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Predicting which teams will advance to Championship Sunday in 2024 NFL Playoffs

We give our predictions for the AFC and NFC Divisional Round in the 2024 playoffs.

Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers interacts with a cellphone on the field after the game against the Washington Commanders at FedExField on December 31, 2023 in Landover, Maryland. Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Wild Card Round saw the Texans, Packers, Buccaneers, Dolphins and Bills win fairly easily, while the only truly close matchup was the Lions beating the Rams by just one-point. Hopefully the Divisional Round will bring us some closer games, and I mostly expect that to be true, in the AFC.

When we check out the differences between the AFC and NFC, they are somewhat stark when taking into account the experience of QB play. The AFC will have one of Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, or C.J. Stroud represent it in the Super Bowl, while the NFC will have one of Brock Purdy, Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield, or Jordan Love. This isn’t to bash any of those QBs, but any QB power rankings out there would favor the AFC signal callers.

With those top quarterbacks leading the way, the AFC looks like the toughest conference to prognosticate, but we know nothing is easy when picking NFL games. Let’s take a look at this weekend’s games and how I think they’ll go.

2024 NFL Playoff Predictions

Divisional Round

AFC

No. 1 Baltimore Ravens vs. No. 4 Houston Texans

What can’t C.J. Stroud do? The rookie has looked like a veteran for much of the season and showed just how ready he was for the spotlight when he completed 16-of-21 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns against the Browns’ statistically best defense in the league. You can’t really dock him matchup points for being a rookie at this point.

On the other side of the field will be a well rested Ravens club led by the presumptive MVP, Lamar Jackson. That likely MVP was solidified when he led his team to consecutive wins over the Rams, Jaguars, 49ers and Dolphins before resting Jackson against the Steelers in Week 18. Going to San Francisco and handling the 49ers 33-19 was a signature win that has them as the favorite to be Super Bowl champions.

Prediction

The Ravens beat the Texans in the regular season, but it was Week 1 and Stroud’s first ever NFL game. It was an ugly game all around, but the Ravens found the end zone on the ground three times for the win. Neither team was in-synch and I don’t believe we can take much from that matchup.

The Ravens are favored by 9.5-points at this writing, which is a little more than I expected. On paper it makes sense. The likely MVP coming off three weeks rest, facing a rookie QB in his first road playoff start does not make for a close game usually. But Stroud has shown he is a difference maker at the position.

The Texans are 4-1 this season against the spread as road underdogs, showing you just how well Stroud has elevated this team. Of course, it will be a tall task to go into Baltimore and actually win the game, but I do see them being competitive.

Pick: Ravens 23, Texans 20

No. 2 Buffalo Bills vs. No. 3 Kansas City Chiefs

The Bills come into this game on a strong win streak, having won six games in a row, including wins over the Chiefs, Cowboys and Dolphins. But that’s not how this season was headed early on. Before this win streak, they were 6-6, having lost to the Jets, Patriots and Broncos to name a few bad teams. Really, the crux of their season came in a close and somewhat controversial win in Kansas City. With 1:12 on the clock, the Chiefs were down three points and just past mid-field. That’s when Patrick Mahomes threw to Travis Kelce over the middle and before he could get tackled, Kelce lateraled the ball to Kadarius Toney for a go-ahead touchdown. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Toney was clearly lined up offsides and the touchdown was nullified. In retrospect, Toney had been lining up offsides often in that game and wasn’t called. But there’s no doubt he was offsides by a country mile and the penalty needed to be called.

If the Bills would have lost that game t, Kansas City would likely have gotten the No. 2 seed and the Bills might have missed the playoffs entirely. Instead, the Chiefs are playing in Buffalo this weekend.

While Josh Allen has been willing his team to victories, Mahomes has been wishing his receivers would stop dropping passes and lining up offsides. It’s been a frustrating year for the Chiefs, at least compared to previous seasons. Mahomes and their defense kept them on track though. The Chiefs finished second to the Ravens in points allowed per game at 16.7, while the Ravens hit 16.5.

Prediction

The Chiefs under Mahomes have gone 38-11 (77.6%) on the road and have two extra days rest compared to the Bills, who had their game postponed a day due to weather. The Bills have the upper hand in historic matchups with Mahomes and company, but have lost their two playoff games against the Chiefs since 2021. This game will be in Buffalo, but Mahomes has proven the road is no different than home for his winning percentage.

The Bills are currently 2.5-point favorites, but I like the Chiefs to win a close one.

Pick: Chiefs 27, Bills 20

NFC

No. 1 San Francisco 49ers vs. No. 7 Green Bay Packers

The 49ers looked unstoppable for much of the season, dismantling the Cowboys, Eagles, and Jaguars without breaking a sweat. But then Week 16 hit and the Ravens went into San Francisco and gave them a taste of their own medicine. Of course, that was just one game and they’ve shown multiple times they can be dominate on offense and defense this season.

This game places two young quarterbacks in Brock Purdy and Jordan Love against each other, but both have shown more than enough to believe they can get the job done. Love’s first playoff game was a doozie, as he and the Packers took it to the No. 7 seed Cowboys in Dallas, where they had won 16 in a row. Love and the Packers were 2-5 to start the season, but won back-to-back games against the Lions and Chiefs and then were able to ride an easy schedule to the 7th seed in the playoffs. The 49ers are better than Dallas, but Love proved enough to me to take him seriously against the 49ers on the road.

The current line at DraftKings Sportsbook has the 49ers as 9.5-point favorites, the same as the Texans in Baltimore.

Prediction

The 49ers are the better all-around team, have the extra rest and are at home. The Packers showed a lot in Dallas, but there’s no doubt their defense is the worst of all the remaining teams. I just don’t see them slowing down Christian McCaffrey and the 49ers loaded offense or being able to keep up with them on a series by series basis.

Pick: 49ers 33, Packers 17

No. 3 Detroit Lions vs. No. 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Lions are a great story this season and despite a few lows, they always managed to get right back on track. They never lost two games in a row and their loss to Dallas was pretty controversial to say the least. Their 38-6 loss to the Ravens was concerning, but their ability to bounce back each time shows who they are as a team.

The Buccaneers were not supposed to be where they are. After signing Browns, Panthers, and Rams’ castaway Baker Mayfield to be their starter, most saw the Bucs as tanking for Caleb Williams after Tom Brady retired. But, in truth, they did the opposite and have made it to the Divisional Round. It wasn’t pretty, with one stretch where they went 2-7, but playing in the worst division in the league has its perks. The scrappiness of Mayfield and the overall play of Bowles’ defense kept them in most games and led them to a win over the Eagles in the Wild Card Round.

Prediction

The Lions are 6.5-point favorites at home, but, the Buccaneers are 7-1 against the spread as road dogs this season. I want to give the Bucs a closer game due to that 7-1 ATS, but I just don’t see them competing in Detroit this weekend. They lost to the Lions earlier in the season and the 20-6 score doesn’t really show how lopsided the game was, and that game was in Tampa. Add in the motivation to get Detroit’s fan base a shot at the Super Bowl, and I think the Lions coast.

Pick: Lions 28, Bucs 13