NFL Divisional Round Playoffs Picks - Late Games

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NFL Divisional Round Playoffs, Late Games

All times Eastern

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Sunday, January 23

Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3, 48) 3:00 pm NBC - Both teams had rather easy advanced out of the wild card round, as the Rams shut down the Cardinals, 34-11, and Tampa Bay demolished Philadelphia, 31-15.

The Buccaneers made the playoffs as champions of the NFC South, winning the division by four games, with a 13-4 mark, over the New Orleans Saints, who finished 9-8. Tampa Bay closed out the regular season winning seven of its last eight.

In the NFC West, Los Angeles chased Arizona through the early part of the season as the Cardinals romped to a 7-0 start, but the Rams eventually prevailed, winning five straight before their week 18 mishap, losing to San Francisco, 27-24. Arizona also lost that final week, letting the Rams slip into the top spot in the division.

Now, having polished off one of their division rivals, the Rams face an uphill struggle, playing on the home turf of Tom Brady and the champion Buccaneers. Tampa Bay was 7-1 at home this season, and 8-1 after the playoff win over the Eagles. The only loss was a flukey 9-0 defeat by the Saints.

Better than most on the road, the Rams went 7-2 away from Los Angeles, the losses coming at San Francisco and Green Bay, in successive games, weeks 10 and 12, with a bye week in between.

The Bucs and Rams met in week three of the regular season. in LA, where the Rams staged a 34-24 victory. In that contest, Brady threw for 432 yards, but just one score, while Matthew Stafford was 27-38, for 343 yards and four TDs. The early-season win was a confirmation for Stafford and the Rams brass, proving they could compete at the highest level and were legitimate post-season contenders.

The same holds true today. The field conditions will be similar to that September game in LA, but the Buccaneers deserve favoritism as the reigning champs even though the Rams may prove the better team. Facing Tom Brady in a do-or-die situation is not for the faint of heart. The man has seven Super Bowl rings and the playoff wins to back up that legendary record.

Tampa Bay is probably a better team now than in week three, but so are the Rams. The Bucs were probably caught a little flat-footed in that early game, and will no doubt have a game plan designed for maximum scoring potential.

As much as the Rams appear to be loaded, they won't be able to run against Tampa's front seven. They were third in the league in rushing yards allowed, at 92.5 per game.

Emotionally, this is a huge game for Stafford, who hasn't had much playoff experience, having spent most of his career in Detroit. To Brady, who is the ultimate in cool under pressure, it's another day at the office. Many have taken the tack to go against Brady in big games, but the defeats far outweigh the successes.

Coin Flip: Los Angeles

Prediction: Buccaneers 31 Rams 23



Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-2 1/2, 55) 6:30 pm - Meeting for the third time in just less than a year, the Bills and Chiefs enter this divisional contest coming off the biggest routs of the wold card weekend.

Buffalo utterly dominated and demoralized the Patriots in their 47-17 wild card victory. Buffalo built a 27-0 lead before New England knocked through a field goal just before half time. It didn't get any better for the Patriots, as Buffalo scored three more TDs in the second half to complete the rout and move on to the next round.

Kansas City routed Pittsburgh in their wild card game, 42-21. After a scoreless first quarter, Kansas City gave Pittsburgh a seven-point lead when T.J. Watt rumbled home with a 27-yard fumble recovery, That was all the Chiefs needed to get their offense fired up, scoring five straight touchdowns on the beleaguered Pittsburgh defense. The Steelers scored late in the third quarter to make the score 35-14, and the teams traded scores in the fourth as the Chiefs eliminated the Steelers.

Those scoring bursts have become trademarked by KC. In last year's conference championship, the Chiefs overcame a first quarter 9-0 Buffalo lead, outscoring them, 38-6, before the Bills finally tacked on a field goal and touchdown after the outcome had already been decided.

Week five of the 2021 season, the Bills got their revenge, whipping the Chiefs in Kansas City, 38-20, dropping the Chiefs to 2-3 and sounding alarms throughout the NFL. Only the Chiefs didn't hear the bells and buzzers, as they went on to win 10 of their next 12 games, finish 12-5 and take the AFC West by two games over the 10-7 Raiders.

Buffalo started 4-1, but struggled to 7-6 by week 14, giving up the AFC East lead to the Patriots, only to take it back with a 33-21 win at New England as part of a four-game, season-ending win streak. Buffalo finished at 11-6, a game up on 10-7 New England.

Buffalo's win in Kansas City earlier in the season gives them confidence going into this game, and no quarterback - except maybe Patrick Mahomes - is hotter right now than the Bills' Josh Allen, a true dual threat, as good a runner as he is a passer. Allen has the ability to take over games and the Bills will be leaning heavily on him here.

Kansas City's easy win over the Steelers doesn't really stack up as any kind of indication for this game. The Chiefs are truly explosive on offense, but Buffalo's defense, especially their secondary, was the best in the league through the regular season. Their 272.8 yards allowed per game was 28 yards better than the second-best (New England, 310.8)

That's a ton of yards. 647 over 17 games, to be exact, and that was over the next best in the league. Buffalo allowed 4,637 yards to Kansas City's 6,272 through the regular season. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what a huge advantage the Bills have over the entire league with such a dominating defense. Kansas City will be hard-pressed to run the ball at all and the Bills allowed, on average, 163 yards passing per game, which is insanely good.

Buffalo also led the league in points allow, at 17.0 per game. Kansas City allowed 21.4. On offense, it's nearly a draw. The Bills scored 28.4; Kansas City, 28.2 per game.

Kansas City won't have an easy time against Buffalo's reliable defense and Josh Allen may prove to be the most dangerous offensive player in the league as the Bills upend the Chiefs.

Coin Flip: Kansas City

Prediction: Bills 34 Chiefs 26


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