The NFL playoffs are finally here. The best 14 teams remain, and this week 12 of those teams will play. For the second straight year, there are six games scheduled for the first playoff week. There are some intriguing matchups on the slate. The San Francisco 49ers and Las Vegas Raiders both found thrilling ways to make it in a week ago. There will be two divisional matchups in the AFC East and NFC West as well. Here’s a look at the games for Wild Card weekend.
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals
Each of these teams have had impressive years surpassing most expectations, relatively speaking. The Bengals rested Joe Burrow last week so he should be good to go. Their great group of skill position players in Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and C.J. Uzomah all must make an impact. The Raiders’ defensive front can give the Bengals some pressure. Derek Carr has had a fantastic year and will finally be getting his first playoff start. Anticipate another great outing from him. Josh Jacobs, Hunter Renfrow, and Darren Waller will all need to come up big. The Bengals’ defense should make some good things happen. This will be a close game the Bengals win by a possession.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
These division teams are now meeting up for the third time since early December, and they split the season series. The weather will be cold for this one, and the “Bills Mafia” will make an impact. Josh Allen, Devin Singletary, and Stefon Diggs will have to continue to lead this offense, and limiting mistakes against the Patriots’ experienced defense will be crucial. For the New England offense, going against the best defense in the National Football League will be a challenge. Running the football with Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson is going to be key for an efficient offense. The Bills will win this game by a touchdown.
Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Eagles have more than exceeded what most predicted from them entering the year. They have built a strong identity in the trenches on both sides and run the football well. For the Buccaneers, Leonard Fournette is back at practice which is critical. Another big playoff game from Tom Brady will be needed. Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski should make their usual plays in the passing game, while the Buccaneers’ offensive line should have an interesting battle with the Eagles’ defensive line. For the Eagles offense, a successful ground attack led by Jalen Hurts is what will keep this one close. The Buccaneers have a talented front that will not make it easy. The Buccaneers will win this one by 10.
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys
This matchup is the most intriguing one of the week. The 49ers remain as hot as any team in the league and have a winning formula. Despite a big win last week, what to expect from the Cowboys is still an unknown. The 49ers’ solid pass rush could make things tough. Offensively, big plays from the Dallas skill players will have to come. For the 49ers, Deebo Samuel will need to continue to lead their offense. With all that he can provide, it may slow the Cowboys’ fast defensive front down. This game will likely go back and forth until the end. In the end, the 49ers will win a close one by a field goal.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
These two teams met up just a few weeks ago with the Chiefs winning big. This time, expect it to be much closer. The Steelers will have to possess the football, playing slow with their running game. Then, off of that, continuing to give Diontae Johnson opportunities will be needed. The Chiefs’ defense is a good unit that will cause problems, especially up front in the trenches against the Steelers’ offensive line. Patrick Mahomes will have to be at his best as always. Pittsburgh’s defensive front will make some things tough with T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward. Big games from Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, and Travis Kelce should take place against the Steelers’ pass defense. The Chiefs win this game by 10.
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams
These NFC West teams meet up for a fascinating one, as the two split their regular season matchups. Both had fast starts to the season and they each faced some of their own problems within the last two months. Right now, however, the Rams enter as the hotter team. Cooper Kupp will continue to lead the Rams offense, which should have a productive day moving the football. On the other side, Los Angeles’ loaded defensive front will have to play up to their potential, led by Aaron Donald. Not allowing Kyler Murray, James Conner, and Chase Edmonds to get in rhythm will be a key point for the Rams. This game will remain a close one throughout. Ultimately, the Rams will win by a field goal.
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