NFL football, playoffs: Brady vs. the Rams. All weekend challenges

At 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, the quarterfinals begin with four games that are expected to balance. The spectacular Bengals against the solid Titans, the surprising 49ers at home Rodgers and Mahomes against the very strong Bills

Ricardo Pratesi

Mahomes vs. Allen, Brady vs. Stafford. The NFL playoff schedule lines up with the divisional rounds, the quarterfinals. The level of challenges and expectations is growing. If four of the six games in the first round turned out to be monologues, a balance can now be expected in many, if not all, fields. Here’s the breakdown, race by race.

Tennessee-Cincinnati

The game in Nashville will kick off on Saturday, January 22, starting at 10:30 p.m. Italian time. The Titans, seeded No. 1 in the AFC, rested in the first round, they should recover Derrick Henry, the best running back in the league, who broke his right foot in the middle of the season. 6-2 record with him, 6-3 without him. Tennessee has the second-best run defense, solid quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and a couple of great receivers: giant AJ Brown and veteran Julio Jones. Vrabel is the favorite for Coach of the Year. The Titans aren’t a sexy option, a small market and an unspectacular style of play, but they’re solid. The young and fun Bengals have a fantastic up-and-coming quarterback in Joe Burrow. They retired in the final in Las Vegas, in the wild card. They can hurt the Titans with Chase, the wide receiver who will win the freshman offense of the year award. Many in the United States would prefer to see the Bengals advance, the recovery of Hendrickson, the quarterback receiver, is crucial in that regard, but the Titans are favorites. More complete. The ant could beat the grasshopper. The Bengals have the future on their side, but for now it may be soon…

Green Bay-San Francisco

Starting at 2:15 p.m. between Saturday and Sunday, the spotlight is on Lambeau Field. The NFC’s top-seeded Packers, byes in the first round, challenge the 49ers, authors of the wild-card surprise, for success in Dallas. The Packers won the regular season opener 30-28, but Rodgers, the likely season MVP, is 0-3 in the playoffs against San Francisco, the California-area franchise where he grew up, who snubbed him in the Draft. of 2005, preferring him. Alex Smith. Green Bay tries to recover defensive pins Alexander and Za’Darius Smith, the 49ers lick their wounds after the feat in Texas: they try to recover Nick Bosa and Fred Warner, anchors of the defense. San Francisco has the strong point in the running game, with Elijah Mitchell and electric Deebo Samuel, a receiver who also plays running back. And run defense is the Achilles’ heel of the Wisconsin Greens. But the difference between the quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers versus Jimmy Garoppolo, is too great not to believe that the Packers will ultimately stay in the Super Bowl race.

Tampa Bay-Los Angeles Rams

Sunday, January 23, starting at 9:00 p.m. Italian time. Tom Brady plays: you have to savor each game of the best of each era, at 44 years old he does not have many playoffs left to show. The defending champion Bucs demolished Philadelphia in the first round. And he brought back key players on defense: David, JPP, especially Shaq Barrett. But it’s the attack that makes old coach Arians sleep poorly. Brady has two battered Pro Bowl linemen, center Jensen and tackle Wirfs. He no longer has receivers Godwin and Antonio Brown, cut after yet another bizza, he needs at least Lenny Fournette, the running back, to come back from the injury. Because otherwise he risks falling prey to pressure from the Rams, super thanks to Donald, Floyd and Von Miller. The Californians, who destroyed Arizona in the previous round, won the season before, in Los Angeles. They had also beaten Tampa at home last season. Coach McVay is brilliant, and Cooper Kupp, the top receiver in stops, yards and touchdowns in the regular season, boosted by Stafford, could blow up the bench of the would-be opponent. In short, never bet against Brady in the playoffs, especially with Gronkowski close, but the technical conditions for the surprise would all be there…

Kansas City-Buffalo

On paper, the big game, scheduled between Sunday and Monday, starting at midnight and a half. Kansas City and Buffalo impressed in the first round, intimidating Pittsburgh and New England. The Chiefs are 10-1 in recent games and have an excellent quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, with proven targets like tight end Travis Kelce and speedster Hill. The defense has turned AC and suffers from game action, but has grown and has constant threats in Clark, Jones and Ingram for opposing quarterbacks. The Bills have won the last 8 races: on confidence. And they won the direct seasonal showdown. It “risks” being the early Conference final, it is the revenge of last season, won by the Chiefs. Josh Allen is the best athlete/running back so far in the playoffs in the role, he’s at the top of his career and has a sumptuous battery of receivers available, Diggs’ first target. Coin toss prediction: Whoever wins could also celebrate in the Super Bowl in February.

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