Each week through the 2019 season, former NFL defensive back and current BBC analyst Jason Bell will highlight five things to look out for that weekend. Watch Jason twice a week on the BBC.
Here are some key things to look out for on Divisional Weekend.
A new wave of QBs
This will be the first divisional round without Tom Brady or Drew Brees since 2008. Wow, from the AFC standpoint you always thought it was a fast-track for the Patriots, and you always thought it was more competitive in the NFC. Drew Brees has had to fight his way to get into the Championship each year. You now see this next wave of Quarterbacks coming through and you're looking at who is going to be the future in the NFL and the battles to come. I hate to say out with the old, in with the new but that's the way the NFL is. Everybody gets older and you can't play forever. I'm excited that this next wave of young Quarterbacks is starting to emerge so we can have a lot of great battles in the future. If you want to be an elite team in the NFL, you have to have a great Quarterback. A lot of these teams are in good hands with their young Quarterbacks.
If there was any line-up I thought the San Francisco 49ers didn't want, I would have said it was the Minnesota Vikings. I didn't think the Vikings were going to beat the Saints to get there, but this is going to be a tough match-up for the 49ers. I'm looking to see which one of these Quarterbacks has a good game. Kirk Cousins has been playing well recently and Jimmy Garoppolo has been so efficient. Obviously, George Kittle is San Francisco's best offensive weapon and he's had a great year. The Vikings have struggled in their secondary with their corners, but their safeties have been great at covering tight ends this year. So that's a match-up that I'm keen to watch. Both of these teams are led by their defensive lines so it will be interesting to see who can control the game on defense by pressure. I don't think the home advantage means anything. This is going to be close and it's tough to call.
The Tennessee Titans are coming off a big win, where there were the bully, they were the aggressor, and more physical than New England. But that could change quickly this week. Baltimore Ravens defense is built to stop a power running team, so I expect their big guys to slow down the running game. They also have the defensive backs to cover all the receiving threats that the Titans have in the play-action pass game. The Ravens have Lamar Jackson who is the MVP, he is elite, and I think we will continue to see that. Tennessee defense played well last week but Lamar Jackson is the X factor. Even when you have the right play-call to stop him he still finds a way to beat you. He's going to be the advantage and they will wear down this defense of Tennessee. I just think that the magic of Lamar plus their improvement on defense give them the advantage.
The first thing that's cool about this game is the match-up between Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. We talk about the Quarterbacks of the future, these guys are going to be battling for years to come. It's going to be so exciting to watch them and it's good for the NFL overall. The Kansas City Chiefs have so many offensive receiving threats and the Houston Texans have struggled with their defensive backfield. I'm expecting that to be the advantage for the Chiefs. However, it's hard to doubt the Houdini that is Deshaun Watson. He's good at getting out of tough situations and avoiding pressure. I think it's great having JJ Watt back and he's uplifted that team with his leadership. I think it's a bad match-up for the Texans and I think the Chiefs make it happen on Sunday.
This is the toughest game to call. Once again, we get to see two Super Bowl winning Quarterbacks and every game is packed with stars. They can both make big time throws and they both have receivers that can catch the ball deep, vertically and flip the field. It's inevitable that one of these Quarterbacks is going to make the big play that wins this for them. I'm interested in who can pull it off on defense. When the Packers have had success they have caused turnovers and given it back to their offense. That's what they need to do here to give Aaron Rodgers and that offense as many opportunities as they can. So whichever defense steps up, the Seahawks or the Packers, and creates turnover, that's going to be the winner. It's tough to call, I know I've got to pick so I'm going with the Packers due to home field advantage. But it's going to be a nail biter.