Thanks to upsets of higher-ranked seeds such as Seattle (3), Washington Football Team (4), Tennessee (4) and Pittsburgh (3), this is the first time in the modern era that the No.5 and No.6 seeds in each conference are playing in the Divisional Round vs. the top two seeds.
You have the No.5 and 6 seeds in the NFC in the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers drawing tough road assignments at Lambeau Field and The Big Easy. In the AFC, you have AFC North rivals Baltimore (5) and Cleveland (6) traveling to Buffalo and Kansas City vs. the Bills and Chiefs.
Los Angeles Rams (6) at Green Bay Packers (1): Frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. No words send both proverbial chills and adrenaline quite like these.
While the visiting Rams may—or may not—get Jared Goff back for this game, along with bringing defensive game-changing wreckers such as DT Aaron Donald and DB Jalen Ramsey to the cold and wintery upper Midwest, the Packers have that baaaaddd man in Aaron Rodgers.
Nuff said! Packers 35 Rams 21
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5) at New Orleans Saints (2): They say it is hard to beat a team three times. It has been done before, but it is difficult. No quarterback has ever beaten Tom Brady two times in the same season, let alone three times.
Saints QB Drew Brees is in the rare company of having a winning record vs. Brady and has the unique chance of being the only QB to ever beat him three times in the same season.
Somehow, it isn’t happening this time as Tampa Bay comes back to New Orleans on a roll, and with a chip on their shoulder in wanting to play the last game of the season at their place—that being the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay 44 New Orleans 34
Baltimore Ravens (5) at Buffalo Bills (2): This is the moment that Bills Mafia has waited 25 years for. A home playoff game in the snow. Fans going crazy, and an NFL MVP candidate in QB Josh Allen. Buffalo is four quarters away from their first AFC title game since 1993.
They face a tough task vs. a red-hot Ravens team with the actual reigning NFL MVP in Lamar Jackson and a rushing game that is heating up at the right time. What makes Baltimore so scary is that when Lamar runs, the Ravens are unstoppable, when they pass, they can be just as deadly. Perhaps the weather will neutralize bot teams’ passing attacks, but one club has Lamar and the other doesn’t. Baltimore 34 Buffalo 24
Cleveland Browns (6) at Kansas City Chiefs (1): Baker Mayfield vs. Patrick Mahomes. Two Texas-born quarterbacks that played in arguably one of the all-time classics in college football history, that Mayfield’s Oklahoma Sooners won 66-57, was just the tip of what could the NFL’s hottest QB rivalry.
Coming off of their 48-37 win in Pittsburgh, the Browns come to Arrowhead with a ton of confidence and are trending upwards thanks to the recent returns of Pro Bowlers in G Joel Bitonio, DB Denzel Ward and head coach Kevin Stefanski.
What many are overlooking in this matchup is that new Browns defensive coordinator, Joe Woods faced the Chiefs last year down in Miami at Super Bowl LIV and was actually up 21-10 before losing, so Woods already has some intel on how to slow down the Chiefs high-powered offense. Woods now gets a second crack at Mahomes with a dominant pass rusher in Myles Garrett and a run-stopper in DT Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson.
Teams like the Chiefs can be beat. The secret to beating Kansas City is running the ball, containing TE Travis Kelce and keeping Mahomes in check. It can be done. Will it?
Cleveland has the best rushing attack outside of Baltimore remaining in the playoffs in Nick Chubb and former Chiefs back, Kareem Hunt playing for his hometown against his former team. Kansas City’s run defense is ranked 19th.
If the Browns are able to mix play-action and establish the run early, and keep Mahomes on the sidelines, Cleveland has a shot in pulling off one of the biggest upsets in recent NFL history.
With WR Sammy Watkins ruled out and Clyde Edwards-Helaire questionable, the Browns defense will be tested by long-time killer in Le’Veon Bell. But in KC losing one of their top weapons, Cleveland has a shot. Cleveland 41 Kansas City 38