Well, that was interesting. Super Wild Card Weekend was billed as a party. Instead, we got officiating controversies and blow outs in four of the six games. But at least we got some playoff football. We’re in the stretch of the season where it’s time to savor all the games we have because there aren’t many left. In fact, there are just seven playoff games left including the four we get for Divisional Weekend. Enough dwelling on the season rapidly ending, it’s time to look ahead to the games we’ve got.
I went 4-2 during Wild Card Weekend, we’ll see if I can do even better this round.
Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) at Tennessee Titans (12-5)
The Bengals got their first playoff win in 31 years on Saturday and doubtless fans are hungry for more. The Bengals topped the Raiders 26-19 and earned a trip to battle the AFC’s No. 1 seed, the Tennessee Titans. The Titans started hot and quietly beat all comers, recording a season sweep over the Colts and beating the Chiefs and Bills to ascend to the top of the AFC. The team lost all of its offensive stars—receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones and running back Derrick Henry—at various points in the season. And yet, the Titans did enough to come away with the top seed in the conference. With a week off, the Titans are getting healthier, too. Brown and Jones returned during the regular season and Henry is tracking to come off IR for this week’s playoff game. That’s good news for the Titans but bad news for the upstart Bengals. This game is going to come down to which ever team can bottle up the opposing offense—meaning Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins for the Bengals and Henry, Brown and Jones for Tennessee—and get some timely turnovers. This game, like most playoff games, will come down to the play of the quarterbacks—veteran Ryan Tannehill for the Titans and second-year man Joe Burrow for the Bengals. Something about the game just makes me feel like it’s Burrow’s time.
The Pick: Cincinnati Bengals
San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at Green Bay Packers (13-4)
The second game of the day features the NFC’s No. 1 team in Prime Time facing one of the conference’s hottest teams in the 49ers. The 49ers, behind Jimmy Garoppolo and a strong running attack, went into Dallas on Sunday and came away with the 23-17 win. Now, they get Aaron Rodgers and the NFC’s top team in cold Lambeau Field on Saturday night. The 49ers played the Packers earlier this season, falling 30-28 in San Francisco. In that game, the Packers’ trio of Rodgers, Aaron Jones and Davante Adams did their thing to help the Packers pull off the victory. The 49ers, meanwhile, got a decent passing attack but struggled to run the ball with no Elijah Mitchell. Mitchell figures to be a part of the attack on Saturday, which could help turn the 49ers’ fortunes on offense, especially with Garoppolo dealing with a shoulder injury on top of his thumb issues. On Sunday in Dallas, the 49ers were able to get the win by bottling up Ezekiel Elliott on the ground and putting constant pressure on quarterback Dak Prescott. To win in Green Bay, the 49ers’ defensive front will need to do the same to Rodgers and Jones. If they can’t, we could well see another Packers trip to an NFC Championship Game.
The Pick: Green Bay Packers
Los Angeles Rams (12-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)
This is the battle we’ve been waiting to see, a re-match of a great regular season game played in Los Angeles in Week 3 of the season where Matthew Stafford and the Rams got the better of Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, 34-24. Since then, both teams played well in the regular season with the Buccaneers finishing a game better, earning the No. 2 seed. That means it’s Brady’s turn to host the re-match, as both teams come into the Divisional Round fresh off blowout wins. The Buccaneers, despite being short-handed, went up 31-0 on the Eagles after three quarters. The Buccaneers held on for the 31-15 win and will likely get running back Leonard Fournette back on Sunday, adding to the stable of available weapons for Brady, the favorite to finish as the league’s MVP. The Rams, meanwhile, played on Monday night, taking a 21-0 lead over the Cardinals at the half and leading 28-0 at one point before settling in for a 34-11 win. The Rams were up-and-down a bit, with Stafford struggling with turnovers to end the regular season. But when the offense is clicking, they are tough to stop. In the first meeting both quarterbacks went for more than 300 yards, but it was the Rams’ running attack behind Sony Michel that helped give them an edge. Against a tough defensive front, Michel ran for 67 yards to provide some balance. Heading into this one, Michel is part of a tandem with Cam Akers, who looked sharp in his return from injury Monday night. This should be a fun one. I like the Rams’ team, but you can never count out Brady.
The Pick: Los Angeles Rams
Buffalo Bills (11-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)
This could be the matchup of the weekend. Like the early game on Sunday, this one features two teams coming off a blow out in the Wild Card Round. The Bills hosted the Patriots on Saturday and got the 47-17 win in a game that wasn’t even that close. Josh Allen threw five touchdowns and the Bills’ offense was red hot. The Chiefs hung 42 points on the Steelers on Sunday night, winning by three touchdowns as Patrick Mahomes also threw five touchdowns. These are arguably the hottest offenses in the AFC meeting on the field on Sunday afternoon. The Bills and Chiefs played in Kansas City earlier this season, with the Bills pulling out the 38-20 win. At the time, it moved the Bills to 4-1 and put the Chiefs at 2-3. The Chiefs rallied with an eight-game winning streak prior to a Week 17 loss to the Bengals, part of the reason they are hosting this playoff matchup. It was a more difficult path for the Bills, who ended the season 4-1 after a December 6 loss to New England dropped them to 7-5 on the season. A big piece of the Bills’ late season success was the resurgence of the running game, led by Devin Singletary. Singletary rushed for 81 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday, helping balance the offensive attack with Allen. The Bills will need more of the same if they want to get a second win in Arrowhead on Sunday.
The Pick: Buffalo Bills
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.