After one of the most competitive and entertaining Wild Card Rounds in NFL history, eight teams remain in the NFL’s playoff bracket as the league heads into the Divisional Round.
The NFL’s first “Super Wild Card Weekend” yielded a variety of shocking results, with each conference’s sixth seed pulling off upsets to move onto Divisional Round matchups with each conference’s top seed.
While the round featured plenty of surprises, there was one thing that fans knew would be a guarantee going in: stellar quarterback play.
Each of the remaining eight playoff teams wields an impressive quarterback in their respective offenses, but each conference seems to be telling a different story on their respective paths to Super Bowl LV.
On the AFC side, the oldest starting quarterback remaining is just 25 years old, as Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield gets set to square off with the reigning Super Bowl MVP, Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes.
Meanwhile, on the NFC side, the youngest starting quarterback is 26 years old, with Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff representing the conference’s lone remaining quarterback in his 20s.
With a story of youth on the AFC half of the bracket, and a tale as old as time being told on the NFC’s side, the NFL finds itself with one of its most unique Divisional Round slates in recent memory.
To prepare you for all of the storylines for what will surely be a weekend full of fireworks and five-star football, it’s time to break down the full schedule for the 2020 NFL Playoffs’ Divisional Round.
No. 1 Green Bay Packers vs. No. 6 Los Angeles Rams: Saturday, January 16 at 4:35 p.m. ET on FOX
As previously mentioned, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff will be walking into an experienced buzz saw on Saturday when he goes to battle against Aaron Rodgers and the top-seeded Green Bay Packers.
Walking into Lambeau Field just a few weeks removed from surgery on a broken thumb, the 26-year-old Goff will look to pull off another miracle after finagling a Wild Card upset against the third-seeded Seattle Seahawks.
Meanwhile, Rodgers will look to shake off any rust that comes with a first-round bye, and will hope to bring the Packers back to the NFC Championship game for the second straight year.
Rams head coach Sean McVay will lack the element of surprise that he utilized heading into Seattle last week as it relates to his starting quarterback, considering John Wolford was thrust from his second career start following a devastating hit from Seahawks safety Jamal Adams.
Instead, the Packers know exactly who to plan for leading up to the game, and the injured Goff knows exactly what type of role he will have to play if his Rams have any shot at continuing their Cinderella story in the NFC playoff bracket.
The Rams defense, led by an ailing Aaron Donald and a scary secondary led by Jalen Ramsey, will surely provide a challenge for Green Bay’s offense.
But, as long as the rust doesn’t impact Rodgers too much, the MVP candidate should lead his team to the NFC Championship for a classic clash with either Drew Brees or Tom Brady.
Prediction: Packers win 30-13
No. 2 Buffalo Bills vs. No. 5 Baltimore Ravens: Saturday, January 16 at 8:15 p.m. ET on NBC
When the Buffalo Bills beat the sixth-seeded Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card Round, they likely imagined they would be hosting the third-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers in the Divisional Round a week later. Instead, they drew arguably the hottest team in the AFC: the Baltimore Ravens.
In a battle of 24-year-old quarterbacks selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, Bills QB Josh Allen will basically go one-on-one with Ravens QB Lamar Jackson in primetime on NBC, all with a spot in the AFC Championship game on the line.
Fighting out of the red corner, Allen and the Bills offense will likely be the Ravens’ toughest possible test since their Monday Night Football matchup with the Cleveland Browns in Week 14.
With Allen serving as a threat both by air and on the ground, combined with the insane talent of wide receiver Stefon Diggs, the Ravens defense will have to be at the top of its game to have any chance in this one.
And, fighting out of the blue corner, you have the reigning MVP in Jackson. Playing with quite the chip on his shoulder after an early exit from the 2019 playoffs, Jackson’s Ravens put on quite the show against a very-game Tennessee Titans team in the Wild Card Round.
With plenty of speed on offense, along with an incredibly-stout defense that stifled Titans running back Derrick Henry, the Ravens have the ability to score quickly and get the ball in an instant after a defensive stand.
This one will likely turn into a high-scoring affair when considering the offensive prowess that both teams possess, but it should end with the Bills moving on to their first AFC Championship game since 1993.
Prediction: Bills win 34-30
No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs vs. No. 6 Cleveland Browns: Sunday, January 17 at 3:05 p.m. ET on CBS
In what is likely the most highly-anticipated game between a top seed and a sixth seed in NFL history, the Kansas City Chiefs will look to keep their hopes of a Super Bowl repeat alive as they host the Cleveland Browns in the Sunday afternoon window.
Coming off their second first-round bye in as many years, the Chiefs will look to make things a bit easier on their fans’ hearts than last year’s playoff run, where they fell behind 24-0 in the first half of their Divisional Round game against the Houston Texans.
Unfortunately for Patrick Mahomes and company, the Chiefs will have to deal with a red-hot Browns squad, who jumped out to a 28-0 lead against the third-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card Round to advance to the Divisional Round.
Like the weekend’s other three games, quarterback play will reign supreme in this one, as two 25-year-olds with varying experience go toe-to-toe in Kansas City.
Mahomes, in his fourth season in the league, will look to advance to his third straight AFC Championship game with a usual stellar performance.
Mayfield, in his third year, will try to bring the Browns to the AFC Championship game for the first time since 1989, all hopefully en route to the team’s first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
As fun as it would be to see Mayfield and Cleveland’s fans continue on in the postseason, it seems impossible to pick against the Chiefs in any setting, let alone the playoffs. Mahomes and company should pull it out in a close one, and move onto the AFC Championship once again.
Prediction: Chiefs win 27-23
No. 2 New Orleans Saints vs. No. 3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sunday, January 17 at 6:40 p.m. ET on FOX
As the Divisional Round winds down, fans will be treated to lots of playoff firsts, mainly highlighted by the first playoff battle between New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees and New England Patriots QB Tom Brady.
As if their first playoff game against each other wasn’t enough, the two seasoned veterans will make some other history, as well. The Boston Globe wrote that the 43-year-old Brady and what will be a 42-year-and-two-day-old Brees “will become the first pair of quadragenarians to start against each other in a playoff game.”
The meeting is anything but a first for the two quarterbacks, however, who have already played against each other twice in Brady’s first year as the Buccaneers’ quarterback.
Unfortunately for Brady and company, however, they won’t be walking into New Orleans with much momentum on Sunday, entering with an 0-2 record against Brees’ Saints in 2020.
Momentum won’t even be on the Bucs’ side after the Wild Card Round, either, as Brady’s offense barely outlasted Taylor Heinicke and the Washington Football Team a week prior, while Brees’ Saints beat down the Bears a day later.
Fans would likely love to watch Brady advance to take on Aaron Rodgers, but precedent in 2020 points to Brees and the well-rounded Saints moving to 3-0 on the year against TB12 en route to the NFC Championship game.
Prediction: Saints win 24-20