NFL playoff analysis: Are Packers 2024 NFC favorites? What’s next for Texans?

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Saturday’s divisional-round games did not disappoint, but ultimately, both No. 1 seeds took care of business. 

Here are my notes on all four teams who played Saturday: The Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers.

What pressure?

Lamar Jackson had played in four postseason games before tonight. In none of them did he or his offense play like they did in the regular season. While a small sample size, I have to imagine when the Ravens went into the locker room against the Texans tied at 10, they had some concerns about old demons reappearing. All the pressure was on the Ravens to start the second half.

With that backdrop, the Ravens dominated the second half against the Texans. They scored on all four second-half possessions; three touchdowns in a row followed by a late field goal. Jackson rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another two on the day. Jackson was lethal with his legs as he scrambled, scooted and dashed to 100 yards on the ground. 

The Ravens defense was fantastic on Saturday afternoon. They did not allow a touchdown and made quarterback C.J. Stroud uncomfortable all day as they forced the Texans into repeated third-and-long situations. The Texans rushed for a total of 38 yards, which allowed the Ravens defense to heat up Stroud in obvious passing situations. By the final whistle, this was an all-around butt-kicking by the Ravens. That is how Super Bowl teams make a statement.

Learning experience

Not all losses are the same. The Dallas Cowboys’ blowout loss last weekend against the Packers is not the same as the Houston Texans’ defeat at the Ravens’ hands on Saturday. The Texans were not in the same weight class as Baltimore and that’s ok. Saturday afternoon should help the Texans understand what more is needed on their roster to beat a top contender in the AFC. 

The Texans have the quarterback. Now it’s time to use their cap space for help on defense. Help on the offensive line. Give Stroud another weapon. The blueprint is there after the loss on Saturday. That should be the takeaway for the Texans.

Lamar Jackson, Ravens shut down CJ Stroud, Texans

Lamar Jackson, Ravens shut down CJ Stroud, Texans

Ugly win > Pretty loss

A win is a win. In the playoffs, it doesn’t matter how you get it done. Survive and advance — with an emphasis on survival for the 49ers on Saturday night. Credit the Packers for playing well, but the 49ers came one minute away from an epic choke job. It was a loss that would have followed quarterback Brock Purdy and head coach Kyle Shanahan their entire careers until they win a Super Bowl. 

Shanahan’s conservative decision-making was on full display at the end of the half, playing for a field goal that was eventually blocked. The 49ers defense was run through the entire night. This was the first time in 51 games they allowed over 100 yards to a rusher. The 49ers got away with one; they’ll have to be better next week to advance to the Super Bowl.

Dre Greenlaw picks off <a href=

Dre Greenlaw picks off <a href=

Are the Packers NFC Favorites in 2024?

The Green Bay Packers should be among the NFC championship favorites in 2024. This is the NFL’s youngest roster, and the fifth-youngest roster to make the postseason since 1970. They didn’t win on Saturday night in San Francisco but took the 49ers to the final whistle. This comes after the Packers went to Dallas, the NFC’s No. 2 seed, and demolished them last weekend. 

The Packers came into this season not knowing if quarterback Jordan Love was their future and it’s clear after the last eight weeks of the season and the two playoff games that he’s a cornerstone. Just like the Texans with Stroud, the Packers can build around him. With the youth on the Packers offense, it seems likely they will develop on the same timeline, which will lead to more wins in the future. 

Brock Purdy, 49ers survive vs. Jordan Love, Packers

Brock Purdy, 49ers survive vs. Jordan Love, Packers

Geoff Schwartz is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.

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