After 17 weeks of high-octane football, the playoffs are finally upon us. Some teams dominated in every facet of the game while others had all-time bad seasons. Regardless of which team you support, there were plenty of reasons to watch football this season and as we head into 2020, there will be even more. This weekend, football fans will be blessed with the Wild Card round which is always one of the most fun weekends of the year. The winners of these games will go on to the Divisional Round where they will play some of the best teams in their respective conferences. There is a lot on the line so you can be sure that every team will be giving it their all.
Heading into this weekend, we’ve decided to take a look at each matchup and give our prediction for who we think is going to come away victorious. Many of these teams have had phenomenal seasons but as is the case in every other team sport, only one squad can be the champion. So without further ado, here is our breakdown of this weekend’s Wild Card games.
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans
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At the beginning of the season, it was almost unfathomable to think the Buffalo Bills could finish with the same record as the Houston Texans. The Texans were seen as the clear-cut favorite in the AFC South and they were able to live up to that potential thanks to their quarterback, Deshaun Watson. Meanwhile, many pundits had written the Bills off at the beginning of the season, only for them to come through with a surprise season that had them finishing second in the AFC East with a record of 10-6.
On offense, this matchup isn’t very close. The Texans have the 13th ranked offense in the entire league while the Bills are ranked 24th. Quarterback Josh Allen was decent for the Bills this season although his best plays came while running the ball. In terms of overall skill, Watson will prove to be the much more effective quarterback, even if his offensive line tends to leave him high and dry. When it comes to defense, the Bills are the team with a clear advantage. They finished the season ranked 3rd in overall defense and were fourth in pass defense. Meanwhile, the Texans were 28th and 29th in those same categories, respectively.
When you compare the offensive and defensive matchups, it would appear as though the Bills have the advantage. Their defense can stop almost anyone which is more than you can say for the Texans. On paper, the Bills offense should have a much easier time dealing with the Texans defense than vice versa. Despite this, the Texans should win, although it will be close. Watson is due for a big performance and the home crowd will help him get there. As for the Bills, they simply don’t have the experience to close this one out. Overall, this game will be a low scoring fight that could very well end on a last-second drive. In that scenario, the Texans are a lot more trustworthy. When it comes down to it, Allen and company might not be ready for the spotlight. In a few years from now, that could very well change.
Winner: Houston Texans (17-14)
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots
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Of all the games this weekend, this might be the most fun. This matchup is a tale of two teams trending in completely opposite directions. The Patriots finished the year 12-4 although they went 4-4 in their last eight games, including a week-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Ever since benching quarterback Marcus Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill, the Titans have been on a tear as their offense has run rampant. If there was any game this weekend that could end in an upset, it would be this one.
As far as defense is concerned, the Patriots are almost impossible to compete with. They had the number one ranked defense all season and were beastly when it came to stopping both aerial and ground attacks. The Titans weren’t as proficient in those categories and finished the season with the 21st ranked defense. Offensively, the Titans proved to be much more effective than their opponents. With the third-ranked rushing offense in the NFL, the Titans proved to be a juggernaut on the ground. Overall, the Titans were ranked 12th in total offense while the Patriots were 15th. These margins don’t seem that big until you realize the Patriots scored most of their points earlier in the season.
Tannehill will have his work cut out for him this weekend. Scoring on this Patriots defense is no easy task although based on his play this season, he appears up to the challenge. As for Brady, he’s going to need to figure out his offense early. The Patriots have been getting off to slow starts as of late and if they do that again on Saturday, they’ll be in big trouble. This Titans team is scary and has built up some impressive wins. When you compare their trajectory to the Patriots, it’s clear that the Titans are in a better position to win. Pulling off an upset victory in Foxboro is never easy but as it stands, the Patriots are in a vulnerable position and the Titans seem more than ready to take advantage.
Winner: Tennessee Titans (28-24)
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
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If this were a normal season, the New Orleans Saints wouldn’t be playing in the Wild Card round. With a record of 13-3, the Saints were easily one of the best teams in the entire league. Meanwhile, the Vikings had a respectable season at 10-6 although their campaign was plagued by inconsistent play from quarterback Kirk Cousins. Overall, this matchup is bound to provide some intrigue although it shouldn’t be particularly close.
The Saints are arguably one of the most well-balanced teams in the entire NFL. They finished 9th in overall offense and 11th in defense. When it came to stopping the run, the Saints were dominant, finishing 4th in the league. This is significant when you consider how the Vikings had the sixth-best rushing offense. Overall, the Vikings finished 16th and 14th in overall offense and defense, respectively. These middle of the pack numbers are respectable but when you’re going up against a juggernaut like Drew Brees, you need just a little bit more firepower.
After the missed pass interference call last season, the Saints are determined to make it to the Super Bowl. As for Cousins, he tends to crumble under pressure and that’s exactly what the Saints will be feeding off of. Quarterback matchups are extremely important in the postseason and the Saints win this category, easily. Brees is one of the best to ever play the game and as his career comes to an end, he will be more motivated than ever before. Don’t get us wrong. The Vikings have talented players. But the Saints have some of the most reliable stars in the league. If there was one thing you could bank on in this game, it would be a lot of offense from the Saints. While the Vikings might keep it close, early on, the Saints will most likely run away with it in the second half.
Winner: New Orleans Saints (35-17)
Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles
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This is one of those matchups that makes you question the NFL playoff system. The Philadelphia Eagles come into this game with a record of 9-7 while the Seattle Seahawks sit at 11-5. Despite having a better record, the Seahawks are playing this game on the road. Why? Well, the Eagles won their division which guarantees them at least one home game. It’s not a perfect system but here we are. Besides, the Seahawks made the playoffs one year with a record of 7-9 because of the same rule. So in the end, it works out.
As far as this game is concerned, stats need to be thrown out the window. Both of these teams are playing injured which means it’s going to come down to a battle of will. The Eagles have had almost zero weapons on offense aside from quarterback Carson Wentz. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are playing with an aging Marshawn Lynch and an unproven Travis Homer. On defense, both the Eagles and Seahawks have their fair share of injuries, as well. If you’re a fan of either of these teams, it’s going to be a hard game to watch. Putting your faith in backups is never easy and this game is sure to see an abundance of unknown talents.
Heading into this matchup, Wentz has very little playoff experience other than watching Nick Foles win the Eagles a championship. As for Wilson, he has been here before and is more than ready to lead his troops on the battlefield. When you go injury to injury, it’s clear the Eagles are in a lot more trouble. Even with a depleted roster, the Seahawks almost beat the San Francisco 49ers which is a testament to their will and desire to win. With all of this being said, look for Seattle to come away with the win. It might no be the prettiest victory but the Seahawks have all of the advantages. Wilson has been a master at pulling off one score victories and Sunday should prove to be no different.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks (21-16)