NASHVILLE- The Wild Card Round is finally here and we have some juicy matchups to kickstart the NFL playoffs! One of the most intriguing matchups is Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry against the Baltimore Ravens electrifying defense. Here is a preview of the NFL Wild Card Round:
AFC Wild Card #4 seed Tennessee Titans (11-5) vs. #5 seed Baltimore Ravens. Sunday, January 10, 1:05 p.m. Eastern Time. Nissan Stadium, ESPN, ABC
The Baltimore Ravens are in the playoffs for the third consecutive year. Will the Madden cover athlete, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson finally deliver the Ravens to their first playoff win since 2014 when they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild card round? How will Derrick Henry perform against the NFL’s eighth-best run defense?
Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown, and Henry were the featured playmakers for the Titans offense which finished as the NFL third-best offense.
Prediction: Baltimore 31 Tennessee 28
AFC Wild Card #2 Buffalo Bills (13-3) vs. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) January 9, 1:05 p.m. New Era Stadium ESPN, CBS
The Buffalo Bills feature the third-best offense in the NFL and the team is second in the NFL in points per game with an average of 31.3. Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and John Brown challenged defenses all season. Allen is fifth in the NFL in passing yards (4,544 yards) and fifth in the NFL in passing touchdowns (37). Allen’s quarterback rating is 81.7 which is third in the NFL.
The Colts dealt with a lot of injuries but this team showed grit and determination to get here. Quarterback Phillip Rivers (4,169 passing yards, 24 touchdowns) will face somewhat of a challenge against the league’s 13th best passing defense.
Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor gives the Colts a chance to stay in this game and possibly win. Taylor is third in the NFL in rushing yards (1,169) and tied for seventh-best in rushing touchdowns (11).
Prediction: Buffalo 35 Indianapolis 21
NFC Wild Card #3 Seattle Seahawks (12-4) vs. #6 Los Angeles Rams 10-6- January 9. 4:40 p.m., Lumen Field (formerly Century Link Stadium) Fox
The Rams defense was one of the better units in the NFL this year. However, slowing down Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (40 passing touchdowns, 73.7 quarterback rating), Receiver D.K. Metcalf (1,303 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns), and receiver Tyler Lockett will be a tough challenge.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff might miss this game due to an injury so that’s worth keeping an eye on.
Prediction: Seahawks 35, Rams 20
NFC Wild Card
#4 Washington Football Team (7-9) vs. #5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5), January 1, 8:15 p.m. Fed Ex Field, NFL Network
This should be a really interesting matchup and a very close game. The second and sixth-best defenses in the NFL will showcase what they can do. It was a bumpy road for the Washington Football Team as they went through a tough time with quarterback Dwayne Haskins at the helm for the offense. Veteran Alex Smith came back from a devastating injury that nearly ended his career and became the inspirational leader of this offense. He has one the best comeback stories of recent memory and perhaps in NFL history. He could’ve retired but he showed determination and wanted to get back on the field. Washington is certainly better for it. The stats may not look glamorous for Smith but he was the backup quarterback behind Haskins. He can get into a rhythm with Terry McLaurin and the rest of the offense.
Tom Brady has another golden opportunity to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory. It’s still unusual to see him in a Buccaneers jersey. Will Tampa Bay have Mike Evans on the field or will he miss the game with an injury?
Prediction: Buccaneers 27 Football Team 21
NFC Wild Card #2 New Orleans Saints (12-4) vs. #7 Chicago Bears (8-8): January 10, 4:40 p.m. Mercedes Benz Superdome, CBS, NFL Network
The last time the Chicago Bears made the playoffs was 2018. The infamous Cody Parkey missed field goal broke the Bears fans’ hearts and Chicago lost to 2018 Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia 16-15. Hearing that “doink” sound is a rough way to lose.
The Bears have a chance for redemption after two years of waiting. Mitchell Trubisky is finally the quarterback that the Bears front office envisioned. Chicago faces the tough challenge of containing veteran quarterback Drew Brees, running back Alvin Kamara (932 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns), and possibly receiver Michael Thomas. It is unknown if Thomas will play tomorrow but he was limited in practice.
Prediction: Saints 42 Bears 28
AFC Wild Card #3 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) vs. #6 Cleveland Browns (11-5) January 10, Heinz Field 8:15 p.m. NBC, NFL Network
The Browns are back in the playoffs for the first time in 17 years! Can this get any more exciting? Cleveland faces the longtime rival Pittsburgh Steelers in a game that could be close if the Browns get back key players from injuries and COVID-19. Unfortunately, pro-bowl left guard Joel Bitonio will miss the game because of COVID. Right tackle Jack Conklin is questionable due to an illness. Browns Quarterback Baker Mayfield might be under a lot of pressure since the Steelers pass rush is outstanding. If Conklin misses this game, it will be a huge loss for the Browns offense. Mayfield may need to stick with a short and intermediate passing game to counter the Steelers pass rush as he may not have a lot of time in the pocket. Cleveland may also need to rely on running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt throughout the game.
Linebacker T.J. Watt will be a vital playmaker and he could be the difference-maker in determining the outcome of this game. Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needs to get in a rhythm early with receivers Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Will running back James Conner have a big game as well or he will struggle?
The Browns will not have Head Coach Kevin Stefanski on the field as he recovers from COVID as well. If the Browns were close to full strength, they’d probably win. However, with the injuries and COVID-19 outbreak, the Browns may need to pack their bags early.
Prediction: Steelers 35 Browns 27
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