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Breaking Down the NFL Divisional Playoff with Predictions and a Preview

The Packers, Buccaneers and six other hungry teams teams eye another playoff round with Super Bowl destiny lurking.

Wild Card weekend is over. The only upset that took place was the San Francisco 49ers sending the Dallas Cowboys to an early exit. The schadenfreude that people took in the Cowboys' early exit was palpable and predictable. This leaves just eight teams with hopes of playing Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on February 13th.

These teams entering the gauntlet are the Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Los Angeles Rams.

AFC Matchups

1. Tennessee Titans vs. Cincinnati Bengals 

The Titans had a first-round bye as the first seed. They'll have their star running back, a freight train, Derrick Henry back in action. 

Henry has missed a lot of the season with a fractured foot. On paper, this matchup would favor the higher-seeded Titans. Henry will likely need to knock the rust off, and the Bengals allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards to opposing teams during the regular season. 

The Titans, on the other hand, allowed the eighth-most passing yards this season. The Bengals were 7th in the NFL in passing yards, and the Titans are inconsistent with pass defense. Tennessee could have a tough game if Henry and company are not able to threaten on the ground.

2. Kansas City Chiefs vs. 3. Buffalo Bills

The Bills got eliminated by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2021 AFC championship game. In week 5 of this season, the Bills whomped the Chiefs 38-20, however. 

Kansas City was taken to the woodshed by Josh Allen, who passed for 315 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 59 yards as well. The Bills had the number three offense overall this season, scoring 28.4 points per game. The Chiefs were number four. They are a better version of the Chiefs on paper. Kansas City has the experience in their pocket, and a hunger to get back to the Super Bowl. The Bills defense is top in the NFL, but never count Patrick Mahomes out of a game.

NFC Matchups

1. Green Bay Packers vs. 6. San Francisco 49ers

The Packers had their bye week as the number one seed. The 49ers upset the Cowboys on wild card weekend, so San Francisco should not be discounted based on numbers alone. Though I must say, the numbers are rough. 

Stats favor the Packers at almost every facet. That said, the 49ers have been Aaron Rodgers' nemesis for the past decade-plus. San Francisco has eliminated the Packers three times since the Packers last made a Super Bowl. How one views this matchup is a matter of statistics versus superstition. 

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. 4. Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams sure told the world that they were serious on Monday night. They gave Kyler Murray fits and completely dominated the Arizona Cardinals. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are led by the ageless vampire, Tom Brady. The Bucs offense ranks higher on points and passing yards. Neither team runs the ball particularly well. The Buccaneers are the better team defensively. The Rams have their work cut out for them, as the Buccaneers are staring a Super Bowl berth in the face.

My Prediction

The challenge is always being honest and picking who I think will win, versus who I'd want to win. I'm an LA fan forever, and even though the Rams are still working on growing on me as a true LA team, I'd like to see them win. I'd like to see anyone beat Tom Brady, frankly.

The truth is, Brady and the Buccaneers are elite. 

Bucs over Rams

Bengals over Titans

Bills over Chiefs

Niners over Packers