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Preview: NFL Wildcard Playoff Weekend ON Tap

NFL Wildcard Weekend

The NFL Wildcard weekend is here, and we couldn’t be more excited. Shockingly, we will see quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson all playing on the first weekend, despite amazing years… Buckle up, let’s get it going.

WILD CARD – Buffalo Bills (10-6) @ Houston Texans (10-6) – 4:35/EST 

The stingy Buffalo Bills roll into Houston this weekend with an aggressive defense that wants to slow down Deshaun Watson and co. for the Texans.

As stated before, the Bills ride defense having the number 3 ranked defense in yards allowed per game with 298.2. The Bills rode a stellar season from Tre’Davious White who quietly tied the NFL lead with 6 interceptions over the season along with two first fumbles and did not allow a single Touchdown all season. However White is tasked with facing “Nuk” Hopkins who put up 63 yards on 5 catches with a TD when they last faced in 2018. However, the defense’s efforts will not mean anything if the offense does not produce. The rushing attack will go nicely against the weakness of the Texans, but the Bills’ passing attack ranked 26th and will want to capitalize on an abysmal Houston secondary that has Bradley Roby and Johnathan Joseph listed as questionable. Josh Allen will hopefully continue to play clean and complete more passes to the likes of Cole Beasley.

The Texans have won the AFC South, but is this the year Deshaun Watson puts a stamp on his name as a playoff performer? Watson made his debut in the playoffs last year with a thud going 29-49 with as many TD’s as interceptions. He will look to bounce back this year with a way more balanced attack as Carlos Hyde led a top 10 rushing offense with over a thousand yards on the year. The offense will have to do the heavy lifting as they have all year with their defense being among the worst in the league. JJ Watt hopes to change that narrative playing his first game since tearing his pec against the Raiders. In six career playoff games Watt has 5 sacks, a pick-six, and 8 TFL and hopes to make his presence known against an injured Bills line.

As it stands Friday morning the Texans are favored by 3. However, seeing as how important defense becomes in the playoffs, I just do not believe in the Texans’ defense to hold up with their end of the bargain with Watt returning from injury. Should Watt be his DPOY-form the Texans can take this game but it’s really the Bills’ game to lose. I am choosing the Buffalo Bills to win by 2.

Tennessee Titans (9-7) @ New England Patriots (12-4) – 8:15/EST

The defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots host the red-hot Titans who won five of their last seven games to secure a wild-card spot in the playoffs.

The Titans have enjoyed a 7-3 record with Comeback Player of the Year candidate Ryan Tannehill under center and during that stretch has a point differential of 304-239 (+65). Since his first start, Tannehill is first in the league in QBR, YPA, and Yards per completion. To say Tannehill is hot right now is an understatement. His running back Derrick Henry has certainly made his life easier as he won the rushing yards crown and also ran for 16 touchdowns. While the defense does not jump off the page, they were 10th in the league in forcing turnovers behind Kevin Byard’s 5 interceptions good for a tie in second place in the league. Vrabel, a former Patriot knows how to win in New England, but can he do it from the sideline, in a different uniform?

Once again, the Patriots are in the playoffs, but not as the powerhouse that they typically pose as. New England choked in the last week of the regular season and lost the second seed and will not have their first-round bye for the first time since 2009! During the Brady-era, the Pats have never made it to the Super Bowl without having their first-round bye, but Brady is not looking at this like his last game as a Patriot and wants to win despite a subpar passing offense. The Patriots defense however sits atop the NFL in total defense and 2nd in passing defense led by Stephon Gilmore and his league-leading 6 interceptions. The Pats do hope that their ground game will keep them in the game and open up opportunities for the flat passing game.

New England is favored by 5 at home and on this one I agree. The Titans are just in a poor spot by having to play in New England and their thrashing of the Texans mean less to me because of the Texans trying to get healthy prior to the playoffs. I am taking New England by 6 against the Titans because I feel that New England’s pass-defense strength is strong enough to force the Titans to run the ball to much and will be easier to bottle up Henry.

Minnesota Vikings (10-6) @ New Orleans Saints (13-3) – 1:05/EST

A familiar matchup that brings back beautiful memories for Minnesota fans, and hellish nightmares for Saints fans from two postseasons ago.

The Vikings rested up their starters during the last week because despite a rocky start to the season, this Vikings team feels it has every right to compete for a Super Bowl title. Good news for Viking fans is that Dalvin Cook (1,135 yds, 13 TDs) was a full participant in practice Thursday and appears to be good to go. The Vikings’ balance on offense has allowed them to be a top-10 offense in points scored despite players going in and out of the lineup from injury. Hunter looks to wreak havoc on the Saints and get pressure on Brees’ to disrupt the legend’s roll.

On a roll the Saints most certainly are. The Saints showed no mercy playing their starters hoping to secure a higher seed but are playing wildcard weekend against a team that spoiled Super Bowl hopes a couple years ago. Everything for a reason, and the all-time passing TD and yards leader prepares for the Purple People Eaters in the Big Easy behind a stout offensive line that has kept him upright, and an offense full of weapons including new single-season receptions leader Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and Jared Cook to name a few. The Saints also are phenomenal at controlling the ball with a +15-turnover differential with a defense that does not allow the run and hopes to bottle up Dalvin Cook.

Kirk Cousins has failed to convince doubters and bettors alike that he is ready to win in the postseason and it has been revealed the New Orleans Saints are favored by 7.5. While I do not necessarily believe in this margin, I do believe that the Saints are actually the second-best team in the NFC, and they deserved the home-field more than the Packers. The Saints will have a chance to prove so through being the more talented team on Sunday and Win by a margin of 4 against the Vikings.

Seattle Seahawks (11-5) @ Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) – 4:40/EST

A flashback from November 24th, the Seahawks and Eagles brace for what should be an exciting Wildcard matchup at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Seattle Seahawks once had rights to the first seed in the NFC playoff picture and now find themselves on the road in the opening round against a Philadelphia team that has been rolling as of late. Russell Wilson who would be an MVP frontrunner if LJax wasn’t around, has been out of character since facing off against Tampa Bay. Since that game Wilson has averaged 1.3 passing TDs per game and has had a less than stellar completion percentage including the game against the Eagles. It has not helped the Seahawks that their RB 1 and 2 are both out and resigned Marshawn Lynch who scored a TD in the season finale and may have scored 2 had it not been for a HORRIBLE delay of game call. The Seahawks defense is certainly not the Legion of Boom we remember from the 2010s, but still boast the NFL’s regular-season tackle leader Bobby Wagner (159) and still forces turnovers with 32 on the year (good for 3rd in the NFL). The defense looks to have a healthy Clowney back on the line which will be huge against an injured Eagles front.

As banged up as the Seahawks are, the Eagles are one of the few teams that could claim to be more injured and not be lying. The Eagles are without their WRs 1-3, are questionable at the running back and offensive line position and are juggling guys coming back from injury with players who are heading to the injury report. The good news for the Eagles is that it’s shaping up that Miles Sanders (who led all rookies in total scrimmage yards) will play and Jordan Howard is healthy for the first time since week nine. Despite all of the injuries to pass catchers, Wentz became the first QB in NFL history to pass for over 4,000 yards with no receiver contributing over 500 yards themselves. Following a troubling loss to the Dolphins, the Eagles have quietly won 4 games in a row en route an NFC East title behind Wentz 7 TD to no interceptions, and a defense that rounds out the top 10 in yards per game. A key for the Eagles will be to attack the weakened Seattle line and to continue their top 10 pass rushing unit that collected 44 sacks this year.

The visiting Seattle Seahawks are favored by 1.5 points on the road. Granted the record speaks volumes in the first-glance of these teams, the Eagles have been flying high with Wentz playing some of the best ball of his career and for the first time in his career, gets to play a playoff game and will make the absolute most of it. I hope my Seahawk-fan bosses keep letting me do predictions after I pick Philly to upset the Seahawks by 3 points to conclude Wildcard weekend.

Written by Sami Jarjour

The Co-Founder of Sports ON Tap & Host of "Stuff That Matters w/ Sami Jarjour" Podcast & Co-Host of "That Being Said Podcast w/ George & Sami Jarjour."

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