Wildcard Weekend Preview

1 seeds with first round bye: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (16-0) Los Angeles Chargers (16-0)

5 seed New England Patriots (13-3) @ 4 seed Indianapolis Colts (9-7)

This is a matchup between two teams who haven’t played this season and their records don’t reflect their seeds. The stacked AFC East lead to two 13-3 teams with the Patriots barely not winning the division and missing out on the 2 seed and home-field advantage for at least two games. The Colts on the other hand also tied in record with a division rival, but had the tiebreaker and therefore claimed the AFC South at 9-7, winning the division and having home-field advantage for this wildcard game. The Patriots come into the playoffs with the 9th highest producing offense, balancing Felipe Franks and the passing game and Phillip Lindsey’s rushing attack very well as New England had 32 passing touchdowns and 31 rushing scores while scoring 37.4 points per game. The Colts come into the postseason with just the 20th ranked offense, more heavily on the run game lead by Jonathon Taylor, but Jameis Winston still had over 3000 passing yards to go along with 21 touchdowns through the air and the team totaled 23 on the ground while scoring 27.4 points per game. These teams will test each other on defense though, as New England and Indy come in as the 8th and 9th ranked defenses respectively. Both units were great against the run and still solid against the pass, but with New England having a more potent passing game than Indy, expect Felipe Franks to outplay Jameis Winston by quite a bit. The Patriots and the Colts both only allowed around 25 points per game and were turnover-producing machines with New England forcing 52 turnovers, just 3 more than Indy’s 49, although the Patriots did have 45 sacks to the Colts 37. These teams are both pretty built for the playoffs with stout defensive units and fairly balanced offenses, but it’s no secret that the Colts are still decent underdogs. Final Prediction: Patriots 34 Colts 20

6 seed Tennessee Titans (9-7) @ 3 seed Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

This is a matchup between two teams who did play this season, but it was fairly early on in week 5 where the Titans handled the Ravens pretty well winning 29-14 in Baltimore, too. The Ravens had a fantastic start to their season, going 8-1 with their only loss being to these Titans, but a harder second-half schedule led them to 3-4 down the stretch, finishing 11-5 which was more than enough to win the AFC North and secure the 3 seed. Tennessee had a very different season path, however, starting 0-4 until they upset the Ravens at their own stadium and they took that momentum and rolled winning another 3 after that and sitting at 4-4 at their bye week. Things got shaky for the Titans after their bye week but they finished strong with 3 straight wins, although losing the division to the Colts, and finished 9-7 and locked into the 6 seed. In these teams’ week 5 matchup, the Titans outgained the Ravens in offensive yards by nearly 200 yards as Aaron Rodgers was not sacked once and threw for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns and rushed for another. Derrick Henry also added 79 rushing yards and 88 receiving yards for Tennessee. The Ravens struggled pretty badly on both sides of the ball, although they ran decently well. But Lamar Jackson had just 130 passing yards and 7 rushing yards and threw a lone TD to his 4 interceptions. Baltimore’s only other score came on a Patrick Queen pick 6. The Titans may be hot and the Ravens may be inconsistent, but Baltimore should be better prepared for this game and have been scoring the ball very well while looking solid on defense. The Titans have won before against this same team and that can’t be forgotten so they should know what to do, it’s just a matter of who executes better in this game. Final Prediction: Ravens 31 Titans 27

7 seed Miami Dolphins (9-7) @ 2 seed Buffalo Bills (13-3)

This matchup is a pretty straightforward and easy preview as these division rivals will face off for the 3rd time this season. The Bills won the week 3 matchup 28-20 in a pretty close game where both Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa threw for over 350 yards but the biggest difference was the Dolphins allowing 6 sacks that wrecked their game while the Bills held strong and let up just one. Then, these teams played again in week 9 following the Bills’ bye and leading into the Dolphins’. Buffalo dominated this one in both halves and won 48-24 in a game where Josh Allen put up a perfect 158.3 passer rating along with 366 yards and 4 touchdowns while Tua struggled and finished with only 189 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and a whopping 6 interceptions even though he wasn’t sacked a single time this time around. Breece Hall had a fantastic game though and this game might have been the one that turned around the Dolphin’s season as they went 5-2 after this and got to 9-7 and the 7 seed with a 3rd chance to beat their division rival Bills. The Bills’ season was similarly somewhat of a turnaround although they accomplished it much sooner. After opening the season 2-2, they went 11-1 and finished 13-3 winning the stacked AFC East and getting the 2 seed. This third matchup is most likely gonna reflect what we’ve seen in the most recent game between these two teams, but maybe the Dolphins come out strong, and Tua and the defense shock the world. It’s any given Sunday (or Saturday in the playoffs) in the NFL. Final Prediction: Bills 45 Dolphins 26

5 seed New York Giants (10-6) @ 4 seed Arizona Cardinals (10-6)

This is only one of two matchups on Wild Card Weekend where the two teams hadn’t faced off in the regular season, so this matchup of 10-6 teams is truly a wild card game. The Cardinals, led by Kyler Murray, we’re a little shaky in the 3rd quarter of the season but were prettily steadily winning throughout, going 4-2 inside the NFC West, winning it with a bit of wiggle room, and claimed the 4 seed to host the New York Giants. The Giants started 4-0 but never truly got hot (or cold) again for the rest of the season, never having another win or loss streak of more than to which lead to second in the NFC East, their 10-6 record, and the 5 seed in this year’s playoffs. They are lead by Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley who pair nicely so neither can be the sole focus of the opposing defense. New York is a very balanced team with a strong offensive attack and perhaps a stronger defensive unit and they feed off of energy, momentum, and physicality. They won’t look back if they claim the lead and start running with it. The Cardinals are definitely stronger on the offensive side of the ball, scoring less than 20 points only in their season-opening blowout loss to the 16-0 Buccaneers. Their defense is relatively weak, but with playmakers in their secondary like Isaiah Simmons, Byron Murphy Jr., and Patrick Surtain II, they can suddenly clamp half of their opponents’ gameplan instantly. The Giants have had a much tougher schedule which may give them an advantage over Arizona, along with the reputation of New York’s ability to take a wild card run all the way to the Super Bowl, but expect the Cardinals to fight for their lives and represent their division well as the NFC East already has three teams in the playoffs and they’ll be hungry to knock this team off. Final Prediction: Giants 34 Cardinals 30

6 seed Washington Football Team (9-7) @ 3 seed Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)

This is another matchup between division rivals as the third meeting of these two teams will take place in Philly where they met recently in week 15 when the Football Team beat down the Eagles 44-10. That was quite unexpected as just 3 weeks earlier the Eagles went to Washington and beat the Football Team 26-14 at their home stadium. The Eagles narrowly won the competitive NFC East and now get another chance to win for their home fans against the defending NFC champions. In these teams’ first matchup it was a close game until the Eagles broke it open in the 4th quarter off of Miles Sanders’ back as he rushed and caught for almost 175 yards from scrimmage on 24 total touches, Carson Wentz was a great game manager as well throwing a clean game of just under 200 yards and 2 touchdowns. In their round two, the key player for Washington’s blowout was Dwayne Haskins throwing for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns in their dominant performance. This game really can go either way and it seems like home-field advantage does not matter so expect the more recent matchup to foreshadow this game. Final Prediction: WFT 38 Eagles 27

7 seed New Orleans Saints (9-7) @ 2 seed Minnesota Vikings (12-4)

This matchup was another one that has a good sense of how it will go because they met in the regular season. The Vikings played the Saints in Minneapolis and it was a 44-18 route, but it did happen early in the season: Week 5. In that impressive win, the Vikings held the lead strongly throughout, leading 41-6 at the end of three quarters and the Saints just had a couple of garbage time scores. The Saints did however win the total yardage battle, but really only because they lost the turnover battle five to nothing. Trey Lance did his best Nathan Peterman impression throwing 4 interceptions, including a pick 6 when the Saints were in the red zone. Minnesota mainly game-managed as Jamie Newman had just 129 yards and 1 touchdown, but Dalvin Cook did what he always does rushing for 64 yards on just 9 carries. This playoff matchup is probably the least interesting and expect the Vikings to continue their amazing season and win this one with relative ease. Major respect to the Saints for grinding and battling to get to this matchup and football is always good for a big upset, so you never know. Final Prediction: Vikings 41 Saints 20