Previewing 2019 NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots

After an exciting Wild Card weekend where there were two upsets and two overtime games, it goes to show why the National Football League playoffs are exciting to watch. Now we enter the Divisional Round where some of the big teams who earned Byes will start their postseason runs. Let’s take a look at some of the matchups.

American Football Conference

Tennessee Titans vs Baltimore Ravens

Tennessee Titans

The Titans pulled off the upset over the defending champion New England Patriots last week in an epic 20-13 victory Wild Card Round game. They will need to continue with their running game, but their defense will have to tighten up this week as they will face a very dangerous Baltimore offense. They won’t need to blitz too much this game as the Ravens run a lot, but the secondary, the weakest point of their squad, will have to be on their heels with their receivers even though the passing game for Baltimore ranked 27th this year.

Players to watch out for: (read this article for both the offense and defense)

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens offense is very similar to Tennessee’s, but a bit more productive and a very different type of quarterback. The offense is led by quarterback Lamar Jackson who has been an X-factor for their success all year. Jackson uses his legs a lot, similar to what the Atlanta Falcons did with Michael Vick, but he can beat a team through the air when needed. He is also an MVP candidate. Baltimore’s defense is absolutely fantastic, especially against the pass, but their pass rush is exceptional as they blitz, a lot. The biggest problem they face against the Titans is Derrick Henry’s running game, but the Ravens should be able to find a way to mitigate his damage.

Players to watch out for on offense: quarterback Lamar Jackson, running back Mark Ingram

Players to watch out for on defense: linebacker Matthew Judon, safety Chuck Clark

Predictions

James Rowe: Baltimore. I like what the Titans have done, but man, Baltimore is really good. It’s too hard to go against them.

 

Houston Texans vs Kansas City Chiefs

Houston Texans

The Texans managed to get an overtime win over the Buffalo Bills after finally getting their offense to start scoring against a very good Bills defense. Houston’s offense will be the key in this game especially if quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to play at a high level. Problem is that their defense has not been all that great this season and they will have to face a juggernaut Kansas City offense. The Texans defense will need to come up with some answers if they really want to beat the Chiefs.

Players to watch out for: (read this article for both offense and defense)

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are looking to avenge a loss to the Texans earlier this season, but with having a Bye, Kansas City looks poised to be fresh and ready to go for this matchup. The Chiefs’ offense is incredible as they are led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but they use a lot of fast weapons like wide receiver Tyreek Hill to put points on the board. Their defense on the other hand is still not great despite it being significantly better than in 2018. Kansas City’s defense will have to expect Houston to run the ball a lot and be well aware of it as the numbers showed that they ranked 28th in the league in stopping the run. That being said, their passing defense is exceptional as they ranked 8th, so the Texans might not be able to do anything on offense if the Chiefs’ rush defense holds them.

Players to watch out for on offense: quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce

Players to watch out for on defense: linebacker Reggie Ragland, safety Tyrann Mathieu

Predictions

James: Kansas City. The Chiefs are just a very explosive team and honestly look hungry to avenge their loss in the AFC Championship last year.

 

National Football Conference

Minnesota Vikings vs San Francisco 49ers

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings pulled off an upset in overtime over the New Orleans Saints as quarterback Kirk Cousins showed that he can actually win in prime time against a playoff caliber side. Now with that narrative pushed to the side, they have to face off against the best team in the NFC. The defense here will be key as their secondary, a weak point, stepped up against a very good passing attack from the Saints. While San Francisco doesn’t quite have that same fire power, it’s still pretty good.

Players to watch out for: (read this article for both offense and defense)

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers have had an awesome season in 2019, no doubt about it. A big key for them in this game is their pass defense which has been exceptional and while Cousins doesn’t throw for many yards, locking down receivers will help a lot. However, their rush defense has struggled a bit this campaign so expect the Vikings to use running back Dalvin Cook a lot. On offense, they are led by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo who has plenty of weapons to share the wealth with. What will be key is their running game against Minnesota’s defensive line.

Players to watch out for on offense: quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle

Players to watch out for on defense: linebacker Kwon Alexander, defensive tackle DeForest Bruckner

Predictions

James: San Francisco. This game should be close, but the 49ers have been a very good team all year, plus they played in a much more difficult division which should help them.

 

Seattle Seahawks vs Green Bay Packers

Seattle Seahawks

With as beat up as they were, Seattle handled Philadelphia pretty well. Now they enter a frozen tundra in Green Bay where it will be another hostile environment. They will need quarterback Russell Wilson to continue what he does best, but also establish the running game early on as Green Bay’s biggest weakness on defense is stopping the run. The Seahawks will also have to get their passing game going early on too because the Packers’ secondary has been fantastic in 2019.

Players to watch out for: (read this article for both offense and defense)

Green Bay Packers

A first round Bye always helps, but with it coming at home like Lambeau Field, Green Bay will feed off the crowd. Their pass rush is one of the best in the game, so expect them to do that a lot and the Packers will try to hold Wilson at bay as Seattle’s offensive line has struggled to protect their quarterback all year long. The Seahawks’ ability to stop the run has been frustrating and Green Bay will look to exploit that weakness. The offense is led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers who is one of the best passers in the game, but Seattle’s secondary has been one of the best in the game and Rodgers will need to find a way to get around that.

Players to watch out for on offense: running back Aaron Jones, wide receiver Davante Adams

Players to watch out for on defense: linebackers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith

Predictions

James: Seattle. While there is a lot to like about Green Bay, Russell Wilson is just a game changer and knows how to win. Yes, so does Aaron Rodgers, but something seems off about him this year and Wilson has more skills in his pocket to make the offense go.

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