NFL Weekly Predictions: Divisional Round

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Houston @ Baltimore (-9½)

The Texans waxed the visiting Browns 45-14 as C.J. Stroud became the youngest quarterback to win an NFL playoff game. Stroud passed for 3 touchdowns, and the Texans intercepted Joe Flacco twice, returning both for touchdowns.

"The stats may not indicate it," DeMeco Ryans said, "but C.J. was just slightly better than Flacco ... in throwing TD passes to Texans players. A lot of things caught up to Flacco, like age, the law of averages, Murphy's Law, anyone chasing him, the 'Is Joe Flacco elite?' argument, Father Time, and over-hyped expectations.

"What C.J. is doing at his age is amazing. It wasn't that long ago that C.J. was in diapers. It won't be long from now until Flacco is in diapers."

The top-seeded Ravens are looking to reach their first AFC title game since the 2012 season. Saturday's contest against the Texans is a rematch of Baltimore's 25-9 Week 1 regular season victory.

"This is a vastly different team than the one we faced way back in December," John Harbaugh said. "C.J. Stroud has gone from rookie to veteran in the span of a season. He's aged faster than Jerry Jones watching a Cowboys playoff game.

"My younger brother Jim just interviewed for the Chargers head coaching job. Can you imagine Jim with a young, immensely talented quarterback like Justin Herbert? Herbert is a stud. He's a thoroughbred. I'm sure Jim never thought he'd be in another situation with a 'Stalion' on the sideline.

"And Bill Belichick is a free agent. Robert Kraft already found his replacement in Jerod Mayo. I'm sure that deal was sealed with a firm handshake. And everybody knows Kraft loves his hand shakes, especially when it's in a vigorous up and down motion and attached to the arm of a massage parlor employee."

Surprisingly, Lamar Jackson is the quarterback with the early jitters, and tosses an early interception. But Jackson does the most damage with designed runs, and the Ravens defense intercepts a tipped pass late to preserve a Baltimore victory.

Ravens win, 27-20.

Green Bay @ San Francisco (-9½)

The Packers stunned the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in a dominating and surprisingly lopsided 48-32 win. Aaron Jones rushed for 118 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Jordan Love tossed another 3 TD passes.

"Kudos to our offensive line," Matt Lafleur said. "They created 'openings' for Aaron, as well as the new Dallas head coach. And Jordan solidified his standing as the next great Packers quarterback. Hopefully, he'll have a street named after him one day, as opposed to a welfare fraud statute, or a narcissistic personality disorder.

"I coached circles around Mike McCarthy. And I coached dotted lines and arrows around him, indicating his path out of Dallas. It probably leads to a studio job on a network that's only relevant from September to mid-January.

"We have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL. But we're not going to let lack of experience change our mindset. We're gonna go out there and play fast and loose, or like Aaron Rodgers with facts, or reality."

The 49ers are seeking their third consecutive NFC championship game appearance. They are well rested after earning the NFC's No. 1 seed and first-round bye.

"We are definitely not tired," Kyle Shanahan said, "of seeing all of the Cowboy memes. The funny thing about surprising Cowboys playoff exits is that they're not surprising. I hear they're changing all the 'Exit' signs in AT&T Stadium to 'Early Exit' signs.

"We won't underestimate the Packers. The success of the 49ers organization is often based on doing the exact opposite of what the Cowboys have done. And, unlike Mike McCarthy, I'm not a choker. If I was choking, you'd know it, because I'd look like my red-faced, freaky-looking father Mike."

49ers win, 33-21.

Tampa Bay @ Detroit (-6½)

The Lions scored early and held on to beat the Rams as Jared Goff faced his former team, helmed by former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

"Jared was nearly perfect," Dan Campbell. 'And that's something you can't say often in the NFL, and never in reference to the officiating. This time, the call went in our favor. Puka Nacua had no idea there'd be a better chance of getting mugged inside the stadium in Detroit. Unfortunately, you can't criticize the officiating without drawing a significant fine. So, let me just say this: 'NFL officiating is the best ... thing to happen to the argument for making officials full-time employees of the league.

"This is the first Lions playoff win in 32 years, so we're really happy to give our fans something to cheer about, especially since their lives are otherwise miserable.

"To use a term any pirate would be familiar with, I can't 'fathom' the Bucs playing in the NFC championship game. So, I feel like it's our duty to Lions' fans to prevent them from getting there. And I feel it's our duty to football fans in general to do our part to prevent a Green Bay at Tampa Bay NFC championship game.

"Thanks to the Cowboys, we get another home game. It may not have sat well in Dallas, but the Cowboys humiliating themselves on national television was a boon to our local economy."

Baker Mayfield passed for 337 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Buccaneers hammered the Eagles 32-9 in Tampa on Monday night.

"The Eagles just didn't seem to have their hearts in it," Mayfield said. "Their heads, on the other hand, were definitely in it. Their ass, that is. We pretty much imposed our will upon them. We told the Eagles, 'It's our way or the highway.' They chose both. They had one foot out the door before the game even started. And the other foot was halfway out the door.

"People have always underestimated me, probably because I was just one in a long line of failed Cleveland Browns experiments at quarterback. Now, Detroit cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson claims I'm not even a 'good' quarterback. If he's looking to provide bulletin board material for me, he needs to realize I use that for motivation. And for every piece of bulletin board material I use to propel me to a big game, there's a crappy game from me that creates another piece of bulletin board material. And the cycle continues."

Lions win, 27-23.

Kansas City @ Buffalo (-2½)

The Chiefs iced the Dolphins 26-7 in Kansas City, in conditions that made it the fourth-coldest game in NFL history. Patrick Mahomes, Rashee Rice, and Isaiah Pacheco led an offense that grinded out 409 yards of total offense, while the K.C. defense rendered the Miami offense ineffective.

"It was so cold," Mahomes said, "you could see your breath. And with Andy Reid as your head coach, you'd much rather see it than smell it.

"It was also so cold that my helmet cracked. That's not good at all. The last time there was a failure of protection this big in my lifetime, my younger brother Jackson was conceived.

"This is the first road playoff game of my career. It doesn't matter where we play; we're gonna bring it, and that includes arguably the greatest tight end in history, Travis Kelce, a pogo stick/sledgehammer of a running back in Isaiah Pacheco, the brilliant mind of Andy Reid, an attacking defense, and our corps of butterfingered receivers."

The Bills manhandled the visiting Steelers 31-17 to advance to the divisional round. Josh Allen threw 3 touchdown passes, and his 52-yard TD run in the second quarter gave Buffalo a 21-0 lead.

"Josh really knows how to put a team on his back," Sean McDermott said. "Mason Rudolph really knows how to put a team on a plane back home.

"When we were 5-5 back in early November, I'm sure no one thought this was remotely possible. But through hard work, sheer determination, belief in the face of extreme adversity, and a little luck, we did it. The moral of the story: it takes a lot just to get Taylor Swift to set foot in Buffalo.

"This will be a game between two generational quarterbacks, and two head coaches who really know how to motivate their respective teams. Andy Reid consistently knows how to get the most out of his team. And he consistently does it without mentioning any reference to 9/11."

Harrison Butker's 43-yard field goal with :47 left in the game gives the Chiefs a 24-22 lead. Allen leads the Bills ensuing drive in position for the game-winning field goal, but Tyler Bass' 51-yard attempt goes wide right.

Chiefs win, 24-22.

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