NFC Divisional Round Preview
Buckle in for another weekend of playoff NFL football! Last weekend I was a little off the mark on my belief in Russell Wilson and also the Bears ability to play competent football in meaningful games. But it’s a new week and I’m here to break down the best four teams that the NFC Divisional Round has to offer.
#6 LA Rams (10-6) at #1 Greenbay Packers (13-3)
Game Info: Saturday, January 16th at 4:35pm at Lambeau Field
When I said last week that I liked Seattle over the Rams, I had put way too much stock in thinking Russell Wilson and theSeahawks offense could come alive. I had went with Russ’ long track record of being able to improvise and figure things out in big games and ignored the fact that the Seahawks had been pretty lifeless since the halfway point in the season. Couple that with a dominant Rams defense, widely regarding as the best by number crunchers and “eye-test guys” alike, and it was the perfect recipe for an LA upset.
How much further this defense can carry the Rams is tough to say. With a broken finger, Jared Goff played just well enough to not lose against the Seahawks, but by no means was it pretty. The further the Rams go into the playoffs with Goff taking snaps, the more likely it is that they lose their game of bad-quarterback Russian roulette.
On the flip side, future HOFer Aaron Rodgers is coming off arguably one of his greatest statistical regular seasons at the spry age of 37. He’s in the driver’s seat of a Green Bay the that boasts one of the most dynamic and versatile offensive attacks in football. Rodgers is in line to win third career MVP award, Davante Adams is arguably the best receiver in football, Aaron Jones is at least a top ten running back, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and tight end Robert Tonyan serve as awesome secondary receiving options and the offensive line is widely regarding as one of the NFL’s best even without injured Pro Bowler David Bakhtiari.
For the second straight week I’m going against the Rams world-beating defense. I’m picking the Packers to win today. Once again I chalk it up to the quarterback matchup. I simply do not see a way that Jared Goff can score enough points to keep the Rams in this one. This Packers team is simply better in every facet of football than that Seahawks team we saw roll over last week and I think that LA will be overwhelmed.
#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) at #2 New Orleans Saints (12-4)
Game Info: Sunday, January 17th at 6:40pm at Mercedes-Benz Superdome
This could be one of the most interesting match-ups we’ve seen so far in the playoffs. Both rosters are souped-up like a Ferrari on offense and defense, but each team is limited by their 40 year-old engine-governor quarterbacks. By all accounts I think the NFC South rivals are evenly matched on paper and could deliver one most down-to-the-wire games of the weekend.
I think the key match-up is a dominant Buccaneers’ defensive front four that fuelled the league’s best run defense versus Alvin Kamara, one of the league’s best running backs and the do-everything man that drives powers the Saints’ offense. Neutralize Kamara and New Orleans is in major trouble.
At this stage in either QB’s career, I just think that Brady wins this particular matchup against Brees. Both the Saints and Bucs excel at pressuring the quarterback and the taller Brady has more arm strength and uses his height and vision to step up in the pocket more effectively than Brees. Both quarterbacks play behind a top-ten offensive line so it will simply come down to which quarterback sees the field better.
The Saints did win the season series 2-0 over the Bucs with a combined score of 72-26. But I think Tampa Bay is far more dangerous now than they were in their last match-up on November 8th. Since their last meeting–which resulted in an embarrassing 38-3 loss–Tampa Bay’s offense has absolutely been clicking with Antonio Brown finding his spot in the offense and Gronk playing himself into Patriots-shape.
As much as it pains me to say it, I think Tampa Bay takes it tonight. That being said, I’m still going to place a hate bet against Brady. Because insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.