2021/22 NFL playoffs divisional round: what to know about each clash
It's the Bengals vs the Titans and the 49ers vs on the Packers on Saturday, before Sunday sees the Rams go to the Bucs and the Bills visit the Chiefs.
Derrick Henry returns to action, Aaron Rodgers is after his third NFC Championship Game in a row, Patrick Mahomes is going for a fourth straight AFC Championship Game, and Josh Allen is out to end the Kansas City Chiefs’ reign.
Welcome to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
After an underwhelming Super Wild Card Weekend, the postseason heads into its second round, featuring the league’s best eight teams and matchups that promise to be closer affairs.
Bengals vs Titans: Saturday, 4:35pm
Surprise package the Cincinnati Bengals get the divisional round underway on Saturday when they visit the Tennessee Titans.
The Bengals defeated the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 in the wild card round, with two touchdown passes from Joe Burrow and some controversial calls from the officials.
The Titans, meanwhile, got a rest in the wild card round as the top seeds in the AFC, and go into their home clash against the Bengals as favourites.
Tennessee welcome back running back Henry, who hasn’t played since the end of October due to a foot injury that required surgery.
Henry has been a monster performer in the playoffs. In three games in the 2019 postseason, he racked up 446 rushing yards, including 182 and 195 in the wins over the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens, respectively.
The Bengals’ hopes are pinned on their two young stars in offence: quarterback Burrow and rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who combined for 13 touchdowns in the regular season.
49ers vs Packers: Saturday, 8:15pm ET
On Saturday night, the Green Bay Packers host the San Francisco 49ers, who last weekend eliminated the Dallas Cowboys in a dramatic finale.
Top seeds in the NFC, Green Bay are favourites to win at Lambeau Field, but Rodgers is 0-3 against San Francisco in the playoffs and the spectre of those defeats will be present in Wisconsin this weekend.
Rodgers and his accomplice Davante Adams will attack a young Niners perimeter, but when San Francisco have the ball it’ll be the Deebo Samuel show. In the 49ers’ win over Dallas, the 26-year-old became the second wide receiver to register 50 or more rushing yards (72) and run for at least one touchdown in a postseason game, together with James Lofton.
Rams vs Buccaneers: Sunday, 3:05pm ET
On Sunday, the first game of the day will see reigning Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Los Angeles Rams.
Tom Brady (0-5) is yet to taste defeat in his five postseason games as a Bucs quarterback, but that run is under threat against a Rams team aiming to become only the second franchise to play the Super Bowl at its home stadium.
Brady and the Buccaneers were the first to do so, last season.
The 44-year-old’s experience could make the difference, as could a Rams defensive front that includes two of the best there are when it comes to pressuring passers: Aaron Donald and Von Miller.
Bills vs Chiefs: Sunday, 6:40pm ET
Closing out the divisional round will be the game that is getting the most attention: the Buffalo Bills against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The two teams faced off in last season’s AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs running out 38-24 winners.
One of the enduring images of that clash is that of Stefon Diggs, the Bills wide receiver, hands on hips as he watched the Chiefs’ celebrations from Buffalo’s bench.
In the regular season, the Bills beat Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium, but in the playoffs, Mahomes has only lost to Brady, and that’s why the Chiefs are favourites to advance to their fourth conference final on the spin.
Quarterback Allen and the league’s best defence are the Bills’ strengths, as Buffalo bid to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1994 season.
If Cincinnati can surprise Tennessee and the Chiefs defeat the Bills, Kansas City will become the first team in history to play four straight conference deciders at home.