NFL Divisional Round presents weekend of competitive games

The NFL is in its 100th season and the teams are competing for a spot in Super Bowl 54.

Courtesy of Brett Morris

The NFL is in its 100th season and the teams are competing for a spot in Super Bowl 54.

Blake Beashore, Web Editor

Following last week’s wild-card round games, the NFL playoffs are left with eight teams preparing to compete in the divisional round. 

The AFC matchups include the number one seeded Baltimore Ravens (14-2) v.s. the number 6 seeded Tennessee Titans (9-7), coming off of their big win against the New England Patriots in the wild card round last weekend. The Titans will head to Baltimore to try and knock off the number one seed at home.

The other AFC matchup is the number 2 seeded Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) at home against the number 4 seeded Houston Texans (10-6), who defeated the Buffalo Bills last weekend in the wild card round.

In the NFC, the number 1 seeded San Francisco 49ers (13-3) have home-field advantage against the number 6 seeded Minnesota Vikings (10-6). Minnesota is coming off of an overtime victory against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

The second NFC matchup is the number 2 seeded Green Bay Packers (13-3) v.s. the number 5 seeded Seattle Seahawks (11-5). 

AFC # 6 TENNESSEE TITANS at #1 BALTIMORE RAVENS (Jan. 11 7:15 p.m. central)

The Tennessee Titans are the dark horse of the AFC after starting the season off 2-4, the Titans made a change in the quarterback position and handed the job to former Miami Dolphin, Ryan Tannehill. Running Back Derrick Henry also had a career year. Henry tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns with 16 and led the league in rushing yards with 1540. Thanks to Tannehill and Henry’s strong contributions along with a strong defense, the Titans were able to overcome the rough start and go on to win seven out of their next 10. This put them in the second wild-card spot to face the New England Patriots in Foxborough. The Titans were able to go on the road and shock the defending Super Bowl champs, advancing to the next round against the Super Bowl favorite, the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens have been dynamic this season behind likely MVP Lamar Jackson. Jackson has led his team to an NFL best 14-2 record with his balanced style of running and passing. He threw for a league-leading 36 pass touchdowns while adding seven more on the ground. In his electric season, he also broke Michael Vick’s record of rushing yards by a quarterback in a season with 1206. Jackson’s contributions allowed the Ravens to be the number one rated offense in the league with 33.2 points per game. The Ravens defense is also one of the best in the league as they were third in the league in points allowed (17.6), and eighth in the league in takeaways (25).

Although Tennessee has been very strong in the run game and a hot team going into this game, I have the Baltimore Ravens coming out on top. Tennessee doesn’t have the firepower to outscore Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense, the Ravens will come out on top 31-14.

AFC #4 Houston Texans at #2 Kansas City Chiefs (Jan. 12 2:05 p.m. central)

The Houston Texans are one of the most unpredictable teams in the NFL. With losses to non-playoff teams like the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, the Carolina Panthers, and including an absolute blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens, they look to be extremely vulnerable. The Texans have also managed to defeat three playoff teams throughout the season. Two of them being AFC juggernauts, the New England Patriots and their divisional-round matchup, the Kansas City Chiefs. Houston is a team you can’t judge based on statistics. They are middle of the pack in nearly every category. Playing the Texans you have to take into account quarterback Deshaun Watson. What makes Watson special is the “It” factor. It isn’t something tangible that you can see, but everyone knows it’s there. Watson wins big games and finds a way to make big plays. Just last week against the Buffalo Bills the Texans were down and needed to score a touchdown. It was third and long and the Bills brought pressure, Watson seemed dead to rights, but somehow managed to elude two tackles and hit his check down for a huge gain putting them inside the RedZone. They went on to score and eventually win the game.

The Kansas City Chiefs are one of the best offensive teams in football. In their final stretch of games, they have had one of the best defensively as well. The Chiefs are fifth in the league in scoring with 28.2 per game and have debatably the best quarterback in the league, Patrick Mahomes. The offense is filled with weapons, including speed-demon Tyreek Hill, and the seemingly unguardable Travis Kelce. On the other hand, the biggest story for the Chiefs this season is the defense. Coming into the season many believed the defense was going to be the Chiefs’ downfall. Early in the year, this seemed to ring true. But in the middle of the season, the defense seemed to be improving. Then, as the Chiefs ended the season on a six-game win streak they allowed only 11.5 points per game, putting them at the top of the league for that span. The defense ended up being seventh in the league in points allowed per game at just 19.3. That is a full seven-point differential from a year ago. The Chiefs were able to play through injuries to Mahomes, defensive end Frank Clark, and many other impact players. Now with the team healthy and hot, I see a deep run into the playoffs.

I have the Kansas City Chiefs coming out on top in the rematch of Chiefs v.s. Texans because the Chiefs are hot on both sides of the ball, and for the first time all year, are healthy. Chiefs win 35-24.

NFC #6 Minnesota Vikings at #1 San Francisco 49ers (Jan. 11 3:35 central)

The Minnesota Vikings are a solid team on both sides of the ball. On the offensive side, they have playmakers like Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs. You add veteran leadership tight end Kyle Rudolph and quarterback Kirk Cousins, and you have a team that can win games. Although the Vikings are solid, they lack any elite players. They have a lot of talent, but lack a true superstar who can shine the brightest in a big game. Superstars are what makes a team go from Super Bowl pretender to Super Bowl contender. Currently, the Vikings are not a Super Bowl contender.

The San Francisco 49ers are one of the best teams in football. Their defense is smothering with impact players like defensive end Nick Bosa, and cornerback Richard Sherman. It’s a struggle for teams to pick up significant yardage against this defense, let alone score enough points to win a playoff game. The 49ers defense is second in the league in yards per game and is allowing under 20 points per game as well. The defense is also sixth in the league in takeaways with 27. The 49ers offense also sports one of the best run games in the league. They are second in the league in rushing with 144 yards per game. This offensive run production allows them to put up the second-most points per game in the league at 29.9.

The San Francisco 49ers will defeat the Minnesota Vikings in a decisive game, proving that the 49ers are legitimate contenders and that the Vikings were just pretenders. 49ers win 24-14

NFC #5 Seattle Seahawks at #2 Green Bay Packers (Jan. 12 5:40 central)

The Seattle Seahawks are one of the best teams of the decade and look to continue their success with a win against the Green Bay Packers. Seattle has a culture and tradition of good defense and big hits. While the defense is young and giving up more points than usual, the Seahawks defense still manages to make big plays. They are third in the league in takeaways with 32 on the year. The Seahawks are strong on the offensive side of the ball. Averaging over 25 points per game the Seahawks have one of the league’s best and most reliable quarterbacks, Russell Wilson. Wilson over the past few years has had an incredible connection with wide receiver Tyler Lockett. In 2018, when Lockett was targeted by Russell Wilson, the combo sported a perfect 158.3 passer rating, creating one of the most dangerous duos in the league. The Seahawks also added rookie D.K Metcalf at the receiver position. In his rookie season, Metcalf had 900 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, making for a very strong second target and rounding out a strong Seattle offense.

The Green Bay Packers are one of the most questionable teams in the playoffs. Carrying a 13-3 record, they look to be elite just based on wins and losses. Looking closer into the strength of schedule and individual games, things look slightly different. If the Packers defense can continue to play to their full potential and give Aaron Rodgers and the offense some help, the Packers are Super Bowl contenders. During the regular season, the Packers defense was able to hold teams to an average of under 20 points per game. Although the Packers played one of the weaker schedules the defense performed at a high level throughout the season. Any offense with Aaron Rodgers under center is going to be one of the best in the league and the Packers were that once again this year. What makes me doubt the Green Bay Packers was their game against the Kansas City Chiefs early in the season. The Packers were only able to edge out a 31-24 win against the Chiefs with backup quarterback Matt Moore taking the snaps. The Chiefs were also missing two starting offensive linemen as well as three defensive starters. The problem with this game wasn’t that the Packers played poorly. They played very well making huge plays throughout the game, and it was still a nailbiter.

The Seattle Seahawks playoff experience and poise are going to show in this game on the road and they are going to come out on top of the Green Bay Packers in a close game, Seattle wins 31-28.