The Wildcard Round of the playoffs had some strong winners, a couple upsets, and some great storylines. The drama continues to unfold this weekend in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
With the new playoff format, neither #2 seed was guaranteed to make it to the divisional round, as that first round bye was taken away to make room for seven playoff teams. However, the Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints took care of business last weekend, setting up the classic scenario of the #1 and #2 seeds hosting second round playoff matchups.
In the AFC, the young guns run the show. Baker Mayfield is actually the oldest quarterback left in the AFC field, older than Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen. This crop of quarterbacks could very well represent the position for much of the next decade.
On the NFC side, we have three future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, all with Super Bowl titles under their belt, as well as Jared Goff, who has at least appeared in a Super Bowl. It doesn’t get much better than Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers, and it’s very likely one of them will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
There are two games that I anticipate will be very close, but as we know, anything could happen in the playoffs, and all four matchups are worthy of attention.
Week 1: 10-6
Week 2: 11-5
Week 3: 8-7-1
Week 4: 10-5
Week 5: 7-7
Week 6: 10-4
Week 7: 10-4
Week 8: 7-7
Week 9: 7-7
Week 10: 9-5
Week 11: 7-7
Week 12: 9-7
Week 13: 8-7
Week 14: 12-4
Week 15: 11-5
Week 16: 9-7
Week 17: 12-4
Regular Season: 157-98-1 (62% correct)
Wildcard Round: 4-2
In the Wildcard Round, I incorrectly predicted:
- Seahawks over Rams
- Steelers over Browns
#6 Los Angels Rams (11-6) at #1 Green Bay Packers (13-3)
Line: Green Bay Packers (-6.5)
The Rams win over the Seahawks surprised me last week, perhaps even more so than the Browns win over the Steelers. However, while Los Angeles was able to grind out a win over the division foes, in the tough environment of Seattle, playing the Packers in Green Bay in January is a whole different ball game.
Likely MVP Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a 7-1 home record this season, as well as the best record in the NFC. While he’s gone one-and-done in the playoffs before against inferior opponents, the Rams don’t seem like the kind of team that will put a dent in Green Bay’s armor. If the Packers had to play the Buccaneers, which I projected in my original bracket, it might have been a different story. But this hot and cold Rams team doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with Rodgers’ well-oiled offense.
Packers win 33-16, Packers win ATS
#5 Baltimore Ravens (12-5) at #2 Buffalo Bills (14-3)
Line: Buffalo Bills (-2.5)
I really want to pick the Ravens here, for a couple reasons. First and foremost, with the zero-playoff win monkey off his back, I’d love to see Lamar Jackson tear it up and push Baltimore all the way to the Super Bowl. Additionally, the Colts gave Buffalo a hard time last week, and on paper the Ravens are a better team than Indianapolis. And finally, I don’t want to pick all home teams, because that’s boring.
But ultimately, I find myself picking Josh Allen and the second-seeded Bills. The Ravens won’t be able to run up the score like they did so often during the regular season. Baltimore only scored 20 points last week, holding Tennessee to 13. I don’t see Buffalo’s offense being that limited, and for once, the Ravens might be the ones trying to keep up.
I think the new playoff format also helps the Bills. If they were coming off a bye, I think they could have been prone to one of those “rusty” one-and-done performances. But with positive momentum after last week’s win over the Colts, I think the Bills ward off another late comeback attempt.
Bills win 30-27, Bills win ATS
Sunday Day Games
#6 Cleveland Browns (12-5) at #1 Kansas City Chiefs (14-2)
Line: Kansas City Chiefs (-10.0)
I give a lot of credit to the Browns for getting here. I doubted them all season, but they were able to overcome playing without their head coach and beat the Steelers 48-37 last week. I did not expect Cleveland to still be playing in the second round of the playoffs.
But the opponent, while not quite impossible to defeat, is pretty darn close to unbeatable. The Chiefs have dominated the NFL over the past two seasons, with a 29-6 record dating back to the start of the 2019-20 season and including the postseason. Patrick Mahomes is 23-1 in his last 24 starts. The Chiefs defense hasn’t been great in 2020-21, but it hasn’t even mattered.
In some of their biggest games of the season, the Browns have put up 40+ points. But in almost every instance, they build up a huge, multi-touchdown lead, yet somehow allow the game to get close by the fourth quarter. Even if they still won, I don’t think the same strategy would work against the Chiefs. Mahomes could lead five, six, seven straight touchdowns against the Browns soft second half defense.
Ideally, that exact scenario plays out: the Browns take an early lead, and it’s a back and forth shootout between Mahomes and Baker Mayfield, ending in the 40’s or even 50’s. However, Cleveland can’t pull off that type of game every week, and against a superior Chiefs team, I think they simply won’t score too many points.
Chiefs win 38-23, Chiefs win ATS
#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5) at #2 New Orleans Saints (13-4)
Line: New Orleans Saints (-3.0)
The marquee matchup of the Divisional Round is saved for Sunday evening, as future Hall of Fames Tom Brady and Drew Brees square off in the playoffs for the first time. Of course, as NFC South rivals, it will be their third meeting of the year. New Orleans beat the Buccaneers 34-23 in Week 1, then decimated them 38-3 in Tampa Bay in Round 2.
I don’t expect a blowout, but it’s pretty clear the Saints are the better team and appear to have the Buccaneers number. With a slow 1-2 start out of the gate, the Saints finished the season on an 11-2 note, with one loss coming at the hands of the Chiefs and the other a start by Taysom Hill. And both of these losses were only by three points. Tampa Bay has been up and down in the second half of the season. They beat Washington 31-23 last week, but a one-score win over a 7-9 team isn’t inspiring heading in to a matchup with the second-seeded team in the NFC.
The Saints have a well-rounded roster, which was proven by their ability to win even without Brees. With Brees at the helm in what could be his final ride, the Saints should be in the driver’s seat for this game. That’s not to say things couldn’t get fuzzy in the fourth quarter, but in the end, I have Brees over Brady for the third time this season.
Saints win 31-27, Saints win ATS
- 2020-21 NFL Playoff Bracket Predictions and Super Bowl Matchup
- 2020-21 NFL Predictions: Standings and Super Bowl Matchup
- NFL 2020 Midseason Predictions: Final Standings and Super Bowl Matchup
- NFL 2020 Picks: Week 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, Wildcard
- NFL 2020 Power Rankings: Post-Week 1, Post-Week 2, Post-Week 3, Post-Week 4, Post-Week 5, Post-Week 6, Post-Week 7, Post-Week 8, Post-Week 9, Post-Week 10, Post-Week 11, Post-Week 12, Post-Week 13, Post-Week 14, Post-Week 15, Post-Week 16, Post-Week 17
- NFL MVP Watch: Quarter Season, Half Season, Three-Quarter Season
- Five Landing Spots for Cam Newton in 2021
- How Much is Saquon Barkley Worth to the Giants?
- Expectations for Odell Beckham Jr’s Second Year in Cleveland
- Quarterback Dilemma in Chicago: Nick Foles vs Mitch Trubisky
- 2019 Preseason Predictions: Standings, Playoff Teams, Super Bowl Matchup
- 2019 NFL Playoff Bracket Predictions and Super Bowl Matchup
- Eli Manning is a Sure-Fire Hall of Famer
- 2020-21 NBA Standings, Playoffs, NBA Finals Predictions
- Top Ten Players Heading Into the 2020-21 NBA Season
- Top Five Active NBA Players Who Deserve A Ring
- Durant Dominates in Debut, Nets Down Warriors 125-99 in Season Opener
- Grading the Russell Westbrook-John Wall Trade
- Minnesota Timberwolves Select Anthony Edwards First Overall in the 2020 NBA Draft
- James Harden Wants Out of Houston, Prefers Brooklyn Nets
- “Run it Back:” Anthony Davis to Re-Sign with Los Angeles Lakers
- Who is 76ers Guard Shake Milton?
- 2019-20 NBA Predictions: Standings, Playoff Teams, MVP and Finals Matchup
- Re-Selecting the 2020 NBA All-Stars
- Top Five Duos in the NBA Bubble
- Track Review: Give No Fvk by Migos featuring Young Thug and Travis Scott
- Track Review: @ MEH by Playboi Carti
- Review: Eternal Atake by Lil Uzi Vert
Travel and Hiking
- Stumptown, Rose City, “Weird”: My Portland 2020 Day Trip
- Hike: Mount Beacon Fire Tower Out-and-Back
- Hike: Breakneck Ridge Loop
Header Photo Credit: Getty Images via Fox13