US Football Playoff Picks, Part 2
By Scott Murphy
Who wins the battle of the oldest quarterbacks ever? Will Buffalo stomp on the Ravens? And do the Chiefs have what it takes to get to the Super Bowl once again? Predictions here as the NFL Playoffs continue this weekend in the U.S.…
Los Angeles Rams (11-6) vs. Green Bay Packers (13-3)
Saturday, January 16th, 4:35pm ET at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
It’s expected to be below freezing in Green Bay when this game kicks off, and that could tell you all you need to know. The Green Bay Packers are 90-49-3 over the last 50 years when the temperature is 32 degrees (F) or less and the Los Angeles Rams are the essence of a warm weather team.
The game will be tight though, as this one pits the NFL’s number one defense (Rams) against the number one scoring offense (Packers with 509 points). Quarterback Jared Goff will be returning from his thumb injury for the Rams which will give them a boost, but the team will have to figure out how to stop Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. This year, he’s thrown for a scorching 48 touchdowns against just five interceptions. Closing in on the twilight of his career, he can practically smell a Super Bowl appearance.
The Rams will have to play lights out defense and hope Goff can handle the cold with his injured playing hand. If they do, they’ll keep this close and be capable of knocking off the Packers. But given the field, Rodgers’ hot hand and his standout receivers, the odds are against them.
Prediction: Green Bay Packers 31 – Los Angeles Rams 28
Baltimore Ravens (12-5) vs. Buffalo Bills (14-3)
Saturday, January 16th, 8:15pm ET at Bills Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
No matter how cold it gets in Buffalo on a Saturday night in January, the temperature shouldn’t be an issue for these winter weather teams. Instead, this one will come down to which quarterback is hotter during game time and which defense can stop the other team’s running game.
Buffalo stacked up the points this year (501, second in the NFL) and quarterback Josh Allen will surely be looking for his wild and dependable deep man Stefon Diggs. This will be counterbalanced by the Ravens’ defense, which held opponents to just 303 points on the year (second in the league) and will surely be coming after Allen as often as possible. Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson is also certain to be a major factor through both his arm and his legs. In last week’s playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, he ran for 136 yards, just the sixth time in NFL playoff history a quarterback has accomplished such a feat.
Though the Bills are on the rise and are expected to be for the next several years, the Ravens are more battle tested in the playoffs as of late. In a game that could go either way, that will be the difference.
Baltimore Ravens 27 – Buffalo Bills 24
Cleveland Browns (12-5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2)
Sunday, January 17th, 3:05pm ET at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
When Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield first played against Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, the two were in college. The year was 2016, the score was 66-59 and a college record was set for total offensive yards. Mayfield’s team (Oklahoma Sooners) won that game, and he himself passed for seven touchdowns, a team record. Two years ago, when they first met in the pros, Mahomes got his revenge, as the Chiefs manhandled the Browns.
While Mayfield has an arsenal of receivers to throw to (Jarvis Landry, et al) and NFL rushing leader Nick Chubb when things aren’t working in the air, the Chiefs can beat you on the ground with Clyde-Edwards Helaire and recent veteran acquisition Le’Veon Bell. Then, they can destroy you through the air with their capable, speedy quartet (Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Demarcus Robinson and Sammy Watkins). Kelce and Hill combined for nearly 200 catches alone this year and 26 touchdowns. Mahomes may have plenty of tricks up his sleeve, but these threats make sure the magic happens.
So Cleveland’s run so far has been an NFL delight, and they may provide some excitement early on, but they’re taking on the reigning Super Bowl champions…and the Chiefs have a dynasty on their minds.
By the time the Browns blink, Mahomes will have spotted Hill in the end zone.
Kansas City Chiefs 35 – Cleveland Browns 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5) vs. New Orleans Saints (13-4)
Sunday, January 17th, 6:40pm ET at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
In what’s expected to be an exciting weekend for the NFL, this will likely be the most anticipated and watched matchup. In Tom Brady (Tampa Bay) and Drew Brees (New Orleans), the NFL has the oldest pair of quarterbacks playing against each other for the first (and possibly last) time in the playoffs. Brady is trying to reach the championship game for an incredible 14th time, while Brees is aiming for his fourth appearance. It could be said that the road to the Super Bowl starts with these two teams.
During the regular season, the Saints thoroughly dominated the Buccaneers over the course of two games. But that was then, and this is now. Even though the Saints will have home field advantage, the Bucs have a five game winning streak and are finally playing the way everyone hoped and expected them to.
There’s a fine case to be made that New Orleans will buckle down, dominate and feast on pirate treasure. If that happens, it will be a long, disappointing day for the Buccaneers. But, on any given Sunday, Brady’s arsenal of firepower on the ground and in the air is ready for a game like this. He’ll ensure that his pinpoint passes to Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Mike Evans get them to the promised land.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35 New Orleans Saints 31
Last Week’s Predictions: 5-1.