NFL Playoffs: What We Learned From the Divisional Round

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Home teams won three of four games during the N.F.L.’s divisional round, but there was plenty of fretting along the way. The Buffalo Bills rode their defense to a win, the Green Bay Packers relied on their offense and the heavily favored Kansas City Chiefs, who lost quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a concussion, mostly just survived. The weekend closed with a hyped battle in New Orleans between N.F.L. legends — Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Drew Brees of the Saints — that resulted in the round’s lone upset.

Here’s what we learned:

  • The Ravens are familiar with Murphy’s Law. The adage states anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Baltimore got an extreme lesson in that during Saturday’s 17-3 loss to the Bills.

    Justin Tucker, the game’s most reliable kicker from inside 50 yards, missed 41- and 46-yard field-goal attempts, with both attempts bouncing off the uprights. It was quickly reported that Tucker had not missed two such kicks in any single game over his 154 career regular-season and playoff games, but that was understating how unusual it was for Tucker. He also never missed two such kicks in any college game.

    Lamar Jackson, a quarterback celebrated for efficient passing and thrilling runs, had the third-worst passer rating of his 41 career starts (including postseason) while gaining just 34 yards rushing. He had a mistake in the red zone turn into a 101-yard pick-6 and he had a bad snap get away from him, leading to a hard hit that gave him a concussion.

    Tucker and Jackson were hardly alone in their misery. Mark Andrews, one of the game’s best tight ends, caught just four of the 11 passes thrown his way, dropping at least one pass that looked like a sure touchdown. He was also Jackson’s target on the play that turned into a pick-6. Only Patrick Mekari had a worse day. A second-year player out of Cal, Mekari inherited the starting center job from an ineffective Matt Skura during the regular season. On Saturday, two of Mekari’s snaps resulted in fumbles — one of which was the play in which Jackson was concussed.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers, 3:05 p.m., Fox

Tampa Bay has been on a roll for the last two months and Green Bay had the N.F.L.’s best offense this season. How the Buccaneers deal with Wisconsin’s freezing weather could play an enormous role. (Early line: Packers -4)

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs, 6:40 p.m., CBS

Patrick Mahomes felt well enough to tweet after Sunday’s game, but Kansas City’s fate rests on whether the team’s starting quarterback is cleared from the N.F.L.’s concussion protocol. (Early line: Chiefs -3)

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