Wild Card Weekend Predictions
Source: AP Photo/John Munson
This year's NFL playoffs will have a new twist, for the first time ever there will be six three playoff games between Saturday and Sunday. This means more craziness, more excitement and more football!!! Here are my predictions in the NFL's revamped Wild Card weekend.
Buffalo Bills vs Indianapolis Colts
This might be my least favourite wildcard matchup this weekend. The Colts claimed the final wildcard spot, meanwhile, the Bills are arguably the best team in the AFC.
Anchored by linebacker Darius Leonard, the Colts’ defence has been good when it’s needed a stop, but the issue at hand is can the Colts stop Josh Allen? Offensively speaking, Buffalo was one of two teams that scored over 500 points this season, the other being Green Bay. The Allen-Diggs connection has looked unstoppable this season and it will probably feast again on Saturday as the Colts ranked 20th in pass defence this year.
However, Indy’s run defence is one of the best in the league and knowing Buffalo lacks a threat at that position, expect Buffalo to throw the ball, a lot.
Another interesting side story to this game involves Phillip Rivers as it could be the last hurrah for the former 2004 second overall pick. No doubt Rivers' arm has diminished over the years, and with his playoff record standing at 5-6, the Colts are probably going to lean on their rookie (and 1000 yard rusher) Jonathan Taylor. Taylor has had his down moments this year, but when given 15 or more touches Indy is 5-1, so expect Frank Reich to test the Bills run D.
It's hard to bet against the Bills in this one. They've looked unstoppable as of late and it's why I'm not super excited for this matchup. I just don't think Rivers will be a factor and that the Colts' defence will be able to fend off Allen's arm.
Prediction: Buffalo Bills, 42-14
Los Angeles Rams vs Seattle Seahawks
A battle between the NFC West rivals, and with the season series being split at one apiece, this is the rubber match. The Rams limped in the playoffs and with Jared Goff set to be a game-time decision, the Seahawks should have the advantage.
With that said, LA's defence is scary. They are the only team not to allow 300 points this season and have given up the least amount of total yards. It also has to be said the Rams defence love playing against the Seahawks. They’ve sacked Wilson 11 times in two meetings and have allowed just one passing TD from Russ.
If Goff plays he can’t say he’s had any better of a time against Seattle’s D either. However, the former first overall pick does have a winning record against his divisional foe so they can take some solace in that. With that said, the Rams offence has struggled to score points against Seattle and it could look worse if Wolford has to suit up.
I think Seattle is one of the bigger frauds this season despite their record. The Rams defence will be too much for Russell Wilson and company. No matter who starts for the Rams it doesn't matter, LA will steal a win in Seattle.
Prediction: Los Angeles Rams, 19-16
Tampa Bay Bucs vs The Washington Football Team
For the second straight season and 5th time overall, Brady will be getting set to do battle in the WIld Card round. Interestingly enough Brady has never advanced to the Superbowl in a year where he plays in the Wild Card round, and even though he’ll be facing the 7-9 Washington Football Team, he would more than likely rather be sitting at home with a bye.
The six-time Super Bowl winner has proved doubters wrong and is probably the reason for ending the Bucs 13-year teams playoff drought. In passing and points per game, the Bucs ranked in the top 3 in the NFL, and have a ton of offensive weapons, which should create problems for Washington. It should be noted Mike Evans is questionable.
Washington's defence on the other hand is one of the best in the league. In major defensive categories such as points allowed, passing and rushing yards allowed,Washington ranks in the top 5. Some might contribute that to the NFC East level of play, as well as a fairly weak schedule. However, Chase Young and that young defensive line are as legit as they come.
Despite being led by Alex Smith and his feel good story, I think the fairytale comes to an end. It's a huge mismatch and Tampa will steamroll the young Football Team.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Bucs, 31-10
Baltimore Ravens vs Tennessee Titans
A Divisional round rematch of last, the Titans shocked a lot of people by beating last year's MVP Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. This season the Titans have home-field advantage and have proved this season they weren't a fluke.
The Ravens offence has dropped off quite a bit this season. It seems the league has started to figure out Lamar Jackson’s game. The Ravens are dead last in passing yards, but despite that, Baltimore has won 5 straight to close out their season. They're 3-4 against teams over .500, with two of those wins against Cleveland, but do bolster 5 Pro Bowlers this season. As always, the Ravens’ defence has been solid this season and has been a bright spot for Baltimore.
The Titans are a good team but their defence has had its struggles. They give up a lot of yards and can be scored on easily. Though the offence has manage to bail them out time after time this season. Derrick Henry, the rushing title winner and 2k yard runner, gained a combined 328 yards in his last two meetings against Baltimore, including scoring the game-winning touchdown earlier this season.
Henry's performance will be crucial for the Titans if they wish to advance. Corey Davis and AJ Brown, will both have to be factors to create problems for Baltimore's secondary. I think the Titans will prevail, as Lamar Jackson will continue to falter in the playoffs. leaving him 0-3 in the playoffs.
Prediction: Tennessee Titans, 31-21
Chicago Bears vs New Orleans Saints
The bears season has been a rollercoaster. A 5-0 start turned into six straight losses, but Chicago rallied and won 4 of their last 5 games. They should be thanking their lucky stars after barely getting in the playoffs despite an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Packers, and now they get a crack at Drew Brees and the Saints.
After ending their QB carousel the Bears offence has been rejuvenated, averaging 31 points in the last 4 games. A big reason has been the play of Bears running back David Montgomery, who has 7 rushing touchdowns in the last 5 games. I highly doubt the Bears up and down defence wil have any answers for the high powered Saints offence so clock management will be paramount.
You want to know how good New Orleans is? No matter if Drew Brees is under centre or not they are an elite team. Everything this team does begins and ends with Alvin Kamara. He missed last week's game because of COVID related procedures, but you can look at that as some much needed rest for the uber talented back.
Defensively, the Saints have given up just over 20 points a game (on average) and have a knack for creating turnovers. The Saints are 3rd in takeaways, which spells bad news for the Bears, who have given up the ball 22 times. The Saints will have Trubisky on his toes with Trey Hendrickson and his 13.5 sacks chasing him down.
Although the Saints barely beat the Bears in week 10, they should be able to handle the Bears better this time.
Prediction: New Orleans Saints, 28-17
Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Two AFC East rivals close out the Wild Card round in the NFL. The Browns ended their 18-year playoff drought last week barely escaping the Steelers. Ironically, the last time the Browns made the playoffs they played Pittsburgh and lost. However, the Browns have the scariest running back duo in the league in Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb, something Pittsburgh can’t match up with.
Baker Mayfield will make his playoff debut. The former first overall pick quieted some critics this season as he posted a solid 26:8 TD to INT ratio. His interceptions per pass dropped from 3.9 to 1.6 percent, and he's only thrown one pick in his last six games. Through their dedicated run game and Mayfield’s efficiency, Cleveland’s offence has been much improved this year.
The Steelers were on a roll to start the season winning an incredible 11 straight out of the gate. However, they have cooled down though tremendously since then dropping 4 of their last 5 games. Ben Roethlisberger has once again been the anchor for the Steelers and should be nominated for comeback player of the year. He's thrown 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, though six of them came in the last six games.
Still, Big Ben has dominated the Browns going 24-2-1 lifetime.
If you asked me a month ago I would have easily picked the Steelers without batting an eye, but Pittsburgh have fallen apart since then and so has Big Ben. The Browns will go over and win their first playoff game of the 21st century.
Prediction: Cleveland Browns, 24-21