#4 HOU (11-7) @ #1 BAL (13-4)
Saturday, January 20 | 4:30 PM ET | ESPN/ABC
The Divisional Round kicks off with a rematch of the opener as Houston looks to knock off the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but both offenses are playing a lot better than they did in Week 1. For the Ravens, Lamar Jackson was still finding his way in Todd Monken’s system to begin the season, and he enters the weekend extremely focused on putting the playoff struggles behind him; I wouldn’t be surprised to see Odell Beckham Jr. unleashed at wide receiver, and Mark Andrews (ankle) returning to pair with Isaiah Likely will give the Texans plenty to think about [Update: Andrews has been ruled out despite full practice participation]. On the other side, C.J. Stroud’s confidence has only continued to grow, and his squad has the advantage of do-or-die games in back-to-back weeks having them ready to battle—though Baltimore did have huge matchups down the stretch that they dominated versus San Francisco and Miami. Overall, the Ravens should be prepared for the downfield shots that doomed Cleveland in the Wild Card Round, and the deep collection of weapons on offense (not to mention anything Jackson can do with his legs) is reason to believe they will get the win to set up a heavyweight clash versus the winner of Chiefs-Bills in the AFC Championship.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
#7 GB (10-8) @ #1 SF (12-5)
Saturday, January 20 | 8:15 PM ET | FOX
The play of Jordan Love and play-calling of Matt LaFleur are deservedly being praised after the 48-32 win over Dallas, but Romeo Doubs breaking out with a 6/151/1 line on six targets didn’t get enough attention—and Green Bay is very dangerous with a variety of young players capable of stepping up in any given matchup. On Saturday night, we could see Jayden Reed (zero touches last week) be more of a factor to match Deebo Samuel, and the key for the Packers is having their offensive line hold up versus Nick Bosa and company like they did against Micah Parsons last Sunday. The concern is San Francisco having more disruptors up front than the Cowboys did, as Chase Young has generated pressure despite limited sack production, and giving too much attention to Bosa could allow others to thrive. An on-fire Love again hitting a bunch of off-platform throws and the Green Bay defense having Rashan Gary re-emerge for a favorable matchup versus right tackle Colton McKivitz could allow the Packers to pull off the upset, but Brock Purdy and his playmakers could be too much to handle on the road.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers
#4 TB (10-8) @ #3 DET (13-5)
Sunday, January 21 | 3:00 PM ET | NBC
The Lions might not have the No. 1 seed in the conference like the Eagles did in 2022, but their rise—after nailing the offseason (despite plenty of criticism for their draft)—is very similar, and they also hit on the quarterback with Jared Goff. Ahead of the Week 6 matchup between these teams, Buccaneers pass game coordinator/inside linebackers coach Larry Foote compared Goff’s ability on play-action passes to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, so the two-time Super Bowl champion is another respected figure that has talked up Goff, who was called a “championship quarterback” by Manning himself a couple of years ago. It’s been great to have the public perception of Goff shift this year, and he’s now a legend in Detroit for knocking off Matthew Stafford to give the franchise their first playoff victory in since 1991. However, the Lions have much higher aspirations than reaching the Divisional Round, and Ben Johnson should have plenty of counters in store for whatever blitzes are thrown at Goff, so the Bucs will be tested more on the backend than they were versus Philly. I don’t want to overlook the job Todd Bowles has done, and Baker Mayfield was essentially perfect last week, but I believe the Lions have the talent edge and will be powered by the fans at Ford Field.
Winner: Detroit Lions
#3 KC (12-6) @ #2 BUF (12-6)
Sunday, January 21 | 6:30 PM ET | CBS
There has been a bit of hostility at times, but Chiefs-Bills has turned into a respectful, ultra-competitive rivalry since Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen have been under center—with the difference between the two sides being playoff success for Kansas City (2-0 record in the postseason, compared to 1-3 in the regular season). Of course, the last playoff battle came in the memorable overtime loss where Allen never got the ball despite a flawless postseason (48-of-62 for 637 yards, nine touchdowns, and zero interceptions), and the only real concern is him wanting to win so badly that it leads to mistakes by trying to play hero ball. If he stays within himself, Allen should be able to consistently move the offense while finally getting the Chiefs at home, so the question will be whether Sean McDermott’s defense can slow down Andy Reid’s offense. Not having linebacker Terrel Bernard (ankle) and cornerback Christian Benford (knee) would be huge for a defense that’s already missing multiple starters, but Rasul Douglas will play, the unit needs to make someone other than Rashee Rice or Travis Kelce beat them—particularly when pressure is dialed up. The officiating is another factor that needs to be considered, but Allen did it all last week and will do whatever it takes on Sunday to finally get past Kansas City.
Winner: Buffalo Bills