After a high-scoring Wild Card weekend in pro football, the matchups look even more explosive as the divisional round kicks off.
We’re tackling everything you need to know for 49ers vs. Packers, Rams vs. Bucs, and Bills vs. Chiefs. Which squads have the best shot to advance to the conference championships?
Uncover all the angles and latest news in the Showstopper!
San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers
Saturday, January 22 | TV: FOX
Coming off last weekend’s stunner at AT&T Stadium, the surging 49ers head to Lambeau Field, where the Packers went 8-0 during the regular season. In fact, the Packers were the only team in the NFL that went undefeated at home. The forecast will be a rude welcome for the 49ers, who will have to cope with falling temperatures into the teens, and the wind chill might make it feel like below zero. Back in Week 3, it took a last-minute drive for the Packers to pull ahead and beat the Niners, 30-28, with Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams (12 catches, 132 yards and one TD) having their way in the comeback. Since wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling is doubtful to play, it’ll be up to Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb to provide those reliable extra targets.
Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari is listed as questionable, but he did practice in pads Wednesday, so it’s looking cautiously optimistic. Bakhtiari’s status is worth watching, as he’s an important piece of Rodgers’ shield against San Francisco’s tough D. The 49ers also got some good news on the injury front, with defensive end Nick Bosa needing to clear one final step in the concussion protocol before being cleared to play. All in all, this one could shape up to be a frigid slugfest, and the 49ers’ chances of an upset hinges on the success of their defensive pressure on Rodgers, after they just sacked Dak Prescott five times last weekend.
Los Angeles Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, January 23 | TV: NBC
The Bucs made their first-round playoff game look like a cakewalk, with Tom Brady orchestrating a 31-15 blowout of the Eagles. However, it’s worth noting that Brady did get sacked four times, and the Rams are undoubtedly a much more difficult draw than Philly. Counting last weekend’s win, the Bucs are now 8-1 at home, but the Rams have been road warriors with a 7-2 away record. The Bucs and Rams both rank in the NFL’s top five in game script-adjusted pass rates, so this does have a chance to turn into a pass-heavy shootout between Brady and Matthew Stafford. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has been a dangerous red-zone threat in the Rams’ offensive attack, catching six touchdowns in nine games, as well as softening up the secondary for Cooper Kupp to further dominate.
Stafford and the Rams have proven they can put points on the board against the Bucs, defeating them 34-24 in Week 3, led by Stafford’s 343 passing yards and four touchdowns. Since that meeting, the Rams have added Beckham as well as linebacker Von Miller, while the Bucs lost wideout Chris Godwin for the season. Curiously, Los Angeles has a 52 percent pass rate since Week 15, one of the lowest in the league, so the Rams could opt for more ball control if they can get out to an early lead. On the injury front, although running back Leonard Fournette returned to practice for the Bucs, right tackle Tristan Wirfs remains questionable to play, due to a sprained ankle. A banged-up Bucs offensive line could spell trouble against the Rams’ fearsome pass rush.
Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, January 23 | TV: CBS
The Chiefs took some huge strides in improving their defense down the stretch, allowing Patrick Mahomes more time on the field to work his magic. After Mahomes threw for 404 yards and five touchdowns against Pittsburgh, he’ll face a much bigger challenge against the Bills defense, who have held opponents to 21 points or less in five straight games. Oh, and Josh Allen also threw for five touchdowns last weekend against the Patriots, setting the stage for an epic quarterback duel at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Bills have been a mixed bag on the road, posting a 5-3 record, so the Chiefs’ biggest advantage lies in the home field. Despite Kansas City’s defensive improvement, the opening line points to bettors expecting fireworks from both offenses. In Week 5, the Bills tromped the Chiefs, 38-20, as Allen tossed three touchdowns and Buffalo’s D neutralized any downfield damage from Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. But as all eyes turn to Mahomes and Allen, running back Devin Singletary is well worth watching against a still-vulnerable Chiefs run defense. Singletary has scored seven touchdowns in his last five games, as the Bills have finally committed to giving him more carries, unlocking a new dimension to their offense.