Super Wild Card Weekend Preview
NFL Post Season Begins
The 2022 NFL regular turned out to be one for the record books, especially with how week 18 turned out. However, the excitement is only just beginning; we now have an entire weekend of Wildcard action with six games in total.
This week, the Green Bay Packers and the Tennessee Titans are on bye after clinching the number one seed in their respective conferences. As both teams wait to see who their opponents in the Divisional round will be, let's take a look at the exciting matchups in store for a pulse-pounding weekend of football.
AFC Wild Card Playoffs
5) Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) vs. 4) Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)
4:30 p.m. ET, TV: NBC
Line: CIN -5.0
Will the Raiders' Magical Season Continue?
If you look back at the Las Vegas Raiders' season, yes, they have talent on both sides of both, but it's surprising to see them at this point. Following a mid-season coaching change and losing their top deep threat on offense, The Raiders seemed to regress a bit, but they rallied together and found a way to win games. Interim HC Rich Bisaccia deserves to be the head coach moving forward of how his team overcame the challenges throughout the season. The offense found a way to coexist without Henry Ruggs, as guys like Hunter Renfroe and Zay Jones have emerged as two of Derek Carr's go-to guys in the system. Bisaccia also hopes to have Darren Waller fully healthy, as the star tight-end (knee) hopes to be ready enough for Saturday's game.
Joe Burrow will have his work cut out against a stingy Radiers pash rush led by veteran Yannick Ngakoue and first-time pro-bowler Maxx Crosby. It might be shocking to see the Raiders in this position, but they are a damn good football team.
How will Joe Burrow Perform in his Postseason Debut?
The Cincinnati Bengals come into this game with a deadly offense of elite-level young talent. The offense's center is second-year QB Joe Burrow, who threw for an eyepopping 971 yards and eight TDs in his final two regular-season games. Burrow also has a solid supporting cast consisting of RB Joe Mixon and the dynamic WR duo of Tee Higgins and Rookie Ja'Marr Chase. The combo of Burrow and Chase has taken the league by storm. The former teammates at LSU have been electric this season as Burrow has to throw it his way, and Chase will somehow come away with the ball. I'm incredibly excited about watching this high-power offense in the playoffs.
The first game of the postseason has the potential of being very high-scoring, as both defenses are known to give up lots of yards. I've gone back and forth all week, but for some reason, as much as I would love to see the Raiders continue their magical season, there's something about that Bengal team that makes you want to root for them. I see this game coming down to the wire in the fourth quarter with both teams putting up a lot of points. However, I think Joe Burrow and the Bengal offense is a little better, and I think the Bengals will get their first playoff win in what seems like a lifetime.
Jake's Pick: CIN -5.0
AFC Wild Card Playoffs
6) New England Patriots (10-7) vs. 3) Buffalo Bills (11-6)
8:15 p.m. ET, TV: CBS
Line: BUF -4.0
How will Mac Jones handle the rowdy Bills Mafia?
Mac Jones has already beaten Buffalo on the road once this season, but can he do it again in the playoffs? It's unlikely that he will throw the ball three times like he did last time, but the weather should play a key factor, yet again, but more on that later. Regarding Jones, this will be the rookie's first exposure to the postseason, and he will have to do that in the heart of Bills Mafia. I think Jones has shown tremendous composure all season, but he will contend with a solid defense and a rowdy Bills Mafia.
That's why I think the RB duo of Damien Harris Rhamodre Stevenson will have to set the tone early to help open it up for Jones and the passing game.
Can Josh Allen and the Bills get past the Patriots for the Second Time this Season?
Despite not having any consistency all season, the Buffalo Bills pieced everything together in the final four games to take the AFC East for the second-straight year. Now, Josh Allen and the Bills are rewarded by playing the New England Patriots for the third time. The last time these two teams played in Buffalo, Allen struggled in the fierce winds of Buffalo. This time, Allen will have to face the Patriots in harsh conditions; the game-time temperature is expected to be as low as 4 degrees. Allen typically struggles against the Patriots at home, as his QBR when facing NE at home is 20. For Buffalo to win this game, they have to rely on Devin Singletary to get things going in the ground game; that will also take all of the pressure away from Josh Allen so that he can open it up with arm and legs.
As one might suggest, I think this game will center on the better ground game and which defense can make the most stops. While I think the Patriots have the team to make a deep playoff run, I don't believe Mac Jones can get it done yet. I think Josh Allen will overcome his fears of playing in the cold, and Singletary will get things going on the ground. I see this being a low-scoring game when the Bills come out on top.
Jake's Pick: BUF -4.0
NFC Wild Card Playoffs
7) Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) vs. 2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)
1:00 p.m. ET, TV: FOX
Line: TB -8.5
Do the Eagles have What it Take to Beat Tom Brady?
One of the many pleasant surprises in the NFL this season has been the resurgence of the Philadelphia Eagles. After an implosion, last season that left Doug Pederson looking for another job, the Eagles, with new HC Sick Sirianni, have led a dominant rushing attack to a nine-win season and spot in the postseason. Their ground game has been a big reason for their success; they've been averaging over 200 yards per game in the last half of the season. A big reason for their success on the ground is QB Jalen Hurts. After sitting underneath Carson Wentz for a season, the second-year man has looked sharp this season, and he looks forward to his matchup with Tom Brady on Sunday. It won't be against the GOAT, but I expect Jalen Hurts to keep them in the game, and they need a big game out of their defense.
Can Anyone Stop Touchdown Tommy?
Speaking of Tom Brady, even with a depleted receiving core, I still like Tampa's chances because of Tom Terrific. Also, they should be getting Leonard Fournette back on offense to match with LeVeon Bell, who has seen some work in the last couple of games. I expect guys like Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski to see increased workloads in the postseason; look for Scottie Miller to run some deep routes. As for the defense, they expect to get LB Levante David back from injury, which helps the defense a lot.
Like the game in Buffalo, I see the weather playing a huge factor in Tampa. It won't be cold in Tampa, but I live in the area, and on Sunday, we expect some high winds and rain to come kickoff. Because of the harsh condition, I think I see this game being a little sloppy for both teams. If Tampa forces Philly into obvious passing situations, then the Bucs will prevail. Also, I think the Bucs should have no problems on Sunday because they have Tom Brady and a solid defense.
Jake's Pick: TB -8.5
NFC Wild Card Playoffs
6) San Francisco 49ers (10-7) vs. 3) Dallas Cowboys (12-5)
4:30 p.m. ET, TV: CBS
Line: DAL -3.0
Can Jimmy G lead the Niners to Victory?
The Niners became one of the last teams to clinch a playoff spot when they narrowly defeated the Rams in OT this past weekend. Another thing to note is that QB Jimmy Garoppolo wasn't a hundred percent, yet, he led the Niners on a couple of clutch drives to help the Niners win. The one thing holding Garoppolo back is inconsistency. Jimmy G has struggled at times this season, but he has a solid supporting cast around him. RB Elijah Mitchell has been quite the emergence since taking over when their previous RBs when down. Also, Deebo Samuel might be the most versatile player in the NFL, as he ran, caught, and threw a TD pass this season. Not to mention, they still have one of the best tight-ends, George Kittle, who is an absolute freight train and can catch just about anything. Oh, and their defense, led by Nick Bosa and Fred Warner, isn't bad either. Overall, this is a team that has the potential to make a deep playoff run.
On a bit of a side note, these two teams are no strangers to each other in the postseason, as back in the late 80s-early 90s, these two teams met almost every year in the NFC Championship. Guys like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmett Smith, I literally could go on for hours.
Which Cowboys' Offense Will Show up on Sunday?
Heading into the 2022 season, all eyes were on the Dallas Cowboys, and whether or not this would be the year, Dak finally got a ring. Oddly enough, this seems to be the question asked before each season, and the Cowboys fail every year. When the Cowboys started this season off by going 6-1, the media quickly gave Dak Prescott the MVP and called the Dallas Cowboys "legit Super Bowl contenders." Since then, the offense has regressed a bit, and their defense has taken a significant step forward. Guys like rookie Micah Parsons and DB Trevon Diggs have put up monster seasons, while Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence have made their presence known as well.
While their defense has played well, Dak's production has dropped, and RB Ezekiel Elliot. Not to mention, WR Michael Gallup tore his ACL in their loss against Arizona two weeks ago. Look for WR Cedrick Wilson to see an increase in production.
If the better version of Jimmy Garoppolo shows up to Dallas on Sunday, it will be hard for the Niners to lose this game. I see Dak stepping up in the postseason, but I think he will come up short. I see the San Francisco 49ers beating the Dallas Cowboys for my first major upset of the playoffs.
Jake's Pick: SF +3.0
AFC Wild Card Playoffs
7) Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) vs. 2) Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)
8:15 p.m. ET, TV: NBC
Line: KC -12.5
Will this be the Last Time We See No. 7 in a Steelers Uniform?
I'm not sure anyone expected to see the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs, and to be honest, seeing Ben Roethlisberger play in the playoffs for the Steelers for one last time is something I look forward to seeing. However, it will likely be his last game, as he has to travel to Kansas City to take on Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. The last time these teams met, the Chiefs trounced them back in week 15. The Chiefs have an excellent team, but there is a way for the Steelers to win this game. All they have to do is make Mahomes feel like he has to do everything. I may be asking for too much because Big Ben can't move like he used to, and aside from TJ Watt, their defense is aged and a little washed up. It's a bit of a long shot for the Steelers to win on Sunday, but anything can happen in the postseason.
Will the Inconsistent Chiefs Offense Finally Show Up in the Playoffs?
Wanna hear a crazy stat? Aside from the Super Bowl, Patrick Mahomes has never played in a road playoff game. While in years past, Mahomes has played lights out heading into the playoffs, it's slightly different this year. In 2021, KC's offense didn't live up to the same success as their defense, which stepped us its play in the second half of the season. Mahomes hasn't put up solid numbers like we are used to seeing, and Tyreek Hill has taken a noticeable decline in his play on the field. It all depends on which side of Mahomes we see on Sunday, but it could be an interesting night in Arrowhead if we get the inconsistent Mahomes.
As much as I want to pick Pittsburgh in this game, I just can't bet against Patrick Mahomes in the postseason. As a football fan, nothing would please me more than to see Ben Roethlisberger continue his last ride with the Steelers, but I don't see this team beating the Chiefs as a man with a brain.
Jake's Pick: KC -12.5
NFC Wild Card Playoffs
5) Arizona Cardinals (11-6) vs. 4) Los Angeles Rams (12-5)
8:15 p.m. ET, TV: ABC/ESPN/ESPN 2
Line: LAR -4.0
Can the Struggling Cardinals Get Redemption Against the Rams?
The Arizona Cardinals started the season 7-0 but went the opposite direction going 4-6 in their last ten games. Kyler Murray struggled when DeAndre Hopkins went down with an injury. Despite the struggles, the Cardinals still managed to get back in the playoffs for the first time since 2015. The Cardinals will be getting a little healthier as Cardinals pass rusher JJ Watt will likely return after being activated earlier in the week.
It also fits the Cardinals' first playoff matchup is against their divisional rival: the Los Angeles Rams. The Cards split the two meetings with the Rams in the regular season but lost the last time they met. For the Cardinals to win this game, Kyler has to be smart with the football and rely on his offensive weapons like James Connor and AJ Green to do their jobs.
Will the Rams Off-Season Moves Pay Off, or Will They Burn Out?
The 2022 season for the LA Rams quickly turned into a "Super Bowl or Bust" type of season when they decided to trade their final draft picks to get Von Miller from Denver. Not only that, but they traded a lot to get QB Matthew Stafford from Detroit at the beginning of the year. Now, the Rams are fresh off winning the NFC West but are coming off a heartbreaking OT loss at the hands of the Niners. Despite the loss, I believe the Rams are still in a good position. Stafford seems to have found a new leaf, as the veteran QB has put up MVP-caliber numbers. Not to mention, WR Cooper Kupp put together an unforgettable season, as he became just the fourth player in NFL history to win the Triple Crown. Kupp led the league in receptions (145), yards (1947), and TDs (16).
The Rams come into this game missing a few players on defense. Due to Jordan Fuller's injury, the Rams decided to bring veteran safety Eric Weddle out of retirement and he signed with the Rams on Wednesday. Weddle last played football in 2019 for the Rams. Before that, he played 11 seasons in the NFL (eight with the Chargers and three with the Ravens).
This game is interesting because both teams are coming off heartbreaking losses and have regressed in recent weeks. They are also familiar with one another and play for the third time this season. I think Kyler Murray will make some jaw-dropping plays with his feet, but I think Matthew Stafford and LA's dynamic offense will be hard to stop, and I think Stafford will finally get that elusive playoff victory.
Jake's Pick: LAR -4.0
Jake Klausner covers all things sports for ThePyrrhic.com. Keep your eyes peeled for NFL Analysis, World Series Recaps, and more from Jake.
Follow him on Twitter @jake_klausner
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