ESPN groupJan 19, 2024, 07:00 AM ET
The NFL playoffs’ divisional spherical schedule for the 2023 season is stacked with broad matchups, and we compile purchased you lined with what it be important to know heading into the weekend. Our NFL Nation newshounds bring us the finest keys to each and each recreation and a plucky prediction for every and each matchup.
Additionally, ESPN Stats & Files provides a big stat to know and a making a bet nugget for every and each contest, and our Soccer Energy Index (FPI) goes within the numbers with a recreation projection. Analytics author Seth Walder picks out each and each matchup’s finest X ingredient, Matt Bowen identifies a key recreation-planning matchup to gape in each and each recreation, and Kevin Seifert tells us what to know relating to the officiating. Indirectly, Walder and Eric Short-tempered give us final procure picks for every and each recreation. Everything you are desirous to know is here in one region to enable you to glean ready for a loaded weekend of the NFL playoffs.
Let’s glean into the paunchy divisional slate, including a Patrick Mahomes–Josh Allen showdown, the Lions making an try to withhold their playoff trek going and the surging Texans and Packers visiting the No. 1 seeds as sizable underdogs.
What to gape for: One frustrating postseason traipse will come to an cease. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is 0-2 in the divisional spherical, throwing one touchdown pass and three interceptions. However the Texans are 0-4 in the divisional spherical, losing by an life like of 14.5 aspects. — Jamison Hensley
Plucky prediction: Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud will throw for over 300 yards, turning into the basic quarterback to glean that feat towards the Ravens since Tom Brady threw for 325 yards on Oct. 27, 2022. Stroud led the league in passing yards per recreation (273) and must quiet compile thrown for nicely over 300 in the wild-card recreation towards the Browns’ No. 1-ranked defense when he threw for 236 in the basic half. — DJ Bien-Aime
Stat to know: The Ravens extinct play-action at the seventh-absolute best rate in the customary season (26%), and Jackson thrived with it, ranking in the cease seven in the league in QBR, completion share and yards per try. Nonetheless, the Texans had been amongst the worst defenses defending play-action — they ranked in the underside five in QBR, completion share and yards per try.
Matchup X ingredient: The Texans’ offensive line. All season the Ravens compile extinct simulated stress to disrupt their opponent’s protection to broad success whereas quiet sustaining numbers in protection. The Ravens recorded 27 sacks with simulated stress, more than any diversified group. Houston’s offensive line needs to be ready if it be going to present protection to Stroud. — Walder
Game-thought key: I would be pleased to peer Houston offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik glean Stroud open air of the pocket on some boot concepts to drag Baltimore defenders, with tight cease Dalton Schultz working as the underneath arrangement. That is probably to be key to the Texans entering correct into a rhythm towards the the truth is real Ravens defense. Be taught more at ESPN+. — Bowen
Officiating present: In a twelve months when NFL officers threw more flags for intentional grounding (61) than in any season since as a minimum 2000, it would possibly quiet be eminent that referee John Hussey’s customary-season crew changed into essentially the most aggressive with seven such flags. And because it turns out, Jackson took five such penalties, most in the NFL. Stroud took one. — Seifert
Making a bet nugget: The Ravens are 11-6 towards the unfold (ATS) this season (unders are 9-8). The Texans are 10-8 ATS, including the playoffs (unders are 11-7).
Short-tempered’s elevate: Ravens 37, Texans 24
Walder’s elevate: Ravens 27, Texans 20
FPI prediction: BAL, 81.7% (by an life like of 12.8 aspects)
Matchup need to-reads: How the Texans’ draft night changed the franchise … Ravens add Cook dinner to roster, waive Gordon … Stroud ‘special’ as Texans glean wild-card revenge on Browns … Jackson enters playoffs, proving ground vs. Texans
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET | Fox | Unfold: SF -9.5 (50.5)
What to gape for: That is an NFL-issue 10th playoff meeting between the Niners and the Packers, with San Francisco conserving a 5-4 edge. What’s more, the Niners compile received six straight NFC divisional-spherical playoff video games, the longest though-provoking traipse in the NFL. The winner will either use or share the title of winningest group in postseason history. The Packers are tied with the Patriots at 37 and must quiet bolt into first contrivance by myself with a use, whereas a 49ers victory would tie them with Green Bay and New England. — Chop Wagoner
Plucky prediction: Jayden Reed could maybe be the Packers’ main receiver. How can a man who did not clutch a single pass the week before pull that off? Smartly, the Packers haven’t had the same main receiver when it involves yards in consecutive weeks since Romeo Doubs in Weeks 3 and 4. Doubs led the manner as soon as more final week towards the Cowboys, so maybe the 49ers will roll their protection his manner. Reed establish the franchise issue for catches by a rookie with 64. — Purchase Demovsky
Stat to know: The 49ers compile received their past five dwelling playoff video games, the longest though-provoking traipse in the NFL, with two of those wins coming towards the Packers (2012 divisional spherical and 2019 NFC Championship Game). The 49ers compile dominated those matchups, with four of 5 wins coming by 14-plus aspects.
Matchup X ingredient: Packers quarterback Jordan Care for. I picked him as the X ingredient final week, and what? He changed into the X ingredient. Since Week 10 and into the playoffs, Care for leads the NFL in QBR (78.4) — and it be now not even finish. Dak Prescott is 2nd in that span at 73.7. That level of quarterback play provides the Packers another towards someone, the 49ers integrated. — Walder
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Game-thought key: San Francisco receiver Deebo Samuel averaged 8.8 yards after the clutch, main all WRs. Coach Kyle Shanahan will blueprint open-self-discipline opportunities for him, that manner the Packers will must quiet be on their tackling A-recreation. Green Bay has to restrict Samuel’s numbers put up-clutch to drag the upset. Be taught more at ESPN+. — Bowen
Officiating present: Referee Alex Kemp’s customary-season crew led the NFL with an life like of 15.3 flags per recreation. The Packers and 49ers both done in the cease third of the NFL for a range of flags this season, the 49ers with 125 and the Packers with 124. — Seifert
Making a bet nugget: The Packers compile received four straight video games outright as underdogs, their longest underdog use traipse since 2011-12.
Short-tempered’s elevate: 49ers 31, Packers 21
Walder’s elevate: 49ers 30, Packers 23
FPI prediction: SF, 78.6% (by an life like of 11.2 aspects)
Matchup need to-reads: Put up-Rodgers, LaFleur prospers with Care for … Shanahan, LaFleur’s lengthy NFL history … McCaffrey (calf) paunchy participant in 49ers notice … Purdy makes utilize of within motivation to withhold edge
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET | NBC | Unfold: DET -6.5 (forty eight.5)
What to gape for: Contemporary off a hit their first playoff recreation in 32 years, the Lions will host their first NFC divisional spherical look for the reason that 1991 playoffs. These groups will conflict for the 2nd time this season after Detroit received the customary-season matchup 20-6 at Tampa Bay. Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield and Lions quarterback Jared Goff compile both revitalized their careers in new settings as ancient No. 1 overall picks and must quiet behold to use their respective groups with their sturdy play. — Eric Woodyard
Plucky prediction: The Bucs will use the Lions below 20 aspects … and use. Tampa Bay will as soon as as soon as more be the underdog, Detroit’s going to be as adversarial a environment because it will get and coach Todd Bowles hasn’t crushed Goff since 2019, when Goff changed into with the Rams and Bowles changed into the Bucs’ defensive coordinator. However the defense found its footing final week in one amongst Bowles’ finest-known as video games, and Mayfield’s bodily doing significantly better with those rib and ankle injuries. — Jenna Laine
Stat to know: The Buccaneers’ defense has blitzed on 41% of dropbacks by opposing quarterbacks, the third-absolute best rate in the NFL. They could behold to dial that up even more towards Goff, who has seven turnovers when blitzed this season, tied for 2nd most in the NFL.
Matchup X ingredient: Lions edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson. He’s on a three-recreation multisack traipse and is coming off a 33% pass trek use rate recreation in the wild-card spherical (more than double his customary-season rate). The Lions’ pass defense is their weakness, but when Hutchinson will get going, the Lions could maybe arrangement again mercurial. — Walder
Game-thought key: Will we peer Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and Buccaneers nook Carlton Davis III in one-on-one man protection matchups? St. Brown had 124 yards towards Tampa Bay in Week 6, so the Bucs need a thought here — potentially with Davis in protection and security lend a hand spinning down dead. Be taught more at ESPN+. — Bowen
Officiating present: Referee Invoice Vinovich’s customary-season crew is frequently one amongst the stingiest in the NFL. In 2023, nonetheless, it averaged 13.4 flags per recreation, tied for the seventh fewest in the NFL. When the Lions and Bucs met in the customary season, the groups combined for 10 flags — five apiece. — Seifert
Making a bet nugget: Both groups are 12-6 ATS, which is tied for the 2nd-finest designate late the Raiders (12-5 ATS). Unders are 12-6 in Buccaneers video games, whereas overs are 11-7 in Lions video games.
Short-tempered’s elevate: Lions 28, Buccaneers 21
Walder’s elevate: Lions 34, Buccaneers 17
FPI prediction: DET, 62.5% (by an life like of 4.5 aspects)
Matchup need to-reads: Mayfield responds to Lions DB’s barb … Goff leads Lions in revenge use over Rams … Mayfield leads underdog Bucs to gross playoff use … Oral history of the Lions’ final playoff use
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET | CBS | Unfold: BUF -2.5 (forty five.5)
What to gape for: For the basic time on this rivalry between Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, the Chiefs are coming to Orchard Park for the postseason. The quarterbacks compile met six conditions, with the Bills a hit three of the four customary-season meetings, and the Chiefs taking both postseason video games (2020 and 2021). The difference for the Bills in the customary and postseason matchups is the defensive success. Within the customary season, the Bills compile held the Chiefs to twenty.8 aspects per recreation and produced 9 takeaways, but in the playoffs, Kansas City has averaged 40 aspects and had only one turnover. There’ll probably be a big check ahead for a Bills defense going thru a unfold of injuries. — Alaina Getzenberg
Plucky prediction: Mahomes and Allen will combine for as a minimum six TD passes. These two steadily set on a demonstrate after they play, particularly in the postseason. Mahomes and Allen combined for five scoring passes in the AFC Championship Game after the 2020 season and 7 in the divisional spherical the following season. The necessities will probably be lower than glorious, but that hasn’t stopped them before. — Adam Teicher
Stat to know: One dwelling that could maybe differentiate the Bills from the Chiefs is probably to be a hit the turnover battle. The Bills forced 30 turnovers this season, the 2nd most in the NFL (the Ravens and Giants forced 31 each and each). The Chiefs forced 17 turnovers, the 27th most in the NFL.
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Matchup X ingredient: The Bills’ cornerback health. Taron Johnson (concussion), Rasul Douglas (knee) and Christian Benford (knee) are all banged up. While Buffalo appears to be like be pleased the simpler group on paper, a depleted secondary towards Mahomes appears to be like be pleased a unhealthy mixture. — Walder
Game-thought key: Within the Week 14 matchup between these groups, Bills running relieve James Cook dinner had 83 receiving yards. Demand the Bills to glean Cook dinner inquisitive relating to the passing recreation as soon as more with backfield releases and monitors. And behold for Chiefs linebacker Chop Bolton to be key in limiting those performs. Be taught more at ESPN+. — Bowen
Officiating present: Shawn Hochuli is one amongst the NFL’s more though-provoking referees. At some stage in the customary season, he threw an NFL-excessive 14 flags for roughing the passer, five more than the following-closest referee. Since turning correct into a referee in 2018, he has led the league with 61 such flags. That could maybe present intelligent, as Allen has grown adept at drawing roughing the passer fouls. He drew six in 2023, essentially the most in the league. Mahomes drew only one. — Seifert
Making a bet nugget: Mahomes is 10-5 ATS in his playoff profession, including 7-2 ATS when he’s now not as a minimum a seven-point favorite. Allen is 3-6 ATS in his playoff profession.
Short-tempered’s elevate: Bills 31, Chiefs 27
Walder’s elevate: Chiefs 32, Bills 31
FPI prediction: BUF, 56.6% (by an life like of two.3 aspects)
Matchup need to-reads: How Mahomes has navigated the worst season of his profession … Allen’s TD toddle wows Bills in wild-card use vs. Steelers … Mahomes gears up for Allen as soon as more, compares to Brady-Manning