2021 NFL Expert Picks: Divisional Roundby Andersen Pickard January 22, 2022 0 comments
Two NFL experts from the Prime Time Sports Talk staff came together to share their picks for the divisional round games of the 2021 playoffs.
These two writers will make their picks for the entire season. (Failure to accurately predict a tie will be treated as a loss.) A record will be listed at the bottom of every article. An archive of all 18 regular-season and four playoff editions can be found here.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Tennessee Titans
Sam: Bengals 31, Titans 24
The key to this game is whether Cincinnati can get out to an early lead. It’s so important that even if they win the coin toss, they may pull a fast one and actually take the ball rather than defer. If the Titans get the ball first, it will be a ground-and-pound start for newly-activated Derrick Henry setting the tone for the game. In the end, however, there is no ignoring the fact that the Bengals have faced far better secondaries than that of Tennessee, and the Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase train is going to keep on chugging while Tee Higgins demands all of Janoris Jenkins‘ attention. The Cincy defense is not getting any love from the talking heads, and they would have it no other way. All the pressure in this game is on the Titans, while the Bengals are playing fast and loose with house money.
Andersen: Titans 27, Bengals 24
The great thing about the divisional round of the playoffs (and beyond) is that every game is great. You can look at this slate of four contests and think, “Wow, any of these games could reach record-breaking levels of excitement.” Bengals-Titans falls under that category, without a doubt. The Bengals have been the hottest team over the last month-plus, but Tennessee gets Derrick Henry back for this one. The Titans will deliver blows from left and right as Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown, and Henry all make big plays.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers
Sam: 49ers 24, Packers 22
This one is way tougher than it looks. The Packers look unstoppable and are getting numerous players back for this game. Had 49ers DE Nick Bosa (15.5 sacks, 32 QB hits, 21 TFL) not cleared concussion protocol, my score would be far different. San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan has had the Packers’ (and Aaron Rodgers‘s) number in recent memory, and Deebo Samuel is proving himself a difference-maker in whatever capacity he’s involved. The Packers fall short in a championship-or-bust season, and fans realize afterwards that they just watched Rodgers’ last game in green and gold. Matt LaFleur’s COY candidacy goes up in smoke.
Andersen: 49ers 21, Packers 20
The Packers were the better team in 2021, but there’s no denying that San Francisco is surging. The 49ers have handled the Pack in the past, and Kyle Shanahan certainly has a very strong game plan constructed for this week. Meanwhile, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle are insane humans while Nick Bosa could wreak havoc for the Green Bay offense. There’s just too much firepower and history here. San Francisco by a point.
Los Angeles Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sam: Buccaneers 31, Rams 20
The Rams and Bucs each put on a show last week against underwhelming birds. This will prove to be a far better contest. Matt Stafford shed a monkey from his back last week, but cannot be counted on to carry a team to a Super Bowl. The defense can, but if the old Stafford shows up (spoiler alert: he will) and starts turning the ball over, that defense is going to be gassed. On the other side, Tom Brady does what he always does to win. Take the time, throw the ball away under pressure, and choose the times to attack. Look for Rob Gronkowski to have another big game. These two are a different animal in the postseason. A boring first half turns into a wildly entertaining show after intermission.
Andersen: Buccaneers 31, Rams 21
Sure, they were playing the Eagles, but the performance that the Bucs put on last week was a Super Bowl-caliber showing. Tampa Bay will cruise by Los Angeles with ease as Matthew Stafford throws two picks and struggles to stay upright. We’ll have a Garoppolo vs. Brady NFC Championship.
Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Sam: Chiefs 33, Bills 23
Would the real Bills please stand up? This team that scored over 40 on four occasions this season but also dropped regular season games to Pittsburgh and New England, were dismantled by the Colts 41-15, and fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars 9-6. Including last week’s record-setting win against the Patriots, they are riding a five-game winning streak. However, those losses and Josh Allen‘s performance in them cannot be wiped from memory. The Chiefs have been a tale of two halves. They started slow, rattled off an eight-game winning streak that ended in Cincinnati, and have won their last two. Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes like revenge games, and they are ready to assert themselves against a Bills team that beat them 38-20 way back in Week 5. They’ll be playing for the next revenge game against the winner of Tennessee and Cincinnati, each of whom they lost to this season.
Andersen: Chiefs 31, Bills 27
This is such a challenging game to predict. Will we get the version of the Bills that dropped a couple million points on the Patriots? Or the Bills that drastically struggled against the Jaguars? There’s too much uncertainty on Buffalo’s side. The Chiefs are a safer, more steady option, and they’re also playing at home. I’m taking Kansas City, but it truly feels like a toss-up.
Sam: 155-107 (59.2%)
Joe: 101-79 (56.1%)
Andersen: 169-109 (60.8%)
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