As quickly as Nickelodeon deployed the slime cannons, the playoff field in the NFL has been cut nearly in half. In the aftermath of Super Wild-Card Weekend, just eight teams are left standing, ready to make a bid to land in the conference championships and continue their hopes of winning Super Bowl LV. It's at this point where the heavy-hitters are added to the pool with the No. 1 seeded Chiefs and Packers now coming out of their first-round bye. They will begin what is primed to be a deep playoff run in a slate that is filled with primetime quarterback matchups.
While all of these contests are must-see TV, we're here to determine a definitive ranking of the divisional round slate, pointing out which is the cream of the crop. Nearly all of these games have strong storylines built-in already, which makes this entire weekend action-packed, but there is one that stands out above the rest for legendary reasons so let's get right to it.
1. Buccaneers at Saints
Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET (FOX)
To me, you just can't get any better than Brady vs. Brees. This is likely the last time we'll see these two legends square off against one another with the Saints quarterback possibly leaning towards retirement at the end of this year. This will also be the first time ever that two quarterbacks over the age of 40 will face in the playoffs, which Brady seems well aware of.
The Saints have owned the Bucs in their two regular-season matchups this year, outscoring them 72-26. If that continues, Drew Brees is one step closer to reaching the Super Bowl and possibly setting up one of the better walk-offs we've seen in recent memory for the future Hall of Famer. Meanwhile, if Tampa Bay can turn the tide, how sweet is that taste of revenge? Brady would have a true statement playoff win under his belt during his first season with the Buccaneers and would be taking his club to the NFC championship. A win of this magnitude would also help his case in the "chicken or the egg" argument between him and Bill Belichick for their two-decade run in New England. That's merely a side story, but the overall magnitude of a showdown between two of the greatest quarterbacks the league has ever seen is must-see TV and a perfect way to send the divisional round off.
2. Browns at Chiefs
Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET (CBS, CBS All Access)
There are really three pieces to why this game could be special. The first is simply seeing what the Chiefs look like as they officially begin their title defense. Throughout the year, it seemed like K.C. was sleepwalking through the regular season and waiting to flip a switch once the playoffs began. With that time now upon them, it'll be extremely interesting to see if Kansas City is truly capable of elevating to its peak performance. If that turns out to be the case, it'll be curtains for the rest of the NFL and they'll be well on their way to being the first team in nearly two decades to win back-to-back Super Bowls.
The second surrounds the Browns, who seemed to shock everyone in the NFL by beating the Steelers on Super Wild-Card Weekend, marking the franchise's first playoff win since 1994. Do they have another upset in them? That'd really set the NFL ablaze.
Finally, it's about the quarterbacks. Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield have a history of putting together unbelievable performances. The most notable came back in college when Mahomes was at Texas Tech and Mayfield was under center for the Sooner in Oklahoma. In 2016, the two combined for a college football record with 1,279 yards passing in what was an epic display through the air.
.@bakermayfield and @PatrickMahomes rewrote the NCAA record books when Oklahoma and Texas Tech met on Oct 22, 2016.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 12, 2021
Mayfield would throw for 545 yards and 7 touchdowns, while Patrick Mahomes threw for 734 yards and 5 touchdowns in the Sooners’ 66-59 win.pic.twitter.com/SJ3e1Sf6qm
Is another instant classic on deck for the playoffs? Let's find out!
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC)
In all honesty, there's a case to be made for this game to be as high as No. 1 on this list. Had there not been two Hall of Fame quarterbacks going toe-to-toe and the defending champions beginning their title defense, it probably would have been. Buffalo and Baltimore were two of the hottest teams in the NFL to end the regular season and both put together impressive wins to advance past wild-card weekend.
The Bills come into Saturday's contest winning 10 of their last 11 games, including seven-straight. Meanwhile, Josh Allen has been on an absolute tear over the last month, completing 73% of his passes, averaging over 300 yards passing, and has 14 total touchdowns to just one interception over his last four games. Meanwhile, the Ravens have won six straight and Lamar Jackson has seemingly returned to his MVP play from a season ago.
One of these streaks will be snapped on Saturday and if one club can put together a decisive win, it may send a message to Kansas City that the coming out of the AFC is hardly a sure thing.
4. Rams at Packers
Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET (FOX)
Injuries have simply put a damper on this matchup. Not only is the quarterback situation still a question for Los Angeles with Jared Goff (right thumb) and John Wolford (neck) dealing with injuries, but now star defensive tackle Aaron Donald reportedly has a rib injury he suffered in last week's win over Seattle. Sean McVay did display confidence that "the Terminator will be ready" but it's also a matter of how impactful can he be while playing. If he's limited, it could result in Aaron Rodgers and the Packers cruising to the NFC championship. If he's able to return to form, well things could get interesting.
Again, this is all about health. If Donald and either Goff or Wolford can go, our upset detectors could be spouting off.