2024 NFL divisional round bold predictions: Jordan Love, Packers stun 49ers; Josh Allen goes nuclear on Chiefs

The NFL postseason is down to eight teams, and while the remaining field includes several that were expected to be here — the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills — there are also some surprises.

The bracket includes teams that have risen above expectations, such as the seventh-seeded Green Bay Packers — the youngest team in the NFL this season — as well as the Houston Texans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions. With some of the surprising twists and turns on the field in the wild card round, here are five bold predictions for what will happen in the four games that stretch across Saturday and Sunday.

Another week of the Green Bay Packers in the postseason creates another classic NFC playoff matchup. The seventh-seeded Packers became the youngest team (average age: 25 years, 214 days) to win a playoff game since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger following their 48-32 demolition of the second-seeded Dallas Cowboys.

The postseason victory was Green Bay’s 37th all time, tied with the New England Patriots for the most in league history. On Saturday night, the Packers will face the NFC’s top seed, the 12-5 San Francisco 49ers, marking an NFL-high 10th playoff showdown between the two franchises.

The Niners — who have 36 playoff wins in their history, just one behind the Packers — lead the all-time postseason series between these two historic heavyweights 5-4, with four consecutive postseason wins against Green Bay, all against former Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Now, the Packers have a new pilot at the controls of their offense in first-year starter Jordan Love. He threw the second-most passing touchdowns (32) in the NFL regular season and has helped power the Packers to wins in seven of their last nine games, including the playoffs, while throwing 21 touchdowns and only one interception in that span.

Love and 49ers starting quarterback Brock Purdy are two of just five quarterbacks to throw for at least 30 touchdowns and 4,000 passing yards in their first seasons as a full-time NFL starting quarterback, joining Hall of Famer Kurt Warner (1999), Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (2018) and Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (2020).

Over Love’s last three games, must-wins at the Vikings, against the Bears and at the Cowboys, he has generated a perfect passer rating (158.3) when pressured with 290 yards and four touchdowns on 17 of 21 passing. Love was 5 of 7 for 152 yards and two touchdowns when pressured against the Cowboys. On Saturday, he’ll continue to rise above imposing pass rushes to power the Packers to their first NFC Championship Game appearance since the 2020 season.

The Kansas City Chiefs have allowed 17.3 points per game this season, the second-fewest in the NFL and the best by an Andy Reid-coached team since the 2004 Eagles (16.3). They have yet to allow a 300-yard passer this season, and their 81% press man coverage rate is the second-highest in the NFL.

Josh Allen is coming off the first playoff game ever with three passing touchdowns, at least 70 rushing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown on Monday in the victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers. His 44 total touchdowns are the most in the NFL this season. He also leads the league in both total touchdowns (174) and turnovers (75) in the last four seasons.

So what will happen when the Bills star quarterback collides with the Chiefs defense? Allen shreds Kansas City’s ‘D’ that loves playing with its back turned to the quarterback, providing just enough production to overcome a big day from Patrick Mahomes in his first career road playoff game.

Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, the second overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, led the NFL in touchdown-to-interception ratio in the regular season (23-5). He also has the best touchdown-to-interception ratio (21-2, 10.5) against winning teams in NFL history (minimum 250 pass attempts), including playoffs.

That changes against the AFC’s top seed, the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore leads the NFL in scoring defense (16.5 points per game), takeaways (31, tied for the most in the league with the New York Giants)  and sacks (60). They are the first team in NFL history to lead and/or co-lead the league in those categories all in the same season. Stroud and the Texans faced them in the regular season opener for both teams, with the rookie quarterback going 28-for-44 with no touchdowns or interceptions.

On Saturday, the Ravens’ top-ranked defense flusters Stroud in his first playoff road game, and turns him over twice with at least one going to safety Geno Stone, whose seven interceptions were the second-most in the NFL in 2023.

The Tampa Buccaneers were gifted 13 missed tackles by the Philadelphia Eagles in their 32-9 in Super Wild Card Weekend victory, as Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield went for 337 yards and three passing touchdowns.

However, that won’t happen in Detroit, where the Lions are looking to win two postseason games for the first time since 1957. Dan Campbell will have defense fired up, particularly defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, against a Tampa Bay team that struggles to run the ball.

Hutchinson is the first player in team history with three consecutive games of multiple sacks. He is the first player since at least 2006 with at least multiple sacks and five or more quarterback hits in three straight games. Hutchinson’s 39% quarterback pressure rate is the highest by any player in the last five postseasons minimum 20 pass rushes. He led the NFL in quarterback pressures (110) and natural pressures (74) this season.

That’s all to say that it’s going to be a tough day in Detroit for Mayfield, as Tampa Bay fails to get a touchdown.

Brock Purdy has had a magnificent season. The former Mr. Irrelevant broke the record for yards per attempt (9.6) in a season (minimum 350 attempts) and led the NFL in passer rating (113.0). He was the favorite for league MVP for a stretch, as his 4,280 passing yards this season are the most in 49ers history, making him their first Pro Bowl quarterback since Jeff Garcia in 2002.

However, it won’t be Purdy’s day on Saturday against a Green Bay defense that was horrible at times this season (they gave up 30 points to the CAROLINA PANTHERS) but has come on strong of late. The Packers held their final two regular-season opponents to 10 points or fewer, then held the Cowboys’ high-powered offense to just 7 first-half points in last week’s upset (although Dallas did reach 32 with a strong second half).

They’ll continue to rise against the 49ers, as Jaire Alexander and the Green Bay defense comes away with two interceptions — Purdy has thrown some in bigger games, with 4 against the Ravens and 2 against both the Vikings and Bengals — as the Packers cruise to a victory.



Gideon Canice

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