NFL: home field advantage will be crucial, our predictions for the second round of playoffs

You can follow all the weekend’s games on RDS and RDS.ca.

Last week, to kick off the road to Super Bowl LVIII on February 11 in Las Vegas, all but one of the local teams (the Cowboys) emerged victorious from their duel.

This includes the still surprising elimination of the last Super Bowl finalists, the Philadelphia Eagles, at the hands of the Bucs and the return of Baker Mayfield. The Lions’ endless playoff drought also ended after 32 years of tough times for Michigan fans.

Will this trend continue for the 2nd round of the NFL playoffs with the entry of the two favorite teams from each association?

It’s hard to predict the future, but we can certainly get wet as the Ravens and 49ers will try to enforce logic after a bye week by analyzing the other lineups.

The four playoff games of the weekend will be presented on our airwaves. Here’s what you can expect plus my personal prediction for each of the matchups.

The Texans v. the crows

Houston Texans (4) @ Baltimore Ravens (1)
Saturday from 4:30 p.m. – RDS

CJ Stroud and the Texans sent a clear message to the rest of the NFL last week: the team is not a passing thing.

In his first season at the helm of Houston, former star player DeMeco Ryans infected his young players with his good humor on the bench, but, above all, with his refined analysis of rival defenses. Little by little, the Texans learned to win together behind and with Stroud, who is also in his first season in the NFL.

The Texans’ current form is an example of an organization quickly rebuilding by focusing on the right priorities moving forward. Talented young players in key positions, a daring coach, veterans to stay the course and a thirst to free themselves from the bad reputation formed since the creation of the team.

The problem with this beautiful story is that it takes place among rested, hungry and dangerous Ravens.

The Ravens will want to avoid repeating the scenario of the 2019 season when a 14-2 record collapsed in the playoff game against the Titans. John Harbaugh and Lamar Jackson have a concrete example for not depending too much on the success of the season. This experience could prove invaluable during the game against the young Texans.

Lamar Jackson will undoubtedly be the “MVP” of the regular season and his first season working with coordinator Todd Monken is nothing short of spectacular. After a slow start this fall, the Ravens’ offense has established itself as the best in the NFL due to its versatility and Jackson’s effectiveness with his arms and legs.

DeMeco Ryans may flash his best defensive mad scientist smile, but he’s no magician either and risks discovering the dangers of facing a Lamar Jackson at the peak of his form with a full, rested arsenal to back him up.

I really like the history of the Texans and in five years they could be in the Ravens seat this season. Except in 2024, we won’t leave Baltimore with our heads held high when we visit Lamar Jackson’s “Dirty Birds.”

The game may be close, but the difference in points that the betting houses place (between 9 and 10 points) highlights an obvious disparity between the two teams and if the cold also arrives in Maryland, the Ravens will have vultures against the Texans overwhelmed by the situation.

It’s one thing to make Joe Flacco look bad when he was at home early in the season, but the mandate to contain a devastating offense and an experienced defense will be too great for Houston.

The prediction: Ravens 31, Texans 17

The packers v. the 49ers

Green Bay Packers (7) @ San Francisco 49ers (1)
Saturday from 8:00 p.m. – RDS

The big surprise so far in the NFL playoffs is the impeccable performance of Jordan Love and the Packers against the Cowboys.

Matt LaFleur’s men not only won a game, they shook the preconceived notions of most league observers. Now, the second half of Love’s season is being looked at with different eyes and the most optimistic dare to ask the question: can we do the same with the Niners?

Let’s say it will be a little more difficult, if not unlikely.

Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers are rested and, by the coach’s own admission, very ready to receive the Packers while we study the maneuvers of Love and his accomplices in the second half of the game in Dallas.

San Francisco needed a weeklong respite as several key players are dealing with ailments that will likely require lengthy treatments in the spring after the rigors of a full-speed campaign.

At the top of the list is the electrifying Christian McCAffrey. The power of the Niners offense is involved in the vast majority of games, and at times this season we felt his body flex. That does not mean that he is essential for the operation since Brock Purdy does not show any major weaknesses this season.

The Niners’ offense is versatile and will be a puzzle for the Packers’ defense to solve. It is this aspect of the matchup that will make the difference.

If San Francisco comes out of the locker room and builds a gap quickly, catch-up football will present itself as a puzzle for the Packers’ inexperienced offense to solve.

This is Kyle Shanahan’s bag of surprises when starting an important game. Matt LaFleur is also a good strategist, as evidenced by his team’s meteoric progress since the departure of Aaron Rodgers, but he will not be trying to participate in his third consecutive association finals like Shanahan and his troops.

In fact, San Francisco aims to participate in a fourth conference final in the last five seasons. Only one Super Bowl appearance came thanks to these successes. A record that should motivate Kyle Shanahan a little in his preparation for the passionate Packers.

This winter it has been thirty years since the last Super Bowl for the 49ers, led by Steve Young at the time. That’s a nice round number to remedy the situation, right?

The prediction: 49ers 42, Packers 21

The lions v. the bucs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4) @ Detroit Lions (3)
Sunday from 3:00 p.m. – RDS

After 32 long years, the Lions won again in the NFL playoffs. Better yet, the team will remain in front of its fans throughout the second round, as Baker Mayfield proved the Bucs right by entrusting him with a convincing victory against the Philadelphia Eagles.

It was the first time since moving to Ford Field in 2002 that the Lions hosted a home playoff game for their fans.

It’s a long, long time, as they say.

So what is the remedy to erase decades of failure and failure? Earn even more and even more convincingly.

Two very possible things against the Bucs when they visit Detroit.

Since the trade that sent Matthew Stafford to the Rams, the Lions have methodically rebuilt with options tailored to their needs and the slow addition of veterans who fit Dan Campbell’s vision of things. The result of this reconstruction is very concrete and the Lions have not stolen their status as favorites for this match.

It remains to be seen which version of the Bucs will be at Ford Field.

There is the option with a thunderous attack, like last week against the Eagles in the midst of decline, and there is the version where the attack struggles to cross the opposing 20-yard line as in the last two weeks of the regular schedule.

We’d like to believe the playoffs will be a source of inspiration, but we don’t know how the Bucs will react if the fake handoffs turned into passes fail early in the game. Without his bread and butter, Mayfield could be left without alternatives.

What’s more, defensive pressure derails Jared Goff’s plans less compared to Jalen Hurts with the Eagles. It’s even one of the Lions’ strengths: giving their quarterback time and space.

As proof, Goff ran for 353 yards in the game between the two teams earlier this season with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The running game was not good, but the Lions easily won the game 20-6.

I see a similar outcome that greatly favors the Lions. On paper, the duel is really uneven and without the Eagles’ win, the Bucs would not be in this position.

The prediction: Leones 28, Bucs 10

The bills v. the bosses

Kansas City Chiefs (3) @ Buffalo Bills (2)
Sunday from 6:30 p.m. – RDS

Finally, the pièce de résistance of the weekend: the return game between the Chiefs and the Bills.

Earlier this season, Buffalo took advantage of the points left on the table by the Chiefs’ disjointed offense to escape with victory. It was, two years later, a form of revenge after the bitter setback inflicted by the Chiefs on the Bills during the 2022 playoffs.

The story will be different this winter, however, as Buffalo will be in the proverbial driver’s seat in front of its fans against the reigning champions.

This is an unusual situation for Patrick Mahomes, who has never, in playoff games other than the Super Bowl, visited an opposing stadium.

Let’s say that a baptism outside of Kansas City in front of the turbulent Bills fans will not be easy for Mahomes with a fairly ordinary offense to the point that not even his exceptional play elevates the rest of the group.

It will be up to Steve Spagnuolo’s defense to set the tone of the game and stop Josh Allen.

The Bills, since their victory against the Chiefs on December 10, have not lost a single game. We’re talking six straight wins, including last week against the Steelers. It’s a good time to find your rhythm a few weeks before the Super Bowl and if the trend continues, Buffalo’s offense will be the Chiefs’ loss.

Because?

Because coach Sean McDermott risks resorting to a more conservative approach on defense to allow the Chiefs to make costly mistakes without taking too many risks. Kansas City’s offense this season has often proven to be its own worst enemy.

This will leave room for Josh Allen and his group of receivers to do damage, even if the Chiefs’ defense is particularly effective against the passing game.

On paper, both teams have the same strengths and weaknesses and this match could go either way. So the home team starts with a slight advantage, and besides, I had picked the Bills to win the Super Bowl during my predictions at the beginning of the season.

It remains to be seen if this year will finally be the right one for Bills fans.

The prediction: Bills 24, Chiefs 21

Good football on our airwaves to all fans and we’ll see you next week for the NFL final four.

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