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NFL playoff schedule 2021: Updated bracket & TV channels for AFC, NFC divisional games

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NFL playoff schedule 2021: Updated bracket & TV channels for AFC, NFC divisional games

One weekend away from championship Sunday.

After a fairly entertaining super wild-card weekend featuring two tripleheaders on Saturday and Sunday, a little bit of NFL playoff normalcy returns this weekend, with four matchups spread across two days.

In the NFC, the Rams and their vicious D hopes to shut down the No. 1 seeded Packers at Lambeau Field. The Rams will be facing a difficult challenge, though, not only that they’re facing Aaron Rodgers, but that they are searching for an answer at QB themselves; John Wolford’s status for the matchup is up in the air following a hospital visit while Jared Goff continues to nurse his thumb back to health.

Elsewhere in the NFC, the Saints are looking to hand the Buccaneers their third L of the 2020 season after a couple of regular-season victories helped catapult NOLA back to another division crown. Tom Brady has his hands full vs. the Saints, throwing five interceptions in two games vs. New Orleans this year.

MORE: Watch NFL playoff games live with fuboTV (7-day free trial)

In the AFC, it’s a clash of two tough, hard-nosed defenses as the Bills take on the Ravens in Orchard Park, with a pair of 2018 first-round quarterbacks leading the charge. Lamar Jackson put to bed the (pretty ridiculous) narrative that he coudn’t win a playoff game, and now has a chance to win two. Josh Allen exorcised playoff demons of his own with a big 27-24 win over Indianapolis.

The other AFC game of the weekend features the surprise Browns and the No. 1-seeded Chiefs: Cleveland walked into Pittsburgh and rocked the Steelers on Sunday night, so don’t be surprised if the Browns’ D does enough to stymie the potent Chiefs offense. Maybe.

Here’s what you need to know about this weekend’s divisional round matchups.

NFL playoff bracket 2021

(SN illustration)

NFL playoff schedule

Divisional round

Saturday, Jan. 16

Matchup Start time TV channel Live stream
Packers vs. Rams 4:35 p.m. ET Fox fuboTV
Bills vs. Ravens 8:15 p.m. ET NBC fuboTV

Sunday, Jan. 17

Matchup Start time TV channel Live stream
Chiefs vs. Browns 3:05 p.m. ET CBS fuboTV
Saints vs. Buccaneers 6:40 p.m. ET Fox fuboTV

NFL divisional round matchups

NFC

  • No. 1 Packers vs. No. 6 Rams

Ready, rested and raring to go, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are set to defend home turf vs. the Rams in the first matchup of divisional weekend. 

The Packers face a tough task in one of the NFL’s top defenses who grounded the Seahawks and Russell Wilson, holding them to 20 points and avenging the Week 16 loss in the first-round win.

The Rams still have questions of their own, namely, who will start at quarterback this upcoming Sunday. While Jared Goff came entered the game in relief of quarterback John Wolford — who was sent to a local hospital as a precaution following a Jamal Adams hit — head coach Sean McVay has yet to devote to either passer. Superstar defensive lineman Aaron Donald also sustained a rib injury in the wild-card matchup vs. the Seahawks, leaving some questions to how healthy he will be come Saturday.

  • No. 2 Saints vs. No. 5 Buccaneers

It’s perhaps the ultimate battle of division supremacy: Saints vs. Buccaneers, Round 3.

The Saints asserted their dominance over Tom Brady and the Bucs during the regular season, going 2-0 and outscoring Tampa Bay 72-26 in the two matchups. Thankfully, playoff positions aren’t earned on point

With the Saints earning the NFC South division crown once again, the Buccaneers face a tough road on the way to the Super Bowl, having to go through New Orleans and a seemingly resurgent Drew Brees en route to another Brady Super Bowl appearance. It’ll be a tough matchup for New Orleans’ D, though, with the Bucs’ offense hitting its stride over the last five games of the season, scoring 172 points over that span. They put up another 31 points on a stout Washington Football Team defense on Saturday night.

AFC

  • No. 2 Bills vs. No. 5 Ravens

In the words of rock band Staind, “It’s been a while.”

The Bills have waited 25 years for a playoff victory, and they just happened to eke out a victory over the Colts on Saturday afternoon. It was a close game that nearly came down to a Josh Allen fumble; luckily, the Bills jumped on the ball and preserved the victory. 

The Ravens avenged their 2019 playoff loss to the Titans with a big win over Tennessee on Sunday, disrespecting their budding rival in the process. Now, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens have to deal with Allen’s big arm and a hard-nosed Buffalo team on a mission in Orchard Park.

  • No. 1 Chiefs vs. No. 6 Browns

Cleveland’s stunning, shocking, surprising victory over the Steelers on Sunday night have loads of Cleveland doubters screaming “Cleveland rocks.”

While some wouldn’t label the win as such, consider this: the Browns, dealing with a dire COVID-19 situation, were without head coach Kevin Stefanski on Sunday and a litany of personnel guys after positive coronavirus tests earlier in the week, leaving Mike Prieter as the acting head coach for the game. Cleveland blew the doors off Pittsburgh, 48-37, though the score wasn’t nearly as close as the game was.

Now, the 14-2 Chiefs and Mahomes hope to halt the momentum of the Browns as they look to earn back-to-back Super Bowl victories.

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How long are CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic out? Injury timeline, return date, latest updates on Trail Blazers stars

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How long are CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic out? Injury timeline, return date, latest updates on Trail Blazers stars

The Trail Blazers will be without two of their most important players for an extended period.

Portland’s depth took another hit after guard CJ McCollum and center Jusuf Nurkic both suffered injuries during January games. The Trail Blazers, already dealing with the loss of Zach Collins after he underwent ankle surgery in late December, must now lean even more on Damian Lillard and figure out a way to avoid a major drop in the Western Conference standings.

What’s next for the Portland stars? Here’s everything we know about McCollum and Nurkic and the latest news on when they may return to the court.

MORE: When is the NBA trade deadline in 2021?

What is CJ McCollum’s injury?

McCollum left a Jan. 16 game against the Hawks with what the Trail Blazers initially called a left foot sprain. During the first quarter of that contest, Atlanta center Clint Capela jumped to block McCollum’s shot attempt at the rim and landed directly on his left foot.

Additional testing revealed McCollum had suffered a small hairline fracture in his left foot and a mid-foot sprain.

“Bad timing, it’s terrible timing,” McCollum said of the injury. “It’s nothing I can really do about it. I work hard to take care of myself. I put a lot of time in. I put a lot of effort into my body. This is one of the situations where there’s not much I could have done. Maybe if I would’ve done a left-handed layup he wouldn’t have fell on top of me, but it is what it is.

“I think I’m at the point in my life where, control what you can control. I’m not gonna feel sorry for myself. I live a good life. I’m still gonna live a good life. This is something that I can overcome with some time and some rest.”

What is Jusuf Nurkic’s injury?

Nurkic left a Jan. 14 game against the Pacers with a right wrist fracture. During the third quarter of that contest, Nurkic swiped at a driving Malcolm Brogdon, then immediately grabbed his wrist. He walked back to the locker room at the next timeout break and did not return.

“We’re always gonna be here for [Nurkic]. We’re always gonna show our support for him,” Lillard said. “But we gotta give him his space and let him take that in. It’s a tough thing. It comes with what we do, and it can happen at any time. I think that’s the best thing to do and how we should handle it.”

How long will CJ McCollum be out?

Portland announced on Jan. 19 that McCollum will be re-evaluated in four weeks. If he stays on that timeline, McCollum will miss at least 16 games, but the 29-year-old remains optimistic about his future.

“I’m battle-tested, man. I’m good,” McCollum said. “I’ve been through a lot in my life. I’m in a good stage of life. Mentally, I’m at peace.”

How long will Jusuf Nurkic be out?

Portland announced on Jan. 19 that Nurkic underwent wrist surgery and will be re-evaluated in six weeks. If he stays on that timeline, Nurkic will miss at least 23 games. Lillard expects backup big man Harry Giles to play a much larger role with Nurkic sidelined.

“There’s gonna be a huge opportunity for [Giles], and I think he’s prepared for it,” Lillard said. “Mentally, I think he’s a super confident young player. Every morning when I come into the facility, he’s on one of the baskets working on his game, sweating. … He’s been in the gym. He’s been preparing himself for whenever that opportunity came.

“I think now it’s here, and I think he’ll be ready for it. We’re gonna need him to be.”

CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic stats for 2020-21 season

McCollum  Per Game  Nurkic
26.7 Points 9.8
3.9 Rebounds 7.7
5.0 Assists 2.8
1.3 Steals 0.9
0.3 Blocks 0.9
1.0 Turnovers 1.9
33.8 Minutes 23.3
47.3 Field goal % 48.5
44.1 3-point % 25.0
84.4 Free throw % 55.6

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FS1’s Colin Cowherd has nuclear take on Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, AFC championship game

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FS1's Colin Cowherd has nuclear take on Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes, AFC championship game

Hey, any interest in hearing an NFL take specifically designed to provoke an emotional response? Well, here’s Colin Cowherd!

The FS1 bloviator took to his microphone on Tuesday’s edition of “The Herd” and decided it was time to drop a nuclear sports opinion on his audience. Patrick Mahomes’ status for Sunday’s AFC championship game is up in the air with the Chiefs quarterback still in the NFL’s concussion protocol, so Cowherd suggested the league should simply wait until he is healthy before the contest between Buffalo and Kansas City is played.

MORE: Mahomes’ mom was not pleased with hit that injured QB

“We want Mahomes against [Bills QB] Josh Allen. That’s reasonable,” Cowherd said. “I’m sitting here this morning thinking, if I’m the NFL, Patrick Mahomes is going through protocol. I find the day Patrick Mahomes can play — that’s when we play.”

If that’s how Cowherd truly feels, then he should have taken it a step further and called out the NFL for not stopping the divisional game in which Mahomes was injured and waiting until he was ready to return. Is it really fair to say the Chiefs defeated the Browns when Chad Henne was the guy scrambling on the final drive? To the time machine!

But Cowherd doesn’t actually care about that. He knows how ridiculous his words sound. He isn’t concerned with offering a meaningful idea, just one that causes people to freak out. (And he did his job. Just check out the replies to this tweet.)

As for Mahomes, the 25-year-old cleared “some big steps” in the concussion protocol, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, though it’s still unclear whether he will be available against the Bills. Should Mahomes be ruled out, maybe the Chiefs can ask Cowherd to write up a special petition detailing why the NFL should take the unprecedented step of putting a conference championship game on hold as a star player continues to recover. Let’s push it back a month just to be safe.

That’s reasonable, right?

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Changes to March Madness schedule could create greatest day (or days) in NCAA Tournament history

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Changes to March Madness schedule could create greatest day (or days) in NCAA Tournament history

The opening Thursday of March Madness 2021 will not be the same. It always has been a holiday for college basketball fans — some of whom planned vacation days, called in sick or skipped school — to sit at home and binge on a day filled with 16 NCAA Tournament first-round games.

The challenges of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic convinced the NCAA to push back the start of the tournament, what is known as the First Four, to Thursday, March 18.

Wait until you hear, though, what the tradeoff for that change to tradition will be: quite possibly the greatest two days of college basketball action in our lifetimes.

MORE: Why NCAA selection committee better not screw ’21 tournament up

Games in the Sweet 16, which will be contested at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, will be played in sequence on March 27 and March 28. There will be no overlap involving these games. There will be four games each day, played one after the other, so fans will not have to choose which matchup has greater appeal. You can watch each of them, one after the other: four on Saturday, four on Sunday.

You’re no longer going to need a second screen or a seat in a sports bar to see all the action — just a really comfortable chair and a stocked fridge.

There will be, for this year, no more choosing between such simultaneous classics as LSU-Texas and UCLA-Gonzaga, which were played in the same window on a Thursday night in 2006, or Virginia Tech-Duke and Kentucky-Houston, which shared the same late Friday timeslot in the most recent NCAA Tournament we had, in 2019.

A college basketball season like no other will end with an NCAA Tournament like no other.

In the case of March Madness, that could be a good thing.

Revised March Madness schedule for 2021

First Four: Thursday, March 18, Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (Bloomington, Ind.) and Mackey Arena (West Lafayette, Ind.).

First round: Friday, March 19 and Saturday, March 20, Assembly Hall, Mackey Arena; Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Hinkle Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Second Round: Sunday, March 20 and Monday, March 21, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Hinkle Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium.

Regional semifinals: Saturday, March 27 and Sunday, March 28, Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Regional finals: Monday, March 29 and Tuesday, March 30, Lucas Oil Stadium.

Final Four: Saturday, April 3, Lucas Oil Stadium.

NCAA championship: Monday, April 5, Lucas Oil Stadium.

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