NFL Playoff Previews and Predictions: Wild Card Round 

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It’s one of my favorite times of the sporting calendar. It’s Wild Card Weekend bitches. After 17 long weeks, the second season has started, and everyone is 0-0. Regular season records only matter in terms of seeding. A win this weekend gives a team the opportunity to go on the road and play one of the top 2 seeds in their conference. Each AFC contest is on Saturday, and the NFC games are on Sunday.

Saturday, 4:35 (ESPN) Texans (-3) vs. Bills

This spread tells us that the folks in Vegas see these teams as equals. This should be a fun game between two young QBs who are on their way up the totem pole. We’ve seen Deshaun Watson ball out over the last 3 years, but he is still lacking a playoff win. He was unimpressive last year in a Wild Card game vs. the Colts, and needs a good showing this weekend against the Bills and their 2nd ranked scoring defense (16.19 PPG).

For the Bills, QB Josh Allen has progressed very nicely through his first 2 years in the league. Consistency has been an issue however. Allen has a completion percentage of 58.8%, 32nd in the league.

One of the commonly used cliches in football is that “defense travels”. Though Josh Allen can be inconsistent, he doesn’t have to light it up. While Deshaun Watson has put up stellar numbers, he’s also been susceptible to some bad games himself. At times he can be feast or famine. It’ll be hard to feast on that Bills D. I like Buffalo, 24-17.

Saturday, 8:15 (CBS) Patriots (-5.5) vs. Titans

The Patriots surprised the football world by losing their season finale at home to the Dolphins with a first-round bye on the line. There are tons of things to be concerned with if you’re a Pats fan. Tom Brady is a shell of his former self. In an offense built on quick, short throws, Brady is 27th in completion percentage, barely over 60%. I was shocked to see just how inefficient he has been. All that said, this Patriots defense might be Belichick’s best during his tenure in New England. Brady doesn’t have to be the star.

I was very bullish on Tennessee just a few weeks ago. Ryan Tannehill has completely resurrected his career since replacing Marcus Mariota as the starter. Rookie wide receiver AJ Brown has been amazing. Derrick Henry is an absolute beast. This defense is solid.

Up until losing their 2 of their final 3 games (both losses at home to playoff teams), I was going out on a limb to say that the Titans would make it to the AFC Championship game. I like this team’s balance, but I just don’t see them going to Gillette and pulling off the shocker. However, they’re fully capable of it. Coaching and experience will be the difference in a really close game. Patriots win 21-18.

Sunday 1:05 (Fox) Saints (-7.5) vs. Vikings

New Orleans might be the most well-rounded team in the playoffs. They’re very solid across the board, have a hall of famer at quarterback, and a proven coach. I’d frankly take the Saints against any team in the Superdome.

Minnesota has a lot of similarities to the Saints. Good defense, great skill players, and a solid and experienced coach. The big difference is at quarterback. Until I’m proven otherwise, I can’t trust Kirk Cousins in big games. Can’t do it.

Minnesota just strikes me as that type of team that can beat up on bad teams and bad defenses, but struggles against the good ones. I see the Saints winning big, 31-20.

Sunday 4:40 (NBC) Eagles vs. Seahawks (-1.5)

Seattle was literally inches away from a first-round bye and a home game in the divisional round. Instead, they have to fly across the country to play the Eagles in Philadelphia. Seattle has been notorious for winning close games this year. On the year, they outscore opponents by an average of less than 1 point per game. While Seattle has been known as a dominant home team for the better part of the decade, this year’s version is better on the road. The Eagles might be getting the Seahawks at the best time possible. Seattle has lost 3 of its last 4 games, and the Russell Wilson who was an MVP candidate has completely left the discussion (while also costing me in my fantasy league playoffs. Thanks a lot Russ).

Carson Wentz has been amazing of late, carrying a patchwork group of rookies and practice squad level talent. The Eagles enter the playoffs on a 4-game win streak, albeit against the dumpster fire that is the NFC East. After struggling to find any offense, the Eagles have found a few guys in recent weeks who have been able to help Wentz.

The X Factor in this game is the Eagles defense. This unit has been very inconsistent. At times, receivers run wide open in their secondary. They have also had their share of good games. They were fantastic against Dallas. It’s hard to predict what you might see week to week with this defense. Being a biased Eagles fan, I see another efficient game from Carson Wentz. I also see the Eagles taking advantage of the Seattle offensive line. Eagles win, 27-24.

 

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