Playoff Breakdown

Playoff+Breakdown

Nick Johnson

It’s that time of year again where the NFL season has drawn to a close, the Jets and Giants are sitting at home, and NFL fans are all excited about the road to the Superbowl kicking off. This Saturday marks the beginning of “Super” Wild Card weekend which will bring 12 of the 32 NFL franchises together to determine which teams will continue to play for the ultimate prize, the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Some teams just scraped in, others have been on top of the league for weeks, but all that matters is that they have made it to this point, and a potential championship lies ahead. Here is your quick guide to all 6 Wild Card Weekend games slated for this week.

 

(5)Raiders (10-7) @ (4)Bengals (10-7):

To kick everything off on Saturday at 4:30, the Las Vegas Raiders will travel to the Jungle to take on the AFC North division champion Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals backups are coming off of a close 21-16 loss to Cleveland in week 18, however the Bengals starters are coming off of a statement shootout win against the Kansas City Chiefs in week 17. As for the Raiders, they are coming off of a big win at home against the LA Chargers which is what punched their ticket to the dance in the first place. The first time these two teams collided was in week 11 where the Bengals were able to take down the Raiders in Vegas 32-13. For the Bengals, week 11 is where the run game truly exploded and Joe Mixon was able to run all over the Raiders defense to post north of 100 yards. One of the big things that game showed is that Cincinnati by far seemed to be the more balanced team, especially on the offensive side of the ball where Burrow had an “off game” and the Bengals were still able to prevail on the back of Joe Mixon. The Raiders however do have Darren Waller on their side, and the Bengals “sneaky good” defense has shown a weakness of not doing a great job at covering tight ends on passes. It was seen twice with Mark Andrews, once with TJ Hockenson, and in week 11 against Darren Waller the first time. All in all it should be a very balanced competitive game, and a game where home field advantage for the Bengals could be the deciding factor.

 

(6)New England (10-7) @ (3)Buffalo (11-6):

Then in the primetime slot on Saturday night, the New England Patriots travel into Buffalo to take on the Bills in round three of this AFC West rivalry. As it stands right now, the series this year is tied at one a piece headed into Saturday, however New England’s win over Buffalo was in some crazy Buffalo weather so it wasn’t exactly a normal game. Buffalo did end up winning the West after New England fell to Miami in week 18, but the division came down to the wire, and I believe this game will be a perfect showcase of that. I do think the Bills have the upper hand given that Patriots rookie QB Mac Jones is going to be playing in a high stakes game against one of the better passing defenses in the league right now, but I still think this game could really go either way. Once again, home field advantage could be the difference maker, especially the Bills Mafia in Buffalo.

 

(7)Eagles (9-8) @ (2)Tampa (13-4)

To kick off Sunday’s slate of games you have the surprising 7 seed Philadelphia Eagles traveling to Tampa to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I don’t think anyone is expecting the Eagles to win this game and for good reason. I think while they have a shot, because as they say any given Sunday, it will still be a huge ask to take down the Brady bunch in Tampa Bay. On top of home field advantage, the Bucs also have Tom Brady who has just a little playoff experience and a whole lot more chemistry given every single starter on the Super Bowl winning team last year returned at the start of this season. The Bucs are dealing with some injury in the wide receiver room though which was made worse by the Antonio Brown situation. But, to ask young inexperienced Jalen Hurts to march into Tampa as a 7 seed just seems like a lot to ask, however the Eagles do have a solid team that seems to have been clicking as of late winning 4 of their last 5.

 

(6)49ers (10-7) @ (3)Dallas (12-5)

Then you have a fairly balanced San Francisco team taking on a wildly inconsistent Dallas Cowboys team. The Cowboys can look like Super Bowl favorites one week then turn right around and look like a team competing for a top draft spot the next. Trying to make predictions for this team as of late has been like throwing a toothpick at an ant and hoping you hit something. As for the 49ers, they are about what you would expect out of a wild card team. San Francisco is solid all around especially on offense with weapons like TE George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. All in all I’d give the upper hand to San Francisco, as long as they can prevent Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense from getting on a roll early on.

 

(7)Steelers (9-7-1) @ (2)Kansas City (12-5)

In a game I’m almost positive nobody wanted to see again, the black and gold brigade travel back to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs for the second time this season. The first time these two teams collided was in week 16 where Pittsburgh was absolutely boat raced 36-10. In all honesty I have no idea how the Pittsburgh Steelers are a playoff team this year. Ben is a shell of his old self who has almost none of the talent that made him the quarterback he was in the first place, the team is full of divas like Chase Claypool and Juju, and this team struggles in games where they shouldn’t have to even try, like against Detroit. As for the Chiefs, everything is clicking. The offense is as dominant as ever, the defense that everyone liked to poke fun at early on is finally asserting itself as a top defense in the league, and they seem to be clicking and firing on all cylinders. That said, for some reason that even I can’t understand, part of me is thinking that the Steelers could pull this win off. Maybe it’s the fact that this is potentially Ben’s last playoff game, maybe it’s the fact that Kansas City may play down after last game, and maybe it’s just a hunch, but something is telling me the Steelers can do it.

 

(5)Cardinals (11-6) @ (4)Rams (12-5)

In the final Wild Card Weekend matchup you have an NFC West battle between the Arizona Cardinals. The series stands at a 1-1 tie with the most recent meeting going to the Los Angeles Rams. The Cardinals started the season at 8-1 on top of the NFL looking like clear superbowl favorites. However, things changed quickly and the freefall would begin, and to an extent it really hasn’t ended yet. For one reason or another the Cardinals have not been a second half team the past couple of years, but this year has been the hardest to watch. As for the Rams, with a few exceptions here and there, they have looked very dominant all season. Led by former Detroit Lions quarterback Mattew Stafford, the Rams offense has been a powerhouse all year. Then on defense, guys like Jalen Ramsey make this team look like one of the best Rams teams since Kurt Warner led the Greatest Show On Turf. I think the way the Cardinals have looked as of late, a Rams victory is looking very likely, but it will be very interesting to see if the Cardinals have come back and corrected themselves for the playoffs.

 

(1)Green Bay Packers (13-4)

The NFC’s road to the Super Bowl runs through the frozen tundra known as Lambeau Field for the second year in a row. The Green Bay Packers have been one of the oddly consistent teams in this weird NFL season. Sure, there were some weird games like the loss to the Vikings the first time around, but the so-called “last dance season” for this Green Bay Packers team has gone near perfect to this point. Given the massive injury problem on this team, having a week off before the divisional round of the playoffs is huge. In week 18 David Bakhtiari made his return in the loss to Detroit, but there are many other key players that could use the extra week. However, despite the injury this team has found a way to keep winning which should make them very fun to watch this postseason.

 

(1)Tennessee Titans (12-5)

In a very surprising turn of events, the Kansas City Chiefs have fallen to the two seed which has opened the door for Tennessee to run the AFC side of the playoffs. The scariest part of watching Tennessee was how they managed to click and keep winning without Derrick Henry, but now guess who’s getting ready to make a comeback. For a one seed team they seem to be more beatable than a team like Green Bay, but they aren’t exactly a joke either, especially with home field advantage.