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Will there be surprises or will it be a weekend of all four home teams emerging victorious

By Arnie Leshin
It will be home, sweet home this weekend in the division round of the National Football League playoffs.
But it won’t be the same in these times of thecoronavirus pandemic. Protocol calls for restrictions, and for the four home teams the stands will not be filled with the many fans that usually pack the place, especially in this quarterfinal round of the post-season. And for the visiting teams, it’s a gift, not that it’s a neutral field, but still a gift not to hear the hometown supporters, and both sidelines will have to be wearing face masks.
In last week’s wild card first round, 2nd-seeded Buffalo played host to the 6th-seeded Indianapolis Colts in Orchard Park and its limited attendance totaled 9,372. But in the 6th-seeded Cleveland Browns game at the 3rd-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers, and the 5th-seeded Baltimore Ravens at the 3rd-seeded Tennessee Titans, there were very few in the stands, most of them parents and other family members. That accounts for the AFC teams.
In Seattle, the 3rd-seeded Seahawksannounced they had 11,316 on hand versus the 6th-seeded Los Angeles Rams, but in the 5th-seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the 4th-seeded Washington Football Team, all the seats were blocked off, and in the Superdomein New Orleans where the 2nd-seeded Saints hosted the 7th-seeded Chicago Bears, a few hundred could be counted in the stands. That accounts for the NFC teams.
No matter, all eight teams have gotten this far despite the threat of COVID-19, each one has players who currently have the virus and will be quarantined while watching on the tubes.
On Saturday, it’s the Rams (11-6) hoping to follow up their upset last week over NFC West rival Seattle as they travel to the NFC top-seeded Green Bay Packers (13-3) for a slated 2:35 start on FOX.
In the closer at 6:45 on NBC, it will be the traveling 5th-seeded Baltimore Ravens (11-5) playing at the AFC 2nd-seeded Buffalo Bills, who are 14-3 in their initial post-season in 26 years, and last week downed the Colts for their initial playoff win over the same time.
On Sunday, the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, the No. 1 overall seed, will bring a 14-2 record against the visiting Browns (12-5), who stunned the AFC South champion Steelers for the second straight week. That is scheduled for a 1:05start on CBS. It’s the first time in the post-season 27-year draught for Cleveland.
In the 4:40 second game on FOX, it’s the Tom Brady-led Bucs at the Saints, who won the previous two NFC South tilts via double digits, with New Orleans veteran quarterback Drew Brees perhaps in his final season. Brady is now 43, has won six Super Bowls while a New England Patriot, but is already thinking about next season in the Florida sun.
No Patriots in the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years. No Hall of Famer Brady with them anymore, but No. 12 is happy to be in the same role this time for Tampa Bay. And instead of playing in New England in the wintertime, he now gets to play in the Superdome in New Orleans for the second time this season. If it’s tough to defeat someone three times in the same season, Brees and company gets the chance to do so.
LESHIN’S Selections: GREEN BAY OVER LA RAMS; BUFFALO OVER BALTIMORE; KANSAS CITY OVER CLEVELAND; NEW ORLEANS OVER TAMPA BAY.
Selections of ST. MICHAEL’S HEAD FOOTBALL COACH JOEY FERNANDEZ:
GREEN BAY OVER LA RAMS; BUFFALO OVER BALTIMORE; CLEVELAND OVER KANSAS CITY; NEW ORLEANS OVER TAMPA BAY.
Selections of CAPITAL HIGH HEAD FOOTBALL COACH BILL MOON:
GREEN BAY OVER LA RAMS; BALTIMORE OVER BUFFALO; KANSAS CITY OVER CLEVELAND; NEW ORLEANS OVER TAMPA BAY,
Selections of SANTA FE HIGH HEAD FOOTBALL COACH ANDREW MARTINEZ:
GREEN BAY OVER LA RAMS; BALTIMORE OVER BUFFALO; KANSAS CITY OVER CLEVELAND; NEW ORLEANS OVER TAMPA BAY.
Selections of ASSISSTANT ST. MICHAEL’S FOOTBALL COACH KEVIN HAUCK:
GREEN BAY OVER LA RAMS; BALTIMORE OVER BUFFALO; KANSAS CITY OVER CLEVELAND; NEW ORLEANS OVER TAMPA BAY.
Selections of CLEVELAND HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETIC DIRECTOR MATT MARTINEZ:
GREEN BAY OVER LA RAMS; BALTIMORE OVER BUFFALO; KANSAS CITY OVER CLEVELAND; NEW ORLEANS OVER TAMPA BAY.
Selections of FORMER GIRLS HEAD BASKETBALL COACH TOM MONTOYA.
LA RAMS OVER GREEN BAY; BALTIMORE OVER BUFFALO; CLEVELAND OVER KANSAS CITY; NEW ORLEANS OVER TAMPA BAY.
And readers can also make their own selections.

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