Does anyone have any doubt that this is the “Elite 8Of the NFL? Neither do I.
The eight best teams in the league are looking for the four tickets to the Conference Finals and the Wild Card showed that half of these teams do not mind playing away.
Rams, Ravens, Buccaneers and Browns won in someone else’s yard and only two locals survived in the first round of the Playoffs: Bills and Saints.
Rivalries are part of the narrative in the Divisional Games.
Sean McVay (Rams) y Matt LaFleur (Packers) worked together in Washington and then McVay took LaFleur with him to Los Angeles. They know each other well and are now measured as head coaches for the first time.
And then there are the quarterback duels: Lamar Jackson vs. Josh Allen, Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees it is included Baker Mayfield vs. Patrick Mahomes.
Mayfield and Mahomes meet for only the second time since that epic college duel in 2016.
In that duel between Oklahoma and Texas Tech, Mayfield passed for 545 yards and seven touchdowns; Mahomes added 734 yards and five passes to the end zone in the Sooners’ 66-59 win.
A new shooting at Arrowhead? We will find out soon.
For now, let’s go to the picks of the Ronda Divisional:
L.A. RAMS EN GREEN BAY PACKERS (-7)
To win, the Rams must … avoid at all costs going down for a couple of touchdowns and for that they have to play their best game on defense and dominate (again) with the running game.
Press to Aaron Rodgers it’s a must, of course, but Aaron Donald is not 100%, so the key duel will be between Jalen Ramsey and Davante Adams. Ramsey is the best cornerback in the NFL and Adams (115 receptions, 18 touchdowns) has been simply unstoppable this season.
On offense, the Rams need another great performance from Cam Akers (176 yards combined vs. Seahawks).
Of his two injured quarterbacks, everything indicates that the coach Sean McVay tYou’ll have to go to Lambeau Field with Jared Goff.
To win, the Packers must… stop Akers and any other running attack attempts by the Rams. Although he had a good game replacing John Wolford at Seattle, Goff is an inconsistent quarterback and his mistakes are often costly.
With the ground game on the side, the Green Bay defense will be able to relentlessly attack Goff with For Darius Smith (12.5 sacks), Rashan Gary (5), Preston Smith (4), Kingsley Keke (4), responsible for 25.5 of the Packers’ 41 quarterback sacks in 2020.
The coach Matt LaFleur should assume Ramsey will limit Adams, so the game plan should include a good dose of tight end Robert Tonyan and the corridor Aaron Jones, but another wide receiver must raise his hand in vertical play and the only candidates are Marquez Valdes-Scantling (690 yards, six touchdowns) and Allen Lazard (451-3).
El pick: LaFleur faces a rival very similar to the 49ers, who a year ago destroyed Green Bay in the NFC Championship. The big difference is that this time the game is in “Frozen Tundra”, where Rodgers is practically invincible. Packers 26-20 Rams
BALTIMORE RAVENS EN BUFFALO BILLS (-2.5)
To win, the Ravens must… be the Ravens. And that means running the ball better than anyone else and giving freedom to Lamar Jackson, who had a game of 179 passing yards and 136 rushing yards (including a 48-yard run to the end zone) at Tennessee.
When the Bills have the ball, the defense must find a way to stop Josh Allen and press him without the need to send him blitzes. Allen can also run and is a danger on broken plays.
The worst thing that can happen to coach John Harbaugh is that the game turns into a shootout.
Marcus Peters will have the mission of limiting the receptions of Stefon Diggs, in one of many duels to follow in Buffalo.
To win, the Bills must… put Lamar Jackson to the test: Can he win two games in a row where he is at a disadvantage? With his win last week at Tennessee, Jackson is 1-6 when the Ravens lose by 10 or more points. A couple of quick touchdowns will put the pressure on the young Baltimore quarterback.
As they did in 2019, the Bills must keep Jackson in the bag of protection and avoid his escapades at all costs. Because anyone can end in points. A key piece will be the linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who will surely be Lamar’s “spy”.
El pick: Baltimore has won six in a row and Buffalo seven. These are, for me, the two best teams in the AFC at the moment and this must be a very close game, in which the ball exchanges will be the difference. But this seems to be Allen’s year and not Jackson’s. Bills 24-23 Ravens
CLEVELAND BROWNS EN KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-10)
To win, the Browns must… run, run, run and run all afternoon.
If a player has something to prove in this game that is Kareem Hunt, who a couple of years ago was cut by the Chiefs.
Hunt y Nick Chubb They need their best game of the season to give the Browns a shot at the big upset at Arrowhead. Between November and December, only twice did the Kansas City defense allow more than 100 rushing yards, largely because the Chiefs take fast forwards and force opponents out of the race.
A shootout against Patrick mahomes it is a sentence and a certain defeat.
To win, the Chiefs must… try to run first and pass later. Mahomes didn’t close out the regular season to the standards we know him: four interceptions in the last three and fewer than 55% completions in the most recent two.
Better protect your star is another priority for the coach’s team Andy Reid. In games against Miami and New Orleans, Mahomes was sacked seven times. The left tackle Eric Fisher will have his hands full with Myles Garrett (12 sacks and 18 hits to quarterbacks).
Stop the running attack and put the game in the hands of Baker Mayfield it is obviously a priority for the champions.
El pick: What Cleveland did in Pittsburgh was impressive, but repeating it in Kansas City will be much more difficult. Andy Reid’s record when he has two weeks to prepare for a game is 26-4. Chiefs 31-24 Browns
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS EN NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-3)
To win, the Buccaneers must … protect Tom Brady. In the two losses to New Orleans in the regular season, Brady was sacked six times and hit another 15 times. As a result, he suffered five interceptions.
In a scandalous 38-3 loss in Week 9, end Trey Hendrickson had two sacks, but it was defensive tackle David Onyemata (four hits) who was on top of Brady all night.
With more time in the bag, Brady will be able to draw on his arsenal, but the man who could make a difference Sunday is Antonio Brown.
On defense, Tampa Bay needs to slow down Alvin Kamara and press Drew Brees, who, unlike Brady, does begin to look like a quarterback in his 40s.
To win, the Saints need … to dominate in the trenches again. They did it in both games of the regular season and need to do it a third time to advance to the NFC Championship.
Involving Kamara in the passing game is a good idea. The Bucs don’t seem to have a linebacker who can deal with Kamara’s speed and Brees always turns to his running backs when he’s in trouble.
Michael Thomas had his first touchdown of the season on Sunday against Chicago. Carlton Davis and the rest of the Tampa Bay perimeter will have a busy afternoon with New Orleans’ star wide receiver.
El pick: Tampa Bay’s offensive line did a good job against Washington’s front-7, one of the best in the league. With that protection and time, Brady will avoid losing three times to the same opponent in the same season for the first time in his career. Buccaneers 28-24 Saints
TRIPLE OF THE WEEK
Ravens vs. Bills UNDER 50
Browns vs. Chiefs UNDER 57
Buccaneers vs. Saints OVER 51.5
In the season
Against the spread
In the season