NFL Divisional Round Preview: Matchups, Predictions for Second Round

After wildcard weekend, only eight NFL teams remain with their eyes set on the Lombardi Trophy. Who advances to the conference championships?

Last week’s NFL wildcard round was a little disappointing in terms of competitiveness. Only two of the six games were decided by single digits. The Bills, Bucs, Chiefs and Rams pummeled their opponents by a combined 90 points.

Only eight teams remain in the playoffs heading into the divisional round. The two number one seeds finally come into play, and there are some marquee matchups on deck this weekend in the NFL.

After going 5-1 in the wildcard predictions, we look to keep rolling this week. However, this time we brought in another perspective. Fellow writer Chris Johnson joined the blog this week to give his predictions as well.

Let’s take a look and see which NFL teams are booking their trip to the Conference Championships.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Tennessee Titans

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Senerchia: Some people might think the Bengals will roll here after only watching them with the Titans on a bye last week. And maybe they are right.

But this Titans team is a sneaky group. They quietly finished with the NFL’s sixth best defense this season, albeit a relatively light second-half schedule. Derrick Henry is expected to return, so the Titans will have just about everything they need to get the playoff win at home.

Tennessee took down Buffalo, Kansas City and the Los Angeles Rams in the span of a month earlier in the season. Two of those games were at home. Nashville has quietly become a tough place to play for opposing teams, as the Titans are 12-5 at home the last two seasons. Expect the Titans veterans to get the best of this young Bengals team in a Saturday afternoon thriller.

Prediction: Titans 24, Bengals 20

Johnson: The main matchup to watch in this game is the Bengals defense versus the Titans offense. Derrick Henry is returning from a broken foot, while the Bengals defensive line is beat up. Trey Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi suffered injuries during last week’s win over the Raiders. A lack of bodies in the trenches could spill downfall for the Bengals, who will need everyone to stop the human freight train known as Derrick Henry.

Points will be put up by the Bengals, but the question is whether the Titans can match them. Can Ryan Tannehill put the Titans in a place to score if Henry can’t shoulder the entire load? This one is tough, but I put my trust in Joe Burrow more than Tannehill. Give me the Bengals in a tightly contested game.

Prediction: Bengals 28, Titans 24

San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers

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Senerchia: Taking the 49ers over the Cowboys was right on the money, as the 49ers showed how complete of an NFL team they are. Unfortunately, now they head up to frozen Lambeau field to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

Rodgers is 0-3 against the 49ers in the playoffs in his career. For some reason, he just hasn’t gotten it done against this team in the postseason. However, do not expect this trend to continue.

Rodgers is 38 years old and is playing some of the best football of his career. He is projected to take home his fourth MVP trophy, and second in two years. The Packers offense is one of the most difficult to stop once they get rolling, and they should control the tempo in this one.

The 49ers are expected to have Fred Warner and Nick Bosa back on defense Saturday. This game will be close, and a phenomenal way to end the Saturday slate. Expect Rodgers to outsmart the 49ers for the first time in the playoffs and lead Green Bay to the NFC Championship.

Prediction: Packers 30, 49ers 27

Johnson: The 49ers are coming off a victory where they looked inept at offense in the second half. Now, they are going up against a top offense in the NFL. This rematch of the 2019 NFC Championship game has the potential to be either a blowout by the Packers, or a tight win by the 49ers.

The Packers offense has been clicking on all levels. I expect Davante Adams to have a huge game against a secondary that allows the fourth-highest completion percentage. Aaron Rodgers will pick apart the defense forcing them to unload the box and allow room for the two-headed monster of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon to draw them back in.

While the Packers give up 4.7 yards per carry, there shouldn’t be a lot of trust in Garoppolo to lead San Francisco to a victory.

Prediction: Packers 31, 49ers 20

Los Angeles Rams vs. Tampa Bay Bucs

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Senerchia: This was a matchup I paid close attention to when these two teams squared off back in September. I told myself whoever wins, the other team will get it done if they play each other in the playoffs. So here we are.

The Rams knocked off the Bucs 34-24 in week 3 at So-Fi Stadium. Matt Stafford was the better quarterback that day throwing for 343 yards and four touchdowns. Should we expect the same situation in the playoffs?

Probably not. While the Rams played a flawless game last week at home against Arizona, besting Brady for a full 60 minutes down in Tampa is a much tougher task. The Rams went 7-2 on the road while the Bucs went 7-1 at home, and I expect both teams at their best.

I’m still not picking against Brady in the playoffs as long as he is still a quarterback in the NFL. Expect the Bucs to hit a late field goal to send them back to the NFC Championship against Green Bay.

Prediction: Bucs 26, Rams 23

Johnson: With Matthew Stafford getting his first playoff win against the crumbling Cardinals, he will face a bigger test against the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay’s offensive line suffered injuries to Tristan Wirfs and Ryan Jensen last week alongside their collective season-long slew of defensive injuries.

Tom Brady has been beaten when he is not comfortable in the pocket (example: Giants’ Super Bowl victories). The Rams will have a plethora of pass rushers in Aaron Donald, Von Miller and company to do so. Jalen Ramsey will be on Mike Evans, and if he is shut down Brady and Rob Gronkowski can’t do it alone with Chris Godwin out with a torn ACL and Antonio Brown no longer a Buc.

Todd Bowles loves to blitz with different schemes, but look for either Cam Akers or another back in the flat/check down area to combat the aggressive style. The Rams’ weaponry will outduel the Bucs’ weapons and give them the edge in this game.

Prediction: Rams 30, Bucs 20

Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs

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Senerchia: Here we go again. The Bills and Chiefs square off for the fourth time in the Josh Allen/Patrick Mahomes era, and we are in store for an all-time NFL classic.

Allen is 1-2 versus Mahomes including the playoffs, and looks to even the score this weekend at Arrowhead. Both teams are playing their best football right now, setting up a monster game Sunday evening. The Bills finished with the top overall defense this season and the Chiefs quietly finished with the eighth-best defense in the NFL.

Mahomes is 7-2 in the playoffs in his career. Both losses are to Tom Brady. He has only lost once at home, and has never lost in the divisional round.

Expect the Bills to control most of the game, but a little Mahomes magic late in the fourth quarter will send the Chiefs back to the AFC Championship for the fourth straight year.

Prediction: Chiefs 28, Bills 27

Johnson: Some people are calling this the real AFC Championship game with the second act of the Bills versus the Chiefs. In their first meeting this season, the Bills won 38-20 in Arrowhead. But this was a completely different Chiefs team. Mahomes was struggling and the defense was atrocious until they turned it around and won 9 of their last 10 games to end the regular season.

This game is a tossup. And while there is belief in both offenses, it will come down to the defense of each team. The Chief’s defensive line is slightly better than the Bills, but the Bills secondary is better than the Chiefs. Buffalo only allowed 12 passing touchdowns all season. Leslie Frazier will look to neutralize either Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill and force other players to make big plays.

If the Bills can establish a running game outside of Josh Allen against a team that is a bottom-third team in rush defense, the Bills can win this game.

Prediction: Bills 34, Chiefs 31


  • Thomas Senerchia

    Lifelong sports fan fulfilling a childhood dream. I'll talk sports all day. Passion and hot takes are my thing... there's always a story. Yankees. NY Giants. Knicks. Texas Longhorns.  Yes... being a Knicks fan is rough, but my time will come (hopefully). Senior at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.

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  • Chris Johnson

    What's up sports lovers, it's Chris Johnson, a senior Sport Management major at the University of Delaware. You'll probably find a smorgasbord of different topics ranging from the NBA, NFL, MLB, and some college sports. If I'm not writing, you can find me watching my Knicks, Giants, Yankees, or endlessly scrolling on Twitter. "The world never sleeps and neither does sport"- Chris Johnson

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