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Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen rematch, Lamar Jackson’s playoff return mark biggest NFL divisional playoff storylines

NEW YORK — The pressure is on in the NFL playoffs — for some teams more than others.

Eight organizations remain alive for a Super Bowl title, and while some are playing with house money after pulling off first-round upsets, others know a ring would transform the legacies of key players and coaches.

This weekend’s divisional round features a marquee rematch between Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen; the latest tests for fast-rising young quarterbacks C.J. Stroud and Jordan Love; and the start of the postseason for the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.

Here are the top storylines for Saturday and Sunday’s games:

Texans @ Ravens, Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

Stroud’s storybook rookie season continued last week with his Texans beating down the Browns and their NFL-best defense.

Houston faces an even tougher test Saturday against the rolling Ravens, who measure up with Cleveland defensively but boast a much better offense.

Stroud already exceeded expectations in year one by leading the Texans to an AFC South title and a playoff win. Anything else would be gravy, but after last week’s three-touchdown playoff debut yielded a near-perfect 157.2 passing rating, Stroud has the world wondering: Just how far can he take this?

Baltimore, meanwhile, enters Saturday’s game with championship-or-bust aspirations. Lamar Jackson is in line to receive his second regular-season MVP, and the Ravens have won each of the last six games the dual-threat quarterback started, including in blowout fashion over the 49ers and Dolphins.

Jackson last appeared in a playoff game three years ago — a loss in which the Ravens managed only three points. A deep run would go a long way for Jackson, who enters Saturday with a 1-3 record and three touchdown passes against five interceptions in his playoff career. Can he exorcise those postseason demons? His Ravens began the week as 8.5-point favorites at home against Houston.

Packers @ 49ers, Saturday at 8:15 p.m.

Green Bay looked far superior than its 9-8 regular-season record during Sunday’s demolition in Dallas, with Love throwing and Aaron Jones running all over the Cowboys’ beleaguered defense.

There’s a lot to love about Love, who has now recorded 21 touchdowns against one interception over his last nine games. He looks comfortable, in control and capable of making any throw.

Love’s excellence largely flew under the radar before Sunday. To consider him among the NFL’s very best young quarterbacks, some critics will want to see him excel against a better opponent than the Cowboys, who have become synonymous with underachieving in January.

Enter the 49ers, whose defense is among the NFL’s best and whose versatile offense led by Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel is as tough as any to keep up with.

San Francisco finds itself in a similar situation as Baltimore where anything short of a championship would be a disappointment. There’s unfinished business after quarterback Brock Purdy’s elbow injury in last year’s NFC Championship Game cost the Niners a chance to advance to their second Super Bowl in four years.

There’s surely pressure now, then, on Purdy, who had a strong second season but looked overmatched during a four-interception disappointment against the Ravens late in the year.

The path to the Super Bowl is relatively clear for the 49ers, with the teams that once appeared to be their top competition in the conference — Dallas and Philadelphia — already eliminated. Purdy must quell any concerns, starting this week at home against a 9.5-point underdog in Green Bay, for San Francisco to make a run.

Buccaneers @ Lions, Sunday at 3 p.m.

The Buccaneers should be happy to be here. In its first season without Tom Brady, Tampa Bay used a 9-8 record to win the NFL-worst NFC South.

The Bucs then handled business Monday with a decisive home win over free-falling Philadelphia. Baker Mayfield turned in one of his best games of a resurgent season, passing for 337 yards and three touchdowns.

Sunday’s game in Detroit should help answer this question: Was Tampa’s win over Philly more about a Bucs team finding its stride at the right time or about an Eagles team that flat out forgot how to tackle?

The positive vibes in Detroit, meanwhile, just keep growing. The Lions won their first-ever NFC North title. Sunday marked their first playoff win in 32 years. Beating the Bucs this weekend would send Detroit to its first NFC Championship game in just as long.

Dallas’ loss ensured the Lions another home game, where their long-starved fan base turned out for round one. As 6-point favorites Sunday, can Jared Goff and company keep their fairy-tale season alive?

Chiefs @ Bills, Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

It’s the matchup everyone wanted to see.

Two years ago, the Chiefs and Bills’ instant-classic battle in this very same round featured three lead changes in the final two minutes. Mahomes led a 13-second drive to set-up a game-tying field goal as time expired, sending the game into overtime, where Kansas City won.

That game took place in Kansas City. This time around, it’s in Orchard Park, N.Y., where freezing conditions are expected again.

Amazingly, this will be Mahomes’ first-ever true road playoff game, though Super Bowl LV — in which the Chiefs lost to the Buccaneers in Tampa – was effectively one. Nobody doubts Mahomes’ ability to win on the road or in wintry weather. But with questions about whether his offense can keep up with Buffalo’s, could those factors add up to an early playoff exit for No. 15?

Allen, meanwhile, is 0-2 in the playoffs against Mahomes, despite throwing six touchdown passes against one interception in those road losses. With the home crowd behind this time, can Allen overcome his biggest postseason nemesis? Buffalo enters as 2.5-point favorites.