The Los Angeles Rams with their spectacular defense now challenge Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Lambeau Field – can LA surprise again? Can the Browns shock Kansas City? And who will win the duel of the living legends Brees vs. Brady? SPOX-Editor Adrian Franke types all games in the playoffs, the entire playoffs are live on DAZN.
NFL Predictions Divisional-Runde
No. 1 Green Bay Packers (13-3) – No. 6 Los Angeles Rams (10-6) (Sat., 10:35 p.m. LIVE on DAZN)
Perhaps the most exciting matchup this weekend is that of the Rams defense against the Packers offense. Can Los Angeles – assuming that Aaron Donald is in full possession of his powers – also limit the Packers offense? The Rams are excellent at rotating the safeties and the entire coverage noticeably late after the snap, in order to make the image as difficult to read for the quarterback as possible. But can that also work against such an experienced quarterback like Aaron Rodgers? Can Jalen Ramsey Davante Control Adams? Does he follow him into the slot too? Can the Packers’ excellent interior line stop Donald? And can the Packers still make big plays, or does it have to involve very long drives and the running backs and tight ends in the short passing game?
These questions will determine the outcome of the game, because Los Angeles is unlikely to win a shootout. The Packers have recently shown a cautious defensive improvement, the best matchup for Los Angeles will probably take place via Cooper Kupp – if he is fit – and the tight ends. McVay has to manage to force matchups against Green Bays Underneath Coverage, especially from the regular Dropback Passing Game. Then it depends on Jared Goff and his thumb, which is certainly still not completely cured, to hit these plays consistently. My guess is that an elite offense against an elite defense makes enough plays for a shaky offense against a vulnerable defense to keep up
Tipp: Packers vs. Rams 26:20.
No. 2 Buffalo Bills (13-3) – No. 5 Baltimore Ravens (11-5) (Sun., 2.15 a.m. LIVE on DAZN)
In this matchup, the Bills would probably do well to put their foot on the gas pedal a little more in terms of offensive play-calling; against Indianapolis it seemed restrained at times. And the opportunities are probably there, because matchups for Diggs and Beasley should arise against the aggressive Ravens defense, which Josh Allen – who considered himself largely had an excellent game against the Colts – can then serve. Do the Ravens keep Humphrey up against Beasley? Can Diggs win more then? Or will it be a John Brown game? In any case, Baltimore will have to act completely differently defensively than against the Titans, because the Bills are ready to throw the ball almost exclusively when the opponent is playing the box aggressively.
However, the Bills will also need a corresponding performance from their offense, because I still do not trust Buffalo’s run defense. And of course the Ravens should be able to tie in directly with a run game that has found its full impact behind a much better offensive line. Especially with Jackson’s runs through the middle, and the Bills had problems against the run again against the Colts. 300 rushing yards for Baltimore? That wouldn’t be an absurd prognosis, all the more if Buffalo allows a little more here again to stop the big plays through the air and the scrambles. The question remains whether that’s enough to keep up with Buffalo’s offense. And this is where I see the biggest problems for the Ravens, because I still don’t trust Baltimore’s passing game outside of individual big plays. Even less against a good Bills secondary.
Tipp: Bills vs. Ravens 27:23.
No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) – No. 6 Cleveland Browns (11-5) (Sun., 9:05 p.m. LIVE on DAZN)
More than any other game, this game has shootout potential. There is the Browns Defense, which has had problems preventing the big plays through the air all season long – and Olivier Vernon is now missing. The hope of causing problems for Kansas City’s very vulnerable offensive line with a strong 4-men rush rests primarily on the shoulders of Myles Garrett, ideally with the help of Sheldon Richardson. Denzel Ward returns, that helps the Browns in outside coverage; I see the problems in the middle of the field. On Tyreek Hill and also on Travis Kelce, Cleveland should have only limited answers.
And on the other side? Kansas City’s run defense is and remains more than full of holes, and now the best offensive line in the NFL is coming back with Joel Bitonio on the interior line and Kevin Stefanski back on the sideline as play-caller. The Browns with their very well designed run game should be able to move the ball very consistently against the Chiefs. And Baker Mayfield has long been playing well enough in the normal dropback passing game to score here as well. And yet: Should Kansas City focus defensively on the run game and manage to get Mayfield into obvious passing situations, the defense might force Mayfield to make the decisive mistakes.
Tipp: Chiefs vs. Browns 35:27.
No. 2 New Orleans Saints (12-4) – No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) (Mon., 0.40 a.m. LIVE on DAZN)
It could be the last game in Drew Brees’ illustrious career – and although the Saints beat Tampa Bay twice in the regular season, and the second time it was pretty clear: I’m guessing that this is where Brees’s journey ends.
This is mainly due to the fact that I no longer trust Brees himself and thus the Saints offense to take part in shootouts – and at the same time I suspect that the Bucs have just learned from the second matchup. That they will no longer flash Brees so aggressively, but rather more selectively. And more about the middle with returning Devin White to attack the shaky Saints-Guards. New Orleans is about to find its matchups with Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in the short passing game, but they will only be able to pass the ball to a limited extent and then it is up to Todd Bowles and the Bucs Defense to force Brees to make consistently difficult passes.
For me, the chance for New Orleans lies primarily in my own defense. The Saints should get Trey Hendrickson back, with Tampa Bay missing Alex Cappa in the offensive line. Can the Saints manage to put Tom Brady under pressure with as little flashing as possible? That has to be the recipe, even if the Bucs have a very strong line. Lattimore has had good games against Mike Evans in the past and maybe Chris Godwin will become the key player for Tampa’s offense this time after his unusual drop orgy against Washington.
Tipp: Saints vs. Buccaneers 24:27.
SPOX NFL Predictions 2020 – the overview