After a exciting Super Wildcard Weekend, the NFL now pivots to the divisional round to determine which two teams from each division will battle next week for a chance to represent their respective conferences in the Super Bowl. Many thought the NFC East would be the conference that would represent the NFC for the Lombardi Trophy, but Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys choked against Jordan Love who was making his first career playoff start and a Green Bay Packers team that has caught fire at the right time. The Philadelphia Eagles were the other NFC East team that found themselves struggling to put up points on the road against a Baker Mayfield led Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad that showed up and only allowed the Eagles to put up nine points. The biggest story for the NFC is that the Detroit Lions won their first playoff game in 30 years after beating Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams to set up a date with the Buccaneers for a chance to make the NFC Championship for the first time since 1991.
On the AFC side of the bracket another quarterback making his first playoff start dazzled as CJ Stroud and the Houston Texans welcomed Joe Flacco and the Cleveland Browns to a beat down in NRG Stadium, curating Houston’s first playoff win since 2019. The Chiefs and Dolphins found themselves in Kansas City, nearly freezing to death as they played the coldest playoff game in NFL history which ultimately worked out in the Chiefs favor as it is well known that Tua and the Dolphins are not a cold weather team. Snow and bad weather played a major factor in the Steelers and Bills game due to the game being pushed back from Saturday to Monday due to severe snowfall and cold temperatures in upstate New York that ultimately led the Bills to make the stadium seating first come first serve as fans could pick any seat they would like, the only caveat is they would have to shovel it out themselves. The Bills showed how hot of a team they are right now by blowing out a terrible Steelers offense and will now look forward to hosting the Kansas City Chiefs for a chance to go to the AFC Championship.
Wildcard Weekend scores:
Lions 24-Rams 23
Packers 48-Cowboys 32
Buccaneers 32-Eagles 9
Texans 45-Browns 14
Chiefs 26-Dolphins 7
Bills 31-Steelers 17
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens (4:30 PM ET)
The Houston Texans will try to carry their rookie quarterbacks momentum into a M&T Bank Stadium to matchup against the MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson and the best team in the AFC in his Ravens squad. It will be interesting to see if the boys from Baltimore come out a little rusty and slow after over a week off due to securing the number one seed after being the best team in the AFC in the regular season. CJ Stroud will have to continue his head turning performances as the Ravens are a stout defensive team that can cause turnovers on a dime and then see their offense march down the field quickly with Jackson, Zay Flowers, and potentially Mark Andrews if he is ready to go following what many thought would be a season ending ankle injury that he sustained in November on Thursday Night Football. I love the Cinderella story that the Texans have conjured up but I have a hard time believing Jackson and the Ravens do not come ready to play as they have felt like a team of destiny all season. Lamar Jackson would love to win another MVP but only if that comes paired with him and his teammates lifting the Lombardi Trophy in February. The spread for this game is a massive 10 points which would normally stray me away but I love this Ravens squad and I believe they are ready to make a statement at home.
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (8:15 PM ET)
Jordan Love and the Green Bay Packers continue to shock the world after beating the Dallas Cowboys by 16 on the road against a Cowboys team that had not lost at home all regular season. I do not know how the Packers front office does it but it seems to me that they have found themselves another franchise quarterback with no hiccups in between after Aaron Rodgers signed with the New York Jets in 2023. The Niners have been one of the best teams in the NFL all year but after they got blown out by the Ravens on Christmas night I have a hard time putting all my faith into Brock Purdy after he threw four interceptions and was benched in the second half. San Fran has a high octane style of offense that works well if they can get the ball in their playmakers hands, but if the Niners go down by two possessions early I have a hard time believing Purdy can will his team back into the game. Purdy is a great system quarterback but if you put him in any other offense I think he would be nothing more than mediocre which is why I like the Packers to cover the points here even though they are on the road in a hostile Levi Stadium. I am a person that has to see it to believe it and if Brock Purdy comes out and controls the game from the jump then I will rescind my previous statements but I personally believe the Packers could win this game outright. The Packers were not even supposed to make the playoffs this year and the Niners have been the Super Bowl favorite all year. Green Bay has little to nothing to lose while the Niners could find themselves in an interesting off season if they cannot live up to their high expectations.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions (3 PM ET)
Baker Mayfield has been struggling to find a home since getting shipped around after being taken number one overall by the Browns in the 2018 Draft. Mayfield seems to have found his home in Tampa Bay after putting on a clinic against an Eagles team that was representing the NFC in the Super Bowl just one year prior. They will now need to be the villain again as they travel to Ford Field for a date with a Lions squad that is sitting on cloud nine. The Lions won their first playoff game in thirty years after beating the Rams in a shootout and should continue this momentum against a Bucs team that ranked 23rd in overall defense this season. Jared Goff continues to improve in managing games and making the correct reads to get his playmakers in the right position while their defense continues to make stop after stop to give Goff the chance to make plays. The Lions have been waiting a very long time to go to the NFC Championship and I think this will be the year they will do it given they are playing at home and destiny seems to be on their side. The Lions are a touchdown favorite against Mayfield and the Bucs at home and I have a hard time seeing Baker put up the numbers he did against the Eagles at home as he now must do it in a hostile environment on the road. Give me the Lions to win by a touchdown or more and hopefully the Packers can beat the Niners and we will have a NFC North NFC Championship game to determine who will go to the Super Bowl.
Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills (6:30 PM ET)
For the first time in his seven year career Patrick Mahomes will have to play a road playoff game. This new experience for Mahomes will not come easy as they will have to travel to snowy Buffalo, New York in hopes of trying to get back to the AFC Championship for a sixth straight time, his first coming in 2018. The Chiefs have a solid defense but will need to focus on how they can match Josh Allen and Buffalo’s offensive output after being the worst team in the league when it comes to dropping passes. Josh Allen and the Bills looked dead in the water after week 12 of the regular season with a 6-6 record before winning their last five games and winning their fourth consecutive AFC East title. Allen has been a turnover machine all year but after their statement win in the Wildcard round against the Steelers, Allens confidence seems to be sky high and the Bills are looking to finally make it to the AFC Championship game since the 2020/21 season when they lost to the Chiefs on the road 38-24. I expect both Mahomes and Allen to make this game a shootout and it will all come down to who can take care of the football better and if the Chiefs wideouts can finally catch passes so that they do not have to rely on Mahomes to make impossible plays all game long. I like the Bills at home and given they are only a three point favorite I would suggest just taking the Bills moneyline in a game that could easily come down to a one point difference.
Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen has quickly become the best QB rivalry in the league and it’s not hard to see why.— NFL (@NFL) January 18, 2024
The two are 3-3 head-to-head and about to meet in the postseason for the third time in the last four years. (THREAD) pic.twitter.com/HA1q7e4ACO