We're on to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs this weekend, and there is no shortage of storylines to watch besides the outcomes of the games.
For example, all four starting quarterbacks in the AFC playoffs are under the age of 26, the first time that all four starting quarterbacks in one conference in the Divisional playoffs are under the age of 26. (Fun fact: Eli Manning was 26 years old when he won his first Super Bowl in 2007 with the Giants.)
Speaking of quarterbacks, this weekend's games will feature three quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft--Cleveland's Baker Mayfield (No. 1 overall), Buffalo’s Josh Allen (No. 7), and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (No. 32)--as starters in the AFC Divisional round.
This will mark the second time in the common draft era that three first-round quarterbacks from the same NFL Draft will start in the Divisional playoffs in the same postseason.
The only other time this occurred was in the 2008 postseason when three quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft--Manning, Philip Rivers (Chargers), and Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers)--each started in the 2008 Divisional playoffs.
Let's take a look at the Saturday games.
Los Angeles Rams (11-6) at Green Bay Packers (13-3)
Saturday, January 16, 2021 // 4:35 p.m. ET
TV: FOX - Kevin Burkhardt, Daryl Johnston, Pam Oliver
Postseason Series History: Series is tied 1-1. At the time playing in St. Louis, the Rams won the last meeting on January 20, 2002, 45-17.
This Week: Rams superstar Aaron Donald is expected to play despite suffering a rib injury in last week's Wild Card round, a much-needed boost for a Rams interior defense that will face a tough Packers offensive line.
Quarterback John Wolford (neck) is out, leaving Jared Goff, who last week was pressed into action when Wolford had to leave the game, to drive the offense. Receiver Cooper Kupp is listed as questionable with a knee ailment but is expected to play.
The Rams offense scored 30 points last week against the Seahawks, snapping a streak of four straight games in which they failed to reach that scoring level. Meanwhile, the Packers defense has been stringy in holding its last six opponents to 25 or fewer points.
On defense, both Donald and Leonard Floyd are the only two Rams players who finished with 10+ sacks for the 2020 seasons.
The Packers, who are coming off a bye, have 26 regular-season wins since 2019, tied for the most with the Chiefs. Green Bay's offense led the NFL in points per game (31.8) and ranked second in third-down efficiency at 49.4% this season.
The Packers offensive line is a strength. Between that and the mobility of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers should be able to avoid being caught up in the clutches of a Rams defense that recorded 17 of its 53 sacks in the final four games of the regular season and which had five sacks in last week's win over the Seahawks.
Baltimore Ravens (12-5) at Buffalo Bills (14-3)
Saturday, January 16, 2021 // 8:15 p.m. ET
(TV: NBC - Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya)
Postseason Series History: This is the first postseason meeting between these two clubs. The last time they met in the regular-season was on December 8, 2019, a 24-17 Ravens win.
This Week: There's another good battle on deck in this clash, as the Bills offense, which finished second in the NFL in scoring, averaging 31.3 points per game, will square off against a Ravens defense that allowed 18.9 points per game, the second-fewest in the NFL.
The key for the Bills will be to shut down a Ravens rushing offense that finished with a league-leading 3,071 yards on the ground in regular-season play. Forcing a few turnovers could help disrupt the Ravens' attack, and that's something the Bills, who tied for third in the league with 26 takeaways, did very well this past season.
On the other side of the ball, the Bills offense finished the season tied for second overall, with 396.4 yards per game.
The Ravens, whose defense has been a little more consistent down the stretch, get the nod here in what should be the closest game of the four-set for this weekend.
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