And then there were four. The Ravens, Chiefs, 49ers and Lions all won their Divisional round games to advance to the Championship round and the final step before the Suer Bowl. The 49ers trailed for much of the day against the Packers, but the 49ers defense and Brock Purdy’s final drive put them over the top. In the other NFC matchup, the Lions outlasted the Buccaneers, who always seemed to be within striking distance, but couldn’t get enough strikes to hit. In the AFC, we saw yet another great playoff game between the Bills and Chiefs, as their two quarterbacks battled back and forth all night. The only game that was a blowout, was also tied at halftime, as the Ravens put it on the upstart Texans in the second half.
Now that we are down to four teams, it’s as difficult to pick the winners as the NFL would hope. But, I will give it a shot below.
2024 NFL Playoff Predictions
Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens
These two teams meet for the first time since September of 2021. That game was a fireworks show as both Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes went off, but the Ravens squeaked by with a 36-35 victory on Jackson’s two fourth quarter rushing touchdowns.
On the whole, Mahomes has gotten the best of the Ravens in his career, going 3-1 against the team. Jackson was the starter in all four matchups. Of course, this year feels a little different, as the Chiefs haven’t been hitting on all cylinders this season, while the Ravens, for the most part, have.
The Chiefs beat the Bills last week, in part, to Travis Kelce looking like the Kelce of old. He’s been very good this season, but he’s had more drops than usual and just hasn’t been quite as dominant. The thing is, the Bills had injury problems over the middle and Kelce and Mahomes took advantage. I like the Ravens to be able to slow Kelce down better than the Bills.
Baltimore is putting up historical efficiency numbers, as they are the hottest team in DVOA ever at this point in the season. They also should get TE Mark Andrews back this week and CB Marlon Humphrey was at practice on Wednesday. If he can return as well, the Ravens will be ready to roll.
Mahomes is always the difference maker and I would not be surprised if he found a way to beat the red hot Ravens, but with Kelce seeing a tougher matchup and the amount of reliable receivers behind Rashee Rice being nil, I’m leaning Ravens.
Pick: Ravens 27-24
Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers
The Lions beat the Buccaneers and the 49ers beat the Packers last week in the Divisional round. Both wins were somewhat close, with the 49ers being a bit closer. Neither team is rolling over opponents at the moment, but the 49ers are at home and have a better overall roster.
Offensively these two teams have similar metrics, with the 49ers slightly ahead, but defensively, the 49ers win the battle of the stats. But, the Packers and rookie Jordan Love were able to move the ball and had a real shot at winning that game last week. The defense is good, but not dominant. They still needed Brock Purdy, who had a middling game overall, to have a strong game-winning drive. And it helped that Love threw an inexplicable pass over the middle on first down right to Dre Greenlaw.
I see these as two very good teams, but teams that will need to play their best to win. That should give the Lions a punchers chance despite being 6.5-point underdogs. I expect Deebo Samuel to play, but I also expect him to have trouble with his shoulder injury, especially with the way he runs with the ball. If he’s a full go and doesn’t leave the game, it would be a big boost to the 49ers.
The Lions rookie phenom, TE Sam LaPorta, looked better last week than the week before coming off his knee injury. I would expect him to be a little healthier this week.
I’ve had a tough time with this one. I like both teams to have a real chance this week, which would have me betting the Lions against the spread, but picking a winner is much tougher. The Lions have had two home games with their fans absolutely tearing the dome down with noise. They won’t have that this week.
Pick: 49ers 23-Lions 17