NFL Divisional Round 2023-24 Preview

By Rockin’ Reese

We’re in the quarter-finals of the NFL playoffs for the 2023-24 season. The wild card round has come & passed, and we”re in the divisional round. When this weekend is all said & done, 4 teams will be a step closer to Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas.

First, we start with a Saturday afternoon game at 4:30 ET (3:30 CT, 2:30 MT, 1:30 PT) on ABC, ESPn, & ESPN+. The (AFC North Champion/#1 seed) Baltimore Ravens will host the (AFC South Champion/#4 seed) Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. In the wild card round, the Texans went on a rampage, as they defeated the (#5 seed) Cleveland Browns, 45-14. In his playoff debut, (Texans quarterback) CJ Stroud threw 3 touchdowns & 0 interceptions. Also, on consecutive possessions, (cornerback) Steven Nelson & (linebacker) Christian Harris intercepted (Browns quarterback) Joe Flacco and returned the interceptions for touchdowns. While Stroud succeeded at home (in NRG Stadium in Hosuton, Texas), now he faces a new test…a playoff game on the road.

Meanwhile, the Ravens were resting, as they earned a bye for having the best record in the AFC. Potential NFL  MVP,(quarterback) Lamar Jackson is looking to erase some playoff demons. The last time the Ravens were the #1 seed, they were defeated by the Tennessee Titans, thanks to Jackson’s 2 interceptions & fumble after being sacked. He has a 1-4 playoff record and will need to have a great game from himself & his teammates, if they wish to host the AFC Championship game, a week from Sunday.
These teams met back in week 1, with the Ravens winning at home, 25-9.  However, both of these teams have changed since the beginning of the season. Will the Ravens end Houston’s season the same way it began or will the Texans continue Baltimore’s playoff woes?

Then, we go “prime time”, Saturday night at 8:00 ET (7:00 CT, 6:00 MT, 5:00 PT) on Fox. The (NFC West Champion/#1 seed) San Francisco 49ers will host the (#7 seed) Green Bay Packers from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. In the wild card round, the Packers went to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX and devastated the (NFC East Champion/#2 seed) Dallas Cowboys, 48-32. Also making his playoff debut, (Packers quarterback) Jordan Love threw for 3 touchdowns & no interceptions, while (running back) Aaron Jones ran for 3 touchdowns. To add insult to injury, (safety) Darnell Savage intercepted (Cowboys quarterback) Dak Prescott & returned it for a touchdown. Love showed he can handle playoff pressure on the road. Now, he has to do it, again.

The 49ers were resting & recovering, as they earned a bye for having the NFC’s best record. If they are close to full strength, (quarterback) Brock Purdy, (running back) Christian McCaffrey, (wide receivers) Deebo Samuel & Brandon Aiyuk, (tight end) George Kittle, and (defensive linemen) Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, & (a returning) Arik Armstead could be ready to give the Packers a welcome to the Bay that they don’t want.

While these teams didn’t meet in the regular season, there is plenty of history with these teams. The 49ers have hosted the Packers in the playoffs on 5 occasions, defeating them 3 times. Overall, the 49ers are 5-4 against the Packers in the playoffs. In history, the 49ers are 20-14-1 in the Bay Area against the Packers. Saturday night, Purdy vs. Love will happen for the first time in this rivalry’s history.

Then, we get to Sunday afternoon at 3:00 ET (2:00 CT, 1:00 MT, 12:00 PT) on NBC & Peacock. The (NFC North Champion/#3 seed) Detroit Lions will host the (NFC South Champion/#4 seed) Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. In the wild card round, the Lions ended 32 seasons of misery, when they narrowly defeated the (#6 seed) Los Angeles Rams, 24-23, for their 1st playoff victory since the 1991-92 playoffs. In a game where the quarterbacks who were traded for each other played each other, (Lions quarterback) Jared Goff got some much-needed validation by defeating the Rams. Now, thanks to the Packers defeating the Cowboys, the Lions will host a 2nd playoff game.

However, (Buccaneers quarterback) Baker Mayfield was going through his own redemption story. He had a near flawless game, as the Buccaneers routed the (#5 seed) Philadelphia Eagles, 32-9, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. After stays with the Browns, the Carolina Panthers, & the Rams, Mayfield seems like he is finding his groove with the Buccaneers.

When these teams met during week 6, the Lions were victorious in Tampa, 20-6.  Though the Buccaneers will be looking for revenge in Detroit, they’re 5-4 on the road, while the Lions are 7-2 at home. Goff or Mayfield…one quarterback continues his redemption story, while the other has to wait for next season.

Finally, we conclude the divisional round on Sunday night at 6:30 ET (5:30 CT, 4:30 MT, 3:30 PT) on CBS & Paramount+. The (AFC East Champion/#2 seed) Buffalo Bills will host the (AFC West Champion/#3 seed) Kansas City Chiefs from Highmark Stadium in Buffalo, New York. In the wild card round, the Bills didn’t let a temporary postponing deter them. They plowed through the snow, like they plowed through the (#7 seed) Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-17. Bills Mafia was out in full force, as (quarterback) Josh Allen threw & ran like a man needing to prove himself, this season. Now, Allen’s playoff nemesis is coming to town & Bills fans are hoping to end the reign of the defending Super Bowl Champions.

Speaking of those defending champions, the Chiefs froze the (#6 seed) Miami Dolphins, 26-7, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Led by 2-time NFL MVP & Super Bowl MVP, (quarterback) Patrick Mahomes, (running back) Isiah Pacheco, (wide receiver) Rashee Rice, & (tight end) Travis Kelce, the Chiefs put teams on notice to remind them who the reigning Super Bowl Champions are. While Mahomes has made a lot of playoff magic, he has always done it at home. For the first time, he has to try to win a playoff game on the road.

When these teams met during week 14, the Bills were victorious in Kansas City, 20-17. While Allen’s Bills have beaten Mahomes’ Chiefs in 3 of the last 4 games, Mahomes’ Chiefs have never lost to Allen’s Bills in the playoffs. While it was a regular season game in 2020, the Chiefs won in the only time Mahomes visited Buffalo. Will Allen finally make a statement victory or will the Chiefs compete in their 6th consecutive AFC Championship game?

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