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A Closer Look at the NFL Divisional Matchups: Key Players and Predictions

Updated: Jan 24



Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens 

Saturday, 4:30 EST on ESPN and ABC


Rematch of Week 1. The Ravens took the victory comfortably, 25-9. CJ Stroud looked like a normal rookie QB finding his footing, improving every minute against that Ravens defense. The Texans have improved every week, from CJ and the offense to the young secondary, much praise has to be given to rookie head coach DeMeco Ryans for leading this young and suddenly exciting team to the playoffs. Regardless of the outcome of this game, this has already been a successful season for the Texans. The Ravens have looked like leading Super Bowl contenders, led by leading MVP contender Lamar Jackson. This Ravens defense, the best in the league by points allowed per contest, will be a real challenge for the first-year QB and head coach tandem. But don’t count out the Texans offense: CJ Stroud is no regular rookie. CJ in his first playoff game started out and finished hot, completing 16/21 passes for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns. A vaunted Browns defense was BBQ chicken all game. Completely cooked.


Stats to know


The Texans are 4-4 in road games. The Texans run defense is one of the best, as they allow the 2nd-fewest rushing yards per carry (3.5) and the 6th-fewest yards per game (96.5). On the other end, the Ravens are one of the better rushing offenses with the 4th-most rushing yards per carry (4.9) and the most rushing yards per game (156.5) in the NFL.


How do the Texans win?


Limiting rushing plays from Gus the Bus Edwards and Lamar Jackson, and keeping the ball safe on offense. Lamar and Gus have combined for over 1,600 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns this season. Continuing the strong run defense will be vital to shutting down the Ravens run game. It starts with defensive line dominance. Jonathan Greenard and Will Anderson Jr. (who was a limited practice participant and whose current status is listed questionable) have been forces on the edge this year. Defensive tackles Sheldon Rankins and Maliek Collins are in the same position as two rushers (limited practice and questionable game status). On the second level, the linebackers have also been key run stoppers. Blake Cashman and Christian Harris are the team's best tacklers (also both listed as questionable after limited practices).


The Ravens defense has been strong all year long. CJ Stroud will need to be the precise, decisive dealer he's looked like all year if he wants to win this game. Their o-line will have to keep up their Cleveland performance; Houston's o-line shutdown game-wrecker and 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Myles Garrett, but they’ll have another test with Justin Madubuike who leads the team with 13.0 sacks (9th in the NFL, 1st among all interior linemen). Surrounded by a Ravens front that led all NFL teams with 60 sacks, another strong test is incoming for the Houston o-line, but character building is important if they want to make it to the AFC Championship.


How do the Ravens win?


MVP front runner action Jackson, Harbaugh defense. It’s no surprise Ravens defense being one of the best, The Harbaugh brothers preach defense it’s what they are best at. This Ravens defense is tough and physical. Their defense allows the fewest points in the league (16.5) That is .8 lower than the KC Chiefs. Kyle Hamilton is one of the better safeties in the league along with Marcus Williams. Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith elite linebacker duo. Outside linebackers Oweh (Limited practice) and Clowney (Questionable) have made their mark and been key contributors to the defense. The offense of the Ravens has been strong thanks to Lamar Jackson with the dots and dimes to his receivers, his dynamic rushing plays. Zay flowers is expected to be back he caught 800 yards in year 1 and was a game changing player for this Ravens offense. Odell, another key piece, Tight ends Isaiah Likely and Mark Andrews (Questionable limited practice) are both strong offensive pieces despite Andrews being injured Lamar is still able to deal the ball. Gus Edwards has rushed for over 800 yards he’s able to move the chains and keep the offense alive, If Ravens want a chance of winning with the run game they’ll need to look at the Colts game in Jan where Taylor ran all over Texans defense 


Winner?


Baltimore Ravens. The CJ Stroud rookie show must come to an end. I love the story and I love the way this Texans team has played but the Ravens have looked impressive all year with a super bowl contender defense and dynamic QB play from Lamar. This will be CJ Stroud biggest test taking on this Ravens defense and it’s hard to bet against Harbaugh after seeing what he’s done with this defense who have allowed the fewest points in the NFL


Prediction from The Dyspatch team?


Hush: Ravens

DawgProcess: Ravens

Kia: Ravens

Lock: Ravens 

Wens: Ravens  

Jad: Ravens



Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

Saturday, 8:15 EST on FOX


Jordan Love this Green Bay offense has been on fire all year round and has been fun to watch. They took on the cowboys and dismantled them in the first 3 quarters dropping 41 points Cowboys only put 16 points, Love threw for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns completing 16 of 21 passes, Aaron Jones another highlight on this offense ran all over the cowboys defense he had 21 carries 118 rushing yards and 3 Touchdowns, Loves’ main weapon was Romeo Doubs who had himself a game finishing with 151 yards and a touchdown, This offense is on a hot streak and looking to take down the Niners. The 9ers are one of the favorites to make the superbowl, Shanahan offense led by Purdy has had its ups and downs a lot of talk from the media speculating whether or not Purdy is that guy for the Niners.This Niners offense regardless of who is at quarterback is elite stuff Mccaffrey an elite back who has had his name thrown into the MVP conversation, Deebo and Aiyuk and Kittle as pass catchers is scary, the Shanahan offense utilizing its OLine and pocket passing, favoring play action and motions - short passes, screen plays, Using Kittle on short 5-10 yard routes, Using Deebo YAC ability, Deebo and Aiyuk on deep passes. The defense of the Niners is intense with a strong DLine, Bosa and Young as the 2 rushers Hargrave and Armstrong as the DT they aren’t short either they have incredible depth on the DLine, Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw as the linebacker, Charvarius Ward, Ji’Ayir Brown, Logan Ryan and Deommodore lenoir as DBs. This is a tough group to overcome, two offensive geniuses Matt LeFleur and Kyle Shanhan are going to put on an offensive spectacle 


Stats to know


These 2 teams have met in the playoffs 9 times with Niners leading the series 5-4. The Green Bay OLine shutdown the Cowboys rushers, allowing 0 sacks, Niners are 5-0 at home in the postseason since 2012 with that Win coming against Packers (They are 4-0 at home under Shanahan)


How do the Packers win?


Stopping pass rush, careful with the DBs and Aaron Jones. Aaron Jones and the run game, Niners have never been in a position where the run defense has been questioned due to the fact they’ve always jumped teams and built up huge offensive leads. If Packers and Jones can establish the run and set the tone early and the Packers defense can hold onto the Niners defense it could cause the Niners some real issues. The Niners will be a big test for young Jordan Love. The front 4 are all capable of rushing the passer and applying pressure, Green bay managed to shut down the cowboys DE Micah and Lawrence, limiting them to 0 sacks. Niners have incredible pass defense, if the OLine can contain the rush and give Love an opportunity to pass, he will need to be deadly accurate in finding Musgrave, Doubs, Reed, Kraft, Watson and Wicks.


How do the Niners win?


Turnovers, interceptions and Purdy. The linebackers Warner and Greenlaw are tough tacklers and good hitters, the pass defense is legit they have the most interceptions with 22, they have versatile rangy linebackers along with ball hawk and shutdown pro DBs. This won't be an easy task for Green Bay and Jordan Love, expect the Niners to be aggressive up front and look to turn the ball over on pass plays. Brock Purdy has put impressive MVP like numbers if we are being honest. Purdy understands the Shanahan offense, he has control of it and can do what he is being asked to do. Niners are one of the more fun offenses with deep threats and YAC receivers and route technicians like Deebo and Aiyuk, Christian McCaffrey a dual threat back who can run routes and George Kittle an impressive pass catching tight end, Shanahan has a multitude of weapons at his disposable and it is real scary once the offense gets going capable building big leads and gaps like they did against Eagles and Cowboys.


Winner?


San Francisco 49ers. Niners have an overwhelming defense, while both offenses are fun and both head coaches have genius offensive mindsets. I will have to give that also to the Niners the weapons are much MUCH more deadly than Packers while Im not taking away anything from Doubs and Jones and Musgrave who I think are great options. It is hard to see the Packers defense matchup against Kittle, Deebo, Aiyuk and Mccaffrey. 


Predictions from The Dyspatch team?


Hush: 49ers

DawgProcess: 49ers

Kia: 49ers

Lock: Packers 

Wens: Packers

Jad: 49ers


Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Detroit Lions

Sunday, 3:00 EST on NBC


The Lions managed to clinch the win over Rams in a very tight game that ended 24-23 Jared Goff finished with 277 yards 1 touchdown and completed 22/27 passes, Amon-Ra St Brown once again showing why he is a top wideout in the league finished with 110 yards on 7 catches, despite the pass defense of the Lions, Aidan Hutchinson a highlight for this defense has accounted for multiple sacks in the last 3 games, he had 2 sacks against the Rams. For the first time since 1991 the Lions will host the NFC divisional round appearance at home, this comes just after their first playoff game in 32 years! Tampa Bay took care of the Eagles picked them apart and won 32-9 Baker Mayfield had himself a game, finishing with 337 yards and 3 touchdowns and completed 22/36 passes. A rematch of week 6 where the Lions won 20-6 it was a tight game. It was one score game till the 3rd quarter, not much difference this time round expect the same tough defense from Buccaneers strong run stuffing team and Baker Mayfield to be the deadly pocket QB


Stats to know


Lions pass defense statistically one of the worst in the league giving up the 6th most passing yards in the league (247.4) Lions also rank 23rd in points allowed per game (23.2) and well the Buccaneers they are even worse as they rank give up the 4th most passing yard (248.9) Both teams are significantly strong run defense teams, Lions ranking 2nd in fewest rushing yards allowed (88.8) and Buccaneers ranking 5th (95.3)


How do the Buccaneers win?


Baker and Blitzes, When blitzed goff is joint 2nd in INTs with 6, he is also sacked 13 times, and the Buccaneers defense are a HEAVY blitz team they are 3rd in blitz% with 40.1%, Buccaneers will need to rely on their blitz to throw Goff off his game they are also 10th in total sacks (48). Bowles gameplan is blitz heavy, takeaway the run and pressure it’s what they did against Eagles and except it again against Goff who on paper does not look great vs blitz defenses. Baker and his dimes, he will need to limit the turnovers as he did have an INT in week 6, he will also need to be smarter with the ball not putting it in harm's way he can often find himself throwing very risky passes. Wide receiver Mike Evans needs to cut out the concentration drops he had 1 in week 6 and also had 1 against the Eagles. Keep in mind he was targeted 7 times, had 3 catches and 1 drop. Expect a tough game plan on Mike Evans who has been on fire, a lot of doubles with safeties coming to help, Godwin will need to be a reliable option he had 45 yards and a touchdown vs Eagles, he is questionable with limited practice and rest days.


How do the Lions win?


Goff, protection and fighting the blitz. Fighting fire with even more fire neither side has impressive pass defense but with Buccaneers being blitz heavy and will look to shut down Gibbs and Montgomery like week 6 (Despite Lions missing players they were locked down for most of the game) Again with a heavy blitz team it will leave guys on an island, a lot of one on one matches on the outside, Campbell utilizing the screen passes in wk6, If Buccaneers bring constant blitzes and leave guys like LaPorta and Amon-Ra on island we might as well end bet on Amon Ra and LaPorta going for 110 yards each!. Goff will need to be a better decision maker when being blitzed, the running backs or TE will need to match protect when the blitzed occur too.


Winner?


Detroit Lions. The perfect Cinderella story. What is better than Jared Goff turning around the Detroit Lions football scene. I am a fan of Goff. There is a lot to like here, I am in favour of the Lions offense here with Amon-Ra, Reynolds, LaPorta in one on one matchups. I think it is hard to go against them. We also cannot forget Gibbs who has receiving like abilities too. As mentioned neither passing defense stands out but the run game will most likely be canceled out from early 


Predictions from The Dyspatch team?


Hush: Lions

DawgProcess: Lions

Kia: Buccaneers

Lock: Lions 

Wens: Buccaneers

Jad: Lions



Kansas City Chiefs @ Buffalo Bills

Sunday, 6:30 EST on CBS


We have a trilogy: Mahomes vs Allen Part 3. Will Josh Allen finally get a victory over Mahomes in the post season? Josh Allen had a great game vs Steelers, finishing with 203 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 rushing touchdown, completing 21 of 30 passes. The Bills took apart the Steelers by the time the 3rd quarter came round Bills were up 24-10, the game ended 31-17, Josh Allen and James coin combined for over 140 rushing yards. The Bills defense managed to pick Mason Rudolph off too. On the other hand in the Chiefs cold game they shut down Tua and Tyreek barely giving them any room to throw and make plays, Mostert being a non running threat too. Mahomes ended the game with 262 yards and 1 touchdown, completed 23 of 41 passes, Rashee Rice had a game finishing with 130 yards and Travis kelce finished with 71 yards. 


Stats to know


Chiefs are 2-0 vs Bills in postseason play, Bills defense still one of the best they allow the 7th fewest passing yards (196.6) They also allow the 4th fewest points (18.2) only 1.5 more than Chiefs who are 2nd in the league 


How do the Bills win?


Josh Allen playing superhuman and Defense playing like it’s the damn super bowl. Both sides of the ball will need to play their hearts out to win. As we know Josh Allen is INT prone having 18 on the season so far, This current Chiefs defense is one of the best in the Andy Reid era, Josh Allen will need to find a way to overcome the heavy pressure along with the tough ball hawks ready to pick him off. Bills defense being one of the best will need to find ways to attack Mahomes, he has only been sacked 28 times that’s the 2nd lowest in the league after Bills Josh Allen (24) Kincaid and Diggs will be excepted to be Allen favourite targets, Diggs having 7 catches and Kincaid having 3 on 59 yards with 1 touch down expect both to have target rates. 


How do the Chiefs win?


Mahomes doing Mahomes things and the defense playing at an all-time high. Mahomes is just Mahomes an all-around insane QB he’ll really need his weapons to be ready no doubt Mahomes skill he’s able to get his guys into good spots to catch but the whole core has had its ups and downs Kelce hasn’t looked the same, wide receivers are struggling but on the upside Rashee ride finished with 130 yard can he keep it going for a hot streak? Kelce had 71 yards being productive as ever maybe things are looking better and we’ll have consistent wide receiver play. This defense has been on fire, straight gas nothing stopping them, from top 2 in the fewest points allowed to the number 1 pressure% int he league this Chiefs defense isn’t to be messed around with. 


Winner?


Kansas City Chiefs. betting against Mahomes and KC is crazy especially when they are 2-0 against Josh Allen and Bills. It will be a good game regardless as usual, Mahomes is one win away from matching big ben and Favre in post season wins. I really do think he gets it with the win over Bills, we are looking at a top 3 defense currently, the best in the Andy Reid era, reigning super bowl champs looking to retain what’s there’s. It’s hard to compete against. 


Predictions from The Dyspatch team?


Hush: Chiefs

DawgProcess: Bills

Kia: Chiefs

Lock: Bills 

Wens: Chiefs 

Jad: Chiefs




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