The NFL Playoffs begin this weekend with Super Wild Card Weekend. There will be two games on Saturday, followed by a tripleheader on Sunday, and finally, a Monday Night Football Wild Card Game for the finale for the first time. Now without further adieu, let’s take a look at the matchups.
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals
The Raiders have endured one of the craziest NFL seasons in a long time. First, they had to overcome the resignation of head coach Jon Gruden who resigned due to leaked emails, and then they had to deal with the Henry Ruggs III tragedy. However, the Raiders got into the playoffs with their victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. Derek Carr, who threw for over 4800 yards and 23 touchdowns, will be making his first career playoff start. In addition, Joe Burrow will be making his playoff debut in what should be an exciting game. In his last two games, he threw for 971 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions against the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens.
This game will come down to whether the Raiders can slow down Burrow and the Bengals offense, including JaMarr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon. In Week 11 in Las Vegas, these teams met, with the Bengals winning 32-13. The Raiders have had a good season, but the Bengals will win their first playoff game since 1990.
Game prediction: Bengals 35 Raiders 21
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
The Patriots and the Bills will be playing each other for the third time this season. Both teams won on the other’s home field and will now face off in the Wild Card round. This game features two top-five defenses, so points may be hard to come by, especially if the weather in Buffalo is anything like it was in the Week 13 matchup. For the Patriots, it will come down to if they can run the ball and if Mac Jones can avoid mistakes. The Bills will need a big game from Josh Allen just like he had in Week 16 in Foxborough when he passed for over 300 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bills have Allen, and the Patriots have Jones, a rookie quarterback making his first career playoff start. In NFL history, only six rookie quarterbacks have won their first playoff start, with the last being Russell Wilson in 2012 with the Seattle Seahawks. This game will be close, but the Bills win it.
Game prediction: Bills 24 Patriots 20
Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This game could be a tricky one for the defending Super Bowl Champions. The last time Tom Brady faced the Eagles in the postseason he was on the losing end in Super Bowl LIII 41-33. But, of course, that was with the Patriots. The Bucs have dealt with some injuries, including losing Chris Godwin with a torn ACL and the Antonio Brown nonsense. The Eagles started the season slow and then went 6-2 in their last eight games to get into the playoffs. Jalen Hurts now looks like he is their long-term quarterback.
These teams met in Week Six, with the Bucs winning 28-22. I think Tom Brady will throw a couple of touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans. However, this game will be closer than the 9.5 point spread.
Game prediction: Buccaneers 31 Eagles 26
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys
Back in the ’90s, this game usually decided who would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Those games featured Hall of Famers like Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, and Charles Haley. This game doesn’t have that star power, but it will be interesting. The 49ers had to beat the Los Angeles Rams to make the playoffs, and that is exactly what they did. The Cowboys won the NFC East easily after going 12-5. They have looked great at times and struggled at times.
This game will come down to which quarterback has the better game. Jimmy Garappolo can look good at times and then make you wonder what he is doing out there. On the other hand, Dak Prescott had a great season after a horrific injury in 2020. I think the Dallas offense will put up some points, but the 49ers will run the ball to slow the game down and Deebo Samuel has a big day. This game could go either way and I think will be the best one of the weekend.
Game prediction: 49ers 31 Cowboys 28
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
The Steelers had to sweat out the outcome of the Sunday Night Football game between the Chargers and Raiders as a tie would have kept them out of the playoffs. Their reward now is Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. These teams met in Week 16, with the Chiefs dominating that game-winning it 36-10. This figures to be the final game for Ben Roethlisberger. The two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback and future Hall of Famer will have to come up big time for the Steelers to have a chance.
For the Steelers to have any chance, they will have to run the ball with Najee Harris and keep the Chief’s offense off the field. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening, and this game could get out of hand rather quickly.
Game prediction: Chiefs 42 Steelers 17
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams
The Rams lost the regular-season finale to the 49ers. Luckily for them, the Cardinals also lost to the Seattle Seahawks, and because of that, they won the NFC West. The reward for the Rams is that they will host this game. The Rams went all in this year and made some huge acquisitions. They acquired Matthew Stafford, Von Miller, and Odell Beckham Jr., The Cardinals, were the last undefeated team in the NFL but struggled down the stretch losing four of their last five games to cost them the division, while the Rams won five of their last six games.
This game will come down to Matthew Stafford. Will he perform like the quarterback who started the season red hot? Or will it be the quarterback who spent all those seasons in Detroit? I am going with the former. If not, Kyler Murray and the Cardinals will win this one.
Game prediction: Rams 35 Cardinals 28
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