The NFL playoffs are finally upon us! After 18 weeks of regular season football, the time has now come for the playoffs to begin. It certainly has been a strange season, full of abundant injuries, Covid-19 outbreaks, and bizarre upsets and even more bizarre disappointments. Does an equally strange and eventful playoff season lay ahead of us? I surely hope so!
The NFL stats have been updated for the beginning of the playoffs, and the official playoffs roster and schedule are both set. Here are my brief, way-too-early, no-official-stats, no-betting-odds predictions of every single team I expect to win their playoff games this week.
For the AFC, there are seven teams that have clinched playoff spots. The Tennessee Titans (12-5,) the Kansas City Chiefs (12-5,) the Buffalo Bills (11-6,) the Cincinnati Bengals (10-7,) the Los Angeles Raiders (10-7,) and the New England Patriots (10-7,) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) are prepared to battle it out for the AFC championship title. As the top seed in the conference, the Tennessee Titans have secured the Week 1 bye week, and an advantage entering the playoffs.
For the NFC, seven other teams have officially made the playoffs. The Green Bay Packers (13-4,) the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4,) the Dallas Cowboys (12-5,) the Los Angeles Rams (12-5,) the Arizona Cardinals (11-6,) the San Francisco 49ers (10-7,) and the Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) have earned a place in the postseason. The Green Bay Packers have secured the top seed in the NFC and the Week 1 bye week.
There are exactly six games this upcoming weekend of wild card matches.
For the AFC, there are two games on Saturday, January 15, and one game on Sunday, January 16. On Saturday at 4:30pm EST, the Las Vegas Raiders travel to take on the Cincinnati Bengals. At 8:15pm, the New England Patriots play the Buffalo Bills. On Sunday at 8:15pm, the Kansas City Chiefs host the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For the NFC, there are two games on Sunday, January 16, and one game on Monday, January 17. On Sunday at 1pm EST, the Philadelphia Eagles play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At 4:30pm, the San Francisco 49ers take on the Dallas Cowboys. On Monday at 8:15pm EST, the Los Angeles Rams host the Arizona Cardinals.
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (Saturday, 4:30pm)
The Bengals have not won a playoff game in over 30 years. Can they break that unlucky streak and defeat the Las Vegas Raiders? I say yes! Quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase have both had great seasons. The Bengals offense is ranked seventh in the league, consistently putting up points.
On the other hand, this Raiders team has managed to make it to the playoffs, and they have struggled with scoring for the last few weeks of the season. The Raiders have certainly been far more inconsistent on the offensive side. The Bengals certainly have the advantage, especially since they rested their starters in the last regular season game, so I’m gonna take the Bengals for this wild card game
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, 8:15pm)
This is going to be one hell of a game between divisional rivals. The New England Patriots are back in the playoffs from a one-year hiatus, itching to prove their worth without Tom Brady. The Buffalo Bills are also looking to make a Super Bowl appearance for the first time since 1994.
This game will come down to the quarterbacks, Mac Jones and Josh Allen. I’m taking the Bills for this divisional matchup. I don’t think the Patriots can rely on the rookie Jones to win this game for them, since the Bills’ defense is probably their biggest asset. But this will be an entertaining and close game that will certainly be a lot of fun to watch.
Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, 1pm)
I will be absolutely floored if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose this game. There is no way that the Philadelphia Eagles can defeat this team. The Bucs have the upper hand in almost every arena, even though they will have to play without two of their best three receivers for the postseason. To put it in simple terms, the Bucs are just the better team in every way. Despite an admirable journey to the postseason, the Eagles aren’t going to last in these playoffs for long, and since they’re playing the Bucs for their first game, their season is pretty much over already.
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, 4:30pm)
The Dallas Cowboys are serious Super Bowl contenders this season, and it’s been a long time since that has happened. They are on their way to the playoffs for the first time since 2018 with the best team they have had in a while. Hopes are high in Dallas, and they should be. Their first task is to defeat the 49ers, and I think that will be achieved.
The 49ers have squeezed their way into the playoffs and while they are on a great streak, winning seven of their past nine games, I think their playoff run ends early. Dak Prescott has been playing at a much higher level all season, and the entire Dallas ensemble clearly wants the Super Bowl very badly. My money is on the Cowboys.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, 8:15pm)
Even though stranger things have happened this season, there is no way the Kansas City Chiefs lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend. The Steelers, thanks in part to an aging Ben Roethlisberger, have looked worse this season than they have in a long time. They are usually playoff contenders, but this season, they barely made the cut.
In terms of talent, especially offensive talent, the Chiefs already have this game in the bag. A loss in the first round of the playoffs might not be an ideal goodbye for Roethlisberger, but it’s going to happen.
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (Monday, 8:15pm)
This is probably going to be the most interesting game this week. Both these teams have a lot to lose and a lot of motivation to win. The Cardinals have been on a bit of a downward slope after playing like the best team in the league for the first two-thirds of the season, and the Rams are looking to keep their momentum going into the playoffs.
I’m still conflicted over who I think will win this matchup, but my gut is telling me to go with the Cardinals. J.J. Watt is supposed to return to the field for this game, and I think that they will be able to edge out the Rams for the win.