The theme of Saturday’s two Divisional Round playoff matches is likely to be whether a good defence can beat an excellent offence, and vice versa.
For the first time in the postseason since Super Bowl XLVIII, the number one defence in the league squares off against the best offence when the Los Angeles Rams travel to the Green Bay Packers.
That is followed by the Buffalo Bills’ explosive offence crossing swords with Baltimore’s excellent defence. We start at a sub-zero Lambeau Field where the Rams are in danger of being frozen in the headlights of the offensive juggernaut that is Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Rodgers on a Roll
Green Bay quarterback Rodgers has been unplayable at times this season, throwing for a career-best 48 touchdowns during the regular season, while also registering his highest-ever completion percentage and QB rating. The 37-year-old is the odds-on favourite for the regular season MVP as a result of his performances, which were a big part of the Packers going 13-3 and securing the number one seed in the NFC.
Having had a chance to rest up thanks to a bye through the first round of the playoffs, the Packers are at full-strength for the visit of the Rams, who are 6.5-point underdogs and priced at
53/20 on the money line.
LA come into this game off the back of another great defensive showing as they knocked off the Seattle Seahawks 30-20 in the Wild Card Round. The defence helped themselves to a touchdown and sacked ‘Hawks quarterback Russell Wilson five times to keep their Super Bowl dream alive.
The Rams defence have been great all year, allowing the fewest points and passing yards per game, and got a boost with the news defensive MVP Aaron Donald will be fit for Saturday’s game after suffering a rib injury. However, the Rams offence is a different story with Jared Goff struggling badly at quarterback.
Goff had been benched for John Wolford for LA’s previous two games but will start this one after Wolford suffered a neck injury. Goff, who is 0-2 in games played in sub-zero temperatures, has thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns (5) in his last six appearances and completed just nine of 19 passes against Seattle.
Goff’s limitations mean running-back Cam Akers will see a lot of the ball and is liable to have over 69.5 rushing yards at
20/27, but that is unlikely to be enough to keep the Rams in the contest. The Packers are the more complete unit with a top-10 defence and a Rodgers-powered offence that features Davante Adams and Aaron Jones, giving them all the tools to cover the -6.5 handicap at
Restrictive Ravens can Wrangle Buffalo
The Baltimore Ravens got a playoff monkey off their back with last week’s attritional 20-13 win at the Tennessee Titans and look good value at
13/10 to spring another surprise when they travel to Buffalo.
Having seen their Super Bowl ambitions last year die at the hands of Tennessee, Baltimore’s victory in Nashville will have laid some ghosts to rest. Having limited the Titans explosive offence, the Ravens will need to come up with a similar gameplay to stop Buffalo, with more of a focus on the pass.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen threw for 4544 yards and 37 touchdowns during the regular season, helping Buffalo go 13-3 and average an impressive 31.1 points per game. Allen’s connection with wide receiver Stefon Diggs proved particularly deadly, Diggs racking up the most receptions and yards in the league during the regular season.
However, the Indianapolis Colts showed in their 27-24 Wild Card defeat to the Bills that Buffalo’s offence can be slowed down with the right game plan. Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale will have taken note of the Colts’ success and having drawn up a great strategy to limit the Titans, it stands to reason he can cook something up to stop Buffalo.
The Ravens can also hurt the Bills with their ground game, which averaged a league-high 194.5 yards per game this season. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is liable to account for a large chunk of any yards the Ravens do pick up on the ground having rushed for 136 last week, and he’s
5/6 to run for over 75.5 yards on Saturday. Buffalo have struggled to stop the run all year and could be worn down as the game progresses.
Both these teams have been in great form of late and this is liable to be a close game, but it is the Ravens who have the edge in key areas, leaving them in a good spot to punch their ticket for the AFC Championship game.
*All odds correct at time of writing.