NFL forecast: Dominant wins prevail during divisional round

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Photo by Sol Schindler

Emmanuel Daniel provides a weekly update on the divisional round as the playoffs continue.

It was another exciting weekend of high-stakes football with the NFL divisional round happening this past weekend. Although there were only two games, the week was still jam-packed with great plays and amazing wins. On Saturday, facing off at Lambeau Field, the NFC lead seed and Pro Football Focus’s best offense in the league the Green Bay Packers faced off against Pro Football Focus’s best defense in the league, the Los Angeles Rams. The second game of the day was the Baltimore Ravens at the Buffalo Bills. On Sunday, there was the Cleveland Browns at the NFC no. 1 seed, the Kansas City Chiefs. The final game to close off the Divisional Round weekend was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the New Orleans Saints.

With the first game, the Green Bay Packers pulled off an incredible win against the LA Rams with a score of 32-18. The Rams’ QB Jared Goff had a 77% completion rate, making 21/27 passes for 147 yards and one passing TD to Van Jefferson. LA’s rushing attack, although dominant most of the season, came to a standstill against the Packers, only having 90 yards rushing and one touchdown by Cam Akers. On the defensive side of the ball, the number one defense of the Rams was nowhere to be seen, having zero interceptions and zero sacks, which is a season-low for them. On the other side of the ball, the Packers had a field day against the Rams with the lead candidate for MVP and their quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Although having a 60% completion rate, making 23/36 of his passes, he still had 296 yards and two passing TDs to Allen Lazard and the number one receiver in the league, Devante Adams. The Packers’ pass offense wasn’t only having a good day, their rush attack was also on point with Aaron Jones having 99 yards, Jamal Adams with 65 yards and A.J. Dillon with 27 yards for a combined total of 191 yards rushing and two rushing TDs by Aaron Jones, and the QB himself Aaron Rodgers ran for a TD too. On the defensive side of the ball, despite having no interceptions the Packers defense had four sacks on Rams QB Jared Goff and shutting down the Rams’ pass attack and rush attack. Overall, it was a great game for the Packers and a learning experience for the Rams. The Green Bay Packers will be moving on to the NFC championship.

The second game of the day was a late blowout win with the Buffalo Bills triumphing against the Baltimore Ravens in a 17-3 game. Although a slow game with it only being 3-3 at halftime and the Ravens not scoring since the first quarter, it was still very interesting to watch. The Ravens’ offense had a mediocre day with QB Lamar Jackson having a 58% completion rate, making 14/24 passes and throwing for 162 yards but having zero touchdowns. The offense could only score with a field goal in the second quarter. Also, at the very end of the third quarter, Lamar Jackson was tackled, which caused what seemed to be a slight concussion leaving Jackson unable to return to the game, so the Ravens turned to their backup Tyler Huntley, who played in the fourth quarter and made 6/13 of his passes for 60 yards and zero touchdowns. On the defensive end, the Ravens also had a pretty mediocre day—yes, they had two sacks, but nothing else defensively the entire game. 

On the other sideline, the Bills had more or less of the same day with a field goal in the first quarter and only popping out in the third quarter with 14 points and then nothing else for the rest of the game. Bills QB Josh Allen had a good day with a 62% completion rate, making 23/37 of his passes for 206 yards in the air and one passing touchdown to WR Stefon Diggs. On the other side of the offense, the rush attack was basically non-existent with only 32 yards rushing. The Bills’ defense also had a good day with four sacks, but they had an outstanding play in the third quarter with an interception by Taron Johnson and running it all the way down the field for a pick-six and touchdown. Overall, both teams had a slow day, but the Bills were able to pull off the win. The Buffalo Bills will be moving on to the AFC championship game. 

The first game on Sunday was the Cleveland Browns at the Kansas City Chiefs, and it was a great game by both offense and defense for both teams, with Kansas clutching the win at a final score of 22-17. A good game became a wild one when the Kansas City Head QB Patrick Mahomes suffered what seemed to be a concussion in the third quarter and was replaced by backup QB Chad Henne. While he was in, Mahomes had a 70% completion rate, making 21/30 of his passes for 255 yards and one TD pass to Travis Kelce and no interceptions while Henne was 6/8 and passing for only 66 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Kansas’s rush attack was very diverse with six different players running for 123 yards. Among those players were Darrel Williams, who had 78 yards, Le’Veon Bell with six yards, Mecole Hardman with four, Tyreek Hill with nine, QB Chad Henne with 12 and QB Patrick Mahomes with 14. On the other side, the Chiefs’ defense had an okay day with one sack and one interception. 

On the other side of the ball, the Cleveland Browns held their own for as long as they could against the Chiefs. With Browns QB Baker Mayfield having a 62% completion rate, making 23/37 of his passes for 204 yards, one TD to Jarvis Landry and one interception. The Browns’ rush game also had one TD from Kareem Hunt, who had 32 yards rushing, and Nick Chubbs had 69 yards rushing. The Browns’ defense was equal to the Chiefs with one sack and one interception. Overall, this was a good game with a few injuries but hopefully nothing too serious. The Kansas City Chiefs move on to the AFC Conference Championship.

The final game of Sunday and the Divisional Round of the Playoffs was a show-stopping game with the two oldest QBs in the NFL: Tom Brady at the age of 43 leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against 42-year-old Drew Brees leading the New Orleans Saints. This was a great game between two legends and two great teams. Ultimately, Tom Brady and the Bucs pulled off a win of 30-20 against Drew Brees and the Saints. Brady had a good game with a 54% completion rate, making 18/33 of his passes for 199 yards and two TD passes to Leonard Fournette and Mike Evans, and he also ran a TD in himself. Speaking of rushing, although both Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette both had 63 yards, Tom Brady was the only player with a rushing touchdown. The Tampa defense also had a great day with three interceptions but zero sacks. 

Countering the Bucs, the Saints were real competition for the Bucs with Drew Brees having a 55% completion rate, making 19/34 of passes for 134 yards, plus one TD and three interceptions. Also, Jameis Winston was in for a play and made a 56-yard pass for a touchdown. The Saints’ rushing game was slower than usual, only having 104 yards and Alvin Kamara getting in 85 yards and no TDs. On the other side of the team, the defense was not able to make any interceptions but had one sack on Brady. Overall, it was still a good game and maybe the last time we see these two greats face off, so consider it a tribute to these two legends. Tampa Bay moves on to the NFC Championship.

Here’s a preview of next Sunday’s NFC and AFC Conference Championship games that will determine who will go down to Tampa for the Super Bowl: there will be two rematch games from week 6 in the regular season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going up to Lambeau Field to face off against the Green Bay Packers, a match-up of the two greatest QBs of all-time and the two 12s—Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers face off in the NFC Championship. The second rematch is the Buffalo Bills going to Kansas to face off against the reigning champs of the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs. Both are going to be great games with everything on the line. Who can pull it together and get to the Super Bowl? We’ll find out next week.