in the NFL for a reason, and they are just going to get better. During Week 18, the Packers got back All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari after he tore his ACL on New Years Eve of 2020, and in addition to Bakhtiari, the Packers are getting back Zadarius Smith and Jaire Alexander from injuries. Moreover, the return of Randall Cobb and Whitney Mercilus to this Packers team makes them even more dangerous this postseason. I see the Packers winning this game despite the 49ers running game posing a threat to the Packers, but the Packers have to keep in mind that this is likely their last year that they can win the Super Bowl. The Packers are already projected to be millions over the cap and they need to take advantage of this talented roster.
Moving onto Sunday, the Rams take on the Buccaneers. After Stafford got his first win behind a dominant performance by the Rams against the Cardinals, the Rams hope to continue their postseason by heading to Tampa. With the return of Cam Akers, the Rams running game will be more of a threat and Cooper Cupp will be on the mind of Todd Bowles this week, but the Buccaneers likely have the talent to stop this Rams team. They got back Lavonte David and their defense has remained stout as seen by their game against the Eagles. Although LA’s defense was smothering against the Bucs, I wouldn’t doubt Brady’s ability to get through this defense, so I think that the Bucs will take this one.
Lastly, onto one of the most anticipated matchups, the Bills and Chiefs because of their superstar quarterbacks. With Mahomes and Allen being the face of a younger generation of QBs in the league, this matchup will likely repeat itself in the coming years. The Bills will travel to Arrowhead to take on Mahomes and the red-hot Chiefs who are getting by Clyde Edwards-Helaire for this divisional matchup. But the Bills are a forced to be reckoned with. After destroying the Patriots in the Wild Card round, their championship-level defense will undoubtedly make the Chiefs uncomfortable. Thankfully for the Chiefs, they have top-tier weapons for Mahomes in Hill and Kelce and they revamped the offensive line after they saw what Mahomes had to do in Tampa last year. I’m confident that the Chiefs will be able to score well in this game but the question is if the Chiefs can stop this Bills team that hung 47 last week. The Chiefs passing defense is the best, and I think that Allen and the Bills will be able to outscore the Cheifs.