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Viewer's guide to the 2021 NFL Divisional Round | amNewYork

Viewer’s guide to the 2021 NFL Divisional Round

Tom Brady Drew Brees
Drew Brees (left) and Tom Brady (right) meet in the playoffs for the first time ever.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Have you caught your breath from a frenzied Wild Card weekend? 

Well, too bad if you haven’t, because here comes the Divisional Round.

In what equates to the quarterfinals of the NFL’s journey to the Super Bowl, the Divisional Round has whittled things down to just eight teams — four in each conference. 

This weekend will feature four games, two on Saturday and two on Sunday, headlined by the game’s great young stars and two of its oldest gunslingers. 

Here’s what to keep an eye out for in the Divisional Round:

Saturday- Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (4:35 p.m. ET, FOX)

The Packers, who are the No. 1 seed in the NFC, make their 2021 playoff debut against a battered Rams team that is shrouded in uncertainty when it comes to the quarterback position. 

With Jared Goff originally not playing in the Wild Card Game against the Seattle Seahawks after undergoing thumb surgery, but when backup John Wolford was knocked out of Saturday’s game, Goff stepped up and helped navigate Los Angeles to a 30-20 victory. 

Goff still isn’t 100% and head coach Sean McVay declined to disclose who his starter would be against the Packers, but he is the likely starter against a Packers team who is firing on all cylinders.

Aaron Rodgers has recaptured the magic and inserted himself in the MVP conversation after a barnstorming display in 2020, completing over 70% of his passes for 4,299 yards with 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions. 

His No. 1 receiver, Davante Adams, put up a monstrous season of his own with 115 catches for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns. 

But while Green Bay’s passing offense has been well-documented, their ground game rounds out a well-balanced, terrifying offense. Aaron Jones is averaging 5.5 yards per carry this season on his way to 1,104 yards and nine touchdowns. 

 

Saturday- Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (8:15 p.m., NBC)

Lamar Jackson finally got that elusive first playoff win while exacting some revenge on the Tennessee Titans, who eliminated his Ravens from the postseason last year. 

Jackson’s wait of three years was nothing, though, compared to the Bills’ quarter-century wait between playoff wins. 

While the athletic, dual-threat quarterback in Jackson will steal most of the headlines, Bills passer Josh Allen has his side playing its best football since the days of Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas. 

His partnership with Stefon Diggs was on full display against the Colts last week as the two connected six times for 128 yards and a touchdown in the 30-27 nail-biter. 

As for Jackson, he didn’t fail to live up to the hype against the Titans, passing for 179 yards with an additional 136 on the ground begging the question: Can anyone keep him in check this year?

 

Sunday- Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (3:05 p.m., CBS)

So far, it’s been a prosperous return to the playoffs for the Browns, who are making their first appearance in the postseason in 18 years. 

Gutted by COVID-19, they shocked the football world and punched the rival Pittsburgh Steelers right in the mouth in the Wild Card Round on their way to a 48-37 victory. 

The battery of Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry is better than ever while Cleveland’s dangerous running tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt could feast against the Chiefs’ 21st-ranked run defense. 

But that still might not be enough.

The defending Super Bowl champions and the top seed of the AFC went 14-2 in 2020 and have one of the most overwhelming offensive attacks the game has ever seen. 

Patrick Mahomes put on another MVP-caliber showing this year, posting 4,740 yards with 38 touchdowns and six interceptions. He has two 1,000 yard receivers in Tyreek Hill, who posted 15 touchdowns this season, and tight end Travis Kelce, who continues to rise up the ranks as one of the greatest ever to play at his position. 

 

Sunday- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (6:40 p.m., FOX)

Two of the greatest quarterbacks of this generation will finally meet for the first time in the postseason — and potentially the last.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, 41, was once again plagued by injuries as retirement remains a very feasible option this offseason. Though he played in just 12 games, the Saints won nine of them as the supporting cast flipped the script and carried the quarterback that so often willed them to so postseason runs.

The ground game of Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, and Taysom Hill has provided most of the big plays in New Orleans while the defense was ranked fifth-best in the NFL. 

That defense will line up opposite Tom Brady, now in pursuit of a seventh Super Bowl ring, and a Buccaneers team that is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2007. 

While Brees has slowed, the 43-year-old Brady hasn’t missed a beat, throwing for 4,633 yards with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. 

In Tampa, Brady has had the most weapons with Antonio Brown joining Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski. 

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