Just seven NFL playoff games remain, and all eight remaining teams are just two wins away from reaching Super Bowl LV. Four exciting matchups are on deck this weekend in the divisional round, and the Chiefs and Packers now get into the mix after their wild-card byes. A pair of 5-seeds also meet their conferences' No. 2 seeds, including a big prime-time showdown of Tom Brady versus Drew Brees.
How can all eight teams pick up wins and move on? Let's take a closer look at all four matchups and pick out game plan keys -- one on offense, one on defense -- that can create edges and a path to the conference championships for each team.
(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (2) New Orleans Saints
Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET | FPI predicts NO (53.6%) by 1
How the Buccaneers can beat the Saints
1. Open up the middle of the field against 2-Man coverage
From Week 13 though the Bucs' wild-card win over Washington, Brady has thrown 14 touchdowns and only one interception, with a Total QBR of 82.2. He's playing his best football of the season. He's dialed in. The timing and ball location are there. So yes, I still like Brady throwing out of 12 personnel with play-action. And we will see that versus the Saints. But the Bucs will also need to scheme up New Orleans' 2-Man coverage and attack the middle of the field.
Through wild-card weekend, the Saints have played 2-Man on 22.4% of coverage snaps, tops in the league. They will use their two-deep safeties to bracket, jump and cut the in-breakers in Tampa's offense with aggressive, grabby man-coverage underneath. Look for the Bucs to clear the middle of the field this time around, occupying the safeties with outside verticals and clearing space for Brady. Think seam balls to receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin with solid location on the throw.
2. Get simulated pressure against Saints QB Drew Brees
Todd Bowles' defense had a blitz rate of 37.5% in the Week 9 head-to-head matchup with the Saints. Pressure is a key part of this defense's identity. I do think we will see sim pressures again from Tampa, working to speed up the process for Brees. Yes, the execution has to be better for Tampa Bay here, in both front and coverage, but Bowles can scheme free runners to Brees.
Beyond that, the Bucs have to limit the Saints' route tree in Quarters. We know Brees is going to throw the deep in-breakers, seams and overs. And that really brings safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead into the mix. We need to see both Winfield and Whitehead as "top-down" players in this matchup. Key the breaks and drive on the ball. Tampa Bay must limit Brees on middle-of-the-field concepts and force him to throw into contested windows.
How the Saints can beat the Buccaneers
1. Run the staple concepts in coach Sean Payton's offense
If the Bucs do show more Quarters, as we anticipate, then Payton will have answers. But I still see this as a staple concept game for Brees, especially with a healthy Michael Thomas on the field. Hit the zone windows and move the ball underneath. See it and get the ball out with speed. I expect Brees to work the boundary with Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara on combination routes, while using the layered reads between the numbers.
2. Create interior pressure vs. Brady
With pressure fronts and the pass-rushing ability of the Saints' defensive line, Dennis Allen's group has to disrupt the A and B gaps against Brady. That's the book on the Bucs' quarterback. And we saw examples of that in the Saints' Week 9 win over the Bucs. Twist stunts that allow defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Trey Hendrickson to wrap inside, plus the one-on-one ability of defensive tackle David Onyemata, will be key. With the way Allen scripts pressure, the Saints can limit the ability of Brady to step up or climb in the pocket.
(6) Los Angeles Rams at (1) Green Bay Packers
Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET | FPI predicts GB (65.1%) by 5
How the Rams can beat the Packers
1. Run the ball with efficiency out of 12 and 11 personnel
Rookie running back Cam Akers looked like a veteran in the wild-card win over the Seahawks, rushing for 131 yards and a score on 28 carries. That's good volume for a back with second-level juice. And I believe the Rams will be even more run-heavy in this matchup.
Look for coach Sean McVay to mix his personnel with one- and two-tight-end sets, using inside/outside zone and gap schemes. Behind an offensive line that can create movement off the ball, that will open clean lanes for Akers to get up on the Packers' linebackers versus both base and sub-package fronts. And with that run-game efficiency, McVay can set up quarterback Jared Goff with clean platform throws off play-action against the Packers' zone coverages.