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2020 divisional weekend open thread

Who will make the conference championships this year?

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Sunday, Jan. 12

Houston Texans (10-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)

Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
3:05pm ET/12:05pm PT, CBS

Houston heads to Arrowhead as severe underdogs, but if last night told us anything we shouldn’t count out the visitors!

The Texans won a thriller in overtime last week, but that was against the Buffalo Bills’ stiff defense. They should be able to put up more points today which puts some pressure on QB Deshaun Watson and the offense to do just that. Of course, their defense is going to have their hands full dealing with the Chiefs.

It starts with QB Pat Mahomes. His 2019 season wasn’t anywhere near his 2018 campaign, but he still led the Chiefs to a 12-win year and the #2 seed which is good for home field advantage throughout now that the #1 Baltimore Ravens were downed. KC did have one of the weaker run defenses, so perhaps they’ll be under the cosh.

Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at Green Bay Packers (13-3)

Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
6:40pm ET/3:40pm PT, FOX

Frosty football in Wisconsin today with temps in the mid-20s.

Will that affect Seattle at all? QB Russell Wilson and HC Pete Carroll have seen their share of playoff contests, so I doubt they’ll be fazed. Wonder if the temps will keep the ball on the ground for much of the game.

I’m not sure QB Aaron Rodgers will oblige though. I’m sure he’ll have command to air it out for first-year HC and former Los Angeles Rams OC Matt LaFleur. Much like the Chiefs, they’re hosting a cold game at home with a below-average run defense. So they’ll need to keep things bottled up on the ground to keep a hold of home field advantage.

Saturday, Jan. 11

Minnesota Vikings (10-6) at San Francisco 49ers (13-3)

Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
4:35pm ET/1:35pm PT, NBC

Minnesota was able to get a win in the Superdome over the New Orleans Saints, so they’re clearly able to deal with hostile environments. They did, however, squander a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. They won’t be able to keep their playoff run going with that kind of performance late in regulation. It’ll be a tough task today, but the Vikes have so much talent around QB Kirk Cousins that they should be able to challenge a very good defense. We’ll have to see how effective WR Adam Thielen is after picking up an ankle injury in practice this week.

For San Francisco, it’s a weird dichotomy. On one hand, their defensive front seven is fantastic. It should be strong enough to keep them competitive throughout as long as the offense provides some support, but that’s what’s going to make this one interesting. It’s the first-ever playoff game for HC Kyle Shanahan and QB Flimsy Playoffpolo. The Vikings’ defense can be suffocating. There are bound to be situations set up for adversity. How this offense responds in those moments, especially any third downs with more than five yards to convert, will be particularly telling.

Tennessee Titans (9-7) at Baltimore Ravens (14-2)

M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
8:15pm ET/5:15pm PT, CBS

This one seems obvious, no? A decent albeit unspectacular Titans side in Charm City taking on the likely MVP? Still, the NFL has a way of keeping these things close.

Tennessee will obviously rely on RB Derrick Henry, the NFL’s rushing yards leader in 2019. The offensive line, including former Los Angeles Rams OL Rodger Saffold III, is more than capable of battling against plus defensive fronts, but will they need to get more out of their passing game? They didn’t really last week against the New England Patriots in the wild card in which QB Ryan Tannehill threw for just 72 passing yards.

Baltimore, though, can do it all. For them, it’s more about meeting the standard of 2019. And that’s a high, high standard to come close to. They’re obviously looking to make a run, but they can’t overlook things tonight. HC John Harbaugh has done this plenty of times, so I doubt he won’t have QB Lamar Jackson and company in the right mindset.