NFL wildcard picks: Favorites to sweep the six-game list | NFL

aAfter the first week 18 in NFL history ended a choppy season in appropriately dramatic fashion, we head into our first Super Wild Card weekend. The NFL is giving us six games over the next three days, and while you can’t predict football — just ask the Indianapolis Colts — we can at least make semi-educated guesses about how the next games will go.

Raiders of Las Vegas at Cincinnati Bengals (Saturday, 4.30 PM ET / 9.30 PM GMT)

What the Raiders need to do to win: Las Vegas was the last team to qualify for the playoffs and will be a no-man on the road on Saturday. Oddly enough, they hold the same regular season record as the 10-7 Bengals. Given Cincinnati’s history of underachievement, all the pressure is on the other side. If the Conquerors can get an early lead, and force a major spin or two with their talented group of pass racers, that might be enough to sow seeds of doubt in their opponents.

What do the Bengals have to do to win: Quarterback Joe Burrow should simply keep doing what he’s been doing, having thrown 971 yards over the last two games. The last time these two teams met, the Bengals won 32-13 on the road though. If he plays this way, it could be laughable (which the league clearly expects, as they put this in the “death of the ratings” box on Saturday afternoon). The world is ready to receive the first-ever text message to celebrate the victory of the Bengals, who last won a playoff in 1991.

Key player: Ja’Marr Chase, wide receiver, Bengals. It was a sweet story when the Bengals drafted Chase in last year’s NFL draft, reuniting with old college quarterback Joe Burrow. Instead, it was a stroke of genius. The dynamic duo recently set a franchise record, combining 266 yards and three touchdowns in an impressive Week 17 win over the Chiefs. The two have an almost psychological relationship and it might be helpful to see this postseason.

prediction: Bengals on Raiders

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, 8.15pm EST / Sunday 1.15am GMT)

What do the Patriots have to do to win: Run like the wind. In the previous meeting between these two teams, the Patriots changed their game plan to take advantage of the windy weather conditions. Quarterback Mac Jones threw for 19 yards as New England relied on a talented rear legion for a hilarious, hilarious 14-10 win. Jones will have to do more this time around, but it wouldn’t hurt to return to that scheme.

What bills must do to win: The Good Josh Allen should appear. In Allen’s first few seasons, Bills QB had serious problems with ball control despite his obvious physical talents. After Tom Brady moved to Florida, he emerged as Qatar’s best player in the East Asian region. However, old habits do not die easily. In four games extended this season, Allen threw seven interceptions and lost a bump. He can’t afford that kind of neglect again against a Patriots side with one of the league’s most opportunistic defenses.

Main Player: JC Jackson, Back Corner, Patriots. To do this, Buffalo would have to neutralize this guy. Jackson may be the most influential player in this aspect. Jackson’s eight interceptions were the league’s second most this year and he has had 25 interceptions during his four-year career. The Patriots will desperately need him to work their magic on New England to save the way.

prediction: Billing on Patriots

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. GMT)

What do the Eagles have to do to win: I hope this momentum remains a thing. The Eagles started their season 2-5 and looked like they were knocked out of the playoff mix, but they looked like a completely different team since then. Since their 28-22 loss to Tampa Bay in Week Six, they’ve led the league in rushing with 184.8 yards per game. If they keep doing that, we should have a competitive ball game.

What pirates have to do to win: In fact, this isn’t the worst time for the Eagles to face the pirates as Tampa Bay is still reeling from the fallout from Antonio Brown’s position. Despite his endless flaws as a teammate, the team will miss him with Chris Goodwin out of the season with an ACL injury. If Tom Brady’s preferred receiver is the “open receiver”, players at the bottom of the depth chart will have to do their best to open themselves.

Main Player: Tom Brady, Quarterback, Pirate. There is no reason to overthink this. Brady may be the greatest player in NFL history. He’s also 44 – and despite all the evidence available – Father Time will finally have his say. He says he wants to play until he’s 50, and maybe he will, but he has to know that this game could mark the beginning of his last Super Bowl career.

prediction: pirates over eagles

Galen Hurts
Eagles quarterback Galen Hurts made fans in Philadelphia forget departing franchise player Carson Wentz. Photo: Derek Hamilton/The Associated Press

San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, 4.30pm EST / 9.30pm GMT)

What the 49ers have to do to win: Prescott duck production limit. While the Dallas Cowboys quarterback struggled a bit, he finished the season with a performance of 295 yards and five touchdowns. If even two-thirds are as good on Sunday, it’s probably a detour for San Francisco — even if the running game is as good as it was advertised.

What do the Cowboys have to do to win: In return, Dallas must stop running. The 49ers, who are mainly among the midfield players, rely on their running game to tire the opponent’s defences. If the Cowboys’ defense, especially the recently acquired safety of free agent Jayron Kearse, can limit their impulse, it could prevent the team even from needing a big game from Prescott.

Most important player: Deebo Samuel, wide receiver, 49ers. We’re listing Samuel as a broad receiver here, but he’s a new breed of attacking, do-it-all players who captured a total of 1,845 yards, 365 of them on the floor. In fact, with Jimmy Garoppolo injured and rookie Trey Lance completely unwilling to take over, Samuel occasionally took on emergency QB duty, meaning the 49ers had the luxury of running “trick plays” that are just “plays”.

prediction: Cowboys over 49 years old

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, 8.15pm EST / Monday, 1.15am GMT)

What the Steelers need to do to win: Ben Roethlisberger should have another great (and not only good) game left in his Hall of Fame career. It’s a tough job and he seems to know it: “Let’s go in and play and have fun,” he said earlier this week. However, if he stays straight, at least long enough to do a lot of big plays (either with his arms or with his feet), his Steelers career could possibly last another week.

What bosses need to do to win: The Steelers are 12.5 point underdogs against the Chiefs for a reason. They are playing against the most talented team in the AFC. One would expect Patrick Mahomes and his buddies to be able to score, which means the key question is whether a team’s much-improved defense will turn into a game-time squash. If they keep getting to Big Ben, the bosses win this game.

Most important player: Travis Kelsey, narrow tip, heads. Kansas City doesn’t even need Kelchi to crush the Steelers, as they showed the last time these two teams faced each other. Even without the league’s most dangerous tight end, Chiefs still draw heads over the Steelers. Kelchi should be fine on Sunday and that could be very bad news for the Pittsburgh defense.

prediction: Heads over to the Steelers

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (Monday, 8.15pm EST/Tuesday, 1.15am GMT)

What the Cardinals have to do to win: With Kyler Murray at their side, the Cardinal has a decisive advantage in the middle. However, given how well the Rams performed as a team, it wouldn’t matter if the defense wasn’t doing their part. The Rams holds the record 9-1 when Matt Stafford was sacked once or less in this year’s game, but it was 3-4 when he was sacked multiple times. Correlation is not always causal…except when it is.

What the Rams have to do to win: Well, obviously the opposite is that the Rams will have to keep Stafford upright and Stafford will have to avoid throwing multiple shots. However, he has an edge in experience here as this will be Murray’s first start after the season is over. Win-and-loss record for quarterbacks making their debut on the Wild Cards Tour since 2002: 11-31. The midfielder with the least shaken may win.

Key player: Andrew Whitworth, offensive tackle, Rams. There are plenty of players to pick in this match, but let’s take this opportunity to pay tribute to the team’s most overlooked player on the list: the offensive linemen. Pro Football Focus puts Whitworth, the second oldest player left in the NFL Playoffs, behind you know who, as the best pass blocker among his peers. Stafford is doing everything he needs to to maintain this level of play.

prediction: Rams on Cardinals

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