The divisional round of the 2021 NFL Qualifiers is all about quarterback matchups.
The 2021 NFL playoffs feature six wildcard matchups over a two-day span that are expected to produce an overload of excitement for NFL fans. Indianapolis and Buffalo will open the action at 1:05 p.m. ET on Saturday. Los Angeles and Seattle will meet for the third time in the 4:40 p.m. slot, which hosts a prime-time game between Tampa Bay and Washington at 8:15 p.m.
Sunday presents another triple title. Baltimore and Tennessee meet in a rematch of last year’s AFC Division playoff game at 1:05 p.m. ET. Chicago faces New Orleans at 4:40 p.m. Cleveland made their first playoff appearances since 2003 against the rival Steelers at 8:15 p.m.
Sporting News chooses division matches directly:
- Last week: 4-2
- Regular season: 129-75
- Overall: 133-77
With that in mind, here are our picks and predictions for week 17:
NFL picks, 2021 division playoff predictions
- Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (-7)
Saturday, 4:35 p.m., FOX
The Packers have the field advantage, and the challenge for Aaron Rodgers is finding ways to attack a dominant Rams defense. Aaron Donald (ribs) is expected to play, and that inside pressure will be key against a Green Bay offensive line that has been the strength of the team. Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur know each other well, so this chess match will be fun to watch from both sides. Ultimately, it’s the Green Bay defense – which has allowed 25 points or less in its last six games – that steals the show in the second half. Rodgers wins a trip to his fifth NFC Championship game and his first to Lambeau Field. It won’t be easy.
To choose: Packers 30, Rams 24
- Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (-3)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m., NBC
The Bills have won seven in a row and the Ravens have won six straight games. Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have found their rhythm, and both will be challenged by tough defenses. The difference for Baltimore, however, was a running game triggered by JK Dobbins, who scored a TD in seven straight games. The Ravens can limit Buffalo’s possessions with this ground play, and the pass defense limits the Bills’ opportunities in the red zone. Marlon Humphrey seals the win with a late interception.
To choose: Ravens 28, Bills 24
- Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (-10)
Sunday, 3:30 p.m., CBS
The Browns will play with the confidence that comes from winning the franchise’s first playoff game in 25 years. Don’t be surprised if Cleveland takes a lead in the first quarter and can manage to run the ball with Nick Chubb and former Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt against a Chiefs defense that allowed 4.5 yards per carry. The Browns, however, have allowed 300 yards or more in seven of their last eight games. Patrick Mahomes will hit Tyreek Hill for a pair of long TD passes in the second half, and the Chiefs will be pressuring Baker Mayfield to keep pace. It will be the strongest game of the weekend.
To choose: Heads 38, Browns 30
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m., FOX
The Saints swept regular season games and Tom Brady threw five interceptions in those two games. The Tampa Bay offense has since improved, and the addition of Antonio Brown gives New Orleans another problem. Tampa Bay held Alvin Kamara in check in regular season clashes, but Drew Brees didn’t make the big mistakes. That adds up to a classic third installment, and Brady leads a late TD player that seals the upset road with a TD pass to Rob Gronkowski. Who else would it be?
To choose: Buccaneers 31, Saints 27