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The AFC Divisional Playoffs round will feature four quarterbacks who were once deemed the future and now are the present. Patrick Mahomes is the only one to have made it past this round. Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson are all feeling confident after collecting their first playoff win in their careers. Who will add to that?,
Cleveland Browns (6) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (1)
The Cleveland Browns finished off the opening weekend of the playoffs, setting an NFL record by scoring 28 first-quarter points in their victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Quarterback Baker Mayfield leads the Browns on the road to take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon. Will the Chiefs have rust because of the starters not playing in two weeks? Can the Browns continue their playoff magic?
Keys To The Game
The only way to keep the Chiefs’ explosive offense off the field is controlling the clock. Cleveland needs to use a heavy dose of Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to limit Mahomes and company offensive possessions. When on defense, they have to generate pressure from the front four, mainly from the defensive tackle positions. If the defensive ends can keep him the pocket but have the middle of the line push back, then Mahomes has nowhere to go.
With an offensive that has a MVP candidate at the quarterback position, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill among other weapons, scoring points should not be a problem. Their exotic formations and passing routes should confuse the Browns’ defense. The Chiefs need to score early and often to force the Browns to become a passing team. This will allow Chris Jones and the defensive line to cause havoc on Mayfield and their offense.
Cleveland – Rashad Higgins; Wide Receiver: Higgins, who averaged 16.2 yards per catch, has to be able to stretch the defense and make a play or two against the Chiefs’ secondary
Kansas City – Daniel Sorensen; Free Safety: Kansas City’s leading tackler Sorensen should be busy. His 91 tackles (68 solo) lead the team this season and defensive coordinator Steve Spangnuolo should have him in the box to stop the run all game long.
It was an 18-year drought in between playoff victories for the Cleveland Browns and last week’s victory exercised a lot of demons for the fanbase. But with all good stories, they have to come to an end and this week, Cleveland’s will end at the hands of Andy Reid’s Chiefs. Kansas City cruises 38-24. – Danny Thompson
Baltimore Ravens (5) vs. Buffalo Bills (2)
The Baltimore Ravens, fresh off their playoff win, head north to take on the Buffalo Bills, who also advanced, in a matchup of two teams led by 2018 first-round quarterbacks. Lamar Jackson, who was taken with the 32nd overall pick, faces the No. 7th overall pick, Josh Allen. Both will have a chance to prove who is the best (for now) from that draft class.
Keys To The Game
The biggest issue for the Ravens is playing on schedule offensively. The more they are able to rack up first downs, the longer they will have the football and keep Josh Allen and that explosive Bills offense off the field. Defensively, they have to get after Josh Allen and force him to his left. He has proven he can do damage in the pocket and scrambling to his right but if you force him to his left, he has to throw across his body, increasing the chances of an interception.
The Bills have been explosive on offense but it all starts and ends with wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The NFL’s leader in yards receiving will need to be involved early and often to get the offense cranked up around him. Defensively, the Bills have gotten better overall but this game will test their ability to stay disciplined. Being where you are supposed to be and staying in their lanes when Jackson decides to run will be key for them, at least slowing him down.
Baltimore – Marquise Brown; Wide Receiver: Lamar Jackson and the stable of running backs are going to be paramount but the key player in this game will be Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. Jackson will look for him, and in an offense where they need one pass-catcher to step up, Brown is that guy.
Buffalo – Cole Beasley; Wide Receiver: While everyone will be focused on Stefon Diggs and what he’s going to do, the guy to look for will be Cole Beasley. When he goes for over 100 yards receiving, the Bills are 4-1.
The Ravens come in on an emotional high and the Bills come in winning their first playoff game in 25 years. Unfortunately, one high is sustainable and the other is just living on the edge of crashing. The Bills’ lack of a running game will hurt them as they get towards the end. Baltimore 30, Bills 24 – Mike Patton