NFL wildcard playoff picks: Favorites to sweep ‘super’ six-game slate | NFL

After the first week 18 in NFL history ended a season in reverse in a sufficiently dramatic way, we’re heading into the very first Super Wild Card weekend. The NFL gives us six games over the next three days and while you can’t predict football – just ask the Indianapolis Colts – we can at least make semi-educated guesses about how subsequent games will be. will take place.

Las Vegas Raiders at the Cincinnati Bengals (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. EST / 9:30 p.m. GMT)

What the Raiders must do to win: Las Vegas was the last team to advance to the playoffs and will lose on the road on Saturday. Oddly enough, they have a regular season record identical to that of the Bengals 10-7. Given Cincinnati’s history of underperforming, all the pressure is on the other side. If the Raiders can get an early lead, forcing a key change or two with their talented passer group, that might be enough to cast doubt on their opponents.

What the Bengals need to do to win: Quarterback Joe Burrow just has to keep doing what he’s been doing, having thrown for 971 yards in the last two games. The last time these two teams met, the Bengals won 32-13, on the road nonetheless. If he plays like that, it could be a laugh (which the league obviously expects, since they put him in the “odds death” box on Saturday afternoon). The world is ready for the first text message ever to celebrate a victory for the Bengals, who last won a playoff game in 1991.

Key player: Ja’Marr Chase, wide receiver, Bengals. It was a cute story when the Bengals drafted Chase in the NFL Draft last year, reuniting him with his former college quarterback in Joe Burrow. Instead, it was a stroke of genius. The dynamic duo recently set a franchise record, combining 266 yards and three touchdowns in an impressive Week 17 win over the Chiefs. The two have an almost psychic connection and that could be something to see in the playoffs.

Prediction: Bengals vs. Raiders

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, 8:15 p.m. EST / Sunday 1:15 GMT)

What the Patriots must do to win: Run like the wind. In the previous meeting between these two teams, the Patriots changed their game plan to take advantage of the extremely windy weather conditions. Quarterback Mac Jones threw for 19 yards as New England relied on a talented body of backers to put together a hilarious and hilarious 14-10 victory. Jones will have to do more this time around, but it wouldn’t hurt to go back to that plan.

What the Bills must do to win: The good Josh Allen is going to have to show up. For Allen’s first seasons, the Bills’ QB had serious ball control issues despite his obvious physical talents. After Tom Brady moved to Florida, he became the AFC East’s top QB. However, old habits die hard. In a four-game streak this season, Allen threw seven interceptions and lost a fumble. He can no longer afford that kind of neglect against a Patriots team with one of the most opportunistic defenses in the league.

Key player: JC Jackson, cornerback, Patriots. To do that, Buffalo will have to neutralize this guy. Jackson could be their most impactful player on this side. Jackson’s eight interceptions were second in the league this year and he has 25 in his four-year career. The Patriots will desperately need him to work his magic for New England to pull off a road shake-up.

Prediction: Patriots invoices

Philadelphia Eagles at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, 1 p.m. EST / 6 p.m. GMT)

What the Eagles need to do to win: I hope that this momentum is still valid. The Eagles started their season 2-5 looking out of the playoff mix, but have since looked like an entirely different team. Since losing 28-22 to Tampa Bay in Week 6, they’ve even led the league rushing with 184.8 rushing yards per game. If they maintain that, we should have a competitive ball game.

What the Buccaneers need to do to win: It’s actually not the worst time for the Eagles to face the Buccaneers with Tampa Bay still reeling from the fallout from Antonio Brown’s predicament. Despite his endless shortcomings as a teammate, he will be missed by the team with Chris Godwin out for the season with an ACL injury. If Tom Brady’s preferred receiver is the “open catcher,” then players further down the depth chart are going to have to do their best to open up.

Key player: Tom Brady, quarterback, Buccaneers. No reason to overthink this one. Brady might just be the greatest player in NFL history. He’s also 44 years old and – despite all the available evidence – Father Time will eventually have his say. He says he wants to play until he’s 50, and maybe he will, but he needs to know this game could mark the start of his last Super Bowl run.

Prediction: The buccaneers on the eagles

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts makes Philadelphia fans forget franchise player Carson Wentz. Photograph: Derik Hamilton / AP

San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, 4:30 p.m. EST / 9:30 p.m. GMT)

What the 49ers must do to win: Limit the production of Dak Prescott. As the Dallas Cowboys quarterback struggled down the home stretch, he finished the season with a performance of 295 yards and five touchdowns. If he’s even two-thirds as good on Sunday, it’s probably an end for San Francisco – even if their running game is as good as advertised.

What the Cowboys must do to win: However, Dallas must stop the race. The 49ers, who are essentially between the quarters, rely on their running game to wear down opposing defenses. If the Cowboys defense, especially recently acquired free agent Jayron Kearse, can limit their rushing yards, it could prevent the team from even needing a big game from Prescott.

Key player: Deebo Samuel, wide receiver, 49ers. We’re listing Samuel as the wide receiver here, but he’s a new breed of offensive all-rounder who has amassed 1,845 yards, including 365 rushing. In fact, with Jimmy Garoppolo injured and rookie Trey Lance not quite ready to take on the role, Samuel has even occasionally performed emergency QB duties, meaning the 49ers have the luxury of running ‘plays. traps ”which are only“ games ”.

Prediction: Cowboys over 49

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, 8:15 p.m. EST / Monday, 1:15 GMT)

What the Steelers must do to win: Ben Roethlisberger has yet to play a big game (not just a good one) in his Hall of Fame career. It’s a tall order and even he seems to know it: “Let’s go play and have fun,” he said earlier this week. Still, if he stays on his feet, at least long enough to make a lot of big plays (with his arms or with his feet), maybe his Steelers career will last another week.

What chefs need to do to win: The Steelers are 12.5-point underdogs against the Chiefs for a reason. They play against the most talented team in the AFC. Patrick Mahomes and his company are expected to be able to score, which means the key question is whether or not the team’s much improved defense turns into a pumpkin heading into the playoffs. If they can keep making it to Big Ben, the Chiefs win this game.

Key player: Travis Kelce, tight end, Chiefs. Kansas City doesn’t even need Kelce to crush the Steelers, as they showed the last time these two teams faced each other. Even without the league’s most dangerous tight end, the Chiefs still crushed the Steelers. Kelce should be ready to go on Sunday and that could be very bad news for this Pittsburgh defense.

Prediction: Chiefs vs. Steelers

Arizona Cardinals at the Los Angeles Rams (Monday, 8:15 p.m. EST / Tuesday, 1:15 GMT)

What the Cardinals must do to win: With Kyler Murray by their side, the Cardinals have a decisive advantage as a quarterback. However, given how good the Rams have been as a team, it won’t matter if the defense doesn’t do their part. The Rams are 9-1 when Matt Stafford is sacked once or less in a game this year, but are 3-4 when sacked multiple times. Correlation is not always causation… except when it is.

What the Rams must do to win: Well, obviously the reverse of this is that the Rams will have to keep Stafford upright and Stafford will have to avoid throwing multiple picks. He does have the advantage of having some experience here, though, as this will be Murray’s first playoff start. The record for quarterfinals wins and losses making their playoff debut in the wildcard round since 2002: 11-31. May the less shaken quarterback win.

Key player: Andrew Whitworth, offensive tackle, Rams. There are plenty of players to choose from in this game, but let’s take this opportunity to congratulate the most overlooked non-special teams on the list: the offensive linemen. Pro Football Focus places Whitworth, the second-oldest NFL playoff player behind you-know-who, as the best pass blocker among his peers. Stafford desperately needs him to keep up this level of play.

Prediction: Rams on Cardinals

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