The NFL playoffs march on with four divisional round playoffs this weekend.
Among the top Utah storylines to follow: Can Fred Warner be healthy enough to help out the San Francisco 49ers on the road at the Green Bay Packers; how much will Eric Weddle help the Los Angeles Rams against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his second game after coming out of retirement; and what Utah ties will step up in the Kansas City Chiefs-Buffalo Bills matchup?
Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. MST
Venue: Nissan Stadium
TV: CBS, Paramount+
What to watch for: A 31-year postseason win drought came to an end for Cincinnati last week, as the Bengals beat the Las Vegas Raiders during the wild-card round. It was the playoff debut for Bengals second-year quarterback Joe Burrow and head coach Zac Taylor, and now they’ll try to knock off the AFC’s top seed. The Titans are looking to reach the AFC championship game for the second time in three years and are expected to have star running back Derrick Henry back. Henry hasn’t played since going on injured reserve with a fractured foot on Nov. 1.
Utah impact: Don’t expect anything. Former Utah State cornerback Jalen Davis, the only local tie on an active roster between the two teams, was inactive during wild-card weekend.
Utah ties on Bengals roster
Jalen Davis, CB, Utah State.
Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, Timpview High (practice squad).
Utah ties on Titans roster
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
Kickoff: 6:15 p.m. MST
Venue: Lambeau Field
TV: Fox, Fox Deportes
What to watch for: Aaron Rodgers and the NFC top seed Packers are trying to make their third straight appearance in the NFC championship game, though the 49ers, the last franchise to make three straight NFC championship games (2011-13), stand in the way. Green Bay beat San Francisco in Week 3 on a 51-yard field goal as time expired. Rodgers is 0-3 against San Francisco in the playoffs, including two years ago, when the 49ers beat the Packers 37-20 to advance to the Super Bowl. The 49ers bring the league’s No. 2 defense into Green Bay, but the Packers were the only NFL team to go undefeated at home during the regular season.
Utah impact: Former BYU linebacker Fred Warner left the 49ers’ wild-card win over Dallas with an ankle injury, but he is expected to play against Green Bay. He had five tackles against the Cowboys last week. Former Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky could be key to trying to pin down Rodgers and the Packers in poor field position, particularly at frigid Lambeau Field.
Utah ties on 49ers roster
Fred Warner, LB, BYU.
Mitch Wishnowsky, P, Utah.
Utah ties on Packers roster
Tipa Galeai, LB, Utah State.
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State.
Bronson Kaufusi, TE, BYU and Timpview High (practice squad).
Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kickoff: 1 p.m. MST
Venue: Raymond James Stadium
TV: NBC, Peacock, Universo
What to watch for: The last time Los Angeles coach Sean McVay and the Rams faced Tom Brady in the playoffs, Brady and the New England Patriots beat L.A. in Super Bowl LIII three years ago. While Brady is a part of a new team, it will be no less challenging for Los Angeles against the defending Super Bowl champions. The Rams got the better of the Buccaneers when they played this year — a 34-24 win in Week 3 — as Matthew Stafford (343 passing yards, four touchdowns) outdueled Brady (432 yards, one touchdown). A lot could hang on the battle between Tampa Bay’s offensive line — they could be missing tackle Tristan Wirfs and center Ryan Jensen to injury — and Los Angeles’ defensive front led by Aaron Donald.
Utah impact: Former Utah safety Eric Weddle came out of retirement and played in the Rams’ wild-card win over Arizona. Though he didn’t record any stats, he provided a strong veteran presence in a depleted Los Angeles secondary and could do so again this week. Former Utah kicker Matt Gay, who earned his first Pro Bowl nod this year, could also be called on to provide some key points.
Utah ties on Rams roster
Terrell Burgess, S, Utah.
Matt Gay, K, Utah and Orem High.
Eric Weddle, S, Utah (practice squad).
Jonah Williams, DE, Weber State (practice squad).
Utah ties on Buccaneers roster
Troy Warner, S, BYU (practice squad).Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m.
Venue: Arrowhead Stadium
TV: CBS, Paramount+
What to watch for: These two teams met in the AFC championship game last season, when the Chiefs beat the Bills 38-24 to advance to the Super Bowl. Buffalo got a little revenge and showed how far it had come when it beat Kansas City 38-20 during Week 5 of the regular season, a game in which the Bills forced the Chiefs into four turnovers. This game will feature two of the NFL’s top young quarterbacks — Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, who led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl title two years ago. It will also match a Buffalo defense rated No. 1 in the league in total defense and scoring defense against a Kansas City offense that rates third in the NFL in total offense and fourth in scoring offense.
Utah impact: There are a handful of Utah connections on both teams, though it’s anyone’s guess just who could have the greatest impact. Former Weber State cornerback Taron Johnson is a solid bet — he’s been a starter all year long for Buffalo — while former Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei had his first career postseason sack last week for the Bills. Former BYU safety Daniel Sorensen has come up with game-changing plays in previous postseasons for Kansas City, though he was relatively quiet in the team’s wild-card win over Pittsburgh.
Utah ties on Bills roster
Taron Johnson, CB, Weber State.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah, Snow College and Bingham High.
Zack Moss, RB, Utah.
Utah ties on Chiefs roster
Zayne Anderson, S, BYU and Stansbury High.
Matt Bushman, TE, BYU (practice squad).
Marcus Kemp, WR, Layton High.
Daniel Sorensen, S, BYU.
Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State (practice squad).
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