It is the best weekend in football. The eight best teams in the NFL duking it out for a chance to make it to their respective conference championship games. As the field gets thinner, so too does the margin for error for the remaining playoff teams. Here is how they stack up heading into divisional round weekend.
Well that was a one-sided whooping the Bucs put on a floundering Eagles team, and Baker Mayfield became the first Buccaneers quarterback to throw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in a playoff game. Tampa Bay exceeded expectations ten fold this season. They were clowned for signing Mayfield, they were paid no real attention coming into the season, and they were expected to finish with a top 10 draft pick. Instead, they are in the divisional round- tip of the cap to them.
I was giggling like a schoolboy who just saw his crush walk into class watching Jordan Love hit all of those fadeaway jumpers and skip rocks to his receivers. The confident aggression that he has, knowing he can put the ball wherever he pleases is a recipe for a fun quarterback to watch when he is on, and Love was on against Dallas. The Packers defense played shockingly well, too. That said, a Kyle Shanahan offense is vastly different from a Mike McCarthy offense. It’s going to take everything this young Packers team has to pull off another road upset.
The Texans opened up as 9.5 point dogs to the Ravens. I got news for everyone- they’re covering that. This is far from the same Texans team Baltimore played Week 1. Their defense is fast at every level, Derek Stingley is playing like a top-five cornerback in football, and C.J. Stroud is one of the game’s best quarterbacks. Houston isn’t just going to roll over.
I can only imagine how it must have felt to have Isaiah Pacheco hit you at full speed in -30 degree temperatures. The Chiefs handled Miami in Arrowhead. Now, for the first time, Patrick Mahomes will play a road playoff game as the Chiefs and Bills add another chapter to their rivalry. The Chiefs haven’t played in Buffalo since 2020. I’m looking forward to seeing how being in enemy waters affects them.
I’ve watched Dan Campbell say “You’re good enough for Detroit, Jared Goff” no less than 40 times. What a way for the Lions to bury the past and get their first playoff win of my lifetime, and several of their fans’ lifetimes. Seeing grown men brought to tears as they witnessed something they thought they’d never see? That’s the good stuff. And they’ll be running it back at Ford Field against Tampa Bay for a chance to get to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 1991.
Josh Allen said “I’ve got your Pro Bowl and your All-Pro right here” (I hope you read that in a thick New York accent and understood the implication). Anyway, the Bills came out firing and made a mockery of a bad Steelers team that over-achieved and got into the playoffs on the season’s final day. Buffalo was up 21-0 before a singular table was lit on fire, and they never looked back. While the Steelers closed the gap to 24-17 with a late run fueled by a blocked field goal and a 12-play touchdown drive, the result was never in doubt. Now, for the first time in the Allen-Mahomes era, the Bills host the Chiefs in a playoff game. Can they get the preverbal monkey off their back?
The 49ers will welcome the red hot Packers into Levi’s for the divisional round, and I pity Joe Barry’s defense for what Kyle Shanahan is going to do to them. I think Jordan Love will make some cool throws, but all in all, this 49ers team is going to be the Justice League compared to the Teen Titan Packers.
1. Baltimore Ravens
Well, we’ve been here before with the Ravens. They ran through everyone in the regular season and when it came time to play, they collapsed. This team is much different than that 2019 team, though. Lamar Jackson has come a long way as a passer, and is frankly a different kind of player in 2024 than he was in 2020. Baltimore can make it to their first AFC Championship Game in over a decade with a win, but Houston isn’t just going to give it to them.