The NFL Playoffs are here. After a wild regular season, we are down to 14 teams. A total of 12 of those teams will be in action for Super Wild Card Weekend, which kicks off on Saturday and runs through Monday Night. Below is my take on each game, including my pick. My goal every year is to be perfect in the playoffs. Will I get there? Let’s find out.
Seattle Seahawks (9-8) at San Francisco 49ers (13-4)
About: We have three battles of divisional rivals in this round of the playoffs. The first of those matchups is between these rivals in the NFC West. The Seahawks started the season hot, jumping out to an early lead in the division. Then the 49ers surged and ended up taking the division crown. The 49ers swept the Seahawks. The first meeting was in Week 2—a 27-7 victory—where Trey Lance was lost for the season and Jimmy Garoppolo came in and led the 49ers to victory. In Week 15 it was Brock Purdy leading the 49ers to a 21-13 win to secure the division title. The Seahawks were the final team in for the NFC field, qualifying after an overtime win against the Rams in Week 18. The 49ers, meanwhile, surged, going undefeated with Purdy as the starting quarterback to seize the No. 2 seed. It’s hard to beat a team three times in a season but it’s harder to image the Seahawks getting the win on the road.
Los Angeles Chargers (10-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)
About: This isn’t a divisional rivalry, but it is a re-match of a battle during the 2022 NFL Season. The Chargers and Jaguars met in Week 3, with the Jaguars taking the 38-10 win in Los Angeles. It was a surprising turn of events at the time, giving the Jaguars an early season lead. Following that win, the Jaguars lost five straight games. But it was late in the season when the Jaguars won five straight games—including two over the Tennessee Titans and over the Dallas Cowboys—to win the AFC South and host a playoff game. The Chargers had their own up-and-down season. But after winning four straight to get to 10 wins, the Chargers punched their ticket to the playoffs. The team was also getting healthier prior to a Week 18 game in Denver, where the Chargers lost 31-28 and lost receiver Mike Williams, whose back injury might keep him out of the game Saturday night. This could be one of the most competitive battles of Wild Card Weekend.
Miami Dolphins (9-8) at Buffalo Bills (13-3)
About: This is another Wild Card weekend battle of division rivals. In this case, it’s a matchup of two teams that split their regular season matchups. In Week 3 in Miami, the Dolphins got a 21-19 win. In Week 15 in Buffalo, the Bills turned the table to get the 32-29 victory. Both those games featured Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback for the Dolphins, but that won’t be the case in the rubber match Sunday. Tua is out with a concussion, and Teddy Bridgewater is still dealing with a finger injury. That leaves rookie Skyler Thompson to get the start in the playoffs. Thompson started in Week 18, going 20-for-31 for 152 yards and no touchdowns. He did lead the offense to the 11-6 win over the Jets to get into the playoffs. On the flip side, the Bills haven’t lost since a 33-30 loss to the Vikings in Week 9. The Bills are heavy favorites, but the only ray of sunshine for the Dolphins might be the rushing offense. Despite a loss, in their Week 15 game the Dolphins rushed for 188 yards. If they can rush well again Sunday, the team could control the clock and give themselves a chance for the upset victory.
New York Giants (9-7-1) at Minnesota Vikings (13-4)
About: In what’s been a theme of these playoffs, this is another matchup where the teams have played each other prior to this playoff battle. These teams met in Week 16, with the Giants falling just short in a 27-24 loss in Minnesota. A few weeks later, the same teams are back in the same location. Will it be the same result? On paper, going by records, this should favor the Vikings. But Minnesota has struggled in some high-pressure, high-profile games. The team was blown out by the Cowboys and Packers, losing to the red-hot Lions and Eagles as well. Minnesota’s defensive weakness has been against the pass, which isn’t a forte for the Giants. Still, Brian Daboll has made the most of his offensive weapons, building a solid attack around Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley. I like the Giants’ moxie, and I have some questions about the Vikings are a true contender. My gut says this is an upset waiting to happen.
Baltimore Ravens (10-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
About: The Ravens were good enough to make the playoffs but have struggled without Lamar Jackson in the lineup. Jackson sprained his PCL on December 4 and hasn’t practiced since. He’s a real long-shot to play on Sunday, which is a bad sign for the Ravens. Baltimore finished the season just 1-3 over its final four games, including a 27-16 loss in Cincinnati last week. The Bengals, meanwhile, won their final eight games of the regular season to capture the division and earn the No. 3 seed. With Jackson unlikely to return, it’s hard to imagine the Ravens have the firepower necessary to get a win over the Bengals like they did early in the season.
Monday Night Football:
Dallas Cowboys (12-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)
About: This is a re-match of the first Sunday Night Football game of the regular season. In that one, Dak Prescott broke his thumb and Tom Brady broke Cowboys’ fans’ hearts with a 19-3 win. The Cowboys went 12-4 from that point on while the Buccaneers went 7-9, struggling to win a division only thanks to an entire group being below .500. The Buccaneers are the only sub-.500 team in the playoffs, yet they get to host by virtue of winning the NFC South. The Cowboys’ offense has been better since the first few games, but the defense has struggled a bit of late. The Cowboys are also coming off a tough 26-6 loss to Washington in Week 18. The Buccaneers are still a talented team but the offensive line issues have plagued the offense—and limited production—all season long. Can the veteran Brady get it going, or will the Cowboys find an elusive playoff win? Call me crazy, but I like the Cowboys.
Regular Season: 156-113
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.
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