Thirty-two teams embarked on the mission this season to win Super Bowl LVIII. Eight teams remain.
Jeff Howe breaks down each of the four divisional round matchups this weekend ahead of The AthleticThe projection model, created by Austin Mock, reveals each team’s odds of winning the Super Bowl.
A look at the AFC playoff bracket following the Bills’ win over the Steelers.
◽️ Ravens-Texans: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET
◽️ Bills-Chiefs: Sunday, 6:30 pm ET
Who do you think will advance to the Conference Championships? pic.twitter.com/fsz3vSg6bP
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) January 16, 2024
#1 Baltimore Ravens vs. No. 4 Houston Texans, 4:30 p.m. ET, Saturday
Texans rookie quarterback CJ Stroud impressed in his playoff debut by completing 16 of 21 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns. Stroud’s composure was remarkable at this early point in his career. He has completed at least 75 percent of his passes in three consecutive games and has not thrown an interception in six consecutive games.
Perhaps no one strengthened their head coaching candidacy more than Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik during wild-card weekend, and teams with vacancies will be monitoring his chess match against Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald. The Ravens have allowed an average of 15.5 points in their last four games against quality competition (Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers).
What CJ Stroud and his parents saw early, the world sees now
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has a strong chance to earn his second MVP award next month, but there’s pressure on him to perform in the playoffs, where he lost three of his four starts and completed less than 60 percent of his passes in every defeat. .
The Ravens won these franchises’ only playoff meeting 12 years ago.
No. 2 Buffalo Bills vs. No. 3 Kansas City Chiefs, 6:30 p.m. ET, Sunday
The weekend’s marquee matchup will mark the postseason road debut of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs have been more inconsistent than usual this season, but their defense doesn’t collapse; he hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in six straight games.
The Bills’ six-game winning streak began in Kansas City in Week 14, and they’ve eliminated quality opponents along the way. Four of those six wins came against playoff teams, including Monday’s win over the Steelers.
Of course, the biggest story here is the rematch between two of the AFC’s most prominent powers in recent years. Mahomes has shut down quarterback Josh Allen’s Bills twice in the playoffs since the 2020 season, and both games were offensive affairs.
The Chiefs are trying to reach their sixth straight conference championship game, and the Bills hope to avoid a third straight loss in the divisional round.
The NFC division round is set.
◽️49ers vs. Packers
◽️ Lions against. Buccaneers
Call him now. Who advances to the NFC Conference Championship? pic.twitter.com/D2RzHcRhYe
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) January 16, 2024
#1 San Francisco 49ers vs. No. 7 Green Bay Packers, 8pm ET, Saturday
The Packers, who have now won as many playoff wins at AT&T Stadium as the Dallas Cowboys (three), delivered the biggest surprise of the wild card round behind great performances from quarterback Jordan Love and running back Aaron Jones. They had an incredibly disciplined game plan to control the game on the floor, shoot when needed, and avoid big plays on defense, and they executed it to perfection. The combination of great coaching and high-level production should make the 49ers nervous because those traits can carry over to the playoffs.
The 49ers allowed the third-fewest rushing yards in the regular season, but that was because their opponents were forced to play from behind so often that the Niners faced the fewest rushing attempts in the league. They allowed 4.1 yards per carry, which ranked 14th and was only slightly better than Dallas (4.2).
Cracks in the 49ers’ playoff machine? Yes, but you have to squint to find them
The Niners are a deserved No. 1 seed and have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, but there’s cause for concern as they prepare for a hot, confident Green Bay team that has won four straight and seven of nine. The Niners sat many of their starters in the regular season finale, so they’re about to find out if they’re rested or rusty after many of their stars haven’t played since New Year’s Eve.
The 49ers have won four straight playoff games against the Packers.
No. 3 Detroit Lions vs. No. 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3 p.m. ET, Sunday
No one threw a bigger party over the weekend than the Lions, who won their first playoff game in 32 years and had just their second postseason victory since 1957. They will host multiple games in a postseason for the first time in the 94 years of the franchise. history.
The Lions’ first playoff win in 32 years was pure grit, followed by tears of joy
This will be a rematch between two tough teams, as the Lions won in Tampa 20-6 in Week 6. The Buccaneers just beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night and won’t give up against the favored Lions in a hostile environment. There’s also a matchup between quarterbacks Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield, each of whom were drafted with the No. 1 pick but have since found success with new organizations.
These teams have met eleven times in the playoffs, with the Buccaneers winning 20-10 in 1997.
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(Photo by Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen: David Eulitt/Getty Images)
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