Aaron Donald, Aaron Jones, Aaron Rodgers, Baltimore Ravens, Brian Daboll, Buffalo Bills, Davantae Adams, David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers, Jalen Ramsey, Jared Goff, Josh Allen, Kansas City Chiefs, LA Rams, Lamar Jackson, Matt LaFleur, NFL, Sean McVay
It’s the divisional playoff weekend and we have a series of tasty games to look at so let’s take a look at the Saturday night divisional games.
LA Rams (6th) @ Green Bay Packers (1st)
Our weekend starts with the Packers entering the playoff fray as they host the sixth seed Rams and whilst the Packers look like a strong contender with all roads in the NFC going through Green Bay, there are some potential weaknesses although not with the offence. In his second year running Matt LaFleur’s scheme all the questions from last season have been answered by Aaron Rodgers, who has looked masterful as he threw for over four thousand yards and an astonishing forty-eight touchdowns to five interceptions. He has been ably assisted by running back Aaron Jones who rushed for over a thousand yards despite missing two games and Davante Adams who has to be in any discussion of the best receivers in the league. The Packers offence is number one by DVOA for a reason, but it is a little lacking in depth behind these standout skills players and the loss of Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari before the final game of the regular season is a blow to an offensive line that as usual has been a strength of the team. The Packers beat the Bears soundly without Bakhtiari and he has missed other games this season, but the Rams defence is going to prove a sterner test. In fact, right now the Rams defence is the lead unit on their team but they have a big job in this game. In other circumstances with Sean McVay’s offence the Rams might hope to take advantage of an average Packers defence that has had glaring moments of weakness, but Jared Goff has underwhelmed in the last half of the season and has to go into the cold of Green Bay with a pin in his throwing thumb having fractured it only a couple of weeks ago. There is a formula for the Rams to win this game, particularly if Jalen Ramsey can limit Davante Adams and Aaron Donald plays up to his full potential. However, we cannot be totally sure what Donald will do in this game with the destructive defensive tackle having missed a chunk of the second half last week with a rib injury, which the Rams are saying is fine now but seeing will be believing. Ultimately, I have to feel that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have enough advantages to win out in this one, particularly given the situation for the Rams offence, but I am at least hopeful of a good contest to open up the week.
Baltimore Ravens (5th) @ Buffalo Bills (2nd)
I am really excited about the second Saturday game as it pits a surging Ravens team travelling to take on the Bills coming off their first playoff win in twenty-four years. The Ravens have now won six straight games and quarterback Lamar Jackson just won the first playoff game of his career, ending a frustrating narrative but if the Ravens are to win this conest, I think we need to focus on the other side of the ball. The Bills have the fifth best offence in the league by DVOA, which is all the more remarkable given Josh Allen’s completion percentage has jumped over ten points from last season to 69.2% in a second season of development that saw him go from an effective runner with an erratic but powerful arm to a genuine MVP candidate. In fact, the offence has transformed with the addition of Stefon Diggs and the evolution of their pass first offence that has seen offensive coordinator Brian Daboll interviewing for head coach jobs. The Ravens’ offence has been better in the second half of the season, but is still focussed on the run and if they hope to win in this game they need to keep control of the score and not fall too far behind as we still haven’t seen the Ravens succeed if game flow dictates that they have to pass the ball. This is a tough ask of the Ravens’ defence because much like the Chiefs, not only are the Bills a good offensive team but they are explosive and can put up points quickly. If the Ravens are to win this game, I think they must do so in a particular manner or prove that they can win whilst passing in a manner they have never managed before. The Bills defence has looked worse than expected for a lot of the season, but have been a bit better in recent weeks and in the end I like the Bills to win out in this one thanks to the power of their offence, but the Ravens always seem to play tough in the playoffs and I think this matchup has potential to be one of the great games of the season.
DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measuring a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.