Road to the Super Bowl: Divisional Round Playoff Storylines For 1/17/2021 – Browns vs. Chiefs and Buccaneers vs. Saints Matchups
The Divisional Rounds: Sunday, January 17th, 2021
Looking at the NFL Divisional Round, there are multiple storylines worth paying close attention to. If the playoffs didn't provide enough drama already, there will surely be more. But today, I’m focusing on storylines for Sunday’s NFL Divisional Round matchups: the Browns vs. Chiefs and Buccaneers vs. Saints. For Saturday’s Divisional Round matchups, check out this article by Mike Barner.
Wondering how we got here? Check out our Wild-Card Weekend recap and stay tuned for final picks just before kickoff.
#5 Cleveland Browns (11-5) @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) – 3:05 PM EST
Up first, we have the Browns and the Chiefs. There are stark differences in the offensive styles of these two teams. The Chiefs are built for speed and can destroy teams through the air at will. The Browns’ plan is to limit Mayfield and lean on Chubb and Hunt – methodically moving down the field. Here are a couple of narratives to look out for Sunday.
Kareem Hunt Revenge Game
After being released from the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018, he has settled into a 1B role behind that great offensive line of the Browns. Shortly after last week’s blowout win against the Steelers, Hunt didn't waste any time on setting the stage for some extra fireworks against his former team. In an Instagram Live video, he made it clear that this next game against Kansas City was personal.
Browns Missing Players
The COVID-19 protocol hit the Browns hard in the last few weeks. One week, they had to play a game without any wide receivers and the next week, without a head coach. The good news is that Stefanksi will be back, but the bad news is that he doesn't play defense. The Chiefs win games through the passing attack, relying heavily on Tyreek Hill's speed and Travis Kelce’s large frame. This doesn't bode well for the Browns’ secondary, as they have multiple defensive backs still on the reserve/COVID list, unsure on if they will be cleared in time to play. Having these players available is critical due to losing Olivier Vernon and OBJ earlier in the season.
The Shootout in 2016
How can we possibly preview this playoff game and not allude to that ridiculous 2016 NCAA shootout between these two quarterbacks? The amount of offense in that game was absolutely insane. Patrick Mahomes had over 800 all-purpose yards and the game finished with 125 total points. It would be great to see that type of back and forth this Sunday, but the chances of that happening are slim. In fact, The Odds Factory’s algorithm, TomBox, predicts this game ends with just 60 points scored. But who knows, maybe we witness another barnburner.
#3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) @ #2 New Orleans Saints (12-4) – 6:40 PM EST
This is the game all football fans will be anxiously awaiting. These two teams match up very well and feature some of the most exciting players to watch. Both these teams have top-ten defenses and a plethora of offensive weapons. The question is – which juggernaut team will advance to the Conference Championships next week?
The Battle Of The G.O.A.T.s
The playoff matchup we all were hoping for – Drew Brees against Tom Brady. These dudes are legends of the game. Though you might have a different opinion on who the true GOAT actually is, an argument can be made for both. Recently, there have been questions about whether these QBs are over the hill or not. Both players have had struggles pushing the ball downfield lately, and this could absolutely be the result of aging – they are both like 60. It’s a historic matchup, and who knows, it could even be the last. Just this week, Brees hinted at hanging up the cleats and, for Brady, who knows how long his special avocado ice cream will keep him rejuvenated.
Both teams have run into the injury bug at one point of the season. For the Saints, they were without their number-one wideout, Michael Thomas, for a good chunk of the year. The good news is that he came back last week and looks like his old self. Brees also made his return to the field after suffering multiple broken ribs just a couple of weeks ago. We can't deny the heart and grit Drew Brees has shown over his career, but you’ve got to be concerned about those injuries – especially up against this Bucs defense.
The Bucs experienced some of their own injuries recently. The talented rookie Ronald Jones has already been ruled out for the rest of the playoffs. The running game definitely takes a hit, as Jones was just starting to find his stride the last few weeks. Luckily for the Bucs, they were able to swoop Leonard Fournette earlier in the season. As much as Bruce Arians wants to proclaim Fournette is a three-down back – we all know Ronald Jones is a better fit for that role. Mike Evans and Godwin also had a few injury scares themselves, but both played last week and were able to combine for 11 receptions and almost 200 yards.
The NFL Divisional Round has some great matchups, and the storylines that come with them couldn't be written any better. If you’re looking for some advice on what to bet on, follow me on Twitter at @AJGIII07. I will be releasing some of my favorite game and player props later this week. For all other gambling content, visit The Odds Factory.