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The NFL playoffs get a shot in the arm this weekend

CBC Sports' daily newsletter looks at the NFL's second-round playoff matchups, which feature the top two teams in the league coming off a bye.

Top seeds K.C and Green Bay (and their MVP-level QBs) join the fray

MVP front-runner Aaron Rodgers and the Packers join the playoffs this weekend after enjoying a bye. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

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Here's what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

The NFL's best teams jump into the playoffs this weekend

For sheer gluttonous enjoyment, it's tough to beat Super Wild Card Weekend. Watching back-to-back-to-back NFL playoff games on both Saturday and Sunday was a true delight. But many hardcore fans consider this upcoming weekend the best of the year.

That's because the Divisional Round brings the league's best teams back into the picture. In past years, the top two seeds in both conferences enjoyed a first-round bye. Starting this year, only the No. 1 seeds got the break. Those are Green Bay and defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City.

Besides going a combined 27-5 this season, K.C. and Green Bay have the top two candidates for MVP in quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. Getting them back in the mix should make for another exciting weekend.

Here's a quick look at all four matchups:

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (Saturday 4:35 p.m. ET)

The Rams have the hottest defence in football after smothering Russell Wilson and the Seahawks last week. That gives them a puncher's chance to pull off another upset — this time against the best team in the NFC. But the Packers have the NFL's No. 1 offence and, in Rodgers, the likely MVP. They also get to play at Lambeau Field, in near-freezing temperature, against a team from Southern California.

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET)

Ravens QB (and reigning NFL MVP) Lamar Jackson says he's never played in the snow. The forecast for Saturday night in Orchard Park, N.Y., calls for 1-3 cm. But that might actually help the Ravens, who run a ground-based attack built off Jackson's rushing talents. Bills QB Josh Allen is a great runner too, but Buffalo shifted to more of an aerial attack this season as it led the AFC in points and then picked up its first playoff win in 25 years.

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City (Sunday 3:05 p.m. ET)

The Browns got their first playoff win in 26 years, upsetting Pittsburgh despite the absence of their head coach and a Pro Bowl offensive lineman due to positive coronavirus tests. Cleveland is back to full strength now but faces an even taller order against the defending Super Bowl champs. Kansas City coach Andy Reid is, famously, near-unbeatable with an extra week to prepare, and the Browns' defence has plenty of weaknesses for him and Mahomes to attack.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (Sunday 6:40 p.m. ET)

Fox is broadcasting this game. But, as Tom Brady joked, it might be a better fit for the History Channel. Brady, 43, squares off with Drew Brees, who turned 42 today, in a battle of ancient quarterbacks who are both among the greatest of all time. Brady is not aging like a normal human, but Brees won both their matchups this season. He threw six touchdown passes and no interceptions in a pair of Saints blowouts while Brady tossed two TDs and five picks. That last stat is an indication of what might, despite the QB hype, actually decide this game: New Orleans and Tampa Bay have two of the best defences in football.

Tom Brady threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Bucs past Washington in the NFC Wild Card round. (Julio Cortez/The Associated Press)

It's a chaotic time for Canadian curling

When Curling Canada announced it would hold the Scotties and the Brier in a bubble in Calgary this winter, it put a lot of pressure on provincial and territorial governing bodies. They have to figure out which teams will represent them at a time when indoor curling isn't allowed in much of the country — much less a large playdown tournament. Eight provinces have already cancelled those (B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Northern Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia) while others are still holding out hope for some kind of championship event instead of just naming their team.

It's getting tougher to keep track of who's doing what, but CBC Sports curling reporter Devin Heroux puts it all together for us in his latest story. He also looks at what's ahead and explains why Curling Canada is so determined to go ahead with the Brier and Scotties (money, yes, but it's more than that). Read the piece here.

Quickly...

The New York Jets made history with their coaching hire. Robert Saleh, whose parents are Lebanese, is believed to be the first Muslim head coach in NFL history. The former San Francisco 49ers defensive co-ordinator is also the first head coach to net his former team a pair of bonus third-round picks under the NFL's new policy to reward teams that develop minority coaches and executives. Saleh, 41, has never been a head coach before. But he earned universal respect in guiding San Francisco's fierce defence to the Super Bowl last year, and his upbeat, energetic style seems to resonate with players. Saleh will try to rebuild a rotten Jets team that went 2-14 this season and could land a new quarterback with the second overall pick in this year's draft.

Kyrie Irving's vacation has cost him almost a million bucks. The mercurial Brooklyn guard has missed the last five games while away from the team for "personal reasons." During that time, a video showed him attending an indoor family birthday party without wearing a mask. The NBA fined Irving $50,000 US today for violating its health and safety protocols and said he'll forfeit his salary for the two games he's missed while serving a five-day quarantine, which will end Saturday as long as he doesn't test positive for the coronavirus. That works out to more than $800K. Irving is the second player to be fined by the NBA this season for attending a large indoor social gathering. The first was his new teammate, James Harden, who the Nets acquired in a blockbuster trade this week.

Things to watch on CBC Sports

Anyone's Game: The docuseries, premiering tonight on CBC TV and also available on CBC Gem, follows the basketball team at Orangeville Prep. That's the elite Toronto-area high school that has propelled several Canadian players to the NBA, including Denver Nuggets star Jamal Murray. CBC Sports contributor Vivek Jacob spoke with Orangeville head coach Tony McIntyre and alumnus Shemar Rathan-Mayes about the program's impact on Canadian basketball. Watch the video here.

Winter Olympic sports: Starting early Saturday morning and continuing Sunday, you can watch live World Cup events in luge, bobsleigh, alpine skiing, freestyle skiing and ski jumping on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app. See the full schedule here.

Road to the Olympic Games: Saturday's show features World Cup races in luge, alpine skiing, bobsleigh and skeleton. Watch it from 1-6 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network, CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app. Sunday's show features alpine, bobsleigh and skeleton. Watch it from noon-2 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app, or check local listings for TV times.

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