After the primary Week 18 in NFL historical past ended a topsy-turvy season in suitably dramatic style, we’re headed into the primary ever Super Wild Card Weekend. The NFL is giving us six video games over the subsequent three days and when you can’t predict soccer – just ask the Indianapolis Colts – we will not less than make semi-educated guesses how the next video games will go.
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (Saturday, 4.30pm EST/9.30pm GMT)
What the Raiders want to do to win: Las Vegas had been the final staff to qualify for the playoffs and can be highway underdogs on Saturday. Oddly sufficient, they’ve an similar regular-season report because the 10-7 Bengals. Given Cincinnati’s historical past of underachieving, all the stress is on the opposite facet. If the Raiders can get an early lead, power a key turnover or two with their proficient group of go rushers, that may very well be sufficient to plant the seeds of doubt of their opponents.
What the Bengals want to do to win: Quarterback Joe Burrow merely should preserve doing what he’s doing, having thrown for 971 yards over the course of the final two video games. The final time these two groups met, the Bengals received 32-13, on the highway nonetheless. If he performs like this, this may very well be a laugher (which is what the league clearly expects, since they put this within the Saturday afternoon “scores dying” slot). The world is prepared for the primary textual content message ever despatched celebrating a Bengals victory, who final received a playoff sport in 1991.
Key participant: Ja’Marr Chase, huge receiver, Bengals. It was a cute story when the Bengals drafted Chase in final 12 months’s NFL draft, reuniting him together with his previous school quarterback in Joe Burrow. Instead, it was a stroke of genius. The dynamic duo not too long ago set a franchise report, combining for 266 yards and three touchdowns in a formidable Week 17 win over the Chiefs. The two have an virtually psychic connection and it may very well be one thing to see this postseason.
Prediction: Bengals over Raiders
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, 8.15pm EST/Sunday 1.15am GMT)
What the Patriots want to do to win: Run just like the wind. In the earlier assembly between these two groups, the Patriots altered their sport plan to make the most of extraordinarily windy climate circumstances. Quarterback Mac Jones threw for 19 yards as New England relied on a proficient working again corps to put collectively a flat-out hilarious 14-10 victory. Jones can have to do extra this time round, nevertheless it wouldn’t damage to return to this blueprint.
What the Bills want to do to win: The Good Josh Allen goes to have to present up. For Allen’s first few seasons, the Bills QB had critical points with ball management regardless of his apparent bodily skills. After Tom Brady relocated to Florida, he has emerged as the perfect QB within the AFC East. However, previous habits die arduous. In a four-game stretch this season, Allen threw seven interceptions and lost a fumble. He can’t afford that sort of carelessness once more in opposition to a Patriots staff with one of many league’s most opportunistic defenses.
Key participant: JC Jackson, cornerback, Patriots. To accomplish that, Buffalo can have to neutralize this man. Jackson is perhaps their most impactful participant on that facet. Jackson’s eight interceptions had been the second-most in the league this 12 months and he has 25 over the course of his four-year profession. The Patriots will desperately want him to work his magic for New England to pull off a highway upset.
Prediction: Bills over Patriots
Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, 1pm EST/6pm GMT)
What the Eagles want to do to win: Hope that momentum continues to be a factor. The Eagles began their season 2-5, seemingly falling out of the playoff combine, however have appeared like a completely completely different staff since. Since losing 28-22 to Tampa Bay again in Week 6, they’ve even led the league in speeding with 184.8 speeding yards per sport. If they preserve that up, we must always have a aggressive ballgame.
What the Buccaneers want to do to win: This truly isn’t the worst time for the Eagles to face the Buccaneers with Tampa Bay nonetheless reeling from the fallout of the Antonio Brown situation. Despite his countless deficiencies as a teammate, the staff will miss him what with Chris Godwin out for the season with an ACL damage. If Tom Brady’s favourite receiver is the “open receiver”, then the gamers decrease on the depth chart are going to have to do their greatest to get themselves open.
Key participant: Tom Brady, quarterback, Buccaneers. No motive to overthink this one. Brady would possibly simply be the best participant in NFL historical past. He’s additionally 44 years previous and – regardless of all obtainable proof – Father Time will finally have his say. He says he needs to play till he’s 50, and possibly he’ll, however he has to know this sport may mark the beginning of his last Super Bowl run.
Prediction: Buccaneers over Eagles
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, 4.30pm EST/9.30pm GMT)
What the 49ers want to do to win: Limit Dak Prescott’s manufacturing. While the Dallas Cowboys quarterback struggled a bit down the stretch, he ended the season with a 295 yard, five-touchdown efficiency. If he’s at the same time as two-thirds nearly as good on Sunday, that’s in all probability a wrap for San Francisco – even when their run sport is nearly as good as marketed.
What the Cowboys want to do to win: In distinction, Dallas should cease the run. The 49ers, who’re mainly between quarterbacks, rely on their running game to put on down opposing defenses. If the Cowboys’ protection, significantly not too long ago acquired free agent security Jayron Kearse, can restrict their speeding yards, it may forestall the staff from even needing an enormous sport from Prescott.
Key participant: Deebo Samuel, huge receiver, 49ers. We’re itemizing Samuel as a large receiver right here, however he’s a brand new breed of do-everything offensive participant who has picked up a total of 1,845 yards, 365 of those on the ground. In reality, with Jimmy Garoppolo damage and rookie Trey Lance not fairly prepared to take the mantle, Samuel has even often carried out emergency QB obligation, which means that the 49ers have the luxurious of working “trick performs” which can be simply “performs”.
Prediction: Cowboys over 49ers
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, 8.15pm EST/Monday, 1.15am GMT)
What the Steelers want to do to win: Ben Roethlisberger has to have another nice (not simply good) sport left in his Hall of Fame profession. It’s a tall order and even he appears to comprehend it: “Let’s simply go in and play and have enjoyable,” he said earlier this week. Still, if he stays upright, not less than lengthy sufficient to make loads of huge performs (both together with his arms or together with his toes) possibly his Steelers profession lasts one other week.
What the Chiefs want to do to win: The Steelers are 12.5-point underdogs in opposition to the Chiefs for a motive. They are enjoying in opposition to probably the most proficient staff within the AFC. One expects that Patrick Mahomes and firm can be in a position to rating, which means the important thing query is whether or not or not the staff’s much-improved protection turns right into a pumpkin come into playoff time. If they will preserve getting to Big Ben, the Chiefs win this sport.
Key participant: Travis Kelce, tight finish, Chiefs. Kansas City don’t even want Kelce to crush the Steelers, as they confirmed the final time these two groups confronted one another. Even without the most dangerous tight end in the league, the Chiefs nonetheless steamrolled the Steelers. Kelce must be good to go on Sunday and that may very well be very dangerous information for this Pittsburgh protection.
Prediction: Chiefs over Steelers
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (Monday, 8.15pm EST/Tuesday, 1.15am GMT)
What the Cardinals want to do to win: With Kyler Murray on their facet, the Cardinals have a decisive edge at quarterback. However, given how good the Rams have been as a staff, it received’t matter if the protection doesn’t do its half. The Rams have a 9-1 report when Matt Stafford is sacked one or fewer instances in a sport this 12 months, however a 3-4 when he’s sacked a number of instances. Correlation isn’t all the time causation … besides when it’s.
What the Rams want to do to win: Well, clearly, the inverse to that is that the Rams can have to preserve Stafford upright and Stafford can have to keep away from throwing a number of picks. He does, nevertheless, have the sting in expertise right here as this can be Murray’s first postseason begin. The win-loss report for quarterbacks making their playoff debut within the wild-card spherical since 2002: 11-31. May the least-rattled quarterback win.
Key participant: Andrew Whitworth, offensive sort out, Rams. There are loads of gamers to decide on this matchup, however let’s take this chance to reward probably the most missed non-special teamers on the roster: the offensive linemen. Pro Football Focus places Whitworth, the second-oldest participant remaining within the NFL playoffs behind you-know-who, as the best pass blocker among the peers. Stafford’s desperately doing to want him to preserve that degree of play up.
Prediction: Rams over Cardinals