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NFL Wild Card Round Preview

The regular season has wrapped up with week 17 ending last Sunday. That means Wild Card weekend is upon us! 14 teams are all competing in hopes of winning the Lombardi trophy in early February. In this article I will take a look at the six games this weekend, and give an in depth preview on what to expect. 

Timothy T. Ludwig/Getty Images

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills, 1:05 PM. ET Saturday (CBS) 

We start with the first game of the week in Buffalo, as the Indianapolis Colts take on Josh Allen and the Bills. The Bills are the two seed and will host the seven seed Colts. The game temperature looks to be in the high 20s as not often you get a warm game this late in the year in Buffalo. This could be a problem for Philip Rivers, as he is historically not as successful in the cold. 

Allen and the Bills have been thriving, coming off of a dominant performance against the Dolphins as Allen threw for three touchdowns, and the Bills defense corralled three interceptions. 

The Colts have been relying on their run game as of late, with Jonathon Taylor rushing for a total of 327 total yards in his last two games. Indianapolis has one of the best o-lines in the league so expect them to keep pounding the run game in Buffalo this week. 

Expect this game to be one of the most physical games all week. Linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano hardly come off of the field for Buffalo. They will need to have their eyes focused on Taylor all game long if they want to stop the Colts rushing attack. 

The Bills will also look to get things going on offense with Stefon Diggs and Allen. Diggs has led the league in receiving yards this season, and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. If Allen can connect with his receivers and move the ball down the field; I see this being a victory for buffalo.The Colts will put up a good fight, but I think Buffalo wins by two scores. However, this game could get close if Taylor and The Colts run the ball the way they did last week. 

Final score: Bills win 34-20 

Los Angeles Rams At Seattle Seahawks,4:40 PM. EST Saturday (Fox) 

Our next game on Saturday’s slate is between the Seattle’s Seahawks and  the Los Angeles Rams. Seattle is coming into this game on a four game winning streak with hopes to extend it to five. 

The Rams are coming off a low scoring win against the Cardinals. Unfortunately for the Rams, it is feared that starting quarterback Jared Goff will not play this week due to a thumb injury. Head coach Sean McVay said he would not make an announcement until Saturday on the status of his QB. If Goff doesn’t play the Rams will rely on backup quarterback, John Wolford to get the job done. Although McVay said earlier this week that “he’s confident” in Wolford, it is still a big task for Wolford to take down Seattle. 

The Seahawks on the other hand will have Russell Wilson starting at QB, one of the most elite players we’ve seen in the past decade. He has been playing some of his best football in 2020 with the help of his young star D.K Metcalf. The Rams defense which is averaging an NFL best, 18.5 ppg (points per game), is looking to shutdown the Seattle offense. This won’t be easy with Locket and Metcalf, Metcalf has been a breakout player this year for Seattle. With over 1,300 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns, this won’t be any easy matchup for Jalen Ramsey and the Rams defense. The Rams front seven however is where they could win this game.

 If Los Angeles can get to Wilson and shut down the run game, they could pull off the win. Although it’s not easy to stop Rusell Wilson. 

I think Seattle wins in a low scoring affair. The game is gonna be a defensive battle, but I think Wilson strings together a few scores to get them the W. 

Final Score: Seattle wins 21-10 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team, 8:15 p.m. ET Saturday (NBC) 

To finish up the Saturday games, we have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traveling to Washington to take on the Football Team. The race for the NFC East title was a fun one to watch in week 17. The Football team eventually came on top after a win at Philadelphia. The Buccaneers are coming off back to back wins against the falcons to finish out their season. Although Tom Brady hasn’t looked as good as he has in the past, never doubt “playoff” Tom. 

Brady has weapons all over with Godwin, Brown, Gronk and Evans who is questionable to play Saturday. Guys like Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson and Cameron Brate could also make the impact. The Bucs are facing one of the league’s top defenses. In order to put up points they’re gonna need everyone on the offense to contribute. 

The Football Team on the other side has much less options on offense. After “scary” Terry McLaurin and tight end Logan Thomas, there’s not much else to watch out for in the passing game. Although the consensus Comeback Player of the Year Alex Smith won’t let that stop him from fighting for a victory. This would be only Smith’s third playoff win, compared to Brady who has six super bowl wins. I think that this game will be all Tampa. Washington will struggle to get much going on offense, and Brady will cruise to an easy wild card victory. 

Final Score: Tampa Bay wins 31-13 

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans, 1:05 p.m. EST Sunday (ESPN/ABC) 

To start off the Sunday games, we have what might be the game of the week. The five seed Baltimore Ravens head down to Tennessee to take on the four seed Titans. The Ravens are coming into this game on a five game winning streak, after having a rough mid season slump. Many were doubting the Ravens early in the season, but they have proved them all wrong in these last few weeks. Lamar Jackson has looked great running and throwing; he surpassed 1000 total rushing yards last week for the second consecutive season. Although Jackson isn’t the only threat on the ground this week, Rookie running back J.K Dobbins has looked very good as well. In these last few weeks Dobbins has looked like a verteran out there. The Ravens rushing attack will be a tough task for the Titans, although Jeffery Simmons and the Titan’s front seven hope they can contain Jackson and the Ravens backfield. 

The Titans on the other hand might have an even better rushing attack. Derrick Henry, the NFL rushing leader, reached 2000 yards on the season after a monster performance against Houston. The Ravens defense has been good against the run, although hardly any team in the league can stop Henry. This will definitely be a fun game to watch.

Due to some recent struggles, people are sleeping on the Titans. Although I see the start of the playoffs as a fresh start. This will be a close game with the Titans coming out on top. Lamar Jackson has struggled in the playoffs, and I see this trend continuing. He doesn’t have much help with his receivers; Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin are subpar. If the Titans can establish the run game early,

I don’t see the Ravens winning. I think Henry will carry the Titans to a win, and the defense will step up and stop Jackson. 

Final score: Titans win 28-20 

Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints, 4:40 p.m. EST Sunday (CBS, Nickelodeon, Amazon Prime) 

This next game might be the biggest blowout of the weekend. The Bears have struggled on offense for most of the year. They have found some success on the ground with David Montgomery in the last few weeks, but the Saints defense is no joke. New Orleans has had a top three rushing defense all year. They’ve allowed an average of just 310 total yards per game, which is third in the league. This is not a good thing for a team who struggles offensively. Although Trubisky has looked solid in his last few starts, this is no easy job. 

The Saints, on the other hand, have been very consistent on offense as they are averaging nearly six yards a play, and over 375 total yards a game. Drew Brees is thought to retire after the season, and we’ve definitely seen a drop off in his play. His arm hasn’t been the same, although it hasn’t mattered. They are still 12-4 on the season, relying on their All-Pro back Alvin Kamara. The Saints will look to get things going early on the ground, and get up to an early lead.

For the bears to have any chance in this one, they’re going to want to keep it close in the first half. We have seen the Saints play down to their competition a few times this year. Such as against the eagles and lions. 

With that being said though I don’t see the Saints keeping the Bears in this one for too long. Expect the Saints to pound the run game, and the defense to shut down the Bears on offense. The Saints win in a blowout. 

Final score: Saints win 36-7 

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:15 p.m. EST Sunday (NBC, Telemundo, Peacock) 

To wrap up Wild Card weekend, the Cleveland Browns head to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. The Steelers haven’t looked the same since their week 13 loss to the Football Team. They started the season 11-0, although quickly lost three in a row. They’ve only won one of their last five. The Browns, on the other hand, made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. 

After a close victory against the Steelers, the Browns will hope to carry that momentum over into the playoffs. However, Pittsburgh rested many of their starters, making this win not as spectacular. 

Even though the Steelers have received a lot of hate over the last few weeks, they’re still a very talented football team. Ben Roethlisberger is still slinging it pretty well at 38 years of age and their defense has been great. T.J Watt may be the Defensive Player of the Year winner with 15 sacks and two forced fumbles. 

The Browns on the other hand have someone just as good as Watt, Myles Garrett. Garrett has looked like a top pass rusher this season. He will definitely be a tough task for the Steelers. This game will be a fun one to watch. I expect lots of defense and not much offense. Although it would be awesome to see the Browns win, I don’t see it happening. This is Baker Mayfield’s first playoff start, and it’s not against an easy defense. The Steelers defense will corral the Browns offense, to help seal the victory for the Steelers. Steelers win in a low scoring affair.

Final Score: Steelers win 17-10 

This weekend’s Wild Card games will be entertaining to watch. Although I gave my predictions, anything can happen in the playoffs. Will Baker be a beast in the playoffs? It could happen. Will Lamar Jackson finally play good in the postseason? Only time will tell. I am looking forward to this week’s games as we start our road to Tampa! 

Follow @twsn.cade on social media to see my live reaction of this weekend’s games.

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