Wild Card weekend told us a lot about these teams heading into the NFC Divisional round as we are now down to the four best in the conference. There were a lot of blowouts to start the playoffs on both sides of the bracket but that’s not expected to spill into this weekend with four great games on the slate. The first game on the NFC side is set to begin Saturday night when the Packers enter the fray coming off of their bye week.
2022 NFC Divisional Round Preview
(6) 49ers vs (1) Packers
Date: Saturday, January 22nd
Time: 8:15 ET
These two teams have met eight times during their playoff history and they’ve split them four games apiece. The San Francisco 49ers have had the most recent playoff success after beating the Green Bay Packers in the 2012 Divisional Round, 2013 Wild Card Round, and the 2019 NFC Championship Game. The Super Bowl in the NFC yet again goes through Lambeau and it all starts when the 49ers visit for the NFC Divisional round.
For the Packers, this year seems different than all of the others. They come into this game after receiving a bye last week as they clinched the #1 seed in week 17. Green Bay yet again finishes the year with 13 wins, something head coach Matt Lafleur has done in all three seasons with this team. This season has been full of injuries for the Packers yet they’ve managed to be what many think are the best team in football. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has just picked up where he left off last season, throwing 37 touchdowns to only four interceptions.
Rodgers also has the best quarterback rating in the league and you can thank the great connection he has with Davante Adams. These two are arguably the best quarterback/wide receiver combo in the NFL, with Adams being 2nd of all receivers in receptions with 123. This has allowed him to bring in 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns, finishing top five in both. The explosiveness of Aaron Jones and the ground and pound game of AJ Dillon makes for a great combo in the backfield.
As for the other side of the ball, the defense has stepped up in a big way. With all of the injuries, they continue to be one of the best defensive units in the league. The Packers’ defense is 10th in both passing and rushing yards per game. They may get a few big contributors back with Jaire Alexander (questionable), Za’Darius Smith, and Whitney Merculus. This team is loaded, with even more firepower coming back on both sides of the ball.
The 49ers come into this one full of confidence after beating the 12-5 Cowboys on the road in the Wild Card round. Jimmy Garoppolo was sub-par as he threw for 172 yards and an interception but he didn’t need to be anything more. Coming into this game, the 49ers rushing attack was ranked as one of the best in the league and they showed why on Sunday. Elijah Mitchell had 96 yards for a touchdown. Deebo Samuel became that swiss army knife yet again as he had 38 yards through the air but ran for 72 yards and a touchdown.
This defense stepped up in a huge way, only allowing 17 points to the 1st ranked offense in the league. This defense led by Nick Bosa sacked Dak Prescott five times and also got one interception. The pressure this 49ers’ defensive front got on Dallas was a big reason why they were successful. There was a scare with both Bosa and Fred Warner after leaving the game with injuries but are expected to play Saturday.
It’s expected to be in single digits Saturday night as these two teams meet in the playoffs for the second time in three years. It’s reported that Garoppolo suffered a slight shoulder sprain but will be good to go. Don’t expect this game to be the same from 2019 from either team.
(4) Rams vs (2) Buccaneers
Date: Sunday, January 23rd
Time: 3:00 ET
The first game on Sunday is a toss-up in many’s eyes as the Los Angeles Rams travel to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both of these teams come into this NFC Divisional round after dominating their respective opponents last weekend. The Rams and Buccaneers showed everyone why they have one of the top offenses in the league and they look to carry it over to this week.
The Rams ran all over the Cardinals from the start of the game. It was 21-0 at halftime and ended with a score of 34-11. All eyes were on Matthew Stafford this past Monday and he shined. He only threw for 202 yards but he completed all but four passes and threw for two touchdowns. Stafford also added the a little bit of ground game to his arsenal as he ran for 22 yards and a touchdown.
Cooper Kupp got off to a slow start but it was inevitable he would get going as he and Odell Beckham Jr. caught a touchdown pass. Speaking of the ground game, in Cam Akers return, he ran for 55 yards and caught a pass for 40 yards. He and Sony Michel make for a good duo to take on this Buccaneers rush defense. The defense for the Rams shut down Arizona. To go along with producing a shutout at the half, the Los Angeles defense held Kyler Murray to only 137 yards through the air with two interceptions and no touchdowns. The Rams also shut down the rushing attack of the Cardinals and forced Murray to make some poor decisions.
Tampa Bay also had their way in dominating fashion against the Eagles last weekend. The Buccaneers also shut out their opponent at halftime and in fact, they did it through three quarters. Their defense picked off Jalen Hurts twice and gave up most of the yardage when the game was out of reach. The Buccaneers’ run defense has been outstanding for two years now and it showed on last Sunday when they stopped the Eagles’ top rushing attack from having a 40-yard rusher.
To go with a great run defense is one of the best offenses in the game. Led by Tom Brady, the Buccaneers’ offense came into the playoffs ranked 2nd in points scored and what they showed on Sunday is a huge reason why. Brady threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Evans stepped up huge when they needed him to as he caught nine passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. The rushing attack stepped up in Leonard Fournette‘s absence as both Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard scored a touchdown.
This game is poised to be a shootout with both the Rams and Buccaneers’ offenses being towards the top in the league. With the Buccaneers’ run defense being as good as it is, the Rams can try to exploit the suspect secondary of Tampa Bay. This won’t be easy for Los Angeles either as this Tom Brady-led offense can match the intensity of the game, even with the Buccaneers offensive line being banged up. This game should come down to the last few possessions and whichever defense makes a play might determine the outcome.