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NFL playoff picks, predictions for divisional games: Ravens run past Bills; Packers stump Rams; Bucs upset Saints

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NFL playoff picks, predictions for divisional games: Ravens run past Bills; Packers stump Rams; Bucs upset Saints

The divisional round of the 2021 NFL playoffs is all about the quarterback matchups.  

The 2021 NFL playoffs features six wild-card matchups over a two-day stretch that should produce an overload of excitement for NFL fans. Indianapolis and Buffalo open the action at 1:05 p.m. ET on Saturday. Los Angeles and Seattle will meet for the third time in the 4:40 p.m. slot, which sets up a prime-time matchup between Tampa Bay and Washington at 8:15 p.m.  

Sunday features another tripleheader. Baltimore and Tennessee meet in a rematch of last year’s AFC divisional playoff game at 1:05 p.m. Chicago faces New Orleans at 4:40 p.m. Cleveland makes its first playoff appearances since 2003 against the rival Steelers at 8:15 p.m.  

Sporting News picks the divisional games straight up:  

  • Last Week: 4-2 
  • Regular season: 129-75 
  • Overall: 133-77 

With that as the mind, below are our picks and predictions for Week 17:  

MORE NFL PLAYOFFS:
AFC & NFC bracket | TV schedule | Super Bowl picks

(Getty Images)

NFL picks, predictions for 2021 divisional playoff games

  • Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (-7)  

Saturday, 4:35 p.m., FOX 

The Packers have home-field advantage, and the challenge for Aaron Rodgers is finding ways to attack a dominant Rams defense. Aaron Donald (ribs) is expected to play, and that interior pressure will be key against a Green Bay offensive line that has been the team strength. Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur know each other well, so that chess match will be fun to watch on both sides. Ultimately, it’s Green Bay’s defense — which has allowed 25 points or less in its last six games — that steals the spotlight in the second half. Rodgers earns a trip to his fifth NFC championship game, and his first one at Lambeau Field. It won’t be easy.  

Pick: Packers 30, Rams 24 

(Getty Images)

  • Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (-3)  

Saturday, 8:15 p.m., NBC  

The Bills have won seven in a row, and the Ravens have won six straight games. Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have found their grooves, and both will be challenged by tough defenses. The difference for Baltimore, however, has been a running game ignited by J.K. Dobbins, who has scored a TD in seven straight games. The Ravens can limit Buffalo’s possessions with that ground game, and the pass defense limits the Bills’ opportunities in the red zone. Marlon Humphrey seals the victory with a late interception.  

Pick: Ravens 28, Bills 24

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  • Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (-10)  

Sunday, 3:30 p.m., CBS 

The Browns will be playing with the confidence that comes from winning the franchise’s first playoff game 25 years. Don’t be surprised if Cleveland takes a first-quarter lead and can have success running the ball with Nick Chubb and former Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt against a Chiefs defense that allowed 4.5 yards per carry. The Browns, however, have allowed 300 or more yards passing seven of their last eight games. Patrick Mahomes will hit Tyreek Hill for a pair of long TD passes in the second half, and the Chiefs will pressure Baker Mayfield to keep pace. It’s going to be the highest-scoring game of the weekend.  

Pick: Chiefs 38, Browns 30 

(Getty Images)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)  

Saturday, 8:15 p.m., FOX 

The Saints swept the regular-season matchups, and Tom Brady threw five interceptions in those two games. Tampa Bay’s offense has improved since, and the addition of Antonio Brown gives New Orleans another issue. Tampa Bay held Alvin Kamara in check in the regular-season matchups, but Drew Brees didn’t make the big mistakes. This adds up to a classic third installment, and Brady leads a late TD drive that seals the road upset with a TD pass to Rob Gronkowski. Who else would it be?  

Pick: Buccaneers 31, Saints 27  

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Warriors’ Draymond Green ejected for yelling at . . . a teammate?

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Warriors' Draymond Green ejected for yelling at . . . a teammate?

Warriors forward Draymond Green was on the receiving end of a horrible technical foul call Thursday night. To make matters worse, it was his second tech of the game, which meant he was ejected. 

Why was the call so bad? Because Green was yelling at a teammate, rookie James Wiseman, rather than an official or an opponent when he got T’d up.

Green was incredulous as he got the news during Golden State’s game against the Knicks.

Oddly, neither of the other two officials chose to confer with colleague John Butler and make sure the second-quarter technical was legitimate. They, too, had to have heard what Green was yelling inside the empty Chase Center.

MORE: Wiseman impresses Kerr with ‘Giannis play’

Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after the game that one of those other officials, Ben Taylor, told him at halftime that Butler thought Green was yelling at him and not Wiseman.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was just happy to see Green gone.

“Draymond, we caught a break when he got thrown out,” he said postgame, per The Associated Press. New York won the game 119-104. 

The NBA can decide to rescind Green’s second technical once it gathers all the information about it. Based on the Warriors’ reactions and Taylor’s reported admission, expect that T to go away quickly on Friday. Too little, too late, but at least some justice will be done after Green was done wrong by the officials.

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NBA trade rumors: Cavaliers to send Kevin Porter Jr. to Rockets following outburst

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NBA trade rumors: Cavaliers to send Kevin Porter Jr. to Rockets following outburst

The Cavaliers have found a taker for Kevin Porter Jr.

Cleveland is trading the second-year wing player to the Rockets, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported late Thursday. It will receive a protected second-round draft pick in return. The Associated Press reported the deal was pending NBA approval.

MORE: Cavs’ Sexton beats Nets’ Big 3 in double OT

The Cavs decided to move Porter after he threw a tantrum over the team giving his locker to newly acquired veteran Taurean Prince and moving him to another part of the locker room. The Athletic reported the Jan. 15 outburst included Porter throwing food and being “combative” during an argument with general manager Koby Altman.

Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff on Monday spoke of Porter as a soon-to-be-former member of the organization.

“We all want to see Kevin be successful,” Bickerstaff said, per The Athletic. “I still feel that way. So whatever it is that happens in the future for him, I hope nothing but the best for him. And it’s part of our responsibility as coaches to give everyone our all and try to make the best of every situation. I can say that we did that.”

Porter did not play for Cleveland this season because of unspecified personal issues. He was charged with weapon and drug offenses last November in Ohio following a car crash. Prosecutors later dropped the charges, ESPN reported. 

He played in 50 games (three starts) for the Cavs last season as a rookie, averaging 10.0 points and 3.2 rebounds. 

Houston will waive injured guard Chris Clemons to make room for Porter on the roster, Feigen reported.

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Blue Jays preparing to play home games in Florida if necessary, report says

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Blue Jays preparing to play home games in Florida if necessary, report says

The Blue Jays are making contingency plans in the event the Canadian government prevents them from playing home games in Toronto at the start of the 2021 MLB season because of COVID-19 concerns.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Wednesday that the club is looking at its spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla., as a possible alternate site and that the Jays and Dunedin officials have held preliminary discussions about holding regular-season games at TD Ballpark.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Jan. 12 that the Canada-U.S. border would remain closed to nonessential travel through at least Feb. 21, and on Jan. 16 Ontario extended emergency measures within the province through Feb. 19 as the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase.

MORE: New stadium to replace Rogers Centre in Toronto, report says

“We would welcome the opportunity if they were to open their season here,” Vince Gizzi, Dunedin’s parks and recreation director, told the Times. “It would just be wonderful for our city, if they were restricted from going in and out of Canada, that they could play here.”

The Jays were forced to play their entire 60-game schedule last year in the U.S. after Canada prohibited them from playing at Rogers Centre amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The team played its home games at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y., the home of its Triple-A minor league affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, beginning in mid-August. The Bisons’ 2020 season had already been canceled, making the stadium available to the Jays full time. 

The Bisons are scheduled to resume playing there next spring, although the exact opening date is unclear because MLB is still deciding when to begin the 2021 minor league season.

Dunedin is also home to Toronto’s affiliate in the Single-A Florida State League, but the Times speculated that any scheduling conflicts could be resolved by having the minor league team play on one of the fields adjacent to the stadium inside the Jays’ complex. The parent club’s home opener is scheduled for April 8. 

MORE: Blue Jays’ free-agent moves assure AL East respectability

The Times noted that MLB and the MLB Players Association would have to approve moving games outside Toronto. 

The NBA’s Raptors are dealing with a similar prohibition. They’ve moved their home games this season to Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., home of the NHL’s Lightning. Dunedin is about 30 minutes west of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The Maple Leafs are playing their home games at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto but are not scheduled to leave Canada in the regular season. The NHL placed all seven of its Canadian teams in one division for the 2021 season and are having them play just each other, with games taking place entirely within Canada.

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