Following last weekend’s entertaining “Super” Wild Card Weekend, we get four intriguing Divisional round matchups this weekend. Can the Rams upset the Packers in Lambeau? Will the Ravens rushing attack take down the Bills? Can the Browns shock the world and defeat the Chiefs? And will Tom Brady really lose to the Saints for a third time in the same season? With such storylines for each of the road underdogs, this weekend of NFL football should be very exciting. With that said, here is one thing that I want to see happen from each of the four games:
Rams @ Packers: It comes down to the last drive
I know that the line is Packers by 6.5, but I think this game will be close. I have a lot of trust in Sean McVay and his ability to engineer a good gameplan for Jared Goff and his not fully healthy thumb, and as long as they can get Cam Akers going yet again, the Rams will be able to keep this game competitive. Plus, Jalen Ramsey should take care of Davante Adams, more or less, who has been the best receiver in the league this season, and Aaron Donald, even slightly injured, will be a force to be reckoned with. My one big concern for the Rams is that Goff will look lost and confused right off the bat, and the cameras will get several shots of him on the bench bundled up in that huge coat that players wear in cold weather, as will be the case in Green Bay. But if they are on their game, or can even pick up a few first downs on their first or second drive, I think this game will be close the whole way and it’ll come down to the final drive.
Ravens @ Bills: The Bills triumph as John Harbaugh gets increasingly upset
As a Patriots fan, it’s weird that my team is not still playing football at this time of the year. However, I have become a “root for the division guy,” and so, the Bills are the team I’ve been rooting for the most since the Pats got eliminated. And man, the prospect of the Ravens losing a heartbreaking game in January in a cold AFC East stadium is something that I’m hoping happens again. In the 2011 playoffs, Billy Cundiff’s missed 32-yard field goal became one of my great early memories of being a sports fan. Then in the 2014 playoffs, I was playing in a travel basketball game in Arlington, MA, when we learned that the Pats had gone down 14-0. Of course we came back to tie it at 14, then fell down 28-14, and then stormed back to win and the Edelman to Amendola trick play became another tremendous childhood sports memory of mine. And so, with this in mind, I will be rooting hard for Josh Allen and the Bills to eliminate the Ravens. I understand that a lot of hardcore film guys like the Ravens in this spot, but I think they’re underestimating the firepower and confidence of the Bills. Plus, it’s Bills Mafia on a Saturday night!
Browns @ Chiefs: The Browns go up early on
Just like how the Texans jumped the Chiefs 21-0 in Arrowhead in the Divisional round (and then KC outscored HOU 51-10 over the last three quarters), I wouldn’t be shocked if the Browns go up 10-0 or 14-0 to begin this game behind Nick Chubb and play-action with Baker. I want to see this happen because it’ll set up two dynamics: One, the Browns, at this theoretical moment, will have serious team of destiny vibes. And two, everyone on social media will be on their toes wondering if the Chiefs can easily overcome this deficit, or if their questionable second half of the season (despite all their wins), was indicative of a real underlying problem with them.
Bucs @ Saints: Tom Brady avenges the two losses to the Saints this season and advances to another Conference Championship
The Saints were the team I liked to win the Super Bowl before the season, and I’m sticking to that, but I can’t help but root for Brady against them. Obviously Brady’s legacy is already cemented as the GOAT, but making the Conference Championship in the NFC in his first season not in New England will be an extra sort of “fuck you I am the undisputed GOAT” on his career resume. Brady appeared in 13 (13!) AFC Conference Championships, including eight straight (eight straight!) from the 2012-2019 playoffs. It’s a little bit like LeBron, where he dominated the East forever, then went to the West and although the first season was a wash, he triumphed over the West and the entire league in his second season with the Lakers. It’s not like I don’t like the Saints, but I’d rather see Brady and the Bucs win this game.