The Torch’s Bold NFL Divisional Round Playoff Predictions: Look for Shocking Saturday and Shootout Sunday

Drew Brees and Tom Brady meet for the third time this season in Sunday nights NFC Divisional Playoff game. Brees and the Saints won the first two meetings, and The Torch predicts a three-game sweep.

Drew Brees and Tom Brady meet for the third time this season in Sunday night’s NFC Divisional Playoff game. Brees and the Saints won the first two meetings, and The Torch predicts a three-game sweep.

The NFL called this year’s Wild Card round a “Super Wild Card Weekend” because due to the new playoff rules, there were six games instead of the usual four, and man, did it live up to its name! We saw two upsets with the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams both winning against their favored adversaries. Four out of the six games had over 50 total points scored, and to complete the weekend, we had Slime! Lots and lots of slime. The NFL’s simulcast of the Chicago Bears vs. New Orleans Saints game on kid’s channel Nickelodeon was a resounding success with approximately two million people tuning in. We couldn’t have asked for a better kickoff to the NFL Playoffs, and after all was said and done, only eight teams remain, giving fans four incredible matchups in the divisional round.

NFC Game 1 – #6 Los Angeles Rams vs #1 Green Bay Packers – Saturday 1/16 – 4:35 PM ET – FOX:  It’s the #1 scoring offense vs the #1 scoring defense. It’s Davante Adams vs Jalen Ramsey. It’s the Packers vs the Rams. This game obviously has a lot to be excited about, and it won’t disappoint. In the Super Bowl Era, a matchup like this one between the league’s best offense and best defense has only happened 12 times, and the defense has prevailed in eight of those games. Nevertheless, the Packers are 6.5-point favorites. The Rams surprised most people last week by beating the Seahawks with relative ease, winning by a score of 30-20, even with quarterback Jared Goff playing most of the game with an injured thumb. The Torch may have underestimated that Rams defense, but won’t be making that mistake again. The Packers beat three playoff teams in the regular season, but none of them except perhaps the New Orleans Saints have a defense quite like what they’ll be faced with on Saturday. The Packers have a couple of things going for them, though. First, it’s a home game. It’s historically very tough to win at Lambeau Field in mid-January. Second, Aaron Rodgers is the odds-on favorite for NFL MVP and has been putting up video game-like numbers all season long. Unfortunately for the Packers, the Rams are a run-first offensive team and the Packers are in the bottom half of the league against the run. If the Rams get that run game going and that defense plays as they did in Seattle last week, the Packers could be in for a rude awakening. The Torch predicts the Rams will sneak an upset win over the Packers.

AFC Game 1 – #5 Baltimore Ravens vs #2 Buffalo Bills – Saturday 1/16 – 8:15 PM ET – NBC:  Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has been battling doubters and narratives his whole career and last Sunday he was finally able to end one of them. He got his first playoff win against one of his fiercest foes in the Tennessee Titans. As the Titans head home, the Ravens travel north to Orchard Park, New York to battle a powerful Buffalo Bills team who got their first playoff win in 25 years. The battle of the 2018 quarterback class might be a snow game, Lamar Jackson’s first, but that isn’t going to stop The Torch from picking the Ravens to beat the Bills. Both teams are coming into this game with plenty of momentum. The Bills are an elite football team, but in the snow, the game script might favor a ground-and-pound approach, something the Bills have been middle-of-the-pack at stopping all season. On the other hand, the Baltimore Ravens held a 2,000-yard rusher in Derrick Henry to a measly 40 yards last week. Offensively, the Ravens have the best rushing attack, and the Bills have the 13th worst. Also, a key part of their running game, rookie tailback Zack Moss, has been ruled out for this game which doesn’t help matters for Buffalo. If Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs can manage to get going through the air in the snow somehow, the Ravens have an elite cornerback duo in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters and have been spectacular guarding opposing receivers all season long. The Bills are a great team, but The Torch predicts the Ravens will run away with this upset.

AFC Game 2 – #6 Cleveland Browns vs #1 Kansas City Chiefs – Sunday 1/17 – 3:05 PM ET – CBS:  The Browns came out and shocked a lot of people last Sunday night, forcing Big Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers to throw four interceptions in the game without their star cornerback Denzel Ward. The Browns defense came out very strong, staking Cleveland to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter, and while the Browns did give up 37 points in the final three quarters, they were able to hang on for a 47-38 victory over the favored Steelers. Now, they go into a matchup with the odds-on Super Bowl favorite Kansas City Chiefs as a 10-point underdog. Patrick Mahomes’ juggernaut Chiefs have the best air attack in the NFL in terms of passing yards per game and total passing yards, and the Browns rank 11th worst at stopping it. However, the Browns have the third-best rushing attack in the NFL in terms of rushing yards per game and total rushing yards, and the Chiefs rank 12th worst at stopping it. The Browns are also getting their coaching staff back from the COVID-19 protocol list as well. The aforementioned Ward should help with covering the Chiefs’ dangerous wide receiving corps. All that being said, if these teams stick to what they’re good at, this can be a very close game, maybe even winnable for the Browns, but it will be an uphill battle for them. The Browns can’t rely on 24 points off turnovers against Patrick Mahomes. The Torch is taking the Chiefs in a back and forth shootout.

NFC Game 2 – #5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs #2 New Orleans Saints – Sunday 1/17 – 6:40 PM ET – FOX:  Brady vs. Brees round 3, and potentially the final battle of two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL. In the regular season, Drew Brees escaped victorious in both contests, but this Bucs team has only gotten better since their last disastrous meeting on Sunday Night Football back in November. After last week’s win in Washington, the Bucs will be getting back star linebacker Devin White for this game against the Saints, a game The Torch believes will be one in which the stronger defense comes out on top. In the regular season, the stronger defense was the Saints, which is why we’re picking them to win this game, but really if any game this weekend were to be decided by a coin flip, it would be this one. Aside from the quarterbacks and defenses, this game has several great individual matchups that we are looking forward to watching. Those little things could end up being the difference in this game, and it surely won’t be as easy for the Saints against the Bucs as it was the last two times.

If all of The Torch’s predictions are correct this weekend that would leave us with a Chiefs-Ravens rematch in the AFC Championship game and Rams-Saints rematch of the 2018-19 NFC Championship game where the infamous pass-interference was not called, a moment that will haunt Saints’ fans hearts forever. But no matter what happens, it sure will be exciting to watch, and it’s absolutely crazy to think we’re just three weeks away from Super Bowl LV.

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