Super Wild Card Weekend in the NFL is here! We’ve got a weekend packed with NFL playoff games on tap and we’re going to take a look ahead at all six matchups this afternoon.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
Somehow Kyle Shanahan finds a way to win, no matter who is under center. Shanahan took the 49ers to the Super Bowl (2019 season) and another NFC Championship Game last year. Can Shanahan and the 49ers put together another deep run into the playoffs?
By the Numbers
- Records: 49ers 13-4 (1st NFC West), Seahawks 9-8 (2nd NFC West)
- Points Per Game: 49ers 26.5 (6th), Seahawks 23.9 (9th)
- Passing Yards Per Game: 49ers 226.8 (12th), Seahawks 231.4 (11th)
- Rushing Yards Per Game: 49ers 138.8 (8th), 120.1 (18th)
- Points Allowed Per Game: 49ers 16.3 (1st), Seahawks 23.6 (25th)
- Yards Allowed Per Game: 49ers 318.6 (1st), Seahawks 379.1 (28th)
Seahawks Path to Victory
If the Seahawks want to upset the 49ers on the road this weekend, their game plan should center around creating pressure on rookie 49ers’ rookie quarterback Brock Purdy. When the Raiders’ pass rush started to get home in Week 17, Purdy started to look less like the wonder rookie with a 107.3 passer rating and more like an actual rookie.
The Seahawks have one of the lowest blitz rates in the league, so the third matchup of the season with San Francisco would be an excellent time to change this early and maybe shake Purdy up a bit and force Kyle Shanahan to audible from his script.
49ers Path to Victory
Deebo Samuel being removed from the injury report is bad news for the Seahawks. San Francisco’s top weapon is healthy and will play on Saturday.
Kyle Shannahan will protect his rookie quarterback by leaning on the 49ers’ eighth-ranked rushing attack in the one, and their top-ranked defense will play an equally large role.
Look for San Francisco to try to control the clock and limit what Geno Smith can do through the air.
Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Chargers and the Jaguars might be one of my favorite matchups this weekend. Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence, two first-rounders in 2020 and 2021, respectively, will make their first career playoff starts against each other on Saturday in Jacksonville, and I’m pumped for it!
By the Numbers
- Records: Jaguars 9-8 (1st AFC South), Chargers 10-7 (2nd AFC West)
- Points Per Game: Jaguars 23.8 (10th), Chargers 23.0 (13th)
- Passing Yards Per Game: Jaguars 232.9 (10th), Chargers 296.6 (3rd)
- Rushing Yards Per Game: Jaguars 124.5 (14th), Chargers 89.6 (30th)
- Points Allowed Per Game: Jaguars 20.6 (12th), Chargers 22.6 (21st)
- Yards Allowed Per Game: Jaguars 365.2 (23rd), 363.0 (30th)
Chargers Path to Victory
The Chargers do one thing really well: throw the football. Justin Herbert has led the Chargers through the air all season with a passing offense that averages nearly 300 yards per game and ranks third in the NFL.
Even without Mike Williams playing (back), Herbert and the Chargers will look to air it out against a Jaguars team that ranked 23rd in the NFL in yards allowed this season.
Jaguars Path to Victory
Trevor Lawrence has been on another level during the second half of the season, throwing 2,273 yards, 15 touchdowns, and just two interceptions in his last nine starts. Lawrence has a 104.6 passer rating during that span, and he’ll be the key to victory for Jacksonville for as long as they’re alive in the postseason.
Regardless of how this shakes out, Jacksonville has had an impressive turnaround, and they’re set up well for the future. But if they want to knock off the Chargers, Trevor Lawrence will need to have one of his better performances of the season.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
No, Tua, big problem for Miami this weekend. The Dolphins and Bills have given us two entertaining battles this season. Still, No. 3 probably won’t live up to the same billing with rookie Skyler Thompson starting in place of the injured Tua Tagovailoa, erasing some of the luster this matchup could have had.
By the Numbers
- Records: Bills 13-3 (1st AFC East), Dolphins 9-8 (2nd AFC East)
- Points Per Game: Bills 28.4 (2nd), Dolphins 23.4 (11th)
- Passing Yards Per Game: Bills 258.1 (7th), Dolphins 265.4 (4th)
- Rushing Yards Per Game: Bills 139.5 (7th), Dolphins 99.2 (25th)
- Points Allowed Per Game: Bills 17.9 (2nd), Dolphins 23.4 (11th)
- Yards Allowed Per Game: Bills 337.1 (7th), Dolphins 354.9 (18th)
Dolphins Path to Victory
A Josh Allen injury?
Seriously, this Miami team stumbled into the postseason after a magical start. I can’t see a way for them to knock off the Bills in Buffalo, especially without Tua under center.
Sorry, Dolphins fans, there’s just no viable path to victory for the Dolphins here.
Bills Path to Victory
Josh Allen and the Bills will get a banged-up Dolphins team without Tua Tagovailoa, so their path to victory is pretty simple: don’t get too cute, and don’t get Josh Allen hurt. If the Bills can show up and play their game and remain healthy, there’s zero doubt in my mind that they’ll be playing in the Divisional Round next weekend.
New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
There’s always that one Wild Card Weekend game that has the potential for a significant upset, à la the 12-5 upset in the March Madness tourney. This is it for me this weekend.
By the Numbers
- Records: Vikings 13-4 (1st NFC North), Giants 9-7-1 (3rd NFC East)
- Points Per Game: Vikings 24.9 (8th), Giants 21.8 (17th)
- Passing Yards Per Game: Vikings 263.8 (6th), Giants 185.7 (26th)
- Rushing Yards Per Game: Vikings 97.7 (27th), Giants 148.2 (4th)
- Points Allowed Per Game: Vikings 25.1 (28th), Giants 21.8 (17th)
- Yards Allowed Per Game: Vikings 402.9 (31st), Giants 374.1 (26th)
Giants Path to Victory
Saquon Barkley has had a resurgence this season, and he’s helped the Giants rank among the best in the NFL on the ground. The Giants are averaging 148.2 yards per game on the ground, good for fourth in the league.
In the Giants’ matchup with the Vikings in Week 17, Barkley ran for 84 yards, a touchdown on 14 carries (6.0 YPC), and the Vikings are allowing 97.7 rushing yards per game (27th) this season. So Brian Daboll’s game plan should be a heavy dose of Saquon and the run game to take advantage of Minnesota’s 28th-ranked scoring defense.
Vikings Path to Victory
Minnesota scored the eighth-most points in the league but also allowed the fifth-most. Score early and often will be the path to victory for the Vikings. The Giants don’t have to firepower to get into a shootout with Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson on the other side of the field. So, Minnesota has to come out firing and take away the Giants’ hope to keep things close long enough to wear the Vikings down.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
Burrow and the Bengals will play host to the Baltimore Ravens this week. Unfortunately, much like the Dolphins-Bills game, we were robbed of better matchup due to injury.
Lamar Jackson will miss this week’s game, making the Ravens heavy underdogs in this one.
By the Numbers
- Records: Bengals 12-4 (1st AFC North), Ravens 10-7 (2nd AFC North)
- Points Per Game: Bengals 26.1 (7th), Ravens 20.6 (19th)
- Passing Yards Per Game: Bengals 265.0 (5th), Ravens 178.8 (28th)
- Rushing Yards Per Game: Bengals 95.5 (29th), Ravens 160.0 (2nd)
- Points Allowed Per Game: Bengals 20.1 (6th), Ravens 18.5 (3rd)
- Yards Allowed Per Game: Bengals 345.9 (12th), Ravens 342.2 (8th)
Ravens Path to Victory
Lamar Jackson hasn’t played since Week 13, and it’ll be Tyler Huntley under center for the Ravens again on Sunday night.
Huntley has completed 67 percent of his passes for 658 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions, and a 77.2 passer rating in five games under center. If Baltimore hopes to upend Joe Burrow and Cincinnati’s bid for a second straight AFC title, the defense will need to have an other-worldly performance, and Huntley will have to have the best game of his life.
Bengals Path to Victory
Cincinnati has won eight straight games and come into this one as unanimous favorites for a good reason. Joe Burrow is in the MVP conversation again, and the Bengals just need to play a clean game, and they should have no issue getting past their AFC North rivals on Sunday night.
Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady has never lost the Cowboys, and the way the Cowboys have played lately, that trend might continue on Monday night in Tampa Bay. Plus, it’s been a long time since Dallas won a road playoff game. Just how long? The last road playoff victory for the Cowboys was in 1992 against the 49ers. Yikes.
By the Numbers
- Records: Buccaneers 8-9 (1st NFC South), Cowboys 12-5 (2nd NFC East)
- Points Per Game: Buccaneers 18.4 (25th), Cowboys 27.5 (4th)
- Passing Yards Per Game: Buccaneers 269.8 (2nd), Cowboys 219.8 (14th)
- Rushing Yards Per Game: Buccaneers 76.9 (32nd), Cowboys 135.2 (9th)
- Points Allowed Per Game: Buccaneers 21.1 (12th), Cowboys 20.1 (5th)
- Yards Allowed Per Game: Buccaneers 343.8 (10th), Cowboys 350.9 (16th)
Cowboys Path to Victory
Dak Prescott has been iffy often this season. To often for me to say that the Cowboys, who are the far superior team on paper, can easily knock off Tampa Bay on the road on Monday night.
Dak has to play a clean game, and the Cowboys need to run the ball and keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands as often as possible.
Buccaneers Path to Victory
I feel we’re either talking about why it remains silly to bet against the QB with the most Super Bowl rings in NFL history or why Tom Brady should retire on Tuesday morning.
If Brady can find success through the air and the Buccaneers’ defense can neutralize the two-headed monster Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliot in the Dallas backfield, the Buccaneers can win this one. But that’s really the only viable path for Tampa Bay, whose rushing attack is the worst in football.