NFL Playoffs: Wild Card Round
The regular season has ended which means it’s time for the wild card round of the NFL Playoffs. Here’s what’s on tap for this weekend.
Saturday, January 4
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans, 4:35 PM ET ESPN
Buffalo has been one of the surprise teams this year, They’ve had a good defense for a couple years, but the offense has been improved this year. Second year QB Josh Allen has been billed as a player with a cannon for an arm, but he also leads the league in rushing touchdowns for quarterbacks this year. Cole Beasley and John Brown have added a passing attack that had been pretty dormant, and rookie RB Devin Singletary ran for 775 yards this season.
Houston’s passing attack will be without WR Will Fuller, so Deshaun Watson will be relying on DeAndre Hopkins and Kenny Stills. They have an improved offensive line and a balanced attack with 1000 yard rusher Carlos Hyde. The secondary has struggled a bit, but All-Pro DE JJ Watt is expected to return for this game. Will the Texans be able to put the points up against the Bills defense or will Allen and the defense lead Buffalo to their first playoff win since 1995.
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots, 8:15 PM ET CBS
Here’s a chance for a Belichick disciple to knock out his mentor. Titans’ coach Mike Vrabel was a major player for 3 of the Pats’ Super Bowl teams. He has continued on an impressive career trajectory by quickly ascending through the coaching ranks. Tennessee got off to a rough start of the season, but benching QB Marcus Mariota appears to have sparked the team. Ryan Tannehill has been playing great, and rookie AJ Brown and Corey Davis have stepped up their play in an anemic passing attack. Oh, and RB Derrick Henry won the league’s rushing title. On the other side, New England has a great defense but is not the offensive juggernaut we’ve become accustomed to seeing. They lack playmakers on that side of the ball. Tennessee has a good enough defense to take advantage. A Tennessee win probably fuels New England for next year, while a Patriots win may start yet another Brady-led January run.
Sunday, January 5
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints, 1:05 PM ET FOX
Minnesota Miracle: Part 2. This time in New Orleans. It’s crazy to say the Saints are a WILD CARD team. They went 13-3 and are in the conversation for best team in the NFL. They have an incredibly balanced offense with incredible play-calling and innovation. Each player could hurt the Minnesota defense at any point. They also have a good defense and special teams. Minnesota has been on a roll since Kirk Cousins was called out by his receivers. They’ll need big games from him, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook to stay in this one. Can Kirk finally win a big game or are Brees and company just too much?
Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles, 4:40 PM ET NBC
Seattle was locked in a divisional race with San Francisco all season; so much so that it came down to 1 inch at the end of the season. Now they have to go on the road and make the dreaded pacific-to- eastern time zone trek for a wild card game. Russell Wilson and the offense have had a terrific year, and the defense has shown some signs of past elite Seattle defenses. Philadelphia won the worst division in the NFL but has won 4 games in a row. None of those were against actually good teams, so this game might be too much for them. It also doesn’t help that the Eagles have been missing players from injuries all year. Home field advantage may keep it close, but I see a Seattle win.