NFL Divisional Round: Six predictions you can trust
The Divisional Round is upon us! By the end of this weekend, just four teams will be left standing to vie for the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LV. Who will they be? Well, you’ll have to tune into NFL Network’s NFL GameDay View (check local listings throughout the weekend) for my picks. But in the meantime, I thought it’d be fun to give you a little more context on how these games might play out through the prism of NFL Pick ‘Em Party.
What is NFL Pick ‘Em Party? It’s a free-to-play game that challenges you to answer prediction-based questions on the players and teams involved in each playoff game. Prizes include trips to the Pro Bowl, NFL Draft and Super Bowl LVI. Get on board, people! I’m playing — and below, I’ve provided six locks among this weekend’s series of questions. Tweet me @CFrelund with your top picks.
- Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (4:35 p.m. ET on FOX/FOX Deportes)
- Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (8:15 p.m. ET on NBC/Universo)
My three Pick ‘Em Party locks:
1) LAR@GB: There will be a touchdown scored in the first quarter.
I love this selection, as the Packers tied for the league lead with seven touchdowns on opening drives this season, while the Rams were tied for fifth with six. Matt LaFleur and Sean McVay are two of the better play-callers in the league, and both excel when it comes to scripting the first 15 plays. I expect at least one of these teams to put the ball in the end zone on its very first possession.
2) BAL@BUF: Stefon Diggs longest reception will be at least 29 yards.
The Bills made an interesting adjustment with Diggs’ routes in last week’s win over the Colts. Six of his nine targets against Indy were 10-plus yards down the field. During the regular season, only 38 percent of the first-team All-Pro’s targets were that far downfield. His longest catch against the Colts went for 36 yards, and Diggs has a reception of 29-plus yards in three of his six career playoff games. I suspect a high-scoring game Saturday, with Diggs catching at least one long ball.
3) LAR@GB: Davante Adams will accomplish at least two of the following three stats: nine receptions, 100 yards, one touchdown.
I know Adams is likely to see a lot of Jalen Ramsey on Saturday, but he’s simply been the best wide receiver in the NFL this season. The first-team All-Pro has at least one touchdown in 10 of his last 11 games, so you can all but book that stat. This leaves us needing either nine receptions or 100 yards. Adams has accomplished one of those in five of nine late-afternoon or night games this season. With all eyes on this contest, look for the first-team All-Pro stud to have another big game.
- Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (3:05 p.m. ET on CBS/ESPN Deportes)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (6:40 p.m. ET on FOX/FOX Deportes)
My three Pick ‘Em Party locks:
1) CLE@KC: The teams will combine for 14 or fewer points in the first quarter.
This is more about the Browns and their preferred playing style than anything else. Cleveland’s strategy should be to run the ball, chew up clock and keep Patrick Mahomes on the sideline. The Browns ranked 23rd in first-quarter scoring this season, and they’re not looking for a shootout here. Plus, the Chiefs did not start fast on offense during their Super Bowl run last season.
2) CLE@KC: The game’s first play from scrimmage will be a gain of 7-plus yards.
Kansas City ranked second in yards per play during the regular season, while Cleveland finished 11th. The Browns ranked sixth on first down, and both teams enter this game knowing it very well could be a high-scoring affair. Look for whoever gets the ball first to not waste any time attacking the opposing defense.
3) TB@NO: Tom Brady will reach 225 passing yards before Drew Brees.
Brady ranked third in passing yards per game during the regular season, averaging nearly 290. And given Ronald Jones’ questionable health status, Tampa may be forced to lean on Brady even more in this game. New Orleans will look to utilize Alvin Kamara in both the run and pass game against the Buccaneers’ linebackers, so that rushing production will likely land Brees behind Brady in the passing department.
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