Los Angeles Rams @ Green Bay Packers
Saturday – January 16, 2021 – 4:35 PM ET
Opening Spread: Los Angeles (+6.5) at Green Bay
Key Matchup: Rams’ Pass Defense vs Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams
Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams have been one of the most lethal combinations in the league. Both Rodgers and Adams led the league in touchdowns for their respective positions. Rodgers also led the league in passer rating and finished 2nd in the league in yards per pass attempt. He has been on a mission this year, supported by his comments in the media, to prove he is still one of the game’s best.
The Rams’ pass defense, led by Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams, will have their hands full with the offense that led the league in points per game. However, the dynamic pair, along with Aaron Donald, have held opponents to the fewest points and fewest yards per game. Donald is riding the momentum of another tremendous season, finishing 2nd in the league in sacks. Ramsey and Williams dominated in their win over the Seahawks last week. Ramsey allowed DK Metcalf to snag just 3 receptions for 33 yards, following two matchups in the regular season in which he only allowed 1 reception for 11 yards in coverage between both games. Williams got on the scoreboard with a clutch pick-six when the offense was struggling due to Jared Goff’s thumb injury.
Baltimore Ravens @ Buffalo Bills
Saturday – January 16, 2021 – 8:15 PM ET
Opening Spread: Baltimore (+2.5) at Buffalo
Key Matchup: Lamar Jackson vs Josh Allen
Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen are two of the NFL’s young stars at quarterback. Jackson, coming off an MVP season in just his 2nd year in the league, led one of the hottest offenses into the playoffs and earned his first career postseason win in Tennessee last week. It was a low-scoring close game in which the Baltimore fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter. Lamar Jackson provided a spark. In his first career playoff victory, he rushed for 3x more yards than 2020 rushing champion Derrick Henry and passed for more yards than Ryan Tannehill, who outthrew Jackson by over 1,000 yards in the regular season.
Josh Allen, who was selected in the same 2018 draft, is continuing his breakout season into the playoffs. Not only did he lead the Bills to their first AFC East division win since 1995, but he is leading a Buffalo offense that many experts believe has the best chance to interrupt Kansas City’s run toward a repeat championship. Allen’s passing prowess improved dramatically and his newfound chemistry with Stefon Diggs resulted in the league leader in receptions and receiving yards. Both Allen and Jackson are explosive rushers, and this game has potential to turn into a highlight reel for new age quarterbacks.
Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday – January 17, 2021 – 3:05PM ET
Opening Spread: Cleveland (+10.5) at Kansas City
Key Matchup: Chiefs’ Offense vs Rust
The Kansas City Chiefs are the top seed in the AFC, and thus had a bye week during Wildcard Weekend. Having secured the top seed prior to the end of the regular season, they rested many of their starters in week 17. That means, Patrick Mahomes and company will not have taken the field as a unit in 21 days. Three weeks without game action as a unit is a risky decision that could result in a slow start when Kansas City takes the field.
If any team can shake off the rust, it’s one coached by Andy Reid. “Big Red” is well-known around the league for his high level of preparedness in all situations. Reid’s regular season record following bye weeks is an astounding 18-3 and, in the playoffs, he boasts a 5-2 record following a first-round bye. The Cleveland Browns’ powerful rushing attack makes them one of the most difficult teams to fall behind against. If Cleveland mounts an early lead, they often keep it, and they will be hoping the rust is on their side on Sunday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints
Sunday – January 17, 2021 – 6:40 PM ET
Opening Spread: Tampa Bay (+3.5) at New Orleans
Key Matchup: Tom Brady vs Drew Brees
This may seem like an obvious selection for the biggest matchup of the game, but these are two of the greatest to ever play quarterback, and when matchups like this happen in the post season, they can become instant classics. We could see shades of the intense Tom Brady-Peyton Manning matchups of the 2000s partnered with two of the highest scoring offenses in the league. Both teams are in the top five in points scored and goal-to-go success rate and both will feel pressured to light up the score board because they know the potential that is on the other sideline.
While both offenses are extremely dangerous but operate with contrasting styles. Bruce Arians runs a deep passing offense through their talented group of wide receivers: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown. Brady delivers the ball all over the field for chunk plays and any one of those playmakers could take it to the house on any play. On the contrary, the Saints prefer to beat teams horizontally. Their quick passing game creates space after the catch and relies on their group of weapons headlines by Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. Both offer great field vision and reliable hands which have helped Drew Brees post some of the league’s best accuracy statistics over the past few years. Whichever coach and quarterback combination can decipher the opposing defense first may be difference-maker in this game.