Look, I know I'm gonna strike out on all these, alright? I tend to have terrible luck when it comes to wild card weekend. It's mainly due to the unpredictable nature that comes with the playoffs. The play is elevated and teams want to win more. Yet, here we go again.
This week, I'm looking at every game from all angles. What should we watch for? Who's the X-Factor? These are some overly-cliche terms that we'll explore here. In the meantime, here's who I think will move onto the divisional round.
Raiders vs. Bengals: Did you know the Cincinnati Bengals haven't won a playoff game since 1991? Did you know that the first text message was sent in 1992? That means no one sent a text message about the Bengals winning a playoff game in their lifetimes. Germany wasn't officially reunited yet, either. Basically, a lot has happened since Cincinnati's last playoff win. The "Who Dey" crew has a chance to end that futility streak this Saturday against an inspired Raiders team. The Raiders have made it to the postseason despite firing their head coach because of a racist e-mail scandal. Las Vegas has a chance to win if Derek Carr doesn't turn the ball over. He must have excellent protection and turn this game into a shootout. The Bengals have a slew of receivers and offensive weapons, including Jamarr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Joe Mixon. Joe Burrow's under center and has cranked up the heat in recent weeks. With the cats' offensive firepower, it's safe to say that Cincinnati will end their futility streak on Sunday. Bengals 38, Raiders 31
Patriots vs. Bills: The two teams will meet for a third time this season, with the last matchup seeing Bill Belichick run three passing plays in a Monday night victory. That probably won't happen again, as the Bills will sniff that out. Still, keep a close eye on the passing game, for both teams are 1-2 in passing yards allowed. It'll be decided on who has the upper hand on the ground. While New England is more vulnerable to the run, they also have the personnel to stymie the Bills. Plus, the coaching advantage goes to Bill Belichick, who always has a great strategy cooked up. Most of all, does anyone honestly think this Bills team will make the Super Bowl? Buffalo has been inconsistent on offense all season. It remains to be seen which Bills team will show up on Saturday. Points will be at a premium in this matchup. However, it'll be that old New England magic commonly seen in January, even if No. 12 isn't around. Patriots 16, Bills 13
Eagles vs. Patriots: First of all, I hate how this is the FOX game and not the Cowboys-49ers. How did one of the best NFL rivalries of the 90s get the slime treatment from Nickolodeon?! Did Jed York's milquetoast personality scare off Joe Buck and Troy Aikman? Did Tom Brady pull a few strings behind the scenes to get the Bucs on FOX? It's beyond sacrilegious to forego "America's Team" for the FOX broadcast for the NFL for someone else, especially if Jerry Jones is still alive. Anyways, the Bucs have been depleted in the past few weeks. Losing Chris Godwin to a knee injury, Mike Evans for a bit to a hamstring injury, and Leonard Fournette to a hamstring injury hurts. Throw in a resurgent Eagles ground game featuring Boston Scott and Jordan Howard and this could spell "upset" for the Bucs. Just kidding. Fournette returned to practice this week and Evans came back earlier as well. There's a possibility this will be an interesting game. However, Tom-pa Bay should cruise to an easy victory. Bucs 33, Eagles 20
49ers vs. Cowboys: I'm hearing takes about how Dallas is on high upset alert because San Francisco is a physical team. The Cowboys are a finesse team while the 49ers will try to slow the game down on the ground. There's also no doubt Deebo Samuel will be the X-Factor in the game. He's a versatile receiver, and he should make life a living hell for Dallas. However, the Cowboys have Jed's number. They've won the past three matchups and are playing at home against San Francisco. Plus, are you really going to trust Jimmy G with the football? His thumb's gonna fall off as he throws a pick to a waiting Trevon Diggs. I bet you Kyle Shanahan will STILL hold onto Jimmy Garappolo after this season, irking Trey Lance to the point of demanding a trade. And guess who's fine with that? Kyle is. That's why it'll be a Cowboys-Bucs matchup that'll have Joe Buck on the mic in the divisional round. Cowboys 27, 49ers 23
Steelers vs. Chiefs: The Week 17 matchup between these two teams resulted in a rout from Kansas City. That was despite Tyreek Hill not seeing much action after getting COVID and Clyde Edwards-Helaire suffering a shoulder injury in that game. The rematch will carry some more significant weight, though. How will the Steelers' young weapons, i.e. Dioante Johnson and Najee Harris, fare against a resurgent Chiefs defense? Will this TRULY be Ben Roethlisberger's last game? Keep in mind that Chris Jones has led Kansas City back to the playoff picture after a rocky start, propelling them to another AFC West title. The result should be the same; the Chiefs will move onto the divisional round, riding behind their usual weapons. Chiefs 30, Steelers 19
Cardinals vs. Rams: Will Matthew Stafford FINALLY win a playoff game? If there's solace for the Rams, it's that the Cardinals are reeling. This was a team that finished the season losing four of their last five games, including an ass-kicking in Detroit. If there's anybody here that's a fraud, it's Arizona. The main reason why the Rams lost last week's game was because of the 49er invasion at SoFi. It felt like Los Angeles was playing a road game IN THEIR HOME STADIUM. That won't happen this time, for the Rams will have a massive chip on their shoulder. What better way to take that anger and frustration out than hooking up with Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. for a few touchdowns? Rams 33, Cardinals 30